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SuzChicago Nov 27th, 2009 06:23 AM

Splurge-worthy choices in Paris and Provence?
As I watch the dollar decline to historic lows against the Euro, we're figuring out how to manage a rapidly dwindling budget for a two-week trip to Paris and Provence in June 2010. Staying in apt. and gite for a week in each location; planning to make lunch the main meal of the day, etc. While funds will be tighter than we had hoped for, we do know that certain experiences, meals, etc. may very well be more than worthy of the investment. So, Fodorites, what do you consider "splurge-worthy" experiences, places, meals, and/or events in these two locations? Please define in euro the approx. cost for your splurge choices as one person's splurge is another person's small change. Also, if there was something you splurged on and felt it was a complete waste, detail that as well. Thanks!

Lexma90 Nov 27th, 2009 06:37 AM

Any museum that you'd be interested in (and that varies from person to person) would be worth spending the money on. The Paris Pass (or whatever it's called) only saves money if you'll be using enough of its features for the time period you have. For me, those museums would be the Musee d'Orsay and the Louvre.

In Provence, buying a picnic lunch (or more!) at an outdoor market like the one in St. Remy is worth the money. You might not call it a splurge, depending on how much you spend, but it's great fun to wander among the food stalls. The vendors of items like cheese are usually happy to let you try the different cheeses, and that's an experience and an education in itself.

Back in Paris, spending time each day at a cafe is worth the money. You do spend a long time nursing one glass of wine; I can't remember how much a glass would be. I prefer just any cafe at a good people-watching location, NOT the big-name cafes, if you're watching your money.

Another very fun activity I've done with my son in Paris, that doesn't need to cost a lot of money: taste-testing macarons. The smaller size of macarons aren't much money, maybe 2 Euros? We'd buy one or two macarons each day at any patisserie that we thought looked good, trying to find the one we thought was the best.

StuDudley Nov 27th, 2009 06:41 AM

Exploring the Tues, Thurs, or Sat morning market in Aix en Provence. Having lunch at Deux Garcons on the Cours Mirabeau, followed by a wander through Old Aix after lunch.
Cost around 80E for 2 (guess)

Driving the "lavender route" near Sault. Pizza from the "lunch truck" in Sault.
Cost around 10E

Many of our "richest" experiences in Provence have cost little or nothing.

Stu Dudley

ira Nov 27th, 2009 08:50 AM

Hi SC,

How much are you willing to pay for a splurge?


cigalechanta Nov 27th, 2009 09:31 AM

Lunch in any village by a fountain in Provence.
Driving along to enjoy the vineyards, the olive trees
the wild thyme, rosemary and listen to the cigales sing.

Dining at a restaurant in The Bois de Boulogne, or just strolling through it's many delights.
A boat ride on the Seine or the canal.
Wine tasting at a shop.

SuzChicago Nov 27th, 2009 10:43 AM

Ira -- When it comes to my dining pleasure, splurges practically know no limits. That being said, I much prefer perfectly prepared rustic cuisine to haute cuisine.

As an example, many years ago we were in some small Tuscan town and stopped for lunch at a restaurant with a small garden where we sat under the trees and had the most perfectly prepared chicken stewed in chianti with lovely roasted potatoes and baby spinach sauteed in butter. Plus a superb bottle of wine to top it off. It was the most memorable meal I've had in Italy (including some of the most highly rated restaurants in Florence and Rome.)

On the splurge spectrum, one of the most highly rated Chicago restaurants is Charlie Trotter's. Been several times and would NEVER pay myself to go there. Find the menu tiresome and overly clever but not quite tasty.

LikeLivingThere Nov 27th, 2009 12:24 PM

We're foodies, but also cheap. That said, if you want a top-notch dining experience (not just the food, service, sophisticated atmosphere etc.), go to lunch at Taillevent. The prix fixe (euro 80 plus wine) is less than half the dinner price but you'll be treated as if the most important patrons. Let them know if it's an event - anniversary etc. - and they'll do something special for you.
The Paris Museum Pass is worthwhile if you are going to visit more than twice. Agree on the d'Orsay, would add the Musee Rodin and the Centre Pompidou. Another food splurge (not expensive, really) would be lunch in the magnificent dining room at the d'Orsay.
We found it hard to splurge in Provence because there are so many reasonably priced cafes and restaurants and sights also are inexpensive to visit. And the local wines are a bargain. I'd pay a little more for lodging that's comfortable and well-situated, i.e. in or near a village to facilitate leisurely strolls to the cafe.
Another way to get the most for your money is to buy good wine in a store to enjoy in your rooms. Reason to seek out places with patios or terraces.

amwosu Nov 27th, 2009 01:30 PM

Lunch at Les Ombres Restaurant at the Musee du Quai Branly is worth a splurge. I can't remember what I paid on my June 2007 visit but I'd say it was approximately $50-60/pp with wine.

