Paris: 5 Ways We Did More with Less

Well it’s true what they say, the time does go fast.Β It’s hard to believe it is now September, with August behind us and all that it brought. Just a month ago we were putting the finishing touches on our packed luggage…

But with September comes so many good things: back to school, back to work, and back to working on this little blog and all it encompasses πŸ™‚ I hope you’ll all stick around to see what we’ve got up our sleeves!Β While we get back to normal life, it’s my pleasure to share in my next three posts a few tidbits from our time in France – starting with a few things that made a big trip not only more affordable, but really, that much better.

Travel is a real luxury, and as you all know it can sure get costly. I hope you’ll enjoy this little round-up of 5 ways we traveled well with (just a little) less.

1: Shack Up

And no, I don’t mean run away with a french man on a motorcycle!Β As tempting as that might be πŸ™‚ …but really, I am referring to accommodation, as anyone knows that after flights, the place where you lay your head is likely to be your biggest expense, particularly on a longer trip.Β And really, fancy hotels aside (which are sweet if you’ve got the budget) – just how much time will you be spending in said place of sleep?

I referenced the quaint french apartment we took in Paris, and it was just that: small, old, perfectly lovely, and right in the heart of where we wanted to be (for those of you interested we stayed in the Marais district).Β After all, this is how the vast majority of people live in big cities like this, so it was fun, and not to mention for the four of us, (just a little) less hit on the budgetΒ  & a whole lot more authentic.

We did just fine cozied up in our tiny kitchen, enjoying simple foods made with basics (my next post).Β This was the start of the food journey that has not only affirmed my approach to food more than ever before, but forever reminded me just how simple foods made with quality ingredients are best, and how important it is to enjoy each and every bite.

After all, that is precisely what the people do in France. And it certainly shows!

2: Eat In

Part of the fun of having a real place to shack up in is the chance to live like any other person might in that part of the world (at least for me it was and I suspect this would be the case for many of you too!). Cooking in a strange (tiny) kitchen is an adventure, one I was up for, and one we had a blast with.

It was a beautiful thing – heck – I was cooking dinner in Paris! What a sheer delight it was, and one I took with gratitude and pleasure.Β I mentioned the produce market that set up literally at the steps to our door twice in the time we were there. I bought melons, lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, nectarines, apples & berries. They were all pretty amazing, yes.Β The block we stayed on had a store that stocked every fine oil, wine, preserve & jelly you could want, and the boulangerie on our block made just the right baguettes and chocolate croissants for the girls, who enjoyed them daily.

Eating in saved us tons of money, and it also meant that the three of us vegetarian girls weren’t struggling with menus (and our French) every night. It also meant we ate like royalty & had plenty of time & money left to hit the streets for some quality sight-seeing, and maybe an ice cream and a night cap (or two).Β Of course, we ate dinners out too, and we enjoyed it (just a little) more when we did.Β The best part? Reserving the majority of our sitting time for chilling at our favorite cafes.

Cafe life in France, and in Paris especially, is just about the funnest thing you’ll ever experience, as no one is ever in a rush.Β The people watching is just about the best in the world, not to mention the goodies you are likely to enjoy. A few days in I gave up my afternoon coffee and switched it to white wine or beer.Β And then we simply sat. And watched. And drank. And talked.Β Until it was time to be on our way.

3: Set out on Foot

A big city like Paris is (obviously) more than well set up for tourists, and they are pros at handling all those visitors.Β There are tour buses, stacked double-deckers, boats, bike tours, and of course, the metro is superb. But nothing is like seeing the city on foot both for your waistline and your wallet.

We walked for hours & hours each day, which many of you know is a wonderful way to get fresh air, exercise, and views that you just don’t get from a tourist bus, or underground on the metro.Β Plus, how will you see that top in the window or find that off-the-beaten-track patisserie with the best pastry you ate the whole trip? That gorgeous old cathedral you stumbled on that time you got lost?Β Nothing says adventure like traipsing around a city with just your bag, a camera, good company and a good stylish pair of comfortablish shoes.

4: Pack Coffee/Carry Water

Depending on your preference for coffee, this might not apply, but I was glad to have brought along a few bags of ground coffee from home to make French Presses while I greeted the day and acclimatized.Β The kids were often tired (especially at the start of the trip), and given my (fairly unreasonable) requirement for caffeine early in the day, I got amped at home before leaving the house.

