Tips on Eating and Staying
Restaurants follow French mealtimes, serving lunch from noon to 2 or 2:30 and dinner from 7:30 or 8 on. Some cafés in larger cities serve food all day long. Always reserve a table for dinner, as top restaurants book up months in advance. You must ask for the check (it's considered rude to bring it unbidden) except in cafés, where a register slip often comes with your order.
Gratuities (servis) are included in the bill, but leave some small change on the table: a few cents for drinks, €1 for lunch, or €3 at dinner. You can leave more at a top restaurant, but note that more than 10% is considered extremely generous.
To save money on food, take advantage of France's wonderful outdoor markets and chain supermarkets. Just about every town has its own market once or a couple of times a week. Ask the people at the front desk of wherever you're staying to find out when market days are. For supermarkets, the largest chain is Monoprix.
Some of the bigger stores have cafés where you can sit down and eat whatever you buy, as well as mini department stores that sell everything from clothing to children's toys to toiletries.
French cities generally have good hotel options at decent prices. There are several options in Paris, including furnished apartments, at all price levels.
In the countryside, seek out chambres d'hôtes (bed-and-breakfasts), which can mean anything from a modest room in a host's home to a grand suite in a Norman château or Provençal farmhouse. Or rent a gîte rural, a furnished apartment, often on a farm or a larger property.
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