We are two friends who have an equal level of craziness, the right amount of clumsiness to provide some comedy every time we meet, a slightly chaotic nature and an enormous bucket list, including learning how to surf, hitchhiking to Paris, skydiving, taking a photography course, writing a book, buying a house, going to OZ, becoming a baking princess, and so on and so on and so on.
We're doing as many of these things as possible and we'll write about it in our blog. Keep reading to find out where we are!
So unbelievably arrogant. If I would describe my thought process before I started planning this shindig, that would be the term. I was convinced I saw through all the ways everyone tried to weasel money out of my pockets (or, more realistically, from my credit card) once they heard I was going to get married. I knew exactly what I wanted: a small, low-key, relaxed affair. I was going to dress in a cheap but elegant dress and not not spend more than 500 euro on my looks (including wedding dress). And NOBODY was going to stop me. HA!
DRESS (cost: Too much. It physically hurts to write what this cloud of tule cost)
You know the easiest way to sell any girly accessory for $$$? Just put “bridal” or “wedding” in front of it. It triples the price, if not more.
That’s why my advice for the day is to NEVER set foot in a bridal shop!!!!!!!!! They will tell you you need all sorts of stuff (which you don’t) at a price you really can’t afford.
I was planning to buy my dress online (secondhand or tailor) but I had the (at that time considered cunning) idea to go into a bridal shop and just try on a couple of dresses. That way I could easily figure out what kind of dress would suit me the best. I didn’t even settle for any store, I took the only store in a four hour radius where they sell Vera Wang.
I went in… and fell in love with one dress (no Vera, thank god) that was about 10 times what I was planning to spend. TEN TIMES!!!!!!! Now, I did get a nice discount because I wanted the store model It was new so nobody tried it anyway. How that was possible? I made friends with the store girl, such a sweetheart. She whined and argued with the manager till he just let it go at the reduced price.
I twirled and floated for about half an hour before reality hit me. I bought a dress that I was going to wear once – for the price of a trip around the world (which would have been infinitely cooler) !!! Oh my, the regret, the calls, …. (they don’t accept returns, even if you have just bought it and turned right back- I wonder why? The wedding industry thrives on crazy, irrational impulses- mine was my fantasy of dressing like Belle on my wedding day)
The tale of the budget wedding and the designer dress that snuk up on me.
EPIC FAIL. Anyway, I decided to make my peace with it. The bottom line was still that I completely loved the dress, I loved how it felt and everything, so I was just going to go with the flow and economize on everything else. I accessorized the dress with a black silk tule scarf because otherwise it was just too dreamy.
So… the dress was a fail. (although I still loooooooove it)
Jewelry & hair accessories (cost: free)
That actually worked out well:
I decorated my hair with borrowed jewelry (granny’s pearls came in handy).
I borrowed a bracelet from my mum (something borrowed),
Just wore my beloved Essentiel-shoes (no way was I going to go with new shoes for a wedding where you have to stand for an entire day!) and nobody gets to see those shoes anyway. (I did forget that I would occasionally have to pick up my dress so my pumps with sock were kind of a fail)
Hair & make up (cost: 25 euro)
Do your own hair even if you are not a super-skilled hair stylist. seriously. The guy/girl wants to marry you- not a puffed up version of spaced-out you. Just go with a style that takes a little more effort than what you would usually do but still is very much “you”! I just put in some hot water hair rollers (I hate curling irons, they ruin your hair), put in a couple of fine braids, and put in the hair accessories of my choice.
As most brides want light, unassuming make up, you can just hire a local make up lady – NOT someone that specializes in bridal make up (tjitsjiiiiiing). Otherwise, go to MAC. They do your make up and you get to pick make up for that price. Excellent choice and these girls really know their stuff.
Flowers (cost: free – for me otherwise 40 euro)
I really dislike most wedding bouquets, which comes in handy because they’re expensive. I have a great love for peonies, especially the ones that aren’t really open. Unfortunately, because of the cold my florist could only sell them to me at 4 bucks a flower. Are these people crazy? I immediately cancelled and decided to go for tulips (5 euro for a bouquet) but my sweet brother surprised me with my dream bouquet- simple, no fuss, no extra greenery, no foliage drooping on the floor, just the Sarah Bernhardt peonies tied together with a string. Plain and simple- and oh so beautiful.
