Wednesday, November 7, 2007

How to Stretch Your Dollar-Forty-Seven ($1.47) Part One

So, has anyone been following the Dollar-Euro Saga lately? Thanks to Windows Vista eye candy (aka: Gadgets), I have a constant reminder of the conversion rate in the upper right hand corner of my screen; bad news pour moi each time I flip the lid open on my notebook. As of this very second, it costs exactly $1.467 to buy a Euro. OUCH. In my mind, it would be more amusing to flush actual dollars down my own toilet than to go to the bank to lose it all on paper.

Thankfully, I know that we can eat reasonable in France, and eat well! No, that does not mean that I'll be buying designer pastries tout les jours, or sitting in a salon du thé to eat le petit déjeuner every morning. We will have to be French if we want to go. When in, know the rest.

I love cafes (did I even have to mention that?), but a budget doesn't allow for eating breakfast in one everyday. For breakfast most days, I bought our chocolatines (pain au choc) or brioche from our neighborhood boulanagerie/patisserie and ate them at home, along with jus d'orange, Lavazza or Carte Noire coffee (purchased at the supermarket) and of course, yaourt. Our all time favorite yogurt seemed to be Les Petits Musclees. Made for kids, enjoyed by adults! But there are about a gazillion kinds of yogurts in the average market in France and I want to try them all!

But back to the point I'm trying to make. Since you can't go all the way to France and then not even go to a cafe, you can still have breakfast in one without breaking the bank. If you really want to be cheap, walk up to the bar and take in your coffee standing up, it'll be less expensive than sitting down. Personally, I don't like to do that because I prefer to pay more and sit comfortably, but it's what the locals often do. You are also allowed to bring in your previously purchased croissant. Many times, before I learned it was acceptable to bring in food, I ordered a croissant at the cafe, and they ran next door to the boulangerie to purchase it, and then served it to me for double the price.

I have gotten exceptional pastries at places with no brand name. Gorgeous, addicting and they cost a fraction of the pretentious ones, who insist that they are the only mouth-worthy (read: tourist trap) delectables.

I prefer the everyday bakeries and shops that les francais frequent. I like to stand in line with the 87-year old woman who has been a loyal customer of her neighborhood bakery for most her adult life. And I like rubbing shoulders with the other customers who live in the voisinage, some who make no qualms about sending a flute or pain de campagne back over the counter if it isn't perfect.

I like to have the shop owner recognize me after a few visits and help me with my pronunciation of their viennoiseries. (I once asked for an oki-tann (Occitaine)bread and the lady corrected me (oxi-tann) and each time I came in, she lovingly gave me a lesson in the pronunciation of her wares.) I like to fit in with the locals, not stand out. If you're into that kind of thing. It's a rich experience that cannot be planned ahead of time in one's travel itinerary saved in your computer documents.
Of course, I would like to visit the six-dollar-cup-of-hot-chocolate salons and buy five-dollar-per-bite-pastries in famous foodie-tourist places. But if it means that I have to wait years to return to La Belle France (when I have saved the giant stack of puny dollars or wait to see if it gains strength), then it's just not worth it to me.

Tomorrow: How to have a perfect, dollar friendly lunch in France (and not lose any of the romance!)

Meanwhile, visit a virtual bakery and learn how to identify and pronounce breads in French!


wcs said...

cassoulet, thanks for stopping by my blog for a visit! I'm going to spend some time now looking through your past posts and enjoying your perspective. And even though I'm drinking tea, I think it'll be fun. ;)

La Belette Rouge said...

Dear CC,
Your posts are having a cumulative affect on me. So thanks to you :), I am craving a chocolate chaud in a French cup with bread and French jam. The cost of my culinary craving: $20.00 if I go to Laduree and $5.00 if I go where you recommend. Either way, I don't want the low-carb, caffeine free, and sugar free breakfast that is waiting for me in my kitchen

My Inner French Girl said...

Oooo, merci, CC! The post was lovely and really evoked the mood and atmosphere of what I imagine to be the ideal French bakery.

I have a local bakery that we go to often and which has been around since the '60s. It's no-nonsense, closed at noon, and have more than just the usual donuts-and-muffins that most American bakeries seem to have resigned themselves to serving exclusively. On Saturday mornings, we often make our croissant/rugelach/muffin/pastry purchase there, then head to our favorite coffeehouse for big cups of coffee. Fortunately, the coffee is still only about $1.50 each, and Fairtrade to boot. Heaven.

Thank you for sharing!


Cassoulet Cafe said...

WCS-Thanks for reciprocating by coming and posting on my blog! ;)

LBR-Don't ya know that misery loves company? I don't want to be the only one craving (or eating) chocolate, jam and coffee :) I'm so evil...

Marjorie-Your bakery sounds GREAT! I was drinking my Fairtrade as I was reading your comment. (We roast our own!):)

WOW, I went crazy on the smilies, but I just am so happy that you guys are reading and commenting! :) :) :) :)

Cris in Oregon said...

Sounds good to me LBR.. a Fifteen dollar saving on the very same thing at Laduree's & atmosphere to boot..not being in your own kitchen is You can go FOUR times on that savings. I love the idea of blending in with the natives too.
It is Fun & One should do the Touristy thing now and then too but on a day to day budget you'd go broke. Good information CC.

Owen Peery said...

I think we eat exactly the same thing for breakfast. Mostly I have a croissant, sometimes a chocolatine, and other times 2 slices of toast from the local bakery. I also have Carte Noir coffee. I too would like to try all the yogurts but for digestive purposes I stick to Activia Natur. Sometimes I'll add a little butter from the local market or jam. It is a simple breakfast that I've had in varying degrees since I lived in CA years ago.

WCS, where do you buy your tea? We haven't found very good tea. We bought loose teas from spice vendors in the local markets and were surprised to find out they were no good.

When we eat out we eat out for lunch. 10-12 Euros for entree, salad, plat, fromage, et dessert. Sometimes not all but at least 3 of the courses. Even with the crappy exchange rate you can eat like this once in a while, you don't need but a soup later for b=dinner after so much food at lunch.

wcs said...

I drink PG Tips, from England. You should be able to find it in the Dordogne, with all the English folks around.

My Inner French Girl said...

CC, bonjour!

I'm writing this as I sit at our favorite coffee house, drinking my cafe au lait (although today, they didn't have Fair Trade, quel dommage). I used to be a breakfast skipper, but now it's my favorite meal of the day, and not simply because I'm generally starving after not having eaten for 10 or so hours! Since being more conscious about what I eat and attempting a more French-inspired "diet" and lifestyle, I've really savored that first meal of the day and always try to source the best products for it (yogurt, bread, cereal, coffee, milk) that I can afford. Weekends especially are a great time to do this, as both my husband and I can enjoy the leisurely meal.

Thanks for a great post!