Splashing Out in Paris Thanks to a Money-Saving Secret

A trip to Paris was my birthday wish. I had dreams of early morning walks along the River Seine, people-watching while sipping coffee in a Parisian cafe, discovering hidden treasures in the back streets and just feeling the simple joy of being in one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

Paris is a city for walking and my husband Alan and I covered the length and breadth of it on our visit. With every turn, we found something more extraordinary, the surprise of walking through an archway to find the glass pyramid of the Louvre shimmering in the sunlight, the towering Luxor Obelisk and magnificent fountains of the Place de la Concorde, the decadent shopping of the Avenue des Champs-Elysees and the imposing beauty of the Arc de Triomphe.

For me, the most unforgettable memory from our time in Paris was an evening dinner cruise down the River Seine. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision after I spotted le Calife, a charming, glass-covered barge, and fell in love with it. Le Calife is moored behind the Louvre at the Pont des Arts, the bridge made famous for the love locks that once adorned it.

We joined the cruise in the evening, sipping perfectly-chilled Champagne as we drifted past the Louvre. Notre Dame Cathedral shone against the evening sky as we sat down to our first course—salad with foie gras and goat cheese in flaky pastry drizzled with sweet, sticky honey—in the dining room, where colourful lamps’ vibrant reflections played on the windows and cosy wooden interior.

Gentle music filled the air as we cruised under Paris’ many bridges. We marvelled at the elegant Musee d’Orsay as we savoured our second course, sea bass with white tarragon sauce and rump steak with spicy Sichuan pepper sauce.

Passing under the beautiful Pont Alexandre III bridge at Invalides we caught our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower lit up against the night sky. Suddenly thousands of lights sparkled and danced around the Tower, an enchanting and breathtaking sight.

As we made our way back to port we lingered over our desserts of rich chocolate delight and crème brulee. The experience on le Calife cost us $180 and it stands out as one of the best birthdays of my life. To me, Paris is the most beautiful city in the world and I’m so glad I had the chance to make my dreams come true.

While the dinner cruise was the highlight of our time in Paris, it wasn’t the only fun we had. We set ourselves up in a studio apartment on Rue Saint-Honore in the 1st arrondissement of Paris. It was the perfect location, just one block from the Louvre. It cost us $800 for the week, but thanks to an amazing travel secret we’d discovered (and that we reveal in the June issue of International Living Australia magazine) we’d saved thousands in other areas and could afford to splash out. And where better to splash out than Paris?

Staying in an apartment also allowed us to experience local life. We enjoyed popping to the nearby supermarket to pick up some fresh ingredients for dinner, plus it gave us the chance to try some of the more interesting French delicacies—like snails—without the risk of embarrassing ourselves in a ritzy restaurant if we discovered we didn’t appreciate them quite so much as the locals.

We found supermarket prices were around the same as Australia but we’d be sure to pick up a deliciously crusty baguette at the nearby boulangerie each morning. A must-have item for $1.50. Lunch was the cheapest meal of the day and many restaurants offered set three-course lunches for $20. The food was delicious and we ate Parisian-style, at bistro tables on shady pavements, perfect for people-watching.

I love Paris, I love its beauty, history and lifestyle and a week wasn’t nearly enough to sample all it has to offer. But there’s a big world waiting and our next stop, New York, was calling…

Image: ©iStock.com/AndreyGorulko

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