When You're Not Really Rich Enough to go to Europe, But You Go Anyway

September 18th, 2009

During our recent trip to Europe, the Country Doctor and I were paralyzed by the cost of food in London and Paris.  

Thankfully, in London, we were staying with Pete and Ilona and scrounging as many meals off of them as we could, but Paris was a different story. We already knew that the hotel bill was going to be outrageous, but we were not prepared for how much food was going to cost.




We quickly discovered we could breakfast cheaply on chocolate croissants, cups of fruit and stiff cups of coffee or juice for the kids from the gorgeous patisseries and boulangeries that occupy every street corner in the city, but lunch and dinner was a different story.





Paris has a lot of rules when it comes to dining. If you are willing to stand at the bar that is inside the cafe to eat, you are charged one price. If you choose to dine at a table inside the restaraunt, you are charged a higher price. However, if you want to hold court on the lovely sidewalk veranda outside the cafe, under a cheerful striped awning, seated at the coolest bistro chairs and tables you have ever seen and watch the Paris parade go by, you are charged an even steeper price.  




At one point, the Country Doctor bought the boys some ice cream at a little sidewalk cafe. He stood at the bar to make his purchase and then with ice cream cones in hand, he walked over to a table to sit down. The cashier briskly followed him waving his hands, frantically saying, “No… no… no sir… I must charge you more if you sit down!”

The Country Doctor decided not to sit down after all.





We only had one genuine sit-down meal the entire time we were in Paris. The rest of the time we either purchased food from street vendors or we found little grocery stores and subsisted on bags of chips, cans of soda, fruit and candy bars.





One night we found a take-out pizza place a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower. We sat down for a picnic in the shadow of the tower.  


I did learn a few French phrases before I left for Europe. I had read in several different books, that the French appreciate people who at least attempt to speak their language. When you step into a store, you should say Bonjour! I had practiced saying merci! with the kids and au revoir! I had all the confidence in the world that I could at least carry on a five second conversation in French with anyone.  

But then reality set in.




I would walk into a cafe, a store, a little shop and I would freeze up. I would see the lovely croissant, the cold drink, the ice cream cone, but I could not summon the courage to use any French words. Instead I became a deaf mute. I could only mutter and make moaning sounds. I could only gesture and hold up my fingers to say one… or two. I could only shrug and shake my head and speak in louder and more broken English with each attempt to explain what I wanted. Then I would get nervous and embarrased and start to speak in rudimentary Spanish, or in English with a goofy French accent. I basically turned into a raving lunatic every time I tried to purchase something in Paris. I think I might be the principle reason that the French hate Americans so much.



At one point, as we were walking around the city, I saw some glass coke bottles on a table in a restaraunt. I thought it might be nice to have a French glass coke bottle as a (cheap) souvenir.  I stepped up to the lady at the register to see if I could buy one. I pointed to the bottles in a fridge beside the bar and said, “Sil vous plait…two cokes… por favor.” The lady behind the register pointed me towards the bar. I stepped over to the bartender and again attempted to place my order, “Two cokes please,” I said.

The bartender looked at me with confusion.

I pointed to the bottles of coke in the nearby fridge and said, “Two cokes… two cokah…. dos cokahs… por favor?”

The bartender handed me two cans of coke, “No, ” I said,  ”Two bottles... dos bottles… two cokah een leetle glass bottles por favor.” I continued stammering realizing that my newly invented language of one third broken English/one third fake Spanish and one third complete nut-job was not going to help me in this situation.

The waiter said, “Two cokes?”

“Yes!” I exclaimed, “Two bottles of cokah… por favor….in glass bottle. Si vous plait, for please to put the bottle of cokah in my handee now.”

The waiter moved the cans of Coke closer to me, but I pointed again to the glass bottles and said, “Cokee bottle. Give Cokee bottle to me.  Thankee por favor!”.  I moved over to the fridge and reached to open the glass door but the cash register lady saw what I was doing and she began to shout,”No! No! NO!”