Wedding rings (cost: free)
We didn’t have that much cash left. We had amazing engagement rings. It didn’t take us that long to just forgo the matching wedding ring tradition and make our engagement rings “wedding rings”. My sister in law is an amazing jewelry designer. The very first ring for men she made was the one I gave my husband. I spent hours with her, discussing the pros and cons of every possible ring. We finally decided on a rough textured sterling silver ring with a tiny sapphire on top – only he can see it. I engraved it with a quote. It’s a ring that signifies our connection. Hence, it’s his wedding ring.
He gave me mine when we were in Prague. We bought it there from a designer because I fell in love with the aquamarine. He proposed (for the 3d time) in one of those medieval alleys. I took it to New Zealand and noticed the ring had the exact color of the Tasman sea. I love it. Don’t let anyone tell you you need a big ring if you don’t think you do 🙂
First of all, and the most important thing I’ve learnt: YOU know what is best for your wedding. YOU. NOT the you that’s been freaked out by the wedding industry, and convinced she needs to book a hair stylist, make up stylist, expensive dress, expensive rings, a wedding planner, a ballroom, a fancy 5 course dinner served on a golden platter by Chippendales (digressing, sorry).
Well, that might be the real you. If that’s the case, you might as well stop reading, this article really isn’t for you. Thanks for stopping by though!
Now for the brides who happen to be budget-conscious, want to have a party, happy to be in love and not be too stressed but still want everything kind of really perfect, here’s some news. It can’t be perfect. It just can’t. I’m so sorry.
Because really, you don’t get to experience many of your own weddings -unless you want to do an Elizabeth Taylor. Which would mean you don’t need any advice from me because I only went through the motions once.
Bottom line? Most of us are complete first timers. What do we know? And many of us can’t afford to hire a professional to guide you through the process.
Information on how to do it and how to do it right and how to do it cheap and perfect is coming from all sides, aunties, mothers, forums, sites, shops, friends, tv, … it’s EVERYWHERE. Google picks up a few of your search terms and voila, there you have the suggestions, all tailored to your needs. And your needs keep growing, while your budget stays the same…
People often ask me: “Why do normal girls turn into bridezillas when they’re getting married?” There’s always that one granny who chirps in: “In my day, brides didn’t make such a big deal about our wedding. You girls just make too much fuss. I wore a nice blue frock and went to the church and that was the end of it. You’re all drama queens.” (true quote, by the way. Still ❤ you, granny.)
They’re drama queens BECAUSE they’re in the middle of a freaking snowstorm without realizing it. And btw, I would love to see how granny would have reacted to a wedding with internet access.. Methinks THAT’s when you would really see a drama queen arise :-D)
Think about this. Do you expect someone who’s never driven a car to just jump in and start parallel parking? (I’m still having trouble with that one but that’s a different issue)
Do you expect someone who never even set foot in a kitchen to whip up a croquembouche? (Yum)
Do you think a first grader should just skip the Jack and Jill went up the hill- thing and go straight for Tennyson?
So why do brides expect to be able to pull off a perfect wedding the first time they try? Stop wishing for a perfect wedding and opt for a real one instead. I guarantee you will have more fun on a real one. Because then, things that go wrong are FUNNY instead of CATASTROPHES HERE TO RUIN YOUR ONE SPECIAL DAY.
And people who make mistakes are just people who make mistakes instead of A-HOLES THAT I WILL HUNT DOWN AND POISON WITH CHANEL N5 AS SOON AS THE CAMERAS STOP FLASHING.
Next time: some useful tips on having a DIY-budget-super fun wedding! (and of course, some fails! I’ve got plenty of those to go around :-P)
You know the feeling when a new recipe is coming together just beautifully? Or when you’re having the perfect gin&tonic with the perfect company (yes, my dear brother, I mean you)? Well, I’m having one of those days. And no, no new recipes. And no, no g&t (yet). Today Living on an awesome shoestring has been nominated for Very Inspiring Blogger Award!
So very happy and flattered! Huge thanks to Helen for the nomination. I ❤ her blog so it’s really nice to see the feeling is mutual.
So, here are the rules:
1.Thank and link to the amazing person who nominated you.
2.List the rules and display the award.
3.Share seven facts about yourself.
4.Nominate 15 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated.
