PARIS ON A BUDGET
(While still enjoying the delights of the city)
No need to spend a fortune eating out in Paris. One of the nicest things is to find authentic little bistrots where local people eat. Keep to side streets when looking for small scale restaurants, and look for labels with recommendations in the windows. The Zurban and The Routard are good recommendations to go by because they choose inexpensive bistrots which are good value. (The Routard guide is a bit like the Rough Guide and their label has a man walking carrying the globe on his back.) I have found some excellent restaurants by just looking out for Routard labels as I walk round Paris!
To keep down the price of your meals we suggest you have the dish of the day, 'plat du jour' which will be the freshest and best value. There is usually a choice of a couple of these in a small restaurant. If there is a huge choice it is unlikely the dishes will be freshly made. Order the house wine, which will be good value, and often comes in a jug 'un pichet', and tap water costs nothing. (Ask for a carafe of water 'une carafe d'eau' and they will bring you free tap water which is quite safe to drink here) Mineral water is very nice but it's quite expensive.
The lovely graceful green drinking fountains provide free drinking water all over Paris. Fill up your plastic bottle here. You can learn the story of these 'Wallace' fountains on our Montmartre Walk.
Deserts in restaurants are often overpriced and not as nice as the treats you can get in a good Parisian bakery. Have an entrée and main course and then snack on a gorgeous cake, or suculent fruit tart either on a bench in a Paris park or in your hotel. Some of the best bakeries do not have anywhere to eat their food so buy something extravagant and take it back to your hotel to eat. This will probably be cheaper than a slice of industrial gateau in a café or restaurant. Buy a lovely bottle of wine from a supermarket or wine merchant which would cost a fortune in a restaurant and enjoy it in your hotel room. When we travel we always take a couple of small tumbler glasses and a Swiss army knife with a cork screw and have our own aperitif in the hotel room. After a day's visiting it's nice to relax before going out for a meal and it's a moment to enjoy a good bottle of wine for less than the price of two glasses in a bar.
Have a small black coffee, like the locals do, standing at the bar. It's very cheap, and delicious. After a meal it's much better for the digestion to have this than milky coffee, and it's half the price. If you have always had watery coffee try the 'express'. It's another drink from another world!
PARKS AND GARDENS
There is a wide choice of lovely gardens in the city: the Tuileries Gardens next to the Louvre, the Luxembourg gardens, these are famous formal gardens. The Parc Monceau and the Parc Montsouris are delightful landscaped parks. New gardens: the Promenade Plantée is 4 kilometers of garden created on old raised railway tracks starting behind the Bastille Opera, and the Parc de Bercy on the East side of Paris has a lot of interesting features, a vineyard and sculpture park.
Museums belonging to the city of Paris are free. The magnificent Petit Palais, half way up the Champs Elysees, is a mini Louvre and has a nice tea room giving on to a hidden garden. The Carnavalet History of Paris Museum in the Marais distict has a marvellous collection. Victor Hugo's House on the place des Vosges is a small scale treasure for anyone who has read his novels and wants to see how the great man lived. The City Hall (Hotel de Ville) has free exhibitions. State owned museums are free on the first Sunday of the month but big museums like the Louvre are horribly crowded. It's best to go in the evening when they open late or at about 4pm when people are coming out, or after 6pm to get the reduced fee. I always go to the popular exhibitions at 5pm when they are open late as it's the least crowded moment.