What followed was a slow, painful pantomime with the cash register lady, the bartender and myself acting out a parable whereby I finally discovered that the glass bottles of Coke were reserved for the patrons seated in the sidewalk tables.  The standing bar-fly riff-cheapskate people got the cans. When the light of understanding clicked on, I sheepishly paid for my pathetic cans of coke and fled. 


When we arrived back at our hotel after sightseeing for a few hours, the man at the front desk waved me over and asked to see my key. Oh, I thought, this must be some kind of security thing.  I hauled out my key and showed it to the man at the desk, but he didn’t want to see my key, he wanted my key. 

Me – “But we’re not checking out yet.”

Desk – “No… you leave key here.”

Me – “We are staying two more days.”

Desk – “You leave key here when you leave.”

Me – “Okay… when we check out we will leave the key here.”

Desk – “No… when you leave, you leave the key… when you come back you take the key.”

Me – You want my key?

Desk – Yes… give me your key.

Me – But I need to get in my room.

Desk – When you leave the hotel, leave your key.  When you come back to hotel, you pick up your key.

Me – Ohhhhhh!

I finally understood that I needed to turn my key into the desk when I left and pick it up when I returned.

It made me feel kind of weird… leaving my room key behind every time I left the hotel. All my stuff was in that room and I was essentially locking myself out of it, but once we adjusted to the system, it was not a problem.




We walked from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe straight down the Champs Elysees – one of the world’s most famous and most expensive streets.





Along the way we got hungry and sat down at a sidewalk cafe. As we looked over the menu, it slowly dawned on us that a pizza and six drinks was going to cost us almost two hundred dollars.

We quietly arose from our seats, and stumbled back towards the Arc De Triomphe, our bellies rumbling the entire way.



When we got back to London we rented a car. We were all hungry from three days in Paris of subsisting on coke, chips and chocolate croissants, so we were anxious to find a place to eat.

Finally… after a few hours of driving… on the horizon… like a beacon shining in the night… we saw a sign for a gas station/food and grocery store.





We got closer…




and CLOSER!!!








Food we could afford! Food we could understand! And food that understood us!  


What more can you ask for in a meal?


  • Thanks for making me feel better about being lower-middle-class. That’s no insult, I’m serious.

    Sometimes I see people with all this money doing things I could never afford and envy them.

    You’ve put a whole new light on the subject.

    Tomorrow Cliff and I will hop on the motorcycle and ride toward St. Louis, counting our blessings all the way.

  • Tiffany:

    Wow, $200 really??!! I wonder where the locals are eating? Surely, it can’t be that expensive everywhere? I’m glad I can look at your pictures and read your experiences, because I’m sure I’ll never get to Europe. Thanks for sharing!

  • Gaelen:

    For the next time you go to Paris…lol Por favor and dos are Spanish words not French that might have added to the confusion a little ;)

    At least you made it there! That is something.
    Now we know all the people in those outdoor cafes are RICH! LOL

    • This is why I struggled so much Gaelen. Spanish is the only foreign language I can speak (sort of) – and I kept trying to use it. Even now – I still think por favor is a French word. Derrrrrrr. Maybe we should have gone to Spain.

  • Erin:

    I had a VERY delicious meal in Dublin at a Planet Hollywood…one of the teachers on our trip was horrified that we all were eating at an American restaurant in a foreign country, but after over a week of BLAND Irish food (I’m proud of my heritage, but really, have they heard of spices?) a really good American hamburger was just what we all needed!

    You do what you have to do! I’m sure your BK was delicious!

    (and I’ve heard some horror stories lately about the extremely expensive food overseas – not really sure if everyone over there is rich or we just have a really bad exchange rate right now)

  • Alex:

    What a pity you didn’t have a better food experience in Paris. But you were really in the heart of tourist central there, so it’s not really very surprising that the prices were so outrageous. It’s like buying food in a museum, or at Disney.

    Good food here in Europe is pricey in tourist areas, so you have to scope out the non-tourist places in advance– or walk a little further if you have time and energy.