5.Proudly display the award logo on your blog and follow the blogger who nominated you
And here are my seven facts:
1. I’m completely obsessed with rice milk ice cream. I often walk to the nearby little shop on the hill with my dogs and lounge there on the grass while I eat three in a row. The woman in the shop calls me her “dear little addict”. (Eva – Lien just likes them like a normal person-)
2. My favorite country in the whole world is New Zealand, and sometimes, I wish I’d been born a Kiwi. (Eva)
3. I want to travel the world- Just call me Fogg! (Lien & Eva) and write about it. (Eva)
4. I want to go rescue bears in Croatia this summer (Lien) but I love other furry creatures as well (Lien & Eva)
5. I am the proud owner of two rescued border collies and trying to weasel in a third dog. (Eva)
6. I spill things. Constantly. Annoyingly. Embarrassingly toddleresque (My beautiful new white silk shirt? No longer white). (Lien & Eva)
7. I want to hitchhike to the south of France this summer and learn how to surf… for free! (Lien & Eva)
And now for our nominations… These blogs have been an inspiration for me in very different ways.
Before recession hit, I used to go to an excellent hairdresser. He claimed that he was not only a hairdresser, but an artist and “visagist” as well. Of course, all this craftmanship had its price. A simple cut cost as much as 100 euro. He did what he said however, and was great at cutting my somewhat difficult hair.
I wanted to cut back on this cost, and I tried many different hairdressers. I paid in between 7 and 50 euro, but my hair always looked like a five-year-old had a go at it. Really. Not kidding.
Cutting your own hair… a bit of a risk, isn’t it?
I started wondering… If I cut it myself, I can’t mess this up any more than this- and I wouldn’t have to pay for it. But I always hesitated. My best friend is a kindergarden teacher and always mocks my inability to cut in a straight line. She attributes this to the fact that I refused to crawl when I was little. I started walking immediately. (I can only imagine how annoying that must have been for my poor mother 🙂 ) My friend claims that affected my motor skills… She’s a biatch but I love her! Anyway, if I can’t even cut paper, can I risk cutting my own hair?
Two years ago I was travelling for a couple of months, making it even more difficult to get a decent hair cut. When I arrived in Wellington, I immediately bought hairdresser’s scissors. My first attempt at cutting my hair took place at a campground with a hand mirror. Needless to say that first attempt was not one I want to remember.
When I got home I tried it again, after doing some research and having a decent mirror. This time things went a lot more smoothly!
I have medium to fine wavy hair. It tends to react badly to products and turns limp and flat or dry. I’ve had many different styles (short/long/shoulder length/spiky/choppy/conservative/…) but I like a hippie, flowy look the best.
As I don’t really use products, I need to cut in volume.
The cutting part
It’s a bit disgusting, but the best time to cut your hair is if you haven’t washed it in a few days, so if it’s not really greasy but not looking its best either (it depends on your hair how long that takes)You need to cut when it is dry, because otherwise you can’t predict how your hair will behave once it’s dry!
First of all, i wanted to create more of a side swept fringe, to frame my face. To do this:
– Take the front part of your hair you want to make into a fringe.
– Tie back everything else
– Flip the front part to the opposite side of where you’d like it to fall
– Twist your hair (once!)
-cut it parallel with your parting line
-you’ve got yourself a fringe!
Now take the top layer of your hair. Pull it to the front with the use of a comb or your fingers.
Cut it by snipping at the part sticking out of the comb.
You can do the same thing with different parts of your hair, just make sure both sides are still even (unless you’re going for an asymmetrical look, which I totally support!). The more parts you cut it in, the more layered your hair will be.
Make sure the top layer is the shortest (d’uh).
Take the top layer of the back of your head. Lift it so it is vertical (use a comb)
Rome. Most people ooh and aah when they hear this word, but I really didn’t. A couple of years ago we went there and it was absolutely horrible. The complete lowpoint of our Italy trip. We were robbed, there were storms, the metro didn’t work, we had to take 2 busses and a train to get to the “centrally located” B&B – and the bus stopped running at 7 p.m. Vile! We even vowed we would never come back.
Never say never
But then again… Never underestimate the power of your favourite movie, even the location can influence you immensely.
Guess what my favourite movie is! Go on, guess!
Of course it is. Roman Holiday, what else. Roman Holiday was the reason we risked going back there,
and we definetely did NOT regret it! Get ready to hear some oohs and aahs…
We bought the cheapest tickets possible (Ryanair). We didn’t have luggage – you don’t need it!!! 10 kg of hand luggage should suffice. Logging it around isn’t much fun, and you won’t wear most of the extra clothes you bring. And, if you are honest… aren’t you planning on buying something truly Italian to wear while you’re here?
