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Savvy Travel: Fifi Returns to Paris

The Budget Babe's International Travel Advisor Fifi LaMode revisits Paris and discovers the more things change, the more they...well, you know the rest. —BB

by Fifi LaMode
PARIS - Plus ça change... OK, OK, I know I said I'd focus on places other than Europe, but heck, it's France and I couldn't stay away. It's 3 years since I was last in Paris and here's an update on what's changed and what hasn't:

What's changed: The prices. Big time. The cute boutique hotel we stayed at for 120 Euros is now a Best Western and charges 290 Eu. Ouch. I also switched from cappuccino to the local brew, i.e. espresso, because it's 1/3 the price and I discovered you can sleep after you drink it. Anyway, it's much cooler drinking the teeny cups of mud, er, coffee, than big globs of foam which stay on your upper lip marking you as a tourist. There's a reason they charge 3.5 Eu for these things.

They've also discovered yuppification where wine is concerned, i.e. charging stupid amounts for a glass of something that costs little more than that for an entire bottle. Shame on you, Paris. I recall my student days when no matter how little money we had, we could always get a decent bottle of vin rouge, a loaf of bread, and some cheese. The bread and cheese are still cheap and good, but even the locals complain about the high price of everything. Mr. Sarkozy, please, you love America, learn a lesson from us. If it's a moneymaker, run with it. French wine and cheese are why folks keep coming back - really. Keep those taxes down!

What else has changed? The crowds - there's more of them. Montmartre is positively unnavigable - wall to wall people. Stopped for lunch at Le Consulat. If it sounds familiar that's because it appears in some of the Impressionists' paintings. Anyway I figured if it's good enough for Degas and Sisley, it's good enough for me. Wrong. 6 Eu for a mini-glass of mediocre wine. That and a bowl of onion soup and a coffee set me back 27 US dollars. And I wasn't even full. If you've seen Montmartre, you don't need to go back. The charm's gone.

What hasn't changed: The patisserie shops, the flower stalls, the outdoor cafes, the ambiance, the way people are naturally cool, all reasons enough to keep coming back. You can sit in a brasserie and have a light meal and a beer for under 30 US. Of course the place we used to go at the Madeleine has become gentrified and no longer serves up spaghetti bolognese and a 'pichet' of local table wine, it's now showcased wines by the glass, nothing under 5 Eu. That's ok - we looked at the menu and walked out. Stick to the neighborhoods where there are more locals than tourists and you'll do ok. There you can get onion soup for 5 Eu instead of 7.5 and you can drink beer instead of wine. (I never thought I'd drink beer instead of wine in France, but, as needs must.....).

We had dinner one night at the Montebello in the Latin Quarter al fresco. The actual restaurant is in an 18th century building with a very winding staircase to the bathrooms. Service is friendly, food is excellent. It was a holiday and the streets were full of people, the weather was balmy and the mood was festive. You were next to the Seine and could see Notre Dame across the river. It really doesn't get much better than that. This is why I keep coming back to Paris.

I went to Europe last summer and the prices seemed to be staggering, but were much better than U.S but my family and friends who live there now are telling me its even worse especially when it comes to clothes and food. Food has usually always been pretty cheap in Europe and Fashion was always expensive but now i guess they're taking after America..(gosh darn economy)
#1 Neira on 2008-07-17 06:37 (Reply)
i just got back from europe too and you can't top u.s. prices. this is truer than ever. you can't find espadrilles (a decent pair) for under $100! any shoes under $50 are plastic crap.
the food's still fabulous though.
#2 maggie z on 2008-07-17 11:56 (Reply)
As exchange rate keeps dropping, its gonna cost more out of our pockets to go to Europe :-(
#3 sexy costume (Homepage) on 2008-07-17 14:19 (Reply)
that's why now i'm limiting my travel to my local greek, french, and italian restaurants!
a little bit of mykonos, paris, and sicily right at my doorstep and you don't have to stand in those frightful TSA lines!
#4 maggie z on 2008-07-17 15:25 (Reply)
I could not agree with you more! I traveled to Paris over Christmas and the prices were just outrageous! Not to mention the fact that our economy is so bad right now that you end up paying way more. I know I complain now, but the truth it, it was worth every penny. Paris is beyond amazing!
#5 Lauren (Homepage) on 2008-07-18 12:20 (Reply)
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