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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.

“Est petite.”

“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.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I loved this! Ah, youth!

1979- Ah yes we loved Frommer. But we did have a wonderful month in Europe.

I had a very similar experience when I travelled through Europe when I was 19. As I remember, the Youth Hostels were pretty much the same rates as the Frommer book, but I didn't like the curfews imposed and work shifts imposed by a lot of hostels.

I'd love to read more about your travels. Is this an excerpt from a larger work?
Celia Jones

In the early 90ies we bought EurRail tickets then I took my family, (spouse and 2 kids, 12 and 18), to 6 countries in Europe. We started with $2,000. and traveled for 6 weeks till the money ran out and all we had left were our airline return tickets. That averaged about $50. a day and we lived mostly in Bed and Breakfast homes and ate with locals at their very inexpensive restaurants or else bought baguettes, cheese, local produce, lemonade, for lunches along the river Seine with the locals.
We all had learned some French and Spanish before leaving so many doors were opened for us plus we had some invitations and were also able to sometimes negotiate prices so we got a price that a local might get. The big plus was the eagerness, especially among the French, to meet Americans who spoke their language. Teaching some a few key English words and expressions also opened many doors, especially restaurant owners and others in the tourist business.
We traveled all over Europe, depending on what our interests were -our guide books told us where concerts or museums or activities were - and when one country's B&B's or Pensiones were too expensive, we would just hop on a train in the evening and go back to France or to any cheaper country.

We all had a memorable experience, and I think that I'd like to do that again some day but this time include Greece.


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