No cabs or special buses for us, the train brings you to the centre as well and it’s very comfortable. No problems whatsoever. I could even take a little nap.
Instead of buying a public transport pass for a couple of days (either around 6.00, 16.50 or 24.00 euro for 1, 3 or 7 days) we bought 10 individual metro tickets (you only pay 9). We walked all around Rome and only took the metro when we absolutely had to . You see so much more when you walk! + need we say more: all those buttery treats can add as much as 5 pounds a trip (and they tend to go to the hips).
Btw, you only get to use one metro ticket one time . If you get out of the subway, you can’t use it anymore. However, you can use the same tickets on the bus (we think, well, we did, anyway), where you get an hour and a half no matter how many times you get off. You can also rent a city bike, just like in Paris. The Bikesharing program (tel. +39-06-57-003, http://www.bikesharing.roma.it) gives access to bikes all around the historic centre of Rome for the low price of €0.50 per half hour. Compare that to €4–€5 per hour from private rental firms. 24/7!
We wanted some sort of guide, because our last trip was so bad, but we could only get a decent guide book in Italian. I took Italian in college but this was something else! It was fun though
SLEEPING: SOCIAL NETWORK
Internet is a wonderful wonderful thing. Use your contacts to find a place to crash! Ask friends to ask friends to ask friends if they know anyone who lives in the place you want to visit. Otherwise; use sites such as www.couchsurfing.com or another faithful one: www.airbnb.com (although some cities are starting to ban airbnb because people are no longer wanting to stay in a hotel- I wonder why?)
We slept in a comfy sofa bed in an artistic small space for 15 euro a person a night. The place belonged to a lovely opera singer, and her personality was visible in every square inch of the apartment.
Some people might perceive that to be a problem and prefer the neutral environment of a hotel, but I definitely want to be in a space where you can actually feel people are living rather than just staying.
And most important of all: it had a coffee bar right in front of the building! The coffee was crazy strong (and I am used to very strong espresso), the decoration seemed to be more appropriate for a funky nightclub and the waiter was extremely weird, but we called it home that week!
We stayed in the San Giovanni part of Rome, which we really liked. I would avoid the Termini, although it is handy because of the train station, I really don’t like the neighbourhood.
WHEN IN ROMA ANTICA…
La Bocca della Verità (English: the Mouth of Truth) Served as a lie detector since the Middle Ages.
It was believed that if one told a lie with one’s hand in the mouth of the sculpture, it would be bitten off. (We didn’t even try 😀 )
The Colosseum was a bit too expensive to enter so we just read about it whilst sitting in front of it, enjoying the view without breaking the bank.
If you go up close to the Coloseum, you’ll find the Giardino degli Aranci (Garden of the oranges) – Free entrance. It ‘s a prime spot for anyone who’s in love or who likes a stunning view.
Excellent plan in the pricey Roma Antica neighbourhood: buy your supplies at Alimentari Pannella Carmela (Don’t you just love the name?) at Via die Fienili 61, walk up until you reach the via di Monte Tarpeo. Then you see Piazza Santa Maria Nova . You will be absolutely gobsmacked : the view over the Roman Forum is amazing. When you’re done being amazed, keep on walking all the way up. You will see a little square with benches with one of the best views of Rome we could find. Have a lovely picnic there and soak up some sun!
WHEN IN ROME … TRASTEVERE
Trastevere is absolutely beautiful. But avoid at weekends!
If you walk out of Trastevere and start climbing the Giancolo, you’ll find a magnificent view at the top over large parts of Rome, but the view over Vatican city is especially lovely. And there is a coffee/booze cart present 😀
Wandering around this magnificent city might just be the very best thing you can do. Every time you think you’re just going to drop dead from the heat and the climbing, you discover views like this…
Spend an afternoon reading your favourite book overlooking the city
EATING & DRINKING
Don’t you dare miss breakfast!!!!! “Vorrei un espresso e due cornetti, per favore/ Vorrei un espresso e un brioche con gianduja” will get you in just the right mood to start your day in Rome. Just in case you were wondering, gianduja is the REAL nutella, although I personally think you can’t even compare the two. It’s just so delicious!(REMEMBER: if you sit at the bar, the price is about half of what you would pay for sitting on a terrace) .
