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I'm taking an ElderHostel art tour of London and Paris in May. Many lunches and some dinners are "on our own." Can I eat well without breaking the bank?
-Connie, Sarasota, Fla.
One great place to start is the blog, “Cheap Eats in London”, which offers reviews on inexpensive restaurants. Travelers to London should check out Time Out London’s “Thrifty Fifty Restaurants”. Here you’ll find a list of London’s cheapest restaurants that serve excellent food for the price and are sorted by location.
Marks and Spencer offers healthy to-go options in their supermarkets and in their stores in Tube stations. However, the cheapest cuisine in London often includes items such as Cornish pasties (pastries filled with meat or vegetables) and, perhaps surprisingly, Indian food. A lot of these items are sold at local, non-chain stores, and you can comfortably feed yourself at a bargain. Although these places are not traditional sit-down restaurants, you can always enjoy the food outdoors at a local park—that is if it isn’t raining.
As for Paris, there are plenty of sidewalk stands that you can get delicious snacks/meals from. From crepes to paninis to crudités—small cold sandwiches on baguettes—you can get a small meal for around $4 or 5. Seated dining can be quite pricy; however, if you must rest, try eating at cafés with window seats or counters (au comptoir). Parisians charge extra for a salle seating, meaning dining at a table, so try to avoid this to save some extra euros.
Bakeries provide inexpensive local food as well. Brioches and croissants will give you a cheap snack and a bit of French flavor. Just like Indian cuisine is cheap for London, Middle Eastern tends to offer cheaper cuisine in Paris. Also, make sure to look for “tourist menus” outside the restaurants. Often restaurants will offer fixed-price three-course meals for non-locals that would be much cheaper than buying per-item.
Another option is to go for fast food. While eating at a McDonald’s in Paris is probably akin to cultural sacrilege, you can opt for the local version, known as Quick. The food is slightly more French (and significantly better than American fast food), but just as cheap as "McDo." Hope that helps you eat cheaply in Europe.