Test your stress levels before you bookWritten by Gareth Powell
You need to know your stress levels before you book a holiday. This quiz for evaluating stress originally surfaced in a Macmillan medical book in 1982 but in various forms it has been around for much longer. Basically what you need to know is whether you have been under too much stress in past six months. If you have then it may affect your choice of holiday, your means of travel. • Going through an airport is a high stress situation. • Charging around countryside on an explorer expedition can be stressful. • Driving long distances is stressful. Sitting by pool and swimming a few lazy laps is not stressful. As is resting in countryside. Or anywhere else where you feel relaxed and serene. First you need to get a point score. Notice questions only apply to last six months. Not your lifetime. During past six months: • Has your partner died? 20 points. • Have you become divorced or separated from your partner? 15 points. • Has a close relation (other than husband or wife) died? 13 points. • Have you been in hospital because of injury or illness? 11 points. • Have you married, or effected a reconciliation with your partner after a separation? 10 points. • Have you discovered you are soon to become a parent? 9 points. • Has there been a major change, whether for better or worse, in health of a close member of your family? 9 points. • Have you lost your job or retired? 9 points. • Are you experiencing any sexual difficulties? 8 points. • Has a new member been born or married into your intimate family circle? 8 points. • Has a close friend died? 8 points. • Have your finances got markedly better or worse? 8 points. • Have you changed your job? 8 points. • Have any of your children moved out of family home or started or finished school? 6 points
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.