Coromandel… We walked in because of the name (I love the Coromandel region in New Zealand). And boy that was a good call! If you want to have a scrumptious breakfast (especially if you are one of the poor lot who chose a hotel with breakfast and is sick of the stale croissants with some horrible sugary filling: this is the place for you! I celebrated my birthday by having too many espressos and too many cornetti with guianduja here, and I ❤ it. I can still taste it. I think I’ll try to make some guianduja myself, like, now. http://www.coromandel.it/
Chill out. Live the dolce vita. Walk in the sun. Have too much coffee. In Rome, you can find some decent coffee practically everywhere. I like to just discover new places (if you know the standards are good) Some of the treasures:
Chilling in a bar writing some postcards.. bliss!
We have an address on this one (close to the Pantheon):
Ice cream- gelati
Did I mention I love Audrey? Anyway, I figured out where the iconic ice cream came from, and of course I had to get some (even though that meant standing in a crowd of military men screaming at each other)
Why are you lookin’ at me like that??
Try the sorbetto al cioccolato fondente [sorbetto al tschokolato]! Of course they will understand if you say it in English, or even if you point, but it just sounds so much better when you say it in Italian… Try it everywhere (but especially here. And in Trastevere. And …)
I saved the best for last: Fior Di Luna (Via della Lungaretta 96 , in the Trastevere neighbourhood) if like heaven in a bowl. You’ve got to try it!
Trastevere is one of the nicer areas in Rome, but at the weekends I think it turns into a big circus and you’ll do well to just stay away. But on weekdays… Mamma mia! Beautiful alleys, nice shops, bars and restaurants,..
You can go and have a slice of pizza anywhere, trastevere is a nice neighbourhood if you’re not there in the weekend. There is a bakery close to the Campo di Fiori that sells amazing pizza (Forno di Campo de’ Fiori). Don’t stay there but keep walking away from the Campo di Fiori , you’ll find a beautiful, peaceful piazza (no idea what it’s called) where you can just have a lovely lunch sitting by the fountain. Although, I must admit, we did see a sea-gull brutally attack a pigeon while we were sitting there…
Don’t overspend on dinner. Be creative! Buy some bread and cheese, some olives and a bottle of wine and have a picnic on a hill overlooking Rome. 5-star view for free.
Another idea is to use the “l’aperitivo”. (basically happy hour) After work, Italians meet for a drink and some tapas before dinner. I always have wine but if you want to go full on you’ll have to have a spritz (Prosecco or Aperol and sparkling water)Most restaurants and bars offer a selection of tapas along with your wine. The thing is: after these tapas you don’t really need dinner anymore. Our favourite bar bar none (no pun intended) is one we stumbled on while we were getting lost in our hunt for our gazillionth ice cream. It’s called Caffè della Pace, (http://www.caffedellapace.it/ Via della Pace, 3/7 ) and it has a very cool, laid back atmosphere. It’s really worth it to go and have a look (it’s not difficult to find, we are just not very good at not getting lost)
Every Roman street has a piazza, every piazza has a fountain and every fountain has safe water- so even if you drink espressos all the live long day, you’ll never have to get thirsty.
Being the budget travellers we are, we always need some free Wi-Fi to plan our next visit or our next meal. Combine pleasure and planning by finding a free Wi-Fi bar, café or cinema. The trick for staying as long as possible on as tight a budget humanly possible is to order separately and thus gaining more free Wi-Fi time. Advantage: you get free snacks with each order placed. So the double amount of free snacks. Voila.
HOW TO MAKE RYANAIR FLIGHTS ENJOYABLE
Please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t expect to be alone on the plane. As is to be expected from a low-budget-travel-means, you will be faced with numerous annoying people with cringe worthy habits that will send you through the roof if you expect a quiet ride. DON’T-DO-IT!!!! It’s never gonna happen unless you book yourself a private jet plane (and what’s the fun in that?)
Bring cookies. (Need we say more?)
Bring lightweight books. Who are you kidding with your intelligent literature? You’ll never be able to concentrate amidst all the screaming, the noise, the take off and landing,… Anyway, bring your happy-go-lucky chicken soup for the soul and you’ll do yourself a huge favour.
Bring socks- the air-conditioning on full blast seems heaven the first few minutes, but you can get really chilly after that.
Italian on the go
Italians are a friendly lot, and they tend to get even more friendly if you attempt to speak their language. Some useful phrases and words:
Parla Inglese? Do you speak English?