  • Thanks for posting this, Rechelle. After two years of living in Europe, I am now in the middle of Illinois preparing to drive back to Kansas today. Just knowing there are Casey’s General Stores out there with $1.00 coffees waiting for me puts a smile on my face. Heading back to Gravy Land does, too.


  • Stephanie:

    Oh my….beautiful pictures… can’t believe the price of food…may have to put off my trip to Ireland until the boys are older and not starving ever 15 mins…or can pay for their own meals…

  • Naomi:

    The cost of food must explain why French women aren’t fat.

  • Rechelle, You and your writing are a national treasure. Thanks so much for sharing the good, bad, and ugly of your life. And your conversation while trying to buy bottles of Coke was a classic!

  • I want to go to Paris, but not that much.

  • Sandy in MI:

    Oh dear, I can completely commiserate with you. I too turned into a complete lunatic quivering jellyfish when I tried to order something at a Parisien cafe. I would also be the one idiotically holding out a handful of money to pay for something because I couldn’t figure out the currency (pre-euro).

    My husband (who also speaks no French) was thereafter responsible for every interaction with a person regardless of whether it involved money or not. Thankfully he was able to order our croissants and coffee in the mornings without acting like a total idiot. Luckily, our cheap hotel was on a pedestrian only market street and we bought food there at the cheese and produce shops to take with us almost every day for lunch, or ate from the crepe stands or patisseries. Ordering from a French menu was something to be avoided at all costs. Not only because of the price, but because we had no idea what we were ordering.

    Ah, memories. I wish I could spend another day in the Louvre.

  • WOW! I had no idea that food was THAT expensive! Did you kids complain? Mine would have been whining and pouting and I would have been miserable!

  • Jill:

    No wonder there was a meltdown in Paris! We would have had it on day one!

    I love the burger king pix – your son’s smile is the perfect end to a wonderfully told (horror) story.

  • You are surely the queen of the travel writers now! Was the food in the little shops expensive, too? I was so hungry by the time you all got to BK that my stomach was growling.

  • Barb:

    Thanks. You have such a humorous outlook on life….
    Love it!

  • Jennie:

    Wow – I had heard from friends traveling in Europe for business that food was expensive, but never really put it into “family” terms! My friend said that the cost has to do with the beef industry in Europe basically being non-existent and most beef is imported from USA or New Zealand following the mad cow incident years ago. He said about the only place you (as in, Americans) can eat beef affordably is at an American fast food chain b/c the beef comes from the US through the chain. I agree w/ other posters – I don’t know how you managed to feed 4 growing boys! My conspiracy theorist friend would say, “That’s how they get ya! They lure you in with cheap air fares and then stick it to ya with food because you HAVE to eat!”

  • Martha in Kansas:

    Ohhhhh. Your trip is so much clearer to me now. And I realize I’ve been there. The brain freezing up and no words coming out. Price shock. Not understanding their rules. Not understanding anything, and then not understanding myself. I was there for two long years. And had a meltdown when I got home. Yeah.

    On the positive side, the experience made me better able to cope with life. And I still draw on it, 30 years later, in my job. It’s made me very, very good at what I do (helping foreigners understand American culture).

    I hope you’ll reach that stage too, once you’ve fully recovered. It can be life-changing, and a change for the better. And it makes for great funny stories.

  • Yup. We’ve also done that getting up and sidling quietly out the restaurant thing.

  • That cracked me up, so funny!!! It sounds like a wonderful experience!!!

  • I feel I could write a story like this, only it would be titled “When You Are Not Really Rich Enough to Go to a National Park but You Go Anyway”. Seriously, what is up with the price of food (and everything else) in national parks? Camping vacations are supposed to be cheap. Even the food at the little grocery stores is expensive.

    The extent of our foreign travels is two trips (our honeymoon and one 14 years ago) to Scotland. I think it made a huge difference that we went without kids. We might not have been able to afford to eat if we’d brought the kids, even though I don’t remember the food being very expensive there. (It was probably more than I remember since I never did get that dollars to pounds conversion down.) Although they technically speak the same language over there, I still had quite a few of those moments of confusion and failed communication. I wasn’t even sure some of those people were speaking English.