In the shadow of the Eiffel Tower and close enough that you can see the people standing on the lower level observatory deck of the tower the restaurant with its glass ceiling and handsome waiters was a wonderful break from sightseeing. You should make a reservation to be sure to get a table. There were many local business people having lunch around me rather than tourists.

The Musee du Quai Branly is also well worth a visit. Beautiful building, beautiful displays and beautiful objects in each display.

StCirq Nov 27th, 2009 02:07 PM

In St-Rémy: chocolates from Joël Durand, macarons and nougat from Le Petit Duc, and green apple vinaigrette from the oil/vinegar store that's right across the street from both of them.

ira Nov 28th, 2009 03:46 AM

Hi SC,

LLT beat me to it - Lunch at Taillevent.

See my trip reports for other ideas:
Ira Returns From 22 Loverly Days in Europe - Sep, 2009

Ira Visits Zurich, The Bodensee, Alsace and Paris – May 2008


JulieMautner Nov 28th, 2009 06:52 AM

Try to book a table at Mas du Capoun, between St. Remy and Cavaillon, in a town called Molleges. The atmosphere, food, service and value are are all super. They serve a fixed price lunch and dinner. I don't know the current prices but it's family run and they work to keep it very affordable--a lovely meal in a beautiful setting. They also have guestrooms.

macanimals Nov 28th, 2009 07:22 AM

Where will your gite be in Provence? We've stayed in several locations over the years and found a few splurge worthy places but proximity to your home base would be a factor. Let us know--a week in Provence will give you a lot of options.

jpie Nov 28th, 2009 01:40 PM

Another cheap foodie here :).

For a mini-splurge, you may want to try the "baby bistro" owned by Tour Argent kitty corner to their fancy place La Rôtisserie du Beaujolais

La Rôtisserie du Beaujolais
19, Quai de la Tournelle
75005 Paris
Ph : 01-43-54-17-47

However, you won't get the impressive views since it is on the river and not up a level.

Here's a blog with photos and description:

Also, one of our favorite good deal restaurants in Paris is in the 7th and again a "less expensive version" of a chef's (Christian Constant) high end place, the Cafe Constant on rue Domenique:

His high end restaurant is le violon d'ingres just down the street:

SuzChicago Nov 28th, 2009 02:04 PM

Jpie -- Enjoyed your carnivore blog!

Macanimals -- we will be in St. Remy.

LLT and Ira -- Had been considering Taillevent as the MAJOR splurge luncheon, but am also thinking about the Bateaux Mouches dinner as our 10-year old daughter will be with us. Her preference is for the boat splurge:


cigalechanta Nov 28th, 2009 02:13 PM

If you know where in Provence, I can give you a list of wonderful restaurant.

Judy Nov 28th, 2009 02:43 PM

While I've been to Taillevent, I've never been on the Bateaux Mouches dinner cruise.
The cruise without dinner was wonderful and I've NEVER heard anyone rave about the food.
If you can have the cruise without mediocre food for very little money, I'd save my splurge for Taillevent (or another restaurant)where you'll remember the food and experience for a long time to come and basically enjoy both of your options.

ira Nov 28th, 2009 03:10 PM

Hi SC,

>am also thinking about the Bateaux Mouches dinner as our 10-year old daughter will be with us.<

Ditto Judy.

Take DD on an evening cruise on the Seine. If you get a day pass for, you can see Paris from the river and take the evening cruise.

The food on a boat is not as good as what you will get on shore for the same price - unless it is your own boat.


macanimals Nov 28th, 2009 03:41 PM

RE: St Remy. Nearby Arles has L'Atelier Rabanal which is a multi-course tapas style presentation which is an excellent experience. If you are in the Vaison la Romaine area (an excellent wine tasting opportunity), nearby Roaix has the michelin starred Le Grand Prix--we had a fabulous lunch at 35 euro last summer. Closer to St Remy in Eygaliere is Chez Bru--very expensive and highly rated--I recommend a visit to the village in any case.

I second Joel Durand's chocolates and Julie's Mas du Capoun looks interesting. I've also found several good wineries of interest in the area. Have fun. Paul

Lexma90 Nov 28th, 2009 05:18 PM

I would also echo the comment that the dinner on the boat is likely not worth the time or the money. The ride on Bateaux Mouches is definitely worth it. We took our son on his first trip to Europe when he was 10. I arrange our visit so that his first sight of the Eiffel Tower was on the Bateaux Mouche at night - it was wonderful!

We also took him that year to his first Michelin-rated restaurant, which he also loved (and appreciated how special the experience was). But if your daughter's not interested in Taillevant, you may want to wait on that. One issue we faced with the boat ride, though, was fitting in the dinner and the boat ride. We had to find a good place where we could eat relatively early, then get to the boat ride before our son fell asleep! (We couldn't do the boat ride first, because it wasn't dark then.) We ended up eating at Le Moulin a Vent “Chez Henri,” 20, rue des Fossés-St-Bernard, in the 5th. It's a good, traditional bistro, and is one of the relatively few places in Paris that serves frogs' legs - one of our son's few requests for the trip.

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