Eating out in Paris on a BudgetWritten by Gareth Powell
This is Paris and it is raining, which is as it should be. Paris rain is not as rain of other cities. It is softer, benevolent. It caresses, rather than soaks. Perhaps main reason I come to Paris is because of food. Not that I am a true gourmet. More a gourmand. It is perfectly possible to spend an arm and a leg on food in Paris. I am still in a state of shock after paying $17.50 for a single glass of beer. Granted, I was sitting on pavement on Champs Elysees and granted, I could have sat there all day. But I am still in shock. Normally I steer well away from such high-priced nonsense. When you go to Paris – and you should go at least once in a lifetime – make your own discoveries. I am assured it is possible to get a bad meal in Paris. It simply has never happened to me. At following restaurants you will only get great meals. First and foremost, La Crémerie Polidor. If it was good enough for Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Andre Gide, Jack Kerouac, Paul Verlaine and Paul Valery, it is good enough for me. For lunch yesterday I had plat du jour, which was cassoulet in classic style. It cost $10. This restaurant has never heard of nouvelle cuisine. Its style of cooking is still firmly embedded in twenties. (In fact, it opened 20 years earlier.) As are its decor and standard of service. And fact that it does not accept credit cards. With my meal I had a pichet, a small jug, which is about a third of a bottle of Chateau Magondeau, a Merlot, which has won a Medaille Concours Agricole and is generally well spoken of. A full bottle would have been silly, but a pichet at $10 was just right. This system of serving excellent wines in less than bottle quantities is splendidi. In most restaurants you can have a carafe of house wine, which normally will be singularly nasty and probably will have come from Algeria or Morocco and be chemically treated. Sometimes you can detect that someone are grapes first. You can drink it at a pinch. But you have to be desperate. A step up from that is réserve maison, or réserve du patron. This is much better and very drinkable. At top in quality and price are wines which qualify for title vin delimité de qualité supérieur (VDQS), or appellation d'origine controlée (AOC). These can be truly splendid wines, but can be pricey and a bottle much too much to drink for one person. Some restaurants serve great wines by glass or small jug and good ones get Coupe de Meilleur Pot, which is a much-coveted award. This means that you can sample grand wines of France – and grand wines, indeed, they are - without doing dire damage to either your wallet or your liver. The best places to experience this superior plonk by glass are in bars run by Ecluse chain which keeps expanding. Originally there was one Now, I think, there are five bars. On offer are Bordeaux wines by glass, some of them grand cru. These bars also have, beyond argument, best chocolate. Back to Polidor for moment. The ideal time to go there is around 1.30, when first mad rush is over, but atmosphere is still there. They don't accept telephone bookings. To get to it, take Métro to Odeon on Boulevard St Germain de Près and walk through Carrefour Odeon and then up Rue Monsieur le Prince to number 41. It is not a flashy frontage and easy to miss. The unisex toilets are very probably a historic monument. After eating a literary lunch, go back down to St Germain de Près and turn left. You will shortly come to three great Paris institutions: Aux Deux Magots, Café Floré and Brasserie Lipp. It was at Aux Deux Magots in 1964 and 1965 Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir held literary court.
Luggage to suit your styleWritten by Gareth Powell
Luggage has many schools of thought. Here are but some of them: • Minimalist. Cutting down to bare essentials so that you need only one cabin bag which you can carry on aircraft. My daughter has this down to a fine art and recently toured India for two weeks with one small, leather Gladstone bag that I bought in China many years ago. • The hard case. This refers not to character of traveler but to suitcase used. Almost all flight crews use hard cases. Watch an airline crew collect their baggage from carousel after an international journey and you will see that it is all medium to large-sized, hard-sided suitcases (nearly always gray) with built-in wheels and extendible handles. Sophisticated travelers sneer at this. But who, I ask, would know better? • The suit bag. Many experienced travelers are of opinion that a well-made suit bag will last for many years and carry everything you could possibly need. A suit bag used as cabin baggage on overseas flights will almost certainly carry everything you need. • The enlightened traditionalist. This is a traveler who realizes that suitcase acquired for first Big Trip at age of 21 will not cover all needs, all future travel. So keeps upgrading as time passes. • Horses for courses. Differing bags for different occasions. As a matter of sober truth, I have 32 of damn things. But I was ever profligate. There are, indeed, two main types of baggage. The type that will stand up to rigors of overseas travel, but is so heavy it eats up much of your weight allowance. And that which is light and easy to handle and falls apart at inconvenient moments. There is no such thing as ideal baggage. Only that which can be considered not bad. If you are going on an overseas trip with more than four stopovers, your present baggage probably will not stand up to strain. Get a new case before you go or you, too, will scatter your dirty laundry across departure area of Dom Muang airport to amusement of hordes of Thai travelers. • Do not buy expensive name-brand luggage. They are called 'steal-me' cases on reasoning that if you can afford a genuine Louis Vuitton suitcase you can afford to pack valuables inside. Look instead for something that is anonymous, easily cleaned and light. Don't worry too much about quality. After a trip with four stopovers it will not have a long life expectancy.