    Now, how were those hamburgers? Were they different there? We found we didn’t like the McDonald’s hamburgers in Scotland. The texture was weird.

  • FL Liz:

    Wow~ It’s been 30 yrs since I’ve been in Paris. The food thing wasn’t like that back then. I’d had high school and a yr of college French before I went and still was reduced to a blank minded idiot for the first few weeks. They speak so FAST lol. Our professor used to say, “hey, 2 yr olds learn French here- you can too.” I could relate. I spoke like a 2 yr old complete with small vocabulary and lots of pointing. It takes guts, creativity and fortitude to travel abroad… you pulled it off !!

  • And that… in a nutshell is why I hated Paris. I have never felt so stupid so many times in such a short period of time. And I even speak French. After two trips I have decided that people in Paris are mean.

  • Patricia:

    HILARIOUS !!! You have a gift for writing !!

    But don’t feel bad – the French hate everyone ! I’m British – they would chew me up and spit me out !!

  • Thirkellgirl:

    We have a family joke about how we often end up eating at a Texaco Mini-Mart when we take vacations. It doesn’t happen quite as often as it did the first fifteen years of our married life, but it used to happen All. The. Time. I completely understand eating at a British petrol station.

    Love your blog, glad you’re back, was worried about you for awhile.

  • Joni:

    When we were in Paris, we only ate one sit down meal too, but that was before the Euro. That’s really taken a toll on traveling. We would buy meat, cheese, bread, fruit and wine and eat in the parks. It was the only way we could afford to eat. I think some people in Paris are very mean. I had a woman tell me the wrong train station so if I wouldn’t have met a nice guy from Spain living in Paris I would have spent the night in the train station. That would have been BAD! Your account of Paris was pretty funny and spot on! Thanks!

  • It is brutally expensive isn’t it. I have to disagree with Erin re: Irish food, not sure where she was eating. Probably tourist traps. But the cost to eat in Ireland is brutal. To put it in perspective London is cheap compared to Ireland. It’s an island nation, lots of importing, v.a.t etc. We always book “self-catering” but even so its pricey, buying at the supermarket is really expensive too.
    Prague was cheap food wise. We got a tip from the taxi driver. He told us to look at a menu for the price of beer. If it was over a certain amount then the place was a tourist trap. They were overcharging. That advice was invaluable.
    in Ireland I took the kids bowling with two of their cousins . 4 of them for 30 mintutes was 33 euro. That’s 48 bucks, for 30 minutes !!! After that it was all hiking and outdoor free fun I’ll tell you:)

  • I’m so glad to have run across your blog! It’s hard to resist this post title…hilarious article. We’ve been planning to take our family of 5 back to Paris next summer, but you’ve made me think twice!

  • Donna:

    It really is amazing how expensive it is in Europe. I completely understand stopping by the little grocery stores and the corner shops, grazing all day because a real meal is just too much. When I was there we did have a few real sit down meals and I must say, save the delicious Italian food, the grazing was better. When I hear that French food is so great I think, “wow where did you go, certainly not the same places as me.” Other than the pastries (the likes of which might not even be rivaled in heaven!) the food was not that great and certainly not worth the price.
    But I must say, the culture was. I loved the museums and the bridges, and the “Paris-ness” of everything there. It is completely worth doing.

  • Wowsa $200 for pizza and coke! (Luckily in Italy pizza = cheap!)

    My hubby was the one who couldn’t deal with the language difference. To this day he’ll tell you he loved everything about Italy except not being able to understand anyone. I reveled in it. I loved testing out my bit of Italian. (Ah, I dream of being fluent one day. My kids are screwed…)

    One of our favorite meals in Italy was dinner in our room in the Alps consisting of cherry tomatoes, fresh cheese, salami, and prosciutto from a small market. And a bottle of vino of course! (My hubby asked the cheese ladies if they had cheddar. *face palm*)

    And really. Everyone that travels oversees must have one meal at an American fast food joint. And take a picture of it. (I have mine with Ronald!) Did they charge you for ketchup like they do in Italy?

