A trip to Paris. Cheap food and walking through the city
Stories | 23.10.2019
A story from the MAPS.ME user Anastasia Yesina about a trip to Paris. How to save on food, walk around the city without a plan and why hostel is a great option for a solo traveler.
Idea of the trip
Paris has long been an impossible dream for me. When you vividly imagine the place, but you postpone the trip over and over again. Or you add it to the list of plans for the New Year and do nothing to implement it.
Once I thought that a trip to Paris was on my wish lists, even when I hadn't traveled, and remained in there, although I had already visited many countries of the world. So why can't I go on my next trip to Paris and not somewhere else?
As soon as the decision was made, circumstances became to appeare, and the trip came true.
Holidays alone
I planned to travel alone. Before that, I traveled a lot on my own, so the decision was not unexpected. But this does not mean that I was not afraid. Sometimes, when I walked alone in the park, which is more like a forest, or returned to the hostel through deserted streets in the dark, I thought that if something happened now, then none of my friends would know about it and could help me. Honestly, these thoughts were creepy.

People say that the eyes of fear see danger everywhere, but nevertheless one must be prepared for such situations. First of all, morally, and secondly, physically. Explore the cities and areas to which you travel alone in advance. Be able to have emergency communication and keep in touch with relatives about your approximate location.
I went to one of the most expensive cities in Europe, so the issue of saving money was relevant for me. Typically, in autumn and winter, companies like AirSerbia or Aegean offer very cheap ticket options for the coming spring and summer seasons.

I managed to buy cheap tickets from Moscow to Paris by Aegean for $50 one way. Though such tickets include a long transfer in Moldova or Greece, and this option is not suitable if you plan a weekend trip. I had a long stop over at Saloniki, which was an additional bonus for me – the opportunity to see another country.
Paris is expensive, that's true. To save on accommodation, at first I thought to try couchsurfing, but my friends dissuaded me from this venture, and I could not find suitable accommodation quickly. Therefore, the only option left for a cheap overnight stay was a hostel.

Why is it worth living in a hostel?
Hostel is a place for communication. If you go on a solo trip to stay alone with yourself, then this is not your option. When choosing hostel, keep in mind that you will always be surrounded by people who want to chat. Every morning I, tired of walking around the city, was waken up earlier than I planned by my roommate, an extremely sociable woman from Rio de Janeiro, who worried that I would miss the breakfast. Thanks her for the cheerful mornings :)
It is easy to find accommodation through the popular aggregator site – Booking.com. The most important thing to consider is the location. There are many immigrants in Paris, and not all areas of the city are safe. Through Booking, I found Enjoy Hostel, located in the 14th district of Paris. This is a cozy, quiet area, but as it turned out, in fact, it's rather far from the center. I booked a bed in a female 4-bed room with a private bath for 5 nights for $185. This price includes breakfast, which allowed me to save on food.

Tip: Find information about the area you plan to live in in advance. The areas near the Northern and Eastern stations, as well as the 11th, 19th and 20th districts are considered the most unsafe.
The second point at which I, of course, tried to save as much as possible is food. A dinner or lunch in a simple restaurant would cost 15–20 euros. With a tight budget, this was wasteful. I got by on breakfasts included in the cost of the hostel, baguettes from bakeries for 1.5-2 euros in large quantities and supermarkets.

After reading reviews on the Internet where to eat cheaply in Paris, I went to the Flunch Bistro. And that was a mistake the food was tasteless and the prices slightly differed from ordinary cafes.
The culinary sections found in some chain supermarkets, such as Monop or Franprix, turned out to be a luckier find. There is a large assortment of good quality ready-made meals, salad bars, for example, Picadeli bar à salades, and all this is 1.5–2 times cheaper than in restaurants. There are microwave ovens to warm food, and tables like in a cafe.
What to see
I have one rule that guides me when planning trips. I always choose one or two key sights, several places based on my personal interests, and I always leave a day or several up to chance. I walk around the city, planning nothing in advance, and accidentally find cool places. Second rule: the only objective travel guide for me is the map.
The Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower discouraged me. When you come close and see this ridiculous construction, only one phrase appears in your head: "So what?". At this moment, it seems that you begin to understand the local French, who consider it a terrible ugliness.
But when you walk through the city and at a right angle, it pops up in the distance in the gleam of the streets or winks at you with thousands of lights from the other side of the river in the evening – at this moment your heart gives a leap and you realize that without the Eiffel Tower Paris would not be Paris.
The Louvre. To see Mona Lisa with my own eyes was on my "to do before I die" list… Having read about huge queues on the Internet, I was mentally prepared for them. But instead, I bought an online ticket, came to the appointed time and entrance, and passed without waiting a minute. .

