There is a French proverb that says, À coeur vaillant rien d'impossible ("nothing is impossible with a willing heart"), and even travel is not impossible for my fellow Recessionistas! With off-season rates at their prime and an absence of herds of tourists in the city, this is prime time to take advantage of the best that Paris has to offer. However, Recessionistas know better than to sashay into the City of Lights with blinders on. Here are some highlights and values for falling in love with the French capital on a budget:
1. Bring Your Lover, Best Friend, or Accountant: The point is, bring some one with you! Although vacationing alone can be enjoyable and should be done at least once in life, traveling alone in Paris can add on extra fees on to your hotel stay, as single rooms generally will run you over a hundred Euro more per person than a double room. I found deals out of NYC, Chicago, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles that hovered around $700 USD for airfare and 6 night hotel stay. Il est étonnant!
2. Eat like a Parisian: Most hotels will provide a continental breakfast (coffee, pastries), mainly for the courtesy of foreigners. Parisians generally begin the day with coffee and a cigarette (Surgeon General's warning to Mis Amis Francois!), but that does not mean that the residents do not enjoy food. Quite the opposite, the French savor their meals, spending an hour or more on lunches and late night suppers. Parisians eat slow and luxuriate on what they are consuming, taking as much enjoyment from Coq au Vin at a fine restaurant as they do at the inexpensive Lebanese "fast food" (I recommend Noura restaurants: http://www.noura.com/) Spend time on your meals and you will find yourself ordering less and truly enjoying what you are eating. Finally, Parisians generally drink wine and/or water with their meals, so try to avoid the faux pas of ordering a Sugar-Free Redbull with your meal - not only is it gauche, but it will likely cost Recessionistas twice as much as a glass of wine.
3. Paint a Theme and Select Your Palette Selectively: Paris, like many large cities of the world, offers so much- amazing antiquities, sumptuous dining, and, oh, the shopping! It is not surprising that any Recessionista can easily become overwhelmed with the possibilities. To avoid feeling panicked and potentially overspending due to lack of planning, identify a list of "Must-see/do/tastes" prior to departure. Given that Paris is the City of Romance, might I suggest you take carte blanche in designing your own love affair. Do not feel that you MUST visit the Louvre or feel obligated to stand in line top go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Recessionistas should select only the venues and excursions that they are really excited about. I have a much more vivid recollection of the cappuccino I indulged in at the infamous Cafe Deux Margots, an old Hemingway haunt and the odd French artist I met than I do of some of the more standard "tourist venues" I toured. If you are a creatively-impaired Recessionista, you can outsource the development of a fabulous itinerary to others.
4. Splurge, but wisely. Paris provides nearly every indulgence you can imagine, and indulge you should, but selectively so. If you enjoy the fine art of shopping but your budget is more Costco than Champs-Elysees, fear not. Check out the Paris Flea Market, the largest in the world and negotiate prices that suit your budget. If you find your inspiration in the great Museums and historical architecture in the city, paying the individual admission fees at all of the great Parisian institutions can run you a fortune. Thankfully, Paris now offers a pass that gives Recessionistas unlimited access to museums for 2-, 4-, or 6-consecutive days for a drastically reduced rate. /) For my foodie Recessionista friends who just must indulge in the trendiest and tastiest of Parisian cuisine, I would hardly discourage you from doing so, but perhaps spoil yourself with lavish lunches that will lighten the blow to your wallet or select one or two evenings to go all out, instead of pretending you have the budget of Louis XIV and eating at L'Atelier or Alain Ducasse Au Plaza Athenee every night.
5. Fall in Love. Good news! The real kind, it's still free!
Recessionista Tip of the Day: Many Recessionistas I know are on the prowl for a new job in the midst of a difficult job market. To keep your momentum going, visibility and networking are key. Get involved in your the local chapters of your alumni associations or sign-up for local young professional organizations. Often, membership dues are nominal, and the networking opportunities abound. Just remember, Alumni Happy Hours are not the appropriate forum to recreate the Beer bong championship you won senior year.