  • ROFL!! Even if you hadn’t frozen up, when they started spouting French at you (with that impossible-to-make french R) you would have lost it.

    And I LOVED this story! Finally, someone who travels like we do. We snack and go into grocery stores and hardly ever have sit down meals, and we drag our kids for miles and miles all over some city till their feet ache and their voices whine… :) We were in London this summer and we’re still in shock at how expensive EVERYTHING was. We remember Paris with fondness, but we were there in 2003 and I think the exchange rate was much better then.

  • Pam:

    My husband and I went to Paris last year. Breakfast buffet at our hotel was $50 each. EACH! I had bacon and croissants for $50! What the…??

    (but those were such good croissants)….

  • JenC:

    Can I go with your family on your next vacation?

  • Alex:

    I found that my ability to speak German, while traveling in Germany, improved in direct proportion to the amount of alcohol consumed. Of course, this was not dissimilar to my youthful belief that my dancing skills improved accordingly. Anyway, let me get this straight: you lugged your family half-way round the globe so that you could feed them Burger King? Seems rather a long road to go, no?

  • Oh my. $200? Well, so much for me trying to convince my country doctor that we really need to go to France next summer. Or ever, for that matter.

  • Yipes stripes! $200!

    Thanks for showing us Paris, the Kansas version of Paris.

  • If you think Paris was expensive don’t ever go to Iceland. We were shocked! And broke. $15.00 for a glass of beer. $50.00 for a hamburger… unbelievable. And the fast food was priced the same. Pizza Hut – 1 pizza, 5 sodas = $200.00

    It was a beautiful place though!

  • Paris has a Hotel God? Now *that* must be expensive!

  • Beth:

    Oh, boy do I understand this post! Two years ago we went to Ireland and the UK. After spending a few hours in London with two starving teenage boys, I remarked to my husband that I knew why all Londoners were so thin. They couldn’t afford the food!!

    Similarly to Erin (see her post), we hit the Hard Rock Cafe in Dublin AND Edinburgh. Ahhh…American food. Yeah, it cost us $100 for four of us each time. But it kinda felt like a bargain.


  • I loved reading about your food experiences! Sounds like one way to lose weight…go on a European tour!

  • I read your blog with a smile and I truly felt the pain. We have traveled to Europe many times and have learned some tricks. Check into “slowtrav” the next time and get lot of hints. You can rent an apartment in Paris reasonably–much cheaper than a hotel, for a week and shop the markets in the streets and have wonderful food prepared by YOU for a reasonable price. Especially if you are also feeding children. I hope this does not turn you off to Europe. You really have to leave your American ways behind and become part of the “furniture” so to speak. I do hope you enjoyed the Louvre and other Paris attractions were enjoyed. We tend to stay in small villages and take transportation into the cities and then back into the country to rest. I truly hope this will encourage you to go back someday. And, no matter how bad the French you speak, the French love it if you try.

  • Oh my gosh, you had me laughing out loud! I never knew food cost that much in Paris. Good thing I have no desire to go there because I could never afford to go!! Your photos are wonderful and your story is awesome. What a great adventure for your family….one no one will ever forget. Making memories is what it’s all about and you made some good ones!

  • Amy:

    I pee pee’d my pants when I read your whole coke bottle story. That was the funniest stuff you have written. I laugh often when I stop by but seriously, that was the best. The whole English, fake Spanish, French nut-job combination was classic. I would have had to kill my husband if I was hungry, tired and in a strange land where everything is different. It would be too much and I would combust. I’m sorta scared to go to Europe now. My husband has this dream of taking our twin girls to Paris when they become teenagers all by himself because Gwyneth Paltrow’s Dad took her and told her the reason he took her is that he wanted her to see Paris for the first time with a man who would always love her. Now my husband is convinced he needs to do the same thing. I’ll tell him about the $200 pizza and maybe he will take them someplace else. Loved this post!

