Friday, February 19, 2010
Eating and Drinking Cheap in Paris (Part 2)
A couple of days ago, I spent a lot of time explaining the ways that I have found to eat and drink in Paris. Actually, I spent a lot more time working on the food. This time around, I'll get to explaining inexpensive ways I've found to drink in the City of Light.
1. Drinking at a Friend's House is Almost Always Cheaper Than a Bar
If you've ever gone out in Paris, you've probably noticed that a pint of beer, at on average 6 euros, is about what one would pay for lunch, or even dinner in a restaurant in the US. There's no doubt about it, drinking can be very expensive. Even if prices were slightly higher, people would still pay the price to enjoy an adult beverage.
However, if you pay a visit to the grocery store (Franprix, Carrefour Market, G20, Leader Price, Lidl, even Monoprix), you'll notice that the prices for alcohol are comparatively cheap. You can buy a good six pack of beer for less than 4 euros! Furthermore, if you want a good strong Belgian Beer, like Duvel or Chimay for example, you can still expect to pay 1/4 of what you would pay in a bar.
Now a fascinating anecdote...how much do you think the average French person spends on a bottle of wine? I ask this question on my tours all of the time, and people never get it right. You ready? Around 3 euros. It's not because the French are cheap and drink vinegar. It's just that wine is plentiful and you don't have to pay a marked up price to pay for transportation costs across borders and oceans. My first year and a half or so, I only spent more than 3.50 euro on a bottle of wine if it was a special occasion. My taste in wine wasn't very developed, why should I spend more money on a wine that I wouldn't appreciate properly? I've stopped being as stingy, but even then I usually stay in the 4-6 euro range. And even that isn't expensive, especially considering the quality.
So instead of rushing straight to the bar, head to a friend's apartment. This has numerous benefits;
-As already discussed, it is cheaper.
-You can actually hear what people are saying. A lot of times at the bars, you have to yell over people just to be heard. And even then, it takes some effort. Start out at home where you can sit down and have a decent (or indecent) conversation with your friends. By the time that everyone is drunk enough that everyone starts trying to talk over each other and people stop listening to what the others are saying, then you can go to the bar and at least pretend that you can't hear them talking.
-If you smoke, you can smoke inside. I personally do not smoke, but everyone here does, and they'll probably tell you that they prefer to sit cozily in their apartments when they smoke, rather than step outside and brave the elements every time that you need some nicotine.
-You can choose the music. You can play DJ and actually hear what you want to hear, rather than listen to "Living on a Prayer" or "Like a Virgin" ten times over the course of the night. I hope I didn't offend you if that is what you want to hear.
2. Happy Hours Are a Good Deal
Pretty much no matter where you come from, happy hours (which are also called happy hours in French, though on rare occasions a bar will translate it literally to Heures Joyeuse) are cheaper. I guess that is why they are happy. It's always worth the trouble to ask, if not posted outside, if a bar has a happy hour, and what the specials are, because chances are you'll pay half of what you do at night. A lot of times, the deals will be something like a pint for the price of a demi(half pint), or 2 euros off a pint, or buy one get one free. If you are staying for more than one drink, make sure you know when happy hour ends so that you don't buy your drink 30 seconds afterwards and have to pay more money.
3. If You Are Going to Go Out at Night, at Least Know Where To Do It
Just like most major cities, Paris has quarters that tend to be more expensive than others. This absolutely applies to bars. One should not go out in the 16ème arrondissement, around the Champs-Élysées, anywhere else in the 8ème, basically anywhere that looks expensive should be avoided. I know that's pretty much common sense, but hey, just a reminder.
Fortunately, there are places that are always reasonable. One of me favorite is around Rue de Clignancourt in the 18ème. A couple of the bars there charge no more than 3.40 euro a pint, which is just absurdly cheap for this city. Not only that, the people are cool and there's a good ambience. One of them even gives away free all you can eat couscous on Friday and Saturday nights!
Another good one is around the Latin Quarter, in particular near the Place Contrascarpe. Upon first glance, you'd get the impression that this could be an expensive area, which it very well can be. But if you dig a little deeper, like on Rue Descartes, Rue LaPlace, even parts of Rue Mouffetard, one can find really good deals on beer. It's very close to the Sorbonne, and lots of students like to go out there. It's really one of the few places in Paris where there seems to be any competition in terms of prices for drinking.
Other quarters worth mentioning- the 20ème arrondissement, the 19ème, the 13ème (in parts)...imagine Point Zero in front of Notre-Dame being a money sucking vortex, and essentially the further one gets away from it, the cheaper the prices.
Hopefully I have provided some helpful advice on how to save money and on eating and drinking. This way, you can save more money in order to blow it all on more eating and drinking. You don't have to be rich to be a glutton or a drunk in Paris, you just have to do your research.
If you are traveling to Paris and looking to see (and eat) what French people really eat and take a walk around some cool neighborhoods of Paris, look into my tours at culinarytoursofparis.com