On today’s episode, I answer a listener’s question. Jacquline is from South Africa and she asks about the prices of common items in France because with the exchange rate, she’s not sure how far her money will stretch, so, let’s talk about food prices at French grocery stores.
Cook with French Ingredients!
If you’re going to be renting an apartment in France via AirB&B or any of the other apartment rental providers (see our episode on the Secrets to Finding an Apartment in Paris) and you’ll have access to a kitchen, you can definitely have great food at a great price!
Get a Cheap Quick Meal
And even if you’re going the hotel route, you probably don’t need a full sit-down meal 3 times a day, right? Why not pickup some ready-made food at a corner grocery store? It will be cheaper than a restaurant, and a lot fast too.
Grab Inexpensive Gifts from France
And, listen. If you’re looking for original and inexpensive gifts you can take back to your friends and family from France, you’ll get lots of suggestions here!
Want to get adventurous and try some of those unusual French foods we discussed on Episode 193, Cornucopia of Bizarre French Foods? You can buy many of them at a French grocery store and live dangerously in France!
On today’s episode, Annie and Elyse talk about the things they love about the Saint Germain des Prés neighborhood in Paris. It’s actually surprising to see how long it took us to devote an entire episode to Saint Germain des Prés, and it only happened because we assumed that we had already done it!
Saint Germain des Prés is the area of Paris where both Annie and Elyse would love to live if they won the lottery. It’s never going to happen, but a girl can dream, right? Come along and dream with us, we tell you tales of the oldest church in Paris, wonderful cafés, great shopping, and the wonderful artists of the 1920s who hung out there.
[03:48] Saint Germain des Prés is beautiful and very expensive part of Paris. The prices went through the roof there 60 or 70 years ago.
[06:47] What do we mean when we say Saint Germain des Prés? What are the boundaries? The definition is a bit amorphous and it depends on who you ask, but it includes a lot of the 6th arrondissement.
[07:27] The word “prés” means meadow, which it used to be, this is an old area of Paris. The tower of the Church of Saint Germain des Prés was part of the oldest churches in Paris.
[09:04] The Merovingian Kings established the Saint Germain des Prés Abbey and it included a lot of land.
[10:10] Definition of Early Middle Ages (500 to 1000), High Middle Ages (1000 to 1400), Late Middle Ages (1400 to 1500s), then came the Renaissance.
[11:38] Merovingians made Christianity the official religion and funded Abbeys and Monasteries.
[11:58] In Roman times, many people were literate, but in this period of the early Middle Ages, few people in France were literate, so it was vital to have Monasteries to keep literacy alive.
[13:15] The Saint Germain des Prés Church becomes a Royal Abbey in 558 and the necropole for French French Kings before Saint Denis.
[14:04] They built the Saint Germain Church over the top of an old Roman Temple, which is something that happened a lot.
[15:03] The Saint Germain des Prés church is set a quarter to half mile away from the river in order to protect it from flooding.
[16:10] The vital importance of relics in the Middle Ages, and the worship of relics as a driver of economic growth.
[17:23] The Saint Germain area was raided and burned by the Vikings three times: in 845, 856, and 861.
[17:50] When they rebuilt the church, they added the Romanesque tower in 990, and that’s still the one we see today. This is also the time when it became a Benedictine Abbey.
[18:57] Benedictine Monks were always as the center of intellectual knowledge, and the area has retained its reputation of being the place for intellectuals.
[21:05] The Procope, one of the oldest cafés in Paris where people like Diderot and Voltaire used to go argue about ideas. This was the beginning of café culture in Paris and is mostly super touristy at this point.
[23:41] We’re not sure if they’d let you sit at a table at the Procope and write all day.
[24:21] The Procope is also where the people who fomented the French Revolution sur as Danton and Marat hung out.
[24:48] Rue Danton where Danton really lived is two streets away from the Procope. Back then the area was not fashionable or touristy.
[25:13] You just have to walk these streets. Most are small narrow streets except for Boulevard Saint Germain des Prés which has Haussmann buildings.
[26:48] Worth visiting, the Delacroix Museum where he had his studio.
[28:22] The Saint Germain des Prés area is famous for book stores. A couple that are famous today are L’Écume des Pages and La Hune.
[29:12] Several of the most prestigious French Publishing houses such as Gallimard and Seuil were also started in this area because it was always the book area.