  • Holy COW. I cannot imagine. And with FOUR boys… I mean, my kids eat a lot, but you have four BOYS. I only have one and a girl who eats like a boy about half the time. I cannot imagine. And what’s with the different pricing? That’s odd. Then again, I do not care to ever see Paris. London, maybe; Germany, yes; Paris… no. Thanks for reinforcing my belief!

  • Erin:

    I must leave an additional note about the irish food – we did have some delicious food while we were there — but MOST of the places our tour group was taken did not have the best stuff (the best food we had was in pubs, but they usually took us to restaurants, and we didn’t really have much choice on what food we had – it was a student tour group). Almost every place we ate had a “soup du jour” which was the same everywhere – pureed vegetable soup. Kind of odd.

    I had some delicious food in Paris too, but again, it was with a tour group and our breakfasts and dinners were included in the trip (thank God) so we didn’t have to worry as much about it.

    Maybe your boys can take a student trip sometime (and you could sneak along as a chaperone – cheaper way to go!)

  • AA:

    The coke bottle story almost made me wet myself. I could so relate! And the first meal my son and I ate after traveling all night to London was at McDonald’s. Now we make it a point to esat at one wherever we are– and take a pic. We have them from Poland, Bulgaria, Moldova and London, and probably others I can’t remember. Sometimes when you are far from home those meals really do make you happy. not sure what that says about us. Probably that we are truly middle class Americans.

  • Kathy:

    Oh my LORD, you are funny!!! I read your posts out loud to my husband and daughter and we all crack up. We almost didn’t survive the “grave clothes in Bath” post – hilarious!! You should be sainted after a trip like this, I know b/c I have had the same kind of trips…. and my husband is still paying for them! lol! Even he had to laugh at your vacation posts and has said “oh, that poor guy, he will never live this down!”
    Keep writing, I have never enjoyed a blog more!

  • Nancy in AK:

    I still remember touring Paris in 1987 with my little (17 year old) sister. I was a 19 year old college student doing a study abroard program in London for the year. My sister visited over Christmas and we embarked on a two week European tour. We had no credit cards; just cash and very little cash at that. We had EuroRail passes. Mostly, we ate bread and cheese and water. By the time we got to Paris, their was a train strike and we had to use our money to pay for busses and taxis. The food was so expensive in Paris that I couldn’t believe it and I was worried about making it back to London. at one place, I skipped dinner, and just ordered an ice cream to save money and the bowl of ice cream was like $20. I was so upset. I think I told the waiter in no uncertain terms that the price was B.S. It was an awful trip. The Louvre was even closed on the one day we had time to tour it.

  • Nancy in AK:

    I was just thinking how your family’s dining experiences contrast so much with Julia Child’s experiences in Paris!

  • I can relate to every single thing in this post in sharp focus. Except my bloodshot eyeballs aren’t in sharp focus at the moment having just arrived home from 24 hours of travel from Europe.

    Substitute “German” for French and “Zurich” for Paris and that’s my experience. Only Paris is even more expensive then Zurich (where a Starbucks mocha is “only” $7.50)

    I’m so glad you are finally writing about your trip!

    I am now going to bed for about three days. Au Revoir and danke viel mahl.

  • Next time (for there MUST be a next time)…
    1. rent an apartment. cheaper than a hotel and you have a kitchen.
    2. Prix Fixe dinners are fairly cheap and tasty. I usually look for the E10 or E15 meals. Typically it’s a salad, roast chicken, vegetable & profiterole dessert. Wine is always super cheap (Yay!).
    3. Burger King? OK, I understand the weakness! LOL I try to never eat beef in Europe (my own weird fear…).
    4. Next time, you go with me and Marilyn and your super tall sister.
    5. Paninis – best (and cheap) sandwiches ever. Fresh baguette w/ ham & cheese. So good!

    But most importantly, next time w/ me, Marilyn & April.

  • Kristin:

    Great writing, great stories. And wonderful pictures. I want to relive our trip this summe so I can take more pictures of my family doing everyday things…I have maybe 2 restaurant pictures. I love my photos but know I’d enjoy them more with my kids & “normal” stuff than looking at Big Ben, parliament, etc.