Tip: Buy tickets online. This will release you from waiting in a queue. It is enough to come in the time indicated on the ticket. The main thing is not to be late!

The Louvre turned out to be much more than Mona Lisa. You can spend a day in the museum, or even several days, strolling through the endless rooms, hanging in the central atrium, photographing the courtyard. The Louvre is definitely worth the money. And Mona Lisa actually turned out to be much smaller in size than I expected. Most likely you will think the same way when you see it.
The next points in the program were attractions according to my personal interests. I shall explain what I mean. The guides are often compiled one-sidedly and are devoted to historical monuments, churches and museums. There is no point in wasting time on acknowledged sights that are not interesting to you personally. Think about your areas of interest and try to look for suitable locations. Such places may be in inconvenient areas, there is no information about them guidebooks. But they are interesting to you.
La Défense district and the same-name arch. As for me, I love everything related to business, so I went to the fashionable La Défense district. There is practically nothing there except skyscrapers, and the roads are hidden in the lower level. Also there is an object of modern art – La Grande Arche de la Défense (the Arch of Defense). Interestingly, it is on the same line with the famous Arc de Triomphe. If you stand under the Arch of Defense exactly in the center and turn your back to it, you can see a clear line of Charles de Gaulle Avenue, ending by the famous Arc de Triomphe.
Chanel Boutique. The second point of my personal interests was the first Chanel boutique. I read the biography of Coco Chanel, I was very inspired by the book and therefore, being in Paris, I wanted to look at the first store and the apartment above it, where Chanel lived. This place is easy to find, there is nothing remarkable in it. No museum, no memorial tablets. Now it is one of the usual Chanel boutiques. But it was a special moment for me when I stood in front of the windows and imagined how Gabrielle Chanel every morning hurried to the store through the same road to make history.
Magic of the city
A must for any trip is the magic of the city. This is when you just wander around without a map or a plan, imagine yourself local and give the city the opportunity to surprise you. It's better to plan such walks closer to the end of the trip or leave it altogether on the last day when you navigate in the city and have already managed tune into the beat of its atmosphere. And you don't worry that you need to have time to fulfill the required points of the program.

The city always has something to surprise you. Be sure to come across the places that were destined to be seen. On that trip, such places for me happened to be Starbucks Opera, the Fragonard Boutique and Galeries Lafayette.
Starbucks Opera. As the name implies, this is one of the branches of Starbucks coffee shops near the Opéra Garnier. It is interesting because it is located in an old house, where the historical interior is preserved. Being there, it is as if you are drinking coffee in a museum.

Fragonard Boutique. I came across a small perfumery boutique Fragonard, hearing a pleasant smell from the street. It is worth getting acquainted with this traditional French perfume brand in order to fully experience the French atmosphere.
Galeries Lafayette. Galeries Lafayette is one of the most famous and largest shopping centers in Paris. I knew about this place, but did not add it to my plan and entered there by chance. Inside there are expensive boutiques, beautifully decorated shop windows, but the central atrium impressed me most of all. When I looked at the boutiques downstairs from the second or third floor of the gallery, I realized where I happened to be. It was the place that I saw about five years ago in the picture, which I just accidentally met on the Internet and saved for myself. At that moment I could not say anything except for "Wow" and immediately believed in the power of visualization. To be honest, this was the highlight of the trip.
When traveling alone, it is important to plan your budget in advance. I am sure that in any city you can spend different amounts of money. With proper planning you can feel comfortable even in an expensive city.

Tip: Define and limit the amount you plan to spend in advance. Choose the key things for yourself that you definitely won't save on: sights, local cuisine you wanted to taste, some kind of purchase. Keep a record of daily expenses to understand how much is left for the following days. And then you will surely succeed.

Paris for 8 days with flights, accommodation, the Louvre, a bottle of Moët & Chandon (how can you not try French champagne in France?), macaroons that I love, and my first real French perfume Fragonard cost me $540.
Paris is a special city. And it's difficult to convey its atmosphere in words. If you evaluate Paris rationally, you might not like it: there are many migrants, it is often dirty and dangerous in some areas. You must go here in love, because only in this state of mind you fully see the beauty and you cannot notice the flaws. In love with another person, with yourself or just with life.
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