Sunday, June 22, 2014

Savings in France

France, especially Paris, is reputed to be quite expensive, but there are ways to visit this beautiful city and country without going bankrupt. Just being in Paris and observing the scene from a sidewalk cafe is entertainment in itself, all for the price of a cup of coffee. There are interesting cafes along the rue Mouffetard in the Latin Quarter, and elsewhere. I used to love Fouquet's, an upscale cafe on the Champs Elysees.

The best bets for reasonably priced dining are ehtnic restaurants such as Vietnamese or Greek. Stick to the prix fixe menu if possible. A Website called has a lot of information about Paris restaurants, wine bars and food tours. In good weather, you can pick up the makings for a picnic in a charcuterie or patisserie and eat in one of the city's pleasant parks.

You can visit the grounds of the Chateau de Versailles for just the cost of a Metro ticket, though I believe it would be a shame to miss seeing the famous Hall of Mirrors inside, where the treaty ending World War I was signed. Strolling along the Seine is another free activity, as is visiting the city's churches for services.

If you head to Germany from France, an article in recommends stopping off at least for a day in Strasbourg, capital of Alsace. You can leave your luggage at the train station for just 4 euros, and wander around the city. The most interesting area is the medieval quarter called La Petite France, just a five minute walk from the station. The Cathedral, which dates from the 15th century, is a marvel of Gothic architecture.

I have a soft spot for Strasbourg because I spent a couple of weeks there studying French one summer. I especially enjoyed the local food, a rich blend of French and German fare, and the excellent white wine. A local specialty that is very tasty is known as flammkuchen, and it resembles quiche with plenty of onions. It was called zwiebeltorte or tarte a l:onion when I was there. At a restaurant called Le Flam's you can enjoy unlimited flammkuchen for just 12 euros.

Getting around Strasbourg by bike is easy and cheap, since bike rental with VelHop costs just 5 euros a day. A pint of Alsatian beer will set you back the same amount. If you have time, try to visit some of the smaller towns near Strasbourg such as Riquewihr, famed for their wines and half-timbered architecture. Strasbourg is decidedly French, but the local dialect is Germanic, so if you speak either language you won''t have any trouble getting around.


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