The Dollar has Never Been Weaker

Written by admin on April 13, 2007 – 3:46 pm -

If my memory serves me right, and unfortunately, it does, the dollar has never been weaker vs. a vs. the Euro. Each time I go to convert money via this conversion site; I’m nearly felled by cardiac arrest. It’s one thing if you’re an Expat who’s working in the EU and being paid in Euros.  It’s quite another if you’re living in the EU and your income is dollar based.

In spite of this monetary nose-dive (if you’re an American), the Maison de la France, (the French Government Tourist Office) states  that France is still the world’s #1 tourist destination. Seventy-eight million foreign travelers visited France in 2006, an increase of 2.7% over 2005. Statistics cite there were 3.1 million American tourists and France remains the second most popular destination for Americans who are boarding flights headed to the EU.  Not bad considering how the cost of airline tickets has shot up and with the dollar tanking.

Bonjour Paris readers are continually asking whether or not they should come to France or other countries in the EU. Our resounding response is oui. Bonjour Paris is filled with tips about how to make your travel dollar go further. I’m amazed over the great bargains that are still available.

Your greatest expense will probably be where you stay.  We’re great advocates of renting apartments and/or sneaking some drinks into your fridge. I’ve known friends to buy an EU current electrical warmer so they can have a cup of coffee or tea before heading out for a day and sightseeing or just walking. Many people book last-minute “remaindered” rooms on hotel booking sites that are omni-present.

If you plan to see different parts of France, Buy a Eurail pass that fits your needs. It’s the most efficient and cost-effective way to travel throughout Europe. Don’t forget to specify if you’re senior and or a couple (or more) who plan on taking the same trains at identical times.

There are definite ways to save money (rather, Euros). Mass transit is generally better in European cities than in the US. Do your homework and unearth what pass you should buy the minute you hit foreign soil.

It’s hard to impossible to forego a car in Los Angeles. Having one in Paris is a mega headache. The traffic can cause anyone to waste hours stuck in traffic, looking for a parking space and then buying the car out of hock should you park in a lot.

Locating a street parking space is hard to do – and if you should be so lucky, plan on having to move the car every two hours. It’s not a question of adding extra Euros in a meter (some people have been known to bribe a kind soul to do that) but getting a printed ticket from a machine and placing it on the dashboard of the car.

Always pay parking fines should you be ticketed, because sooner than later, the rental car company will find you and your credit card will be automatically debited – no questions asked.  Paris’s mayor Bertrand Delanoe isn’t a fool when it comes to collecting easy revenue.

Watch those elegantly dressed parking meter minders hit the streets with pads and pens in hand. They appear from nowhere and voila, within minutes, you owe the city government more than a few Euros. No matter how quickly you run to rescue the car, should you be parked illegally while picking up something in a store, these folks write faster.  Some even appear riding bicycles.

OK – you’re in France, where are the bargains?  More than likely, you’ll find them in the grocery stores.  Try to get out of central Paris and hit a hyper-marche (mega supermarket) in the suburbs. You’ll me amazed by what you can buy from the most adorable babies’ clothes, sexy underwear at a fraction of the price found in regular department stores, children’s clothing and clothing for adults. They may not be the best quality ….but they’re more than fine for most people. Plus – wrap them elegantly and these clothes and other articles make great gifts.  People even buy shoes that are comfortable and come in a full range of sizes.

The other week, a friend wanted to buy French clothes for his teenage daughters. We headed to a very unglamorous strip mall (constructed out of aluminum) and raced from one store to another. We happened on and within minutes, we’d made a ton of purchases these girls swear look very French.  I’m not so sure – but their father was only 80 Euros poorer and his three daughters were delighted by their cache. The adage is shop where the French (or natives) do – and remember the majority of them live on moderate incomes.

Many people have the idea that coming to Europe is so expensive as to be prohibitive. If you take hints from natives of your host country, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. In addition, you’ll have a wonderful time. Europe isn’t filled with exclusively three star Michelin restaurants.

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What to Wear When the Dollar is at an All Time Low Against the Euro?