  • It’s not so much that Europe is expensive so much as it is that the US dollar is crap. Before our market tanked and Europe (minus UK) banded together to strengthen their economic system, Europe was super cheap. When France had the Franc and Italy had the Lire. OMG. I’d go over with 1 small suitcase and come back with 3 packed to the brim suitcases and boxes of antiques. I do miss those days.

  • Axelle the french reader:

    Dear Rechelle, thank you for this post because you can’t imagine how much it’s interesting to understand how other people see us.
    First I want to tell you that Paris is a VERY VERY expensive place…
    If one day, you can come again in France, I invite you to go in other cities, maybe less famous than Paris but beautiful too and most of all, where you could discover our food… Wonderful and cheap food ;-) Because, sorry to say that, but it’s too bad to come in France without having the possibility to eat.
    I use to go sometimes, in paris, for my job. And we have the same difficulties as you, to eat. But now, we know the places where we have to go, and others where WE CAN’T !!!
    Les Champs Elysées, par exemple, are FORBIDDEN ;-))
    I want to thank you too, because even if you had some difficulties to speak french, what you say is true : we like when foreign people try to speak our language. Just because English is the most spoken language… And we’re VERY bad in english …
    So, thank you for your try.
    And I want to end with something that I have dreamed for YEARS to say to foreign people : Please, PLEASE …
    Parisian people are very very bad educated.
    Even with us… It’s very known, in France : Parisian are, most of the time, not very liked. For many reasons that I can’t explain here.
    But Parisians are as “bad” with strangers as they are with other french people who don’t live in Parois, called “Les Provinciaux”.
    Don’t think that Parisians represent ALL FRENCH PEOPLE. We can be nice and very polite and very “touched” by your efforts to speak our language.
    We have a very bad image, unfortunatly because most of the visitors, when they come in France, go in Paris … Of course … Paris, aaaaaah, Paris …
    But, please, if one day you come back, try to visit the rest of our country.
    We’re not perfect, of course. But I’m almost sure we’re most nice than parisians ;-))…
    I hope noone parisans read that ;-))))

  • Axelle the french reader:

    I have to say too that, at the moment, euro is “stronger” than dollar. That’s maybe a “reason”.
    But it’s true that even when dollar was stroonger, a friend of mine who went in States told me that you could eat for “nothing”.
    And just a question : you didn’t find Burger King, in Paris ? That’s a way to eat for cheap, too.

  • Axelle the french reader- what a great comment! I have not been to Paris but I have been to Marseille and Arles and the French people there were very friendly and helpful and the food was affordable and I’d love to go back. From everything I’m hearing from many places, Paris is over-rated! But France is definitely not!

  • You have answered a twenty-three-year-old question for me. I was in Paris in 1986. Our tour group dropped us in Montmartre for an evening of strolling and sightseeing.

    My best friend and I went into a shop and ordered Croq Monsieurs, grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, and cokes. When we went outside and sat at a table to consume them, the man behind the counter in white coat and apron with big chef hat, came charging at us, waving his finger, shouting, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no!” We had no clue what his deal was.

    We ate our croqs on the Basilica of the Sacré Cœurl steps overlooking Paris.

    I finally know what he was trying to tell us. LOL

    Thanks for that.


  • Axelle the french reader:

    Dear Clayvessel, thanks for your post ! I feel much more comfortable to know that you have a good feeling about Marseille (where I come from, even if, now, I live in Toulon, between Marseille and nice) and Arles !
    Often, when I’m in Paris, I feel REALLY and TRULY ashamed from our way of acting with foreigns people.

  • Suzan:

    Oh now I am becoming scared. My darling daughter is spending her Christmas vacation ( 9 weeks) going to school in Geneva. It is an international exchange. We have our Swiss Miss here for another week. She has enjoyed her fill of fresh Australian fruit. I am seriously scared we won’t have enough money for my daughter to enjoy her trip. I am told they buy school lunch and it costs between 6 and 15 Swiss Franc a day!!!!!