I’d done quite a bit of research on some coffee places I wanted to hit – places that are doing quality coffee like we are lucky to enjoy at home. My first try yielded a closed sign (Telescope seemed to be closed for the month) and the others were just too out-of-the-way and not convenient to drag the whole brood to.Β For a full list of great spots to hit, check out this post on Alice Gao’s beautiful blog here. Alas, maybe next time.Β Besides, I see plenty of snazzy coffee shops here (it’s my job), and I realized that day that I didn’t need to travel to Paris to see them there too.

So the home coffee was a major lifesaver, not to mention an easy way to avoid the Oranginas and other goodies you buy every time you sit your kids at a table (cause you know they can’t sit there with nothing).Β But believe me, they got plenty of Oranginas. In fact, I am pretty sure we spent more on those drinks then most anything the whole trip. But more on that in another post too πŸ™‚Β And bring water wherever you go! All that walking will make you tired, and many places might leave you high and dry (read: thirsty) and succumbing to overpriced drinks you otherwise wouldn’t need.

5: Buy a Museum Pass

Okay. So really. This one made me very, very, happy.Β My husband deserves the credit here, and this action turned out to be genius.Β And not strictly for financial reasons. In fact, all in, we figured that by the end of our week in Paris, we broke even on the cost of this. The real savings, however, turned out to be of the more precious kind.

This thing saved us precious and irreplaceable time. No line ups!Β Visiting Paris in August means the height of tourist season there – in fact – there were (what felt like) more tourists than locals, and given the high rate of shop closures for ‘Vacances’, I’d say this was correct.Β We bought a one week pass that got us into any museum, sans line-up. A sweet deal considering we packed a good ‘sight a day’ into the itinerary. And did I mention the time savings? Brilliant.Β But this is my husband we are talking about. I married him for a reason, or two πŸ˜‰

On our ‘must-see’ cultural list was: Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, The Louvre, Musee D’Orsay, Les Invalides, Versailles, The Pompidou Centre, and of course, the Eiffel Tower (which we did not go up as one of the lifts was broken) – there are quite a few more amazing sights to see, but traveling with a young one allows only so much, and these kids were stimulated to the max.Β Truthfully, they were amazing. As was my husband for buying this pass. Brilliance.

Looking back, it seems crazy that all that is behind us now. Time really flies.Β True to one of my fave Dr. Seuss quotes, I’ve got to tell you that I’m pretty darned glad we did that, and my smiles feel pretty darned wide.Β I’ve since returned home to enjoy the blessings we enjoy here, such as good great regional food, clean tasty water, and truly great friends.

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ShiraParis: 5 Ways We Did More with Less

57 Comments on “Paris: 5 Ways We Did More with Less”

  1. glutenfreehappytummy

    what a great post! you have such great tips! i love the fact that you stayed in an apartment – that is SO smart – that way you can really live like a local, have a kitchen, and not have it be as “touristy” of a stay! your photos are so amazing too! i love seeing all the sights through your camera lens! πŸ™‚

    1. Shira

      Oh thanks Caralyn!! Glad you like the photos – there are SO many I am having trouble figuring out what to share πŸ™‚ Happy to share with you!! xx

  2. Allison

    Ahhhhh this brought back so many memories of Paris! Thank you for another amazing post. And I am totally with you on your travel philosophy/style… Walk for hours and hours, visit museums, carry water (although in Paris you can always refill your water bottle at one of the city’s green metal sculpture-like public drinking water fountains!), and eat out and in. : )

    1. Shira

      Glad Allison, thanks!! I think we are totally alike in that way for sure – and that makes me happy that you can relate! πŸ™‚

  3. sustainabilitea

    Tips? One that comes to mind is not to do too much, especially if you have younger children (or even teens.) People get tired and when they get tired, they get cranky and when they get cranky….well, let’s just say it’s not good. Be sure to take breaks, have enough to eat before you get too hungry, use the water you brought :-), stop before everyone is fried! If you pick one or two things you want to do in a day, that will also allow for serendipitous time to do or see things you just happen to come across.

    This may not be for the more fashion conscious, but I always take my Travelon leather travel purse that fits over my shoulder and hangs in front of me. It’s much less easy to get stolen and ergonomically easier on my shoulders.

    Anyway, glad you had such a great time and thanks for sharing it with us. As for where I’d go today if I could go anywhere, there are too many places from which to choose, so I’ll just leave that question. πŸ™‚ But having choices is a wonderful thing. Welcome home!!