Grazie [gradzie] Thank You
Prego You’re welcome
Per favore – Per Piacere [per piatchere] Please- with pleasure
Ciao Hello / Goodbye
Buon Giorno Good Morning – Good Afternoon
Buona Sera Good Evening
Buona notte Good Night
Scusi (informal) Scusa (formal) Excuse me
Come sta? (singular) How are you?
Quanto costa? How much does it cost?
Dov’è ….? [doové] Where is …?
Dove posso trovare un…/ Where can I find a…
Vorrei qualcosa da mangiare [vorrei kwalkosa da mandzjare] I would like something to eat
Vorrei qualcosa da bere [vorrei kwalkosa da bere] I would like something to drink
Il conto, per favore. Check please. (This is the only phrase my boyfriend ever mastered. If you hear his name you’ll never believe it: Gino)
Mangiare To eat (verb)
Stazione Train station
Polizia / Carabinieri Police
Fermata dell’autobus Bus stop
Supermercato Food store
Biglietteria Ticket desk
Guida turistica Guidebook
Visita guidata Guided tour
Orario di apertura Opening time
Spingere Push (a door) (this will come in handy if you read it on a door and don’t know if it means push or pull!)
Tirare Pull (a door)
No grazie No thanks
Sì grazie Yes thanks
Vai via! Go away!
Girls: this may come in handy:
Assorbenti interni Tampons
Sono incinta I am pregnant
Very important if you have any allergies (one tip: they tend to not really pay attention! Make sure they hear you)
Imagine this. You’re outside, you’re getting comfortable. A glass of wine within reach… You just started rereading your favorite book. And then, suddenly, you hear a high-pitched voice. You try not to listen. You’re focused on your book. But something seeps in. The high-pitched voice belongs to your neighbor’s son. And it seeps in because he’s talking about every move you make. Chatting. Like a kid would do in a zoo. “Look mum, the panda just sat down. What is she doing? Oh, she’s looking around. Oh look, she’s getting up! Where would she go? Oh cool, she’s playing with the other animals! Where is she going now? Oh… too bad, she went inside.”
Hints don’t work. Nasty looks don’t work. Now what?
You need a freaking screen!!!
Have you seen how expensive that is? There’s got to be something you can DIY.
Solution: a fence, made out of willow branches.
Where to get willow branches? Well of course! www! Local second hand sites are ideal. We’ve found someone about 20 minutes from our place (4euro)and negotiated for a bit, so we got the branches for 15 euro.
We borrowed the car and the equipment (of course) (Free!) I think we did buy the owner a beer (1 euro). That means the total cost of the fence was 20 euro. It brought us loads of fun building it, and heaps of privacy.
Our dogs loved the holes we made to start off the fence (about 50 cm deep)…
TIP: make the fence as quickly as possible. Willows can start growing again! A real live fence!
You simply take the sturdiest branches, strip the smaller twigs, and put them in the holes you made.
You can make the fence as large as you want. We just wanted to block certain windows so we needed a 5 meter one!
Then you simply start weaving in the smaller branches.
We didn’t want to weave for hours on end, so we just took it easy. Every time one of us had some time, we wove in a couple more branches.
Finally! Dinner sans public! … F*ck. Not quite.
But we didn’t have any more room to keep weaving! Solution? I just jammed in a couple more thick branches and kept going. Luckily, that didn’t cause any problems.
And low and behold, after a few days, the fence was born!
We had some branches left, and the dogs kept ruining our shrubs, so I decided to make another fence:
A couple of months later… both still standing! And you can even grow things on it…
We assume only girls will follow this reasoning: we economized on sleeping, eating and transportation, but we did spend some money on shopping, french breakfasts and wine.
Instead of buying a Paris Visite- metro card for a couple of days (either around 17, 24, 34 euro for 1, 2 or 3 days) we bought 10 individual metro tickets (you only pay 9). We walked all around Paris and only took the metro when we absolutely had to . You see so much more when you walk! + need we say more: all those buttery croissants can add as much as 5 pounds a trip (and they tend to go to the hips), and walking all around Paris is an excellent way to avoid the Paris 5.