[29:35] Saint Germain des Prés is the area where authors would hang out, lots of the famous ones you’ve heard of such as Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, Simone de Beauvoir, etc. It must have been like in Midnight in Paris!
[32:05] Jazz clubs opened in Paris in the 20s and were popular with French people.
[32:34] The 1920 were paradoxical times: racism and prejudice were pervasive and yet there were vibrant communities of artists in Paris. Many had left their own countries to come to Paris where they could mingle.
[35:40] Brasserie Lipp is also an interesting place where filmmakers used to hang out.
[36:10] None of that is going on in Saint Germain today because it’s become too expensive. How the gentrification process worked in this neighborhood.
[38:25] The Beaux Arts school is on rue Bonaparte and has been there for a long time. It gave a lot of prestige to the area.
[41:19] Even rich French people mostly don’t patronize cafés like Deux Magots and Café de Flore because they know the prices are ridiculous. But the area has lots of little wonderful cafés that are more approachable and just as nice.
[42:52] Also explore the church of Saint Sulpice, technically in the Odeon neighborhood, but a must-see in this area.
[43:03] This is the church with the “gnomon” which can easily be missed if you’re not paying attention.
[44:21] Saint Sulpice also has free concerts every Sunday morning.
[44:52] Rue de Rennes is a big shopping street in this area, and so it rue Bonaparte.
[45:46] The Saint Germain neighborhood is a great place to go buy food for your picnic, then head down towards the river and enjoy it.
[48:34] At Saint Sulpice once a day you can go up to see the organ. Check their website to know what time.
[50:14] Annie has seen some tour guides come into Saint Sulpice and spend 2 minutes and leave. It’s like speed dating except that it’s speed tourism!
[53:42] This is a neighborhood where you will find unique clothes and things you won’t find in the big chain stores.
[54:01] Great shopping streets in the Saint Germain des Prés neighborhood: rue de Buci, rue de Rennes, rue Saint André des Arts. You could also visit the Bon Marché, the expensive department store.
[56:56] Great neighborhood for walking, great neighborhood for looking around.
[57:47] Despite what popular guide books recommend, both Annie and Elyse would much rather stay in the Saint Germain des Près or Latin Quarter area.
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[03:05] We’re not fashion professional, but rather regular people who care about packing the right clothes for Paris.
[04:03] You don’t have to change how you dress unless you enjoy the process of figuring out how to look best and what to pack to look stylish in Paris.
[05:33] The advice Annie will be sharing comes from stylish women in her life, not from professionals. These are opinions, not commandments!
[06:14] Take basic clothes that can travel well and can be mixed and matched, and buy accessories when you get to Paris.
[07:31] Don’t bring clothes that need to be ironed. If something needs a little help, the steam produced in the shower can help de-wrinkle to some extent. Or you could get a product such as this one that gets great review from travelers. Or get shirts like this one made for travel.
[09:35] The secret sauce that most French fashion-conscious people follow and that you can apply to yourself as well.
[10:03] Break the codes on purpose and thoughtfully.
[11:21] Mix and match formal and casual.
[13:27] Beware of blacks, various colors hide inside of blacks.
[14:13] Mix old and new.
[16:02] Own your clothes, don’t let your clothes own you.
[16:14] Pushing the boundaries with the color wheel.
[16:48] Clothes choices for people who are not afraid of color.
[17:48] Great-looking clothes choices for more conservative dressers.
[18:44] Tie dye is not a thing in France for the most part. I saw a tiny bit of it last summer, but it didn’t catch on.
[19:44] You don’t have to wear heels to go visit the Eiffel Tower or do any of the other things tourists enjoy.
[20:02] There are a lot of cobbled streets in Paris, which is one reason why heels are not be ideal.
[20:52] It’s good if you can pick tennis shoes with some texture or a hint of color.
[21:08] Classy Sunday dress goes with tennis shoes and either a perfecto leather jacket or a jean jacket.
[22:13] Casual cotton dress goes with dressy shoes or dressy accessories.
[22:42] Jeans with holes go with dressy heels, women over age 50 really shouldn’t wear holey jeans.
[23:48] Slacks with a dress shirt and tennis shoes. Dressy shorts with tennis shoes. Jean shorts with dressier shoes. Shorts and heels is trashy.
[24:13] You can either show off your legs or your boobs, but not both.