    1. Shira

      I couldn’t agree more with you on this re: the kids! I’d love to post some of those ‘tired’ moments caught on camera πŸ˜‰
      Great tips! Isn’t having the choices THE most wonderful thing? Love that point, such a good one, as we are so lucky! xx

  4. Sarah

    My sister and I were in Paris two years ago – just for a short day and a night – and I honestly didn’t like it. However, I love reading your perspective on it. You make me want to give it another chance. πŸ™‚ I said I’d never go back without a guy (husband/brother/guy friend) and I’m sticking to that! We got way too much guy attention, which made it a little creepy.
    Your tips are right on – especially the water part! We picnicked a lot over there as we stayed in hostels, but the one time we got to use a kitchen was so fun! Our usual cheese and bread became grilled cheese. πŸ˜›
    If I could go anywhere tomorrow it would be New Zealand. Sigh… πŸ˜€

    1. Shira

      I think Paris deserves a second chance, yes, but an incredibly valuable perspective on traveling with men! I can totally see how you might have felt that way, though can’t speak from experience at all! Picnics are so amazing and bread & cheese are just made for them aren’t they?!
      New Zealand – a beautiful choice! xx Thanks for reading and for this great comment Sarah!

    1. Shira

      Thanks Annie! Happy you enjoyed the photos – there are so many to share, but I do hope this gives an authentic look into our time πŸ™‚ Looking back it is really crazy all we did!

  5. Sarah

    sounds so lovely, Shira! looking forward to catching up soon and hearing all the details. photos are awesome. Sarah

  6. Somer

    Utterly beautiful! So grateful to you for sharing all the best bits with us! Can’t wait to hear about some of the meals you ate, the salad above is a classic!

    1. Shira

      Thanks dear Somer! It’s funny thinking about foods…we hit ‘repeat’ almost every night, we were just enjoying the same (amazing) things over & over! Stay tuned! xx

  7. This Sydney Life

    Lovely red tootsies, Shira! I feel so lucky to be able to read about your experience just before I hop on a plane to Paris! We have an apartment, too – for exactly the same reasons. I can’t wait to hit those French food markets AND I have my walking shoes at the ready.

    Hot-footing it to buy a museum pass now… πŸ™‚

    1. Shira

      Thanks J! That’s my ‘Big Apple Red’ moment πŸ™‚ Funny it took 3 weeks of beating up for that job to be toast!
      You will be happy you have that pass for sure! We bought it at the tourism office (if you have any trouble write me and I’ll get more info from the man).
      I hope I’ll be able to cover the important stuff but let me know if you need any more details! So excited for you! What are your travel dates? xx πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  8. Andreea

    beautiful pictures! I always buy a guidebook before the trip, make a list of what we want to visit (some must do, some optional if we have time) and then check out the tourist cards. Our 3-day pass in Oslo saved us money, allowed us to see museums which wouldn’t have cut it given the price and also the ones that were a bit out of the way since it included public transit. I love walking as well, so I usually mark the sights on the map and make my own walking tour (sometimes combining a few of the guidebook tours) to maximize the time. I also find that it helps to be aware of closing times and Mon/Tues closed days. This is especially important when you only have a few days in a city, which is usually the case with most of my trips.
    If I could go anywhere tomorrow, it would probably be on a beach vacation…maybe Hawaii πŸ˜‰

  9. spree

    Shira, I so loved reading about your time with girls and (brilliant) husband in Paris! Your photos captured it so well. And HOW you enjoyed it getting more for less (so smart!) means that your two girls have (count ’em) two brilliant parents! I mentioned to you that Guinea Pig & I are headed there, pretty much shadowing your footsteps! πŸ™‚ All the more wonderful then to begin to f e e l, through your words & images, this place we’ll be living in & loving before we arrive! I’ll watch carefully for these next posts of yours ! We too will be in Provence & Burgundy πŸ™‚ and I’m here to take lessons from one smart chick! πŸ™‚ xoxo

    1. Shira

      Spree! I am so excited for you that you will share such an incredible set of destinations with me!! Feel free to mail me if you would like any more details as we had amazing experiences everywhere we traveled – I am certain you and GP will have so much fun – how long are you traveling for? πŸ™‚ You are in for such a treat!! xx