Furthermore: you only get to use one metro ticket one time . If you get out of the subway, you can’t use it anymore. However, you can use the same tickets on the bus, where you get an hour and a half no matter how many times you get off. You can also take a city bike, which costs around 1,70 for 30 mins. (www.velib.fr)
SLEEPING: SOCIAL NETWORK
Internet is a wonderful wonderful thing. Use your contacts to find a place to crash! Ask friends to ask friends to ask friends if they know anyone who lives in the place you want to visit. Otherwise; use sites such as www.couchsurfing.com (or http://www.appartager.com for a longer stay in Paris).
We slept in a real bed (okay, we admit, we do have some back pain at the moment) in a cozy closet-sized space for 5 euro a person a night.
WHEN IN PARIS (or anywhere)… BE PARISIAN
it’s depressing how Parisian girls can look effortlessly stylish. You can, depending on your self-esteem, feel like a clumsy, overdressed elephant in under ten to twenty seconds. Luckily, we stayed with such girls and were able to sneak a close peek in their lives and bathrooms. We discovered some of their secrets.
First of all: they just look like they didn’t really try to look gorgeous but do anyway. it’s actually very well thought out. They all live in a very small space, which results in very small wardrobes as well. This means they choose one color and they stick by it. Like the grand dame Coco herself, they choose black. They might accessorize with nudes and greys, but they stick to their favorite color no matter what.
Their make-up looks like they’re all fair-faced maidens out of an annoying fairy tale, but a closer look into their bathrooms revealed they use quite a bit of makeup. Hauschka for the organic lovers, Givenchy for the others as a fond de teint. Some blusher. Yves Saint Laurent Mascara (or another high quality one). An nude, brown or gold eye shadow you use in a fine line all around your eyes (instead of an eyeliner), a Chanel lipstick and you’re set!
Second of all: they buy the very best they can buy for the money they can spend. And I mean this literally. Even girls living in the dodgy end of Paris in a 16 m2 apartment buy organic food and wine, spray Chanel nr 5, use O.P.I for their nails, and have designer handbags and Dior sunglasses. They just don’t have a LOT of it (they haven’t got the room for it anyway).
Thirdly, they have the attitude. Never ever change your path when you are walking, even if someone is coming right at you. Just look at your friend or straight ahead and you’ll win every chicken race. Never say please or thank you to anyone who might look like an outsider (and with outsider we mean anyone who doesn’t live in Paris city) or just if you can help it.
Lastly: wear a scarf. If you want the Parisian feel, never go ANYWHERE without a scarf.
Et voila, you’re practically a Parisian already!
VINTAGE BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Paris is, to no one’s surprise, fashion heaven. The amount of vintage shops is astounding. Why on earth would you go the Chanel store in rue Cambon if you can find a vintage 1940’s handbag that has the olde worlde feel in every stitch and chain? Why buy over the top Dior sunglasses when you can have a 1950’s one that’s sold by a woman using a cigarette holder in one hand and a mirror in the other?
But forget about the brands. Paris has style without brands. We found 2 woolen cape jackets, tons of beautiful shirts, skirts and handbags for the price of a decent Parisian meal. We’re on our way home with five (!) extra bags full of beautiful clothes that look like they’re made for us but are actually getting a second life. The Kilo shops really are the place to be. You have 2 in Le Marais and another one in the 1st arrondissement. (http://kilo-shop.fr/) You can weigh anything you want to buy in the scales scattered all over the shop and immediately see how much it would be. But never fear; a big smile and a small chat can go a LONG way in changing the price…
EATING & DRINKING
Paris equals fine dining, amazing wine,.. and so on. However, most of those dining experiences are well out of our budget.
What we couldn’t miss, however, is le moelleux from le petit marché (9 rue de Bearn) we didn’t buy anything else, so we felt like we could get one moelleux to share (9euro). If you have some cash to spare, take a main course as well, you won’t regret it.
What you can’t miss: breakfast!!!!! Un croissant et un p’tit noir au comptoir (a croissant and an espresso at the bar) is all you need to start your day off just right. (REMEMBER: if you sit at the bar, the price is about half of what you would pay for sitting on a terrace) . If you’re visiting Paris in warmer weather, just take your viennoiseries (baked goods) outside and have a picnic.
Don’t overspend on dinner. Be creative! Buy a one-euro tabouleh in the supermarket and pimp it with some rocket salad, avocado, tomatoes or good olive oil. Think Jamie.
Budget travelers as we are, we always need some free Wi-Fi to plan our next visit or our ride home. Combine pleasure and planning by finding a free Wi-Fi brasserie, café or cinema. The trick for staying as long as possible on as tight a budget humanly possible is to order separately and thus gaining more free Wi-Fi time. Advantage: you get free snacks with each order placed. So the double amount of free snacks. Voila. Always ask in advance if the Wi-Fi is turned on because busy cafés tend to turn it off between noon and 3 am.
