Paris for Students – Where to eat (for cheap)

Cheap eats in Paris

A typical meal out at a nice French restaurant will cost around 15€. This is pretty steep. But if you really want that typical French restaurant experience..

1. I recommend eating lunch out and staying in for dinner – lunch menus are generally cheaper than dinner. Plus it is usually less crowded!

2. Eating in the restaurant will cost more than getting things to go, too – unlike in North America, Parisian restaurants charge a premium for people to eat in, even in places like MacDonald’s. I think it makes sense, since there is limited space in the city but this is a good-to-know fact so you don’t get mad when you see the price difference.

FYI

Vous allez…(Are you going to)
Manger sur place – Eat here?
Prendre à porter – Take it to go?

3. My friend took me to the Vietnamese district around Place d’Italie (Metro stop: Place d’Italie, Line 5,6 and 7), on Avenue d’Ivry, which you get to after walking down Avenue de Choisy and passing the Parc de Choisy. If you are looking for an amazing pho place, I highly recommend Le Lotus on Avenue d’Ivry. A bowl of pho will be around 8€. And in case you were looking for some hard-to-find ingredients there are also a lot of Asian grocery stores in the the area.

Yummy beef noodle soup!

4. I’ve heard 13e arrondissement is China Town, but I never got around to exploring the neighbourhood. It’s the area around Place d’Italie, but it seemed more like a mini-Vietnam than a Chinatown.

Bonus Tangent!

French people don’t seem to know the difference between types of Asian people yet, so you see a lot of ‘Asian’ restaurants which are, upon closer inspection, not Chinese but Vietnamese. I’m not complaining because I love Vietnamese food, but after growing up in Vancouver, a very Asian influenced city, I know and appreciate the difference between Asian foods and don’t like to see them grouped together: Sushi ≠ Korean BBQ ≠ Pho ≠ Pad Thai ≠ Chow Mein, and should therefore NOT be generalized.

6. And if you’re starving near the Louvre, get some ramen at the mini-mini Japanese district on Rue Sainte-Anne (Metro stop: Pyramides, Line 7 and 14). I went to Sapporo Ramen, and it wasn’t too bad but it definitely wasn’t as good as anything I could get in Vancouver. Not bad for around 9€ though.

There’s usually a line going around the corner, but it goes fast!

7. If Asian food’s not your thing, shawarma/donair and crepe places are almost everywhere.

Oh crepe nutella, how I miss you so.

8. And finally, if you want French baked goods on the go, the popular bakery franchises that sell baguette sandwiches are Paul, Brioche d’Oree, and Pomme de Pain and they are always decently priced – around 4€ for a baguette sandwich. If you wanna be spectacularly French, eat that baguette while on the Metro gawking at gorgeous Parisians – t’es trop cool.

Went to this one at Charles de Gaulle everytime I got back from a weekend trip. Good sandwiches. Good times.

 

Bonus tangent: A little known fact: All European students can get into most museums in France for free! It worked with a one year international HEC Paris student card, anyway 🙂 You’ll read all over the internet that all the museums are free on the first Sunday of every month, but they will also be VERY crowded – and with a student discount, museums are usually between 5-15 euros. So skip the crowds and enjoy them properly!

Happy eating!

Shiv 🙂

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Paris for Students – Where to windowshop like a champ

Paris is by no means a cheap city, but that doesn’t mean that students on a budget should miss out on the best the city has to offer.

Best places to window shop

1. Le Marais (Metro stop: Saint Paul, Line 1)

It’s classified as the Jewish/Gay/Hipster part of Paris, but I didn’t really see how it was Jewish or Gay. It just seemed exceedingly cool. Lots of vintage shops selling real fur coats for 1000s of euros, as well as super cute trinket stores, designer jewelery, and unique restaurants. All at almost affordable prices (if you are patient enough to hunt for hours).

2. Saint Germain des Pres (Metro stop: Saint Germain des Pres, Line 4)

This is one of the most expensive places to be in Paris. You’ll find designer stores mixed with some cool boutiques, and it’s about a 10 minute walk from Napoleon’s tomb (very worth seeing, god that guy was an egomaniac) and the Invalides.

3. 1er arrondissement – Around le Teatre du Palais Royal (Metro stop: Palais Royal/Musee du Louvre, Line 1 & 7)

The best lesson my French teacher ever taught was how to walk around le Teatre du Palais Royal (The Theatre of the Royal Palace). You get out from the metro at Rue de Richelieu and walk up it, away from Rue de Rivoli and towards the Jardin du Palais Royal. The garden is lined with the most expensive stores I may have seen in my life, but the window displays are breathtaking. A promenade around the garden, and if you exit from the top (near Rue de la Feuillade), you will find very cool restaurants completely out of price range, mixed with charming toy stores, bookshops and beautiful jewelry & craft stores.

Happy windowshopping!

Shiv 🙂

Day 100: 2 girls in Morocco!

Morocco has been at the top of my ‘List of places to see before I die’ basically since I was born, and then raised by a Moroccan nanny for the first 4 years of my life. I’ve also visited Dubai when I was young, and my family used to live in the Middle East before I was born so I had dirhams, lamps and small tea sets from these places to play with as a child. All this meant that I’m a bit more familiar with Arab culture than the average Indo-Canadian girl.

3 words: It is magical.

To DIE for food, colours, jewelry, history, architecture and acrobats all in the sun soaked, windswept country of the Sahara.

The red, sandy city of Marrakech!

Nommeh cous cous.

We landed at 10pm in Marrakech and after dropping our stuff off at the hotel, we took a taxi to Djema el Fna (the main square) right away to see it during its best: night time. It never dies down! When we got there around midnight, the souks (small, somewhat covered marketplace that sell almost everything) were lively, there were food stalls everywhere, and for some strange reason a Bollywood film was being projected on a building (?).

