(Original Blog from December, 2011)
The Euro and the Pound aren’t nearly as strong as they were five years ago when I first posted this blog but when it comes to value, table wine in Europe is still a better bargain than everyday Diet (or Regular) Coke.
In another life I was fortunate to have visited Paris several times, once as a paying guest in the fabulous George V, hotel to the rich and famous and where I spied a celebrity hanging out in the lobby—actress Cheryl Ladd, a few years after her stint on Charlie’s Angels but still looking terrific in a pair of tight-fitting jeans and, as I recall, a Western-style suede jacket. Seeing all-American Cheryl reminded me of the good ol’ U.S. of A., by then having been away for almost two weeks, most of that time spent on business in The Netherlands and Belgium. Although I’d enjoyed a daily dose or three of fine wines, many I’d not sampled before, my taste buds had been hankering for America’s Numero Uno beverage—Coca Cola. And not just any Coke, it had to be Diet Coke, which had yet to find its ways across the Atlantic drink. Or if it had, not to the George V which did offer regular Coke, the six-ounce classic in a glass bottle that a compassionate person from the kitchen staff produced for me one evening around 9 o’clock. Not quite what I wanted but nevertheless I took the plunge, one costing me the equivalent of six dollars in American cash—the equivalent of ten dollars in today’s inflated market. So, if we’re talking Euros to Dollars that comes to thirteen dollars. Yikes! Ah-h, but worth every … pen … er … dollar.
And speaking of inflation, the George V’s continental breakfast I ate every morning—a small basket of mini muffins, orange juice, and coffee—cost twelve dollars then, which would make it twenty now, more likely twenty-six by today’s Euro equation. The George V’s American breakfast—add bacon and eggs to the continental juice, muffins, and coffee—would’ve cost the Japanese tourists sitting at the table next to me twenty-five dollars then. Forty-two dollars today—don’t ask about the Yen, I’m not that anal. But hey, it was the George V. If you can afford to stay there, you’re not supposed to quibble about a few hundred Francs here, a few hundred Francs there.
As for the French wine, I knew enough to step away from the hotel and sample what the everyday Parisian takes for granted. A carafe of dry red in an inexpensive bistro that set me back about four dollars then would cost in the neighborhood of $6.65 now, considering the Euro, more like $8.65. Still a bargain for two glasses that went down oh so smoothly, the perfect accompaniment for an inexpensive mid-day meal.
By the time I returned to Paris a few years later, I’d learned a few more things about the art of tourist frugality and located a whole six-pack of Diet Coke in a small convenience store on a street adjacent to Boulevard Saint-Germain. Six dollars then, you’ve thought I’d struck gold. I also discovered McDonald’s on the Champs Elysees—can’t beat the prices there, although I don’t recall anymore what they were, except they must’ve been affordable or I surely would’ve remembered. Not that I’m a McDonald’s aficionado, you understand, only when I’m traveling aboard and have an uncontrollable urge for Diet Coke. Confession: in addition to the McDonald’s on the Champs Elysees, I’ve indulged my thirst at the one near Rome’s Piazza di Spagna on two separate trips and once at Mont Blanc’s Chamonix. You can’t beat the fast-food giant’s air-conditioned comfort, especially where European hotels and dining establishments don’t cater to us Americans who can’t tolerate more than a single bead of perspiration.
Enough about McDonald’s, or whatever name they go by in Europe, did I mention they even serve wine? Four years ago Husband and I were returning from Italy via British Airlines, our first stopover: Gatwick Airport. We immediately headed for the nearest bar where we each ordered … you got it, Diet Coke, one for him, one for me.
“You folks must be heading back to the States,” our bartender said. “Diet Coke with plenty of ice, it’s what all the Americans order.” Not that Hubby stopped with one Diet, he just had to have another.
Forget the math on those pricey necessities—the British Pound was, and still is, valued at more than twice that of our American Dollar.