EUROPE ON FIVE DOLLARS A DAY
Eric, Marore and I decided to tour Europe in the summer of 1965. And do it cheaply. We read Mr. Frommer’s travel book titled EUROPE ON FIVE DOLLARS A DAY.
We believed it.
Was that really possible? Only if your living standards are really low. I bet you do not know what that means. The Homeless know. And we lived very near to that kind of existence..Let me tell you about our brief stay in Paris. You will get the idea…Just two incidents will tell much:,
1 ) COCKROACHES BY THE PILE AND WORSE: PARIS 1965
“How did you sleep last night, Eric?”
“Come over to my room, I want to show you something”
“Right here by the bed…”
“Must be. I spent the night killing cockroaches. Piled them up for you to see.”
“Looks like the living ate the dead.”
“Let’s get out of this hell hole.”
“Maybe we should give Paris a chance…can’t all be bad.”
“one more day…then we’re out of here.”
“Damnitall anyway…the live ones must have eaten the dead ones…carried them away…most have been dozens…big roaches.”
THE PARIS METRO INCIDENT: WAS IT TRAGIC OR FUNNY?
“Marjorie, I just read that Fromer travel book…EUROPE ON $5 A DAY. Why don’t we give it a try?”
“That was written in 1957…it’s now 1965…prices have risen.”
“OK, let’s try to do Europe on $10 a day…$70 a week…Hell we could travel for a month.”
“I think he means $5 per person per day…so that means $20 a day for two of us and $30 for three off us.”
“We can do it. How about $400 for a month of travel.”
We lived a very Spartan life that summer. Ate cheese and bread and apple cider in the shadow of hay stacks.
Used public transportation rather than touring buses. Rented room for three of us if price was lower.
This was no grand tour.
Paris stands out in my memory.
Such as the cockroach adventure…let me pick up the story from there:
“Alan, why don’t we go to the Louvre today?”
“How much does the cost?”
“Why don’t you go while Eric and I get a beer or two near here.?”
“is it safe to travel alone?”
So Eric and I went for a beer and Marjorie took the Metro to be culturally uplifted at the Louvre.
“That will be…”equivalent of $5.
“You must be kidding…more expensive than Canada.”
“And look at the tiny glasses…beer in champagne glasses.”
“Maybe the glasses are included.”
“Right…slip them into the camera bag.”
We nursed the beer needless to say. And waited for Marjorie to return. Did not take long. She arrived in a panic. Breathless…a little dishevelled…scared.
“Alan, I ran all the way back here.”
“Didn’t you take the Metro?”
“That’s why I ran.”
“Let me catch my breath. It was terrible…can’t breathe…give me a moment…”
“Better now? What happened?”
“I got on the Metro.. Big crowd. Standing room only. Bodies pressed together. The man behind me was very close. Too close really but I thought that was common. Then I felt something in my back…moving…rubbing “
“Oh, no…it wasn’t his thingamabob.”
“It was…he had it out…”
“What did you do?”
“I jumped off the Metro at next stop and ran back here…long way.”
“Are you all right?”
“Sort of funny don’t you think?”
“Not funny at all.”
“Why didn’t you give his thingamabob a good slug with your purse?
Then make a run for it…he would be less likely to follow you…”
“Feared he would follow me….”
“What did he look like?”
“No idea, never saw his face…”
We looked at Marjorie but made no comment.
Eric and I snickered which Marjorie didn’t appreciate for a moment or two and then she began to laugh as well.
Europe on $5 a day meant living on the lowest possible
edge of society. Could not get any lower Marjorie thought.
This picture brings it all back. Like the taxi driver who would not let us out of his cab until we gave him a sizeable tip. Or the salle de bain in our hotel that had no light and a single toilet down the hall for guests…a toilet that did not flush …smelled really disgusting. But it was Marjorie’s experience
that topped them all…even the pile of dead cockroaches could not beat her story.
The rest of our European cultural tour was not much better. We nearly got arrested for vagrancy in Munich after too much celebrating at the Hofbrau House. All three of us fell asleep in a public park with all our earthly possession strew around including three pottery beer steins and two Parisian beer glasses. And Eric nearly got raped in Spain when some young women cornered him asleep on a train and called him :”Blondie…Blondie”. Good times. We were all in our low twenties…Kids.
Must see if I can find a picture of our flight home …we had liberated Derbies sold to us by some thieves. Mine had Harold McMillan’s initials in it. God, I have to tell that story separate.