  10. thekalechronicles

    Beautiful photos help me to fondly remember my own recent trip to Paris. Now I am embarked on adventures here (planning gigs, choosing songs for a duet act, which is unbelievably cool in my book). Such good ideas about packing water, coffee and shoes, staying in an apartment where you can cook — my friend Lauren did that…

    1. Shira

      Fabulous Sharyn! I’d love to hear this duet act (sounds romantic?) πŸ˜‰
      I love that we share the Paris connection and I am looking forward to learning more about Lauren….would love to have her try some IPOM recipes as I was sorry to miss the deadline πŸ™ xx

      1. thekalechronicles

        Actually, what a duet act is is rehearsing and singing duets together and then getting gigs to play them and get paid, We are looking at having some things ready by February so that we can take advantage of Valentine’s Day-related shows. We’ve already started to do a couple of songs together at home and have done two at private parties. We’re going to sing at Johnny’s niece’s wedding in Santa Cruz on the 15th (I’m just doing one song). We may eventually get a recording out, but that will take awhile since neither of us have the money to make a record right now. But musicians like almost nothing better than working together as musicians so it is very exciting — you might say a dream come true.

  11. Heather

    Gosh, what an absolutely incredible trip with your family – thank you for sharing!

    I would absolutely travel to Italy tomorrow if given the chance!

  12. Kristy

    I loved this recap, Shira! I completely agree with trying to rent an apartment and eating in as much as possible. That has helped me multiple times. I never thought to bring my own coffee, though! I love the idea of an early morning in a Parisian apartment, sipping french-pressed coffee!

    If I could go anywhere tomorrow, I think I would go to Barcelona, my most favorite city on Earth. πŸ™‚

    1. Shira

      Kristy – me and you both! It was hard traveling in the south and seeing the auto-route signs for Barcelona….I’d love to visit there too! πŸ™‚ xx

  13. myhealthyohana

    If we visit Paris again, I would definitely get a small place with a kitchen, so we could take advantage of all the wonderful markets and fresh food! You seem to have done it right πŸ™‚

  14. Linda

    What a great experience it seems. I like how you did your own cooking and enjoyed the coffee shops. I’d do the same. Parks are so fantastic, and a museum pass is such good value. Thanks for sharing.

  15. marinachetner

    Lovely post Shira! I know about that museum pass and LOVED dodging the line in winter do get into the Musee D’Orsay! best money spent ever! Coffee and walking in a foreign city truly is the best way to sightsee. Great tips, and fab photos!

    1. Shira

      Thank you Marina!! Isn’t that pass incredible? So happy you know what I am talking about πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ Happy you like the shots!

  16. Karista

    Fantastic post Shira! What a wonderful way to visit Paris. I never thought of renting an apartment, but how fabulous to be able to cook in, not only saving money, but really…. who wouldn’t want to cook a meal in Paris?!

    1. Shira

      Thanks Karista! Yes, it was a lifesaver and saved us so much money! No to mention the fun, a real adventure shopping and planning! Thanks for stopping by!

  17. Ashley Larkin

    Brilliant suggestions, Shira. What a dream. Someday we hope to travel this way with our three girls. France, Germany, Italy, Greece…Until then, I live vicariously through you! πŸ™‚ So happy to hear of your amazing trip.

    1. Shira

      Thank you Ashley! A beautiful plan if I ever heard one – all of those countries are so rich with beauty and history πŸ™‚ So happy to have you join me! xx

  18. Richa

    gorgeous captures shira and looks like one amazing trip! i love the idea of getting an apartment and eating in. Apart from the cost, eating out usually takes a toll on my tummy too. so as well give it a rest to enjoy the trip even more!

    1. Shira

      I’m with you on the troubled tummy Richa – so glad we are on the same page!! I think it definitely helped me a lot there too πŸ™‚ Thanks for the visit!! xx

  19. cibusamare

    I’ve always wanted to go to Paris – your photos want to make me go even more! I totally agree about cooking in an apartment, I recently went to Nice and stayed in a flat there, and I looked forward to making dinner each night!!

  20. Brittany

    Amazing recap. I felt like I was with you all!! Not to mention great ideas on saving money and time! My frugal mind loves that for sure! If I could go anywhere tomorrow I would go to Australia.

    1. Shira

      Thanks Britt! I’d love to hit Australia too someday..I am thinking I do need to add it to the list too! Great choice!… πŸ™‚ xx

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