Because we had a full kitchen in all three of our rental flats, we had the fun adventure of grocery shopping in Europe (this was also one way that we significantly cut costs and stuck to our budget).
Because we stayed in London the longest (nearly a week), we became well acquainted with the Tesco less than a block from our flat — super convenient! Because of the favorable exchange rate, we would come away from those shopping excursions marveling at how much food we snagged with such little cash. What a nice change! This Tesco was actually a glorified gas station market, so we had to deal with several cranky employees who obviously would have rather been anywhere than working at a gas station, but then we would walk less than 2 minutes back to our flat and cook up dinner for what felt like pennies.
In Paris, I tried to make use of my stumbling, cripplingly limited French vocabulary, but then was rewarded with glares and mumbling by the cashier after he rattled off a question in high-speed French and I was forced to smile sheepishly and ask, “Parlez vous Anglais?” In French grocery stores, more than almost anywhere else, we felt the stereotypical snobbery whenever it became apparent to the employees that we really couldn’t speak French.
We tried to enjoy some truly European items while we could — although that became a bit terrifying in France when we couldn’t tell exactly what we were actually buying. But we did have our fair share of Jammie Dodgers in London, and real French bread and fancy cheese as we sat on a bench beneath the Eiffel Tower one surreal afternoon.
Having the ability to cook made all the difference in the world for our budget, but I do feel that, especially in Paris, we missed out on truly experiencing the local cuisine. How does one balance a shoestring budget with experiencing authentic food culture while traveling? I’m all ears in the comments!