    I knew about the varying costs of eating in different parts of the cafes etc. But $200 for a simple meal for six is huge!

  • Loved your travel anecdotes… And, wow! The cost of food in Paris is even more than here in Sweden…

  • Paris is a gorgeous city. If it were up to me, I would still be standing in front of one of those huge oil paintings at the Louvre. The entire city is a work of art. People are the same everywhere. There is kindness and rudeness everywhere. In some places, there may be more of a ‘culture of kindness’ or a ‘culture of rudeness’ but there are always people who ignore the ‘culture’ and respond to life how they want to. This was a story about food and money – but that is just one part of Paris. One small part. I hope to go back someday, now that I know how to do things more intelligently.

  • The cost is one thing – quite shocking for the pizza and drinks – but the thing about the price being different if you stay or “take away”… I’m sure we have some strangeness here in good ole USA that we’re unaware of.


  • First of all I must say your photos are gorgeous! We went to Paris in 2000 and the prices were not bad then. We went with a tour group of 50 people and included in our package we ate breakfast and supper in the hotel. You just had to pay for your drinks excluding water. The most trouble we had was from the British tour guide lady that was with us. She was the rudest and meanest person I have ever known. She did not like us (Americans) and she was very unhappy with the tip she received from our group at the end of the trip. She told us that if we couldn’t afford to tip then we couldn’t afford to tour Europe. We had saved our money up for the trip and included the suggested tip amount with it. I guess she was saying you need to be rich to travel. I loved Paris in all its beauty but it was more hectic to be there than London or Lucerne. But I would love to return some day. My husband has a niece that lives there and has for years. I would never want to go with a large group again. I think traveling with your girlfriends would be better. I got to go with my daughter and my mother though.

  • siltedrepose:

    You’ve changed the phrase on top of your page! I like mushrooms!

  • Colleen:

    Such a funny story.

    Too bad you didn’t notice the McDonald’s on the Champs Elysees. You could have filled the boys up there. Also the baguette sandwiches with ham and cheese, or tuna and hard boiled eggs that are available just about everywhere are very good and not expensive. And street crepes, and the falafel stands sell good and cheap food. Pizza is kind of hard to find at a good price in Paris, but there is lots to eat without going broke. Also plenty available at the grocery stores – things like fresh fruit, cheese, bread, cereal and milk etc. I agree with the poster who suggested renting an apartment by the week – that is a much better deal especially for eating breakfast and lunch. And the fixed price menus in little restaurants are a good bargain for dinners.

    I am sorry your trip was a bit of a disaster, but I hope you go back for another try sometime. Your photos are very beautiful, so at least they turned out well!

  • Shannon W:

    I’ve got to stop reading your blog when I’m at work… I get so tickled and I can’t contain my giggles within my cubicle. Tears ran down my cheeks when I read your dos cokhas debacle. You are so funny.

  • Lois:

    Wow, Rachelle, how much happier things would have been had you gotten some tips before your trip. Of course outdoor cafes on the grand boulevards are expensive. Suppose you did the same thing in NYC or LA? But there are amazing hole in the wall places off the main drags, wonderful breads, cheeses, sandwiches in the shops and all kinds of gorgeous parks where you can rest and eat. And the crepes and croque monsieurs on the street—ooh la la! And then there are the marvelous Algerian restaurants.

    When you try to communicate in French, even though it’s feeble, they will fall all over themselves to help. Coming away from Europe with pizza and Burger King? Ouch.

    The Parisians are eminently proud of their culture, probably a bit too much so. 8-> But when we Americans make an effort to participate in it, they’re a marvelously cordial people.

    Other friends, don’t be afraid of Europe! Just talk with people who’ve spent time there, or do a little prep reading on how to eat and stay affordably. Visit the same market two days in a row and they’ll be looking out for you. 8->

  • Dee from Tennessee:

    Great, great post! I took for granted that the food would be expensive, but not to that extent. And what a kind and informative post from Axelle the french reader….you have such interesting commenters. (I’ve been having computer issues…argh….and trying to find my favs….glad to be catching up on your posts!)