Thursday, 30 June 2011
Europe on $5 a Day
By Terry Hamburg of boomer to you
Arthur Frommer's best-seller became the post World War II economy-tourist bible.
The hotel looked like postcard picture: a charming three story in the trendy, artsy Monmartre section of Paris, the location of so many movies of the times: An American in Paris, Gigi, Funny Face, Charade.
Frommer highly recommended the residence. The 1965 edition warned that prices had risen a bit from his first book in 1957, and the new one had to be titled Europe on $5 and $10 a Day.
This destination, as usual in his listings, didn’t offer private conveniences. At $7.50, it was one of the higher picks. You’d have to eat frugally, do a lot of walking and visit free museums to sneak in under $10 a day.
Obviously, the concept was geared to the younger generation - those who didn’t mind roughing it a bit on trips: cramped trains, cheap food and basic rooms. It was almost romantic.
The main flaw of the book was its self-canceling nature. Once a hotel was recommended, everyone flocked to it. The line started in the small lobby and snaked well out into the street, everyone clutching the bible. “We have un chambre left,” the hostess informed me.
“I’ll take it,” I chirped.
“Sans bain et toilet, tois floors, sans elevator.”
“C’est bon,” I said, practicing my French.
“C’est la vie,” I smiled with a wave of the hand.
“Le chambre est separated from other chambres by les couvetures.”
I had to look up “couvetures.” It meant blankets. Ten eager people stood behind me. There was a long line at my second choice across the street. The girl who rented a room ahead of me was awful cute.
“I’ll take it,” I said.
“45 francs, sil vous plait.”
I did a fast calculation. It was around $9. “What about the $7.50 rate mentioned in the book?”
“Ah, oui, le livre. You see, we have much business from le livre, so we raise prices.”
The last edition in 2004 was entitled Europe on $85 a Day. Perhaps from nostalgia or limited means, older folks still bought it, along with their grandchildren. Like its predecessors, le livre was obsolete soon after publication. What was intended to disclose little known bargains eliminated them as fast a speeding tourist.
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