On the third floor of an 18th-century building in a great Marais location near the corner of rue Charlot on rue de Poitou, La Fleur de Poitou has been fully transformed into a regal home away from home. Renovated from stem to stern in 2011 by Interior Architect Martine di Mattéo, the apartment is a colorful and shining example of what is possible when good taste and savoir faire are combined.
How many people do you know keep track of every meal they eat in restaurants by creating a spreadsheet that records the total amount of the bill in euros, the U.S. dollar equivalent, the number of people dining at each meal, the average cost of the meal in both currencies and how many meals were had in each month, all totaling of course to a full year's report?
You now know at least one. Me.
I do this for both tax reporting reasons and curiosity. The process is simple: the receipt from every meal gets marked with the number of people in the party and then dumped into a folder, one folder for each month, that sits inside another bigger folder. At the end of the year, the whole main folder -- grown fat over the year -- gets handed over to a bookkeeper, who I believe now after many years gets some sort of strange pleasure from recording them all.
When the spreadsheet is complete, she sends it over for me to look (mostly) at the bottom line. For 2011, here's how the year ended: 352 meals (almost one per day) at an average cost of $30.24, more than $10,000 per year.
Interestingly, the most expensive year was 2007 with 403 meals at an average of $30.64, although the rate of exchange wasn't as favorable and the euro amount was lower (20.82€ vs 22.62€). Still, 2007 was a record-breakingly expensive year, for what reason I can't remember...but it must have been a fun one!
Now, some people might say that this is a "helluva" lot of money to spend on dining out, or a "helluva" lot of time spent in restaurants. And yes, you could even agree with them...but this is Paris! And this is what we do! Or, at least a lot of us living here.
We live in small apartments and often work all day long in the same small space. Just steps away are tons of cafés and restaurants vying for our business, calling to us to: come, have a seat, take a coffee or a glass of wine, order a meal, talk with friends, write your great novel or contemplate your navels. Café and restaurant life is what life is all about in the land of the best indoor and outdoor dining in the world. They even have a name for it and call it: "Café Life."
So, our money is spent in these establishments instead of on...car ownership (for which we have no use)...or a large wardrobe (for which we have no space or necessity)...or health insurance (since even if you don't have French social security, you can have inexpensive health insurance)...or expensive private schools for our kids (since the quality of public education is top notch)...or wine (although you certainly can spend tons if you want, but even inexpensive wine is drinkable)...or property taxes (as the average annual tax is .0001 per cent of the value of the property)...and the list of trade-offs goes on and on. Plus, there is so much pleasure in dining out!
If you visit PagesJaunes.fr and search for "restaurants" in "Paris," you will find more than 8,500 responses and another 300 classified as "cafés/bars." As you see, there is no shortage to the possibilities. Just imagine how easy it is, too: you walk out of your apartment and head in any direction; within a few meters, you will land in an eatery; you sit, you read the menu, you order, the food is served, you eat it, you pay, you leave.
Compare that with making a grocery list, shopping at the grocery, hauling the goods up your stairs (if you're like me, there are 70 and hauling up the weight is not fun), filling the fridge (that used to be so pristine until all that food arrived), preparing the food, serving it, eating it and then cleaning it all up -- only to be stuck with leftovers that rot in the fridge.
Nope, that's not for me.
The point to all this, however, is not what I spend or how many meals I've had outside of my apartment, or how easy it is to dine out compared with dining in...but the sheer pleasure of the experience of dining out in Paris.
Every restaurant and café has its own personality, its own menu and style, its own wait staff, its own ambiance, its own everything. You can pick a new restaurant every single day for many years and never get bored, if that's what you choose, or land in the same few all the time that become homes away from home. You can dine on a large variety of different national cuisines and taste every level of culinary creativity. You can spend a lot or spend a little, go for self-serve or "haute de gamme" service by the most professional of waiters. You can have it all -- and have it all with your friends, your family, your colleagues, your lover, or even your dog (you wouldn't believe how many dogs I have seen in chairs at the table eating off a plate over the years).
Knowing that I am a creature of dining out habit, often people ask what is my favorite restaurant. The answer is: "At least 100 of them." A better question would be, "What is your favorite restaurant in the 6th arrondissement?" Or "What is your favorite sushi restaurant?" Or "What restaurant has the best 'steack/frites?'" Or "Which restaurant do you frequent the most?"
Get specific. With more than 8500 to choose from, how on earth would anyone be able to separate just one as being IT...the number one of all time?
If you want to know which are my top 100, that's easy. They're all in the guide: Adrian Leeds® Top 100 Cheap Insider Paris Restaurants. I wrote the first edition in 1996 with 50 restaurants. After a few years, there were more than 200 and now it's down to the basic 100 top Paris finds. It's also available in many different formats: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, plus digital formats (pdf) for the Kindle and iBookstore!
But just so I don't leave you with nothing to write home about, here's a new one you might like that's not in the guide:
P.S. To all of you thinking of coming to Paris and wishing to rent an apartment from Parler Paris Apartments, it's best if you visit our site (Parler Paris Apartments) and send your request to our team of rental specialists. If you send your request directly to me, it's likely to get lost among the other emails -- while I'm dining out -- so for a faster response, email firstname.lastname@example.org!
Adrian Leeds® Top 100 Cheap Insider Paris Restaurants -- You don't need to be rich to dine well in Paris, you just need to be in the know!
Online since 1996, Adrian Leeds® Top 100 Cheap Insider Paris Restaurants has been completely updated for 2011. This restaurant guide has been a favorite among visitors to France for many years.
The guide includes 100 restaurants from the 20 arrondissements in Paris, so no matter where you are in the City of Light, you can discover great food and better value. You’ll find detailed descriptions of the food, service and ambiance, complete with Google maps, a glossary of French food terms and guidance on how to have the best dining experiences in Paris! If you want to dine “à la française” on your next trip to the City of Light, be sure to pack this guide.
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Practice speaking French and English. Make friends, discuss interesting topics, learn about other cultures, progress in understanding and speaking, naturally and easily. Meets three times a week -- come as often as you like!
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