Written by admin on January 22, 2007 – 3:12 pm -

For those who fill their closets with European clothes, and we’re not talking haute couture but simply off the rack prêt a porter, what buying options are there when the dollar is lower than low vs. a vs. the Euro?

Those of us, who live on dollar incomes in the EU, are feeling the pinch. We’ve probably already developed the habit of buying better and buying less. We buy only during the sales unless it’s something perishable to serve on the table.

Pulling out all the stops, who is more of a buying expert than Born to Shop Suzy Gershman? She’s no enigma to Bonjour Paris readers and dedicated shoppers and advises people to purchase clothes and more for the long haul.  That includes weight fluctuations. Her caveat when shopping in Europe is, “ buy silly throwaway mementos or clothes, which you’ll wear forever.” Suzy states there are still bargains in Paris, but the majority of them are found in the make-up department. If you’re into designer clothes, she advises that the second hand store route may be a solution. Two of her favorite Paris outlets are Réciproque and Le Dépot Vente du 17eme.

I’ve found some neat, cheap and chic clothes in outdoor markets and should confess the dress I wore to my son’s and daughter-in-law’s wedding came from the Tuesday market in Vaison-la-Romaine. Suzy found a linen dress that she loved and purchased it in every color, merci.

Suzy’s current mantra is,  “Go West Young Man,”  (or woman) when seeking fashion deals.  “Think Indo-Chine (Vietnam) and head to Hong Kong or China where fashion and home décor bargains still exist. Plus,  $200 per night can buy a first-class hotel room contrasted with Paris, where you’ll probably be sleeping in a closet. Don’t forget restaurant costs in Asia and who doesn’t love noodles?”

An additional plus of buying in Asia is that clothes can be tailor made or altered within a matter of minutes or days. When was the last time (unless you were spending couturier big bucks) when you were entitled a fitting? If you have an item of clothing you love, take it with you and have it copied. Some people say you should import your own thread but that’s a matter of opinion.

Some trends: Department store and professional buyers are scouring former European colonies for the new look. US buyers are heading to Tokyo in order to seek out fashion trends. They may buy one sample and have it modified to fit the American body and shape, before articles find their way into department or clothing stores.

The shopping queen also advises going to second hand stores and buying carefully. Two of her favorites in New York are Michael’s and Encore, which was made famous by Jackie Kennedy Onassis, since her “used” clothes ultimately ended up (discreetly) being resold there. But, people in the know, knew.

Friends who live in the US are complaining about dramatic price hikes when it comes to their buying power. A few are threatening to go nude rather than wearing last year’s wardrobe. Even though that’s a grand exaggeration, what happened to parity? Suzy once again has a way to beat the system.  If you happen to be near a Loehmann’s, head to its Back Room.  You may find an Armani for a fraction of the cost you’d have to shell out in Italy. So what if it’s last year’s model? Women should also peruse the men’s department since they’re frequently less expensive even if they require some alterations.

Another recommended shopping destination is: The Woodbury Common Outlet Center where you’ll find 220 discount stores including Chanel and so many others. Located approximately 1.5 hours north of the Big Apple, don’t fret if you’re without wheels. There are buses to transport you to and fro for your buying pleasure. All you need to do is reserve.

Suzy has been shopping with a vengence and has just completed circling the world three times doing research her upcoming book, “Where to Buy the Best of Everything” that is slated to be released this coming March. She’s spent her time unearthing the 1000 places where addicted shoppers should shop before they die. Don’t expect to see the usual stores you’ll encounter on 5th Avenue or Rodeo Drive. The listings will include emporiums for people who are looking for the most unique of the unique.

How did Suzy pack for these killer trips?  “I always wear black and then black,” she said. She didn’t even pack anything grey for because it might necessitate an additional pair of shoes. Another hint; the shopping goddess always includes a very lightweight duffle bag in her suitcase. First, she’ll need it for things she’s purchased during her travels. Secondly, the way different airlines are adhering to different weight specifications, she’s been known to have to repack as she checks in for a flight.  And who said shopping is easy?  It’s both an art and a science. Not to mention, an act of passion and love.

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