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 Rome...er, France...you 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!