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Daily LifeEating in France

Here is a "How-To" that offers some strategies on eating cheaply in France.

When in Paris, know the price before ordering. A friend of mine spent 7 euros (at the time about 7 US dollars) on a cup of tea, because he did not ask the price before ordering.

For Le Petit Déjeuner (breakfast), I would suggest that you find out the price in the hotel or B & B you are staying in. If it is a low-budget place, you might get something for 4 to 5 euros, which isn't bad. Remember that Petit Déjeuner, translated into English, means "little lunch" or "little food," meaning most times you don't get an American full helping breakfast. You get coffee, tea or hot chocolate, along with a baguette (bread), butter and jelly. It fills you up, but is not the big American breakfast you might be used to.

Another route might be to buy your own baguette and some butter or jelly in a store and make your breakfast that way. This might be the cheapest way to go, but the least practical as butter melts fast in hot hotel rooms. But jelly can keep for much longer and baguettes can be found at any Boulangerie (bakery).

Lastly, you could buy your breakfast in a Café or Boulangerie. In the morning, go out walking and see what prices are advertised on the boards outside the Café. I have found prices under 5.50 euros that include a hot drink along with a crescent, butter and jelly.

For Le Déjeuner (lunch) and still in Paris, I would suggest a picnic in a park, the Luxemburg Gardens for example. Find a local or big supermarket (Remember to bag it everything yourself!) and buy some bread, cheese and ham, or better yet, some dried sausage along with some wine and eat like a king or queen. Sit out in the sun - at Luxemburg Gardens chairs are everywhere - and enjoy Paris at its best. Another idea is to eat something hot on the street, like Crêpes (thin pancakes with either a sweet or savory filling) or a Kebab (a type of hot meat or checken sandwich that can be quite filling). If not in Paris and driving, find a Centre Commercial (shopping center), most times well-marked at roundabouts or on roads, and buy yourself something either hot or cold to eat there. Lots of supermarkets in France sell whole roasted chickens hot and ready to eat, and other hot food can be found. Then, you can eat in the car or by the side of the road. We did this once outside of Saint-Emilion when we had lunch next to an abandoned farm; it was a nice, cheap, a fulfilling relief from driving and restaurants!

Lastly for Le Dîner (dinner) and in Paris, you might go out to a restaurant. But shop around. Stroll around Paris in the evening for a while. As with breakfast, read the prices on the boards outside most restaurants and make sure you know the difference between ou (or) and et (and). A restaurant board will say menu pour 20 euros and then list what you can get. In between the choices, there will be either ou or et, telling you that the Entrée is this, the main course is this and then the desert is this. But you will likely have a choice for each course and not two of each. Once in Paris, out with friends, we misread the menu and though we would get two of something; we misunderstood ou and et. Lesson: know what you are getting in advance of ordering. Don't worry if your French in limited to Bonjour. Most French people, who interact with tourists, speak some English, more that likely enough to explain what you are ordering. A French/English dictionary will also help.

Another way would be to do as with lunch, buy something one the street. In Paris, I am a Crêpe man, typically a Crêpe au Jambon et Fromage (ham and cheese) followed by a Crêpe au Banane et Chocolat (banana and chocolate). It fills me up and it does not cost a lot. When I lived in Bordeaux, I ate Kebabs more than Crêpes, mostly at lunch or on Saturday nights. At that time (1995), a Kebab with fries would cost 4 euros, about five dollars.

Note: A couple of things to be aware of when in France: restaurant hours differ from those in the United States. Most restaurants only start serving dinner after 7 pm some as late as 8 pm. Smoking and non-smoking sections exist in France but not in all restaurants and are often close together it advised to arrive early to get a table as far from the smoking section as possible. Most stores and shops including bakeries close during lunch, bakeries often after 12:30. Bakeries often carry little quiches, pieces of pizzas, etc that can mike for a nice mean. Some even will heat their food.

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