Bonjour Mamas! NY Mama Ami here, I am back to share more about the daily pleasures & quirks of Parisian living. Today I have a variety of topics I wanna to share with you, so let’s dig in!
You Gotta Carry Cash! (Euros/Centimes)
Back home in The States, I never carried a lot of cash and I surely didn’t carry a lot of change (called “centimes” here). My feeling is this: it’s much easier and safer to track your spending with plastic. Remember this Mamas, the ending to the “Shopper’s Prayer” is “AMEX”, in lieu of “Amen” for a reason!
Besides, change is something that men carry! They dump it from their pockets each evening and put it in the “change jar”. After a few months, they wrap it up and cash it in for dollars, either at the bank or one of those Coin Star ™ machines in the grocery store.
So imagine my surprise when I realized that Euros, versus plastic, are the preferred method of payment here. Some purchases, like at the weekly marchés add up quickly, so a wad of bills will be required. Other purchases you will make, such at a boulangerie or vending machine are “small”, so only a few Euro are needed. Couple that with the fact that there are Euro centimes in larger denominations, such as 1€ and 2€ and it makes a lot more sense to carry these around. The biggest “common denomination” of “change” in the US is a quarter. When I was a kid, my Mother always told me to carry a quarter in case I needed to make an emergency phone call. Due to technology and inflation, “grown up” Ami learned to stash an emergency $20 instead!
Since the 1990’s bottled water has become one of the top-selling beverages in the world. In Europe, that had been the case for several decades prior. What that means for you is that you can either pay a premium for it (in a vending machine, boulangerie or restaurant) or be an “insider” and learn how to get it for less.
So here’s the inside scoop: When you go to a restaurant, they will automatically ask you if you want flat or sparkling water, ASSuming you are willing to shell out up to 8€ for a bottle (you can buy a glass of wine for less than that!). Even in a boulangerie or Selecta™ vending machine, they will charge up to 2€ per bottle. Here’s how to combat paying these prices: simply ask for “carafe d’eau, s’il vous plaît” when you’re out and about. This is a carafe or empty wine bottle filled with chilled tap water, which is perfectly safe and FREE to drink. Another thing you can do is go into the bottled water section of any mini grocery store or “super marché” (Monoprix, Carrefore, etc). You can actually break open a 6-pack and only purchase one bottle at a time, which is pretty different compared to the United States where, you can buy that one bottle for around 30¢, or an entire 6 pack of water for a bit over 1€. That goes up to around 3€ if you like Evian!
Oh! Bon Marché by the way, sells the most expensive water ever called Bling at 60 euros a pop! So avoid, avoid, avoid! I mean really! C’mon! Where does this water come from? Venus?
Rats with Wings…aka Pigeons!
One of the first things that I noticed upon moving to Paris was the plethora of pigeons. They are just everywhere. Not only are there a vast quantity of them, but they are quite large and very aggressive. They make the pigeons in NYC look positively anorexic!
Many times people will put a baguette on the sidewalk, just to see how many pigeons will congregate and fight over it. This essentially turns your walkway into a giant pigeon party. I have to say, it’s mighty inconvenient when you’re in a hurry and have to play “dodge the pigeon”! The aftermath, as you might guess, is also a plethora of pigeon poop. Yuck!
Since these pigeons seem very “meaty”, I wondered if they would be desirable to serve in the restaurants of Paris. I mean, there seems to be an abundance of “free flying food” all around us! I have dined out quite a bit and it I noticed that pigeon is occasionally on the menu, but not as much as you might think, given the abundance here. Turns out that historically, pigeons were eaten more frequently by both peasants and in fine dining establishments. Now pigeons (of any locale, city or country) are not considered a delicacy. Squab is what you will see on today’s menus. That’s because actual pigeons are considered too “old” and their meat is considered too tough. Squab is technically the team for baby pigeons, which are around 4 weeks old and have not yet flown. If you see squab on the menu in Paris, the restaurant will likely indicate the region/farm on which it was raised.
Bottom line… Your best move, just like in NYC, is “Don’t Feed The Pigeons”!
Hopefully these insights are all helpful to you as you enjoy Parisian living!