So much buzz in the souks at midnight!

Get a good picture of the Said tombs for 10 dirham entry fee, then move on pretty quick. It's not the most interesting tourist attraction.

**From experience: Everyone we talked to about going to Morocco just being two 20-something girl travellers told us that there was nothing to worry about, that we would be perfectly safe as long as we weren’t stupid. And we were, but my friends left out a very important caveat: Girls get a lot of unwanted attention from men if they are not with a guy, and foreign girls get attention anyway.

It gets a bit tiresome, but sometimes it was amusing. Some of the outrageous things said to us included:

Note: We never replied to any of these. These are one-way conversations.

  1. Where are you from? Brazil? Spain? England? China? Japan? Pakistan? India? Norway? America? France? Thailand? Singapore? Hungary?
  2. Hi, hello, where are you from? You are so beautiful, so sexy. Do you want a Moroccan husband?
  3. Be my wife? Yes?
  4. Hi girls, how are you? Why don’t you respond? That’s not nice. Oh, you’re crossing the street? That’s ok, I’m going that way too.

Yeah. You get the picture.

Anyway, be warned that if you are a girl, save yourself a little bit from a bit of the hassle you’re going to get just because you are foreign and bring a man with you.

On a lighter note…

This is something no one will tell you before you go to Morocco: There are a lot of cats. Some are cute (like this one)..others are pretty mangy.

What you MUST do in Morocco!

1. Go to a hammam!

A hammam is like a Moroccan sauna/bath house, and it’s an ancient tradition. Back then, it would be a place for people to socialize, relax and get clean. Nowadays, they are similar to a spa in that there are various things an attendant will do in order to get you squeaky clean and refreshed: the black sponge and soap is a really good exfoliating treatment, and go for anything that says Argan Oil. Argan trees only grow in Morocco, and they are kind of like olive trees except SO MUCH COOLER.

2. Buy some oranges!

We went to Morocco in December so maybe it’s a seasonal thing, but oranges were EVERYWHERE. And they were all really delicious, too! If you have the balls, jump into an orange grove and eat the oranges off the trees, like my friend and I did 🙂

The Badi Palace: My fave tourist attraction. It's the ruins of a big palace, but soooo cool! And they have this great orange grove.

3. Go to Essaouira and take a zillion pictures.

It is such a cool, photogenic sea-side town.

Typical Moroccan spices and herbs! It's always fun talking to the shopkeepers of these places, they lather you up with oils & creams and have you smell soaps & tea powders 🙂

 

From the lookout at Essaouira!

4. Drint mint tea everywhere.

It’s good for you, staves off indigestion and best of all, is SUPER delicious.

I miss you, my delicious friend.

5. Give Marrakech a half day.

The only thing really worth seeing in Marrakech, according to me, is Djema el Fnaa at night. Other than that, it seemed like another aggressive city and will not give you an authentic Moroccan experience.

Fes, on the other hand, is absolutely amazing. I was blown away by the nearly perfect preservation of the medieval medina (maze-like marketplace) and the breathtaking views of the surrounding hills. Plus, way fewer tourists and it is relatively cheaper.

One of the few places where the sun breaks into the old medina in Fes

Insanely gorgeous views.

And definitely check out the tanneries in Fes!

The tanneries are actually very cool in Fes, and they don't smell as bad as everyone says. A must-see!

Sleeping tannery worker in Fes.

Travellingly yours,

Shiv 🙂

Bonus Tangent: My wishlist for my next time in Morocco

  1. Summit Mount Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa and part of the Northern Atlas mountain range. It only takes 2 days, the guys from the best TV show ever, departures, did it and they had never summitted anything in their life before. Neither have I! So I think it would be a good starting place.
  2. Visit the fish market at Essaouira – it’s supposed to be so cool, but when my friend and I tried to find it, we got lost in a very sketchy part of the city. Next time, we find a guide!
  3. Travel with a guy. Already mentioned why.
  4. It’s such a shame that mosques are only open to Muslims…then again, how difficult is it to appear Muslim? And how morally wrong would it be if I just want to see how amazing a mosque is? That’s something to try next time I’m there, too.
  5. Spend a couple days and nights in the Sahara. I don’t know what it is about the desert, but there is something about the massive expanse of sand that makes it seem like magic is real.

Day 54: Nice is nice, but…

So my train journey around the French Riviera continues! I was excited to go to the famous Nice, where the rich and privileged go for their vacations. And it’s gorgeous – the Cote d’Azur has this colour of water that’s unbelievable.

So tempting.

But other than the rocky beach, the flower market….

Wake up early to see the flowers in the flower market at their freshest!

And the old town…

Gorgeous buildings in the old part of town, Vieux Nice

There isn’t a lot to see in Nice. It sort of reminded me of a French version of Fort Lauderdale, Florida: pretty, sunny, popular with old people, very small and not a lot to do. So what do you do when you’re bored of a place?

LEAVE!

Nice is really well connected to smaller towns around it – Antibes, the well known Cannes, Eze, Grasse, and Monaco. I went to Cannes and Antibes in a day and had a great time.

The lazy beaches of Cannes. Much better than Nice.

And I especially liked doing this in late October.

Lying on a beach in the French Riviera, reading 100 years of solitude and loving life.

But again….Cannes was very small,  even smaller than Nice! It wouldn’t take more than a half day to do, so I also went to the lesser known town of Antibes, on the way back to Nice. I was really pleasantly surprised, too. It’s a small town on these rocky cliffs, with cute stores, an outdoor market, and a breathtaking walk along the cliff.

I don’t regret going. I had a lot of fun, and I was travelling with a great group of girls, but I think 3 days was just a little too long.

Forward-lookingly yours,

Shiv 🙂