[25:08] No shirts with the arms cut off on men.
[26:10] T-shirts are OK if they are plain. No Mickey Mouse t-shirts, no bright colors, no t-shirts with jokes. Men can dress up a t-shirt with a jacket or sport coat.
[26:54] Leggings and yoga pants are not really worn besides when doing sports, but if you love them, pair them up with something dressy on top.
[27:17] Fashions change so fast for tights that you’re better off buying your tights when you get to France after you’ve seen what other people wear.
[27:47] Get a nice haircut before you come, so you feel happy with your hair.
[28:16] French women wear big necklaces.
[28:56] French women often own (and bring out!) different color purses.
[29:12] Caps for me are OK, but it depends on the cap. No sports team mascots on your hats!
[30:07] Choose caps that look different from your regular baseball cap.
[30:59] T-shirts are OK, but don’t just throw on a t-shirt just to get dressed. Jokes t-shirts are not big in France. Wear t-shirts that are more “passe-partout” (something that goes everywhere, a master key).
[32:25] Leggings and yoga pants are not pants, which doesn’t mean that you’ll never see them, but they “should” be reserved for exercising.
[33:08] If you like to wear a hat, try paper boy hats or driving caps.
[34:01] The types of sneakers that are in fashion in France now.
[35:04] Beware of Paris weather, it can be wet a lot of the year.
[36:05] French people do not all wear black all the time.
[36:53] Packing mostly neutral colors makes it easier to pack because you can rotate things around and most of them will go together.
[37:13] French people own a lot of different jackets and use them to change their look very effectively.
[38:30] Be careful how you dress or scam artists will target you all the time: David’s experience.
[40:21] How the ring scam works.
[40:36] How not to fall for the ring scam or any other scam: don’t talk to them, pretend they’re not even there and walk on!
[41:11] Shoes are the most important part of your outfit because you will walk a lot in Paris, many visitors walk 20,000 steps each day!
[42:19] If you’re like Beyonce and always wear heels even around your house because that’s most comfortable to you, then so be it!
[42:38] Break your shoes in before the trip!
[42:50] When in Paris, count on getting wet. Bring at least two pairs of walking shoes.
[43:12] Tips for people who travel light and only bring a carry-on.
[44:48] No socks with sandals. No white socks with dress shoes. Only kids get to wear colorful socks. We mostly wear black socks.
[46:27] Keep an eye out for sales men wearing a fitted suit, a colorful dress shirt, and super pointy shoes. It seems to be the unspoken “uniform” of all young sales guys in France!
[47:43] Try walking around Versailles or the Louvre in heels!
[47:57] Basketball shorts are not street attire in France, leave them at home.
[48:43] If you have a teen who is stubborn about what they’ll wear and not wear, don’t fight them too much. Kids get away with a lot, even in France.
[49:12] People in France wear all sorts of types of jeans.
[49:54] Scarves! French people wear them all the time, both men and women. Different types of scarves are good for different times of the year.
[52:12] What about t-shirts? Can I wear t-shirts in France?
[53:10] All the different types of shirts French women wear instead of t-shirts.
[54:10] Do French men wear polo shirts? Not very often.
[54:55] French people wear fitted clothes, even the fluffier French people do that. It looks better.
[55:48] Steve and David’s pre-Paris regimens.
[58:14] Bags for both men and women: it’s about good looks and safety too.
[59:35] Beware of the backpack, they are not safe.
[60:23] What bag should photographers take? They should be more judicious about what lens to carry!
[61:37] By now smart phone cameras do the job really nicely for most things. Not all, but good enough for everyone by photo nerds.
[63:21] Don’t take all your credit cards with you. Don’t take your US driver’s license with you. Only carry a photocopy of your passport with you. Leave all that stuff in the hotel safe! Be super careful with your phone when you’re in Paris also.
[65:27] There are 140,000 theft events in Paris every year. Those are incidents where a person’s purse or phone gets stolen without violence.
[66:16] What coats and jackets to take to Paris.
[67:30] Don’t try to be somebody you’re not just because you’re coming to Paris. Bring yourself and be comfortable.
[68:49] Saying “bonjour” will go a long way, but don’t smile all the time. French people don’t.
[69:16] Misconceptions: We don’t all wear black. We do wear shorts. We do wear tennis shoes. There are poorly dressed French people, you will see them when you come!
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