HOW TO MAKE LONG BUS RIDES ENJOYABLE
Please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t expect to be alone on the bus. As is to be expected from a low-budget-travel-means, you will be faced with numerous annoying people with cringeworthy habits that will send you through the roof if you expect a quiet ride. DON’T-DO-IT!!!! It’s never gonna happen unless you book yourself a private jet plane (and what’s the fun in that?)
Bring some wine. Really, you’re gonna need it. That adorable two-year-old that was smiling so angelically? We can guarantee you it’s going to start screaming at one point. And it’s going to be sooner rather than later. Wine will make the screaming a lot less nerve-racking.
Bring cookies. (Need we say more?)
Bring cards so you can be the person playing solitaire.
Bring lightweight books. Who are you kidding with your intelligent literature? You’ll never be able to concentrate amidst all the previous mentioned screaming, the fourth fast and the furious rerun, the girl next to you playing solitaire, and the two annoying giggling girls in the back drinking the aforementioned booze (oh wait, that’s us, come and say hi!). Anyway, bring your happy-go-lucky chicken soup for the soul and you’ll do yourself a gigantic favor.
Getting in without a ticket
There was a (supposedly excellent) exposition of Brassaï in the Hotel de Ville when we were visiting. Because it was free, the line was insane. Naturally, we tried to get in there another way. We walked all around the hotel, trying every door and even the car park. We considered jumping over the fence, but that seemed a little extreme. We tried to get through by going to another expo in the same building that wasn’t as popular (no wonder, as it was about the murdered soldiers in the first world war). Even as we were only pretending to go to the expo to find an unguarded door, we got depressed. We tried chatting up the soldiers outside, but all we got were some lewd comments… We abandoned the mission in search for some ice cream mid- project. Lesson learned? Don’t be a sissy and climb that wall .
The trip home: where did we go wrong?
We had it all planned out: we contacted a couple of people on taxistop (www.eurostop.com). We chatted with one guy who was going to Brussels the same day we wanted to get back. Sadly, suddenly we couldn’t get through anymore, he didn’t answer any of our messages,… So we had to book 2 bus tickets (as these were the last two tickets and Lien had to be at school the next day). But alas… an hour after we booked the tickets, our ride suddenly called back and asked if we were still coming along! Too little, too late. Lesson learned? Always get an extra day if you’re travelling ad hoc.
How do you visit one of the world’s most expensive (or the most expensive for all I care) cities without robbing a bank? It’s very easy, really.
First of all: how do you get there? If you decide well in advance, you can take the bus from most European cities, but if you decide last minute, like we always do, it’s too expensive.
Hitchhike! If you have something to defend you with, running shoes, and a cell phone, hitchhiking can be loads of fun! You meet new people, you never forget travelling this way, and your adventure doesn’t just start when you reach you destination, it starts way before that, from the moment you start writing the name of your destination on a cardboard cutout…
A couple of rules still apply: Girls: do NOT wear anything too sexy (trainers and a big smile should do the trick), guys: try not to dress too boho (for obvious reasons). First hitchhike your way to a major gas station with a restaurant of some sort. Start asking people you deem trustworthy if they are going in the direction of the city you want to see. You never get in a car with more people than the number you’re with. We didn’t want to get into vans either, and tried to ask small families, women, and truck drivers (they are thoroughly screened on the crazy-factor). We had a sign but we didn’t want to go and stand at the side of the road, because then you can’t control who’ll stop and if you want to get in with them.
After an hour and a half of “no’s”, we saw a bus driver with an empty bus. “Hey”, we thought, “maybe he’s going to Paris to pick up some people! lets ask!” And so we did. The bus driver barely nodded (we assume he’s not supposed to pick up hitchhikers) and let us on the bus. He went to a town close to Paris. Sebastian, a middle aged man, unhappy in his job but really he was a nice, kind Italian. He loved to chat and even made us some espresso (because no self respecting Italian bus driver would NOT have an espresso machine in his bus (or so he said).
4 hours later we reached the suburbs of Paris (not the nicest place to be), caught a train to the center and reached our destination for less than 5 euro’s each. We took about 7 hours to get there, but we had such a blast on the way we didn’t even care.