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12 things worth splurging on in Paris

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Ladurée macarons. Photos by Theodora Brack.
Ladurée macarons. Photos by Theodora Brack.

Grocery store chains may be your best bets for cutting costs while living in Paris, and they’re perfectly fine and dandy for long-term stays, but what if you’re visiting for just a week or two? Well then, I say, live it like it’s your last!

Visiting one of the finest food capitals of the world, a place chock-full of bountiful “Bon Produits” (specialty shops), all managed by certified gastronomical experts who are more than willing to share their vast wealth of knowledge, is abso-fruga-lute-ly not the time to shop at a chain grocery store in order to save a few centimes.

Splurge on a café.

Splurge on a café.

So take in all those wonderful boulangeries, pâtisseries, chocolatiers, confiseries, glaciers, éspiceries, fromageries, charcuteries, poissonneries, caves, and cafés with a clear conscience. And don’t be shy. Ask for recommendations! Ask questions, and in the process you’ll take home more than the receipt.

Here’s my personal sampling of things to not miss while in France. Cheapos, splurge on!

1. Crème brûlée

Before cracking open this classic beauty, lift the ramekin to your ear, and lightly tap on its hard, caramelized topping with your spoon. Breathe in. Savor the moment.

2. Pain au chocolat

The proper way to eat it is to pinch off teeny morsels with your fingertips to make it last as long as possible. However, I usually peel the individual layers off slowly, thoroughly enjoying each melted chocolate nugget I encounter.

3. Fromage

Big wheels do keep on turning. Like skirts, cheese is seasonal, and the variety is endless. So pace yourself! Start off with the “Cantal jeune.” Named after the volcanic peaks of the Cantal mountain range, it’s hard to find this one-month-old taste sensation outside of France. Why, even the Sun King gave it his Good Palace-Keeping seal of approval. Also, don’t hesitate to ask the fromager for a cheese recommendation based on the wine you just bought down the street. They’ll gladly help you out.

Fresh baguettes.

Baguettes from Gérard Mulot.

4. Baguette

If it’s still warm from the oven, do as the locals do and rip a chunk off and pop it in your mouth as soon as you step out of the bakery. I’ve noticed that males tend to carry their baguettes like caveman clubs, while women usually cradle their bread.

5. Macarons and meringues

The ultimate instant sugar rush—but what-the-hey? You only live once, right? That’s what she said. Catherine de Medici’s Italian pastry chefs introduced the macaron to France, and Ladurée is credited with its stream-lined modern sandwich-look.

6. Wines

It’s perfectly normal to say, “I’m looking for something around five euros to go with [fill in the blank].” Trust me, everyone else is asking the same question. Tip: Caviste Pascal Fauvel at La Cave de Abbesses at 43 rue des Abbesses clearly marks his recommendations with heart-shaped signs that read, “Coup de coeur maison.” Others follow suit.

7. French onion soup

Yummy escargot

Yummy escargot

Day or night, it’s a hot and hearty Cheapo happy meal (sans prizes).

8. Escargots

If you end up loving them (and most people do) then you’ve made a culinary discovery, and if not, at least you’ve got a funny story to tell, and everyone will admire your bravery. I usually order my snails bathed in garlic, butter, and herbs in their little spiral shells. Yum!

9. Crêpes

“Je voudrais une banane-chocolat crêpe, s’il vous plaît,” is another one of my tickets to paradise.

Tartes at Les Petits Mitrons.

Tartes at Les Petits Mitrons.

10. Tarte

Any ole tarte will do as long as it comes from Les Petits Mitrons at 26 rue Lepic in Abbesses, just up the street from the Moulin Rouge, and kitty-corner from the café featured in the film “Amélie.” You can also buy your pie by the slice!

11. A drink in Parisian café

If you visit Paris and miss out on this experience, Cheapos, we are no longer friends. Yes! Your alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks will cost a little more than in a grocery store, but the upside is that you’ll be given courtside seats to people watching, and you can stay as long as you like.

12. At least one article of clothing

For the simple love of bragging rights, do pick up a scarf, shirt, or slacks. Then, for years to come you’ll be able to say, “Oh, this old thing? I picked it up in Paris years ago!”

Cheapos, do you have a favorite French treat? Do tell!

About the author

Theadora Brack

About the author: Theadora Brack is a writer working in Paris. Her fiction has appeared in more than 30 literary publications, including 3AM International, The Smoking Poet, Beloit Fiction Journal, Mid-American Review, and the Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal.

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9 thoughts on “12 things worth splurging on in Paris”

  1. Pingback: Paris, je t’aime

  2. Pingback: MJ’s Travel Favorites 2-14-10 | Traveling with MJ

  3. I couldn’t agree more.

    There are times to economize and times to splurge. And while the exact splurges will be different for different people (I can pass up escargot, but would rather die than not have my wine and frommage), it is those moments that I remember years later!

    Reply
  4. My favorite splurge is sitting at the sidewalk tables, outside Cafe de Flore, drinking hot chocolate that’s like melted French candy bars. Actually, it’s sitting in any Parisian sidewalk cafe watching the world go by.

    Reply
  5. Hey Matt,

    You might be right, but I am not so sure.

    A few years ago I was sitting at Café Le Petit Pont. Some light jazz was playing in the background and I had a magnificent view of the towers of Notre Dame, lit up at night with a glimmering reflection off the Seine.

    I was drinking an amazing glass of red wine, just enjoying myself. The next day I went over to the wine store and picked up a few bottles of the same wine to bring home.

    In my living room, with a stunning view Route 24, sparkling traffic lights, and honking horns, I opened up a bottle of the same inexpensive wine I had in Paris. It almost had to spit it out.

    When I went back to Paris and told wine shopkeeper that his wine was bad, he told me it had nothing to do with “bad” wine. Anything will taste good sitting in a cafe while enjoying a beautiful Parisian vista. It just won’t taste the same in your living room.

    Reply

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