I’m back from my vacation in France, a whole ten days spent with no deadlines, no pets to feed or housework to do. It was nothing short of amazing, and everything went according to plan, except for one small hiccup on the very last leg of the journey. The trip across the atlantic ocean was pretty uneventful, and even though it was overnight, I didn’t sleep much. We arrived in Paris bleary eyed around 9am, and it took about an hour to take the train to our neighbourhood: Montmartre.
Staying Outside of Downtown Paris to Save Money
We chose to stay in Montmartre because the prices for Airbnb were cheaper, and it was a little less touristy than than the downtown areas. I knew we made the perfect choice when we ascended the endless steps up from the Abbesses metro station that brought us out into a charming town square bordered by a Church and countless brasseries and pastry shops. The square itself was home to a carousel and a dozen or so market stalls that came alive every night selling candy, crepes and hot spiced wine.
We were starving and exhausted so after coaxing a cafe owner to give us coffee and bread (nothing was open) we set off to find our Airbnb apartment. The apartment was small but newly renovated, tidy and had everything we needed. Most important, it was cheap, costing us only $550 for six nights. Not bad!
We stayed in Paris for six days, and we made the most of those six days. I haven’t walked so much since New Orleans, even though we took the metro to get to and from most of our major attractions. We did a hop-on-hop-off boat tour of the Seine, went to the Musée d’Orsay, spent a whole day at the Louvre, and ascended the summit of the Eiffel Tower. We snuck into the Notre Dame cathedral at 8pm on a Tuesday night to avoid the ridiculous line-ups, and made multiple trips up the hill to the Sacré-Cœur, which was about five minutes from our apartment.
When we weren’t seeking out attractions, we spent the rest of our time exploring the neighbourhoods around those attractions. Whenever we got tired, we’d either park it in a cafe to shake off our winter chill (usually enjoying some hot wine or coffee while we waited) or simply find the nearest metro station and be home in 20 minutes (I downloaded a Paris metro app that was very helpful).
Spending Money In Paris
Besides the things we’d booked in advance, we also had a daily budget that we’d try not to exceed every day. This was basically what was left of my travel fund divided by ten days. It was pretty easy to stay within this budget, even though we didn’t hold back on our spending at all. We’re naturally frugal folks and we didn’t pass up the chance to buy croissants and ground coffee for breakfast at home, nor did we hesitate to buy a $6.00 bottle of wine at the nearby market to drink in the flat, instead of buying a $30 bottle at a restaurant.
On To Bayeux, and Saving More Money
After six days in Paris we cleared out of the flat in Montmartre and headed back to the airport, again by train. From there we rented a car and made the three hour drive to the small town of Bayeux. We stayed a a no-frills hotel for just $38 per night, and while it was definitely no frills, it had everything we needed (although a cork screw would’ve been appreciated).
Bayeux is an incredibly cute, small little town, with a 1,000 year old church at its centre, some of the best preserved facades in all of France, and walking path along an ancient canal I could’ve walked down for days. With Bayeux as our new home base, we spent a day driving all over the french countryside visiting the WWII D-day beaches and museums. We visited Omaha Beach, the Overlord Museum, and Juno Beach. Driving down the winding roads all by ourselves, without another soul in sight was a welcome break from the non-stop activity of Paris and the perfect way to cap off our trip.
Food was cheaper in Bayeux too, which was a nice change. The only downside was that we were there on Sunday-Monday-Tuesday, and little known to us – everything there was closed on Sunday and Monday! This left our food options limited for the first two days, and we may have spent one night chowing down on a bag of chips, a six pack of warm beer and some chocolate dipped cookies. But we survived.
After our three days in Bayeux were up, we started our 26 hours of travel by taking our rental car back to the airport (traffic was much, much worse on the way back, but I credit my husband for navigating it expertly) where we waited for our flight.
Everything on the trip went perfectly. Both accommodations were great, all of the pre-purchased tickets were easy to pick up and were legit, getting around by metro was super easy, and even dealing with the freeways of Paris was doable. Everything was perfect except for our flight from Montreal to Moncton, which was hell because there was a blizzard in Montreal and a ridiculous flood inducing rainstorm in Moncton. But we won’t dwell on that. That’s not what was important.
The Final Budget Verdict For My Travel in 2014
This was our final trip in 2014, and we ended up coming in about $500 under budget. This was great because we really didn’t restrict our spending all that much. That means in 2014 I ended up spending about $7,000 on travel, which I’m really happy with. I don’t regret that number at all, because both our trip to New Orleans and France were two of the best trips of my life.
How much did you spend on travel in 2014? Is $7,000 a ridiculous number? I want to know!