Rip-Off France?

I love it here.  I especially loved the off-season, when it was quiet and sleepy and there were no tourists around.  The roads were less busy, everyone was more relaxed, the markets were less frantic.  Once summer really arrived, though, we noticed a big change – bumper to bumper campervans on the roads, everyone is a bit hassled and the markets are just insane.

We had already noticed that if we ate or drank in popular touristy areas, like Cassis or Gordes or Nice, it was invariably more expensive, but we were still smugly priding ourselves on having chosen to live in the cheap end of the Luberon.

Then, suddenly, we were charged €2.70 for a beer at our local, Le Café du Cours.  €2.70? we asked.  We paid €2.50 last week!

Oh, explained the waitress.  In the summer there’s a 20 cent surcharge for drinking on the terrace.

Ohhh..ka-a-a-y… fair enough.  The terrace is across the road from the café and the staff are whizzing back and forth all day, laden with trays of drinks, dodging the traffic as they go.  They deserve danger money, if not a contribution towards shoe wear & tear.  We’ll accept a Drinking-on-the-Terrace Tax.

Then there was Brazil Day in Le Petit Village.

It started with the “Mojitos.”

The LSH arrived at our table with three shots of rum, one each for me, Sara and Mrs London.

“That was fifteen euro,” he whispered to me.

A bit steep, we agreed.

Then I sent him off for 7Up to attempt to sweeten and dilute the rum.

“€2.50,” he announced when he came back.

€2.50??? For a plastic tumbler full of 7Up?  A can costs 50 cents in the supermarket!

A while later, Sara needed more 7Up and headed off to the bar.

She was charged €2.70 for the same plastic tumbler but she noticed that it wasn’t even 7Up – it came out of a big bottle of generic supermarket white lemonade.

€2.50 per tumbler was one hell of a mark-up on a €1.00 bottle of fizz, but why was I charged €2.70 when Martine’s LSH was charged €2.50, she wondered.  Do I look scruffy?   Is this a Dirt Tax?  Or did the barmaid fancy the LSH – did he get TaxBack?  Or do they have a surcharge for women customers – a Woman Tax?  Maybe because of Eve and the apple and the Garden of Eden and all that – that would make it a Sin Tax.  Her husband Gregory was dispatched to the bar to find out.

“Oh,” said the young lady serving behind the counter, “I thought she was a tourist!  Here, you can have the twenty cents back!”

A Tourist Tax!  But of course!   Silly us – we never thought of that one… I don’t think anyone even thought of that one back in the good old days of Rip-Off Ireland.

Then it was time for lunch.  Remember this from my last post?


Two sausages and a small plate of chips.

Gregory went to the huge barbecue where, strangely, there was no queue of people waiting for food.  We should have been warned…

“It’ll be about five euros,” he had told us.  “Maybe six.”

It was ten euro!  TEN! For two chipolatas (small sausages) and thirty chips (I counted them).

TEN!  I’m still recovering from the shock of it.

We spent some time speculating as to the breakdown of the meal.  Maybe it was one euro per sausage, which would make the chips come out at a little over 26 cents each.   Or maybe it was two euro per sausage, which would make it just twenty cents per chip.   Whichever it was, I made damn sure I didn’t leave anything behind.

The little tubs of mayonnaise and ketchup were great value though.  They were free.  Or maybe they felt they had ripped off their customers enough already, charging them the Captive Audience Tax.


There’s an eatery very close to us.  We’ve had some really good meals there, the staff are friendly and know us by now.  The LSH spotted this on the door :



These are just the starters, but you can see that some items are the same price, such as smoked salmon, foie gras and snails.  Then some items are a little more expensive :

  • Roasted Peppers – €1.50
  • Ham – €1.00
  • Egg Mayonnaise – €1.50
  • Green Salad – 0.50

with the seafood salad coming in at a whopping €3.00 extra if you want to eat it in English.

They seem to have invented a Random Translation Tax.

Needless to say, we always eat the French food, not the English food.
We’ve become accustomed to Provence prices.  The LSH was in Ireland last week for his mother’s birthday and was shocked to see a main course (an 8oz steak) for €27 – more than twice what we paid for a three course meal with wine and coffee two weeks ago!  The fact is, you can eat very well and very cheaply in Provence, but shop around and read the small print.  In French if at all possible.
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