Simon Calder: The high price of the good life in Paris

As I handed over the cash, I thought (but, being British, did not say), "I asked for the bill, not an on-the-spot fine." The kind of people who are inclined to drown their sorrows maintain that the world looks better through the bottom of a glass. I was gazing at the bottom of a glass, specifically an all-too-empty 25cl vessel that had latterly contained draught lager. For the previous hour I had been emulating millions of other British travellers: practising the art of sipping slowly.

The venue was the terrace of Le Select, one of the classic "writers' and artists'" cafés in the French capital. But I imagine that when the notable and the notorious of the creative community were drinking here, they were paying rather less than the equivalent of more than £10 a pint.

The service was impeccable and friendly, as you would expect it to be at €4.80 for less than half a pint of lager. "Keep the change," I mumbled as I handed over a five-euro note (being British, I was naturally embarrassed to be giving a 4 per cent tip).

Of course, if all you want on a hot August night in the French capital is a beer, then plenty of supermarkets will sell you a can of Kronenbourg for a euro. But you elect for Le Select because sipping the (steadily warming) amber liquid takes a distant second place to drinking in the ambience of an alluring location abroad. You are renting the priceless experience of a balmy evening on the Boulevard Montparnasse – with the warm rays of sunlight shattering on the façade of the Brasserie la Coupole, opposite, the amiable cacophony of Parisian street life, and the occasional scent of an unfiltered Gaulois drifting in the air. Here quality of life is more important than quantity of cash – and, besides, the locals are lucky enough to earn euros. In the 14th arrondisement, la bonne vie is alive and well.

* The British are now such determined tourists – we spend £20bn a year more travelling abroad than foreigners bring here – that we need an inflation index that reflects the fact that most of us spend a steadily increasing fortune going abroad. The price of a pint of bitter in Barnsley is less pertinent to the average Brit than the cost of a small lager on a Parisian terrace, just as the slice of holiday spending that goes on a pizza Margherita in Naples is more relevant than at your local Pizza Express. I hereby volunteer my services to compile a new Overseas Travel Index, so long as the bill for testing and tasting the drinks on a terrace in Paris is met by someone else's liquid assets.

* The price of the most essential liquid, water, is perennially high for travellers on low-cost airlines: easyJet charges €2 for one-third of a litre of the stuff. To stretch your cash in order to afford the odd beer as the sun sinks over a foreign field, road or beach, it's well worth taking an empty bottle through airport security and filling it when "airside". But when one of our writers, Ben Crichton, turned up at Sofia airport in Bulgaria last week for a flight to Milan, he was fresh from the Rila Mountains and forgot he was carrying a full two-litre "hydration system" – 20 times the official limit. Liquids are easily detected by scanners, but he was let through unchallenged. Three years after the "liquids, gels and pastes" ban came into force, causing massive disruption in the UK, some airports continue to take a relaxed view – or, perhaps, use some form of rudimentary profiling to save squandering their time and effort searching passengers who pose no threat.

Why some guides aren't child's play

“Buy your château ticket in advance of stepping foot in Versailles.” A curious sentence, introducing the notion of “stepping foot”, but advice that on its own justifies the £12.99 price of |Lonely Planet’s Paris City Guide.

The index to the book, though, shares with the château at Versailles the characteristic of being the work of a wildly imaginative mind. There is not the traditional single index, but 11 of them. The main one begins, bizarrely, with “13e arrondissement & Chinatown” and ends “zoos, see Sights subindex”. This directs you to |one of a series of speciality indexes covering topics such as “Gay & Lesbian Paris” and “Sleeping”. Supposing you were keen to find somewhere to keep the children entertained, looking up “children”, or “kids” in the main |index will get you nowhere. Instead, go to the Sights subindex and look under “F”, between “Factories” and “Forests”. There it is: “For Children”. Bon chance.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Day In a Page

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
    Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

    The end of an era across the continent

    It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
    Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

    'Focus on killing American people'

    Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
    Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

    Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

    The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
    Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

    Same-sex marriage

    As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
    The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

    The Mafia is going freelance

    Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable