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Today we visited Harlech Castle in Northern Wales.  Built in the 1200s, it is an impressive structure.  Visits are self guided and there are many panels sited throughout the castle explaining its history.  We took so long reading these that we became bored ourselves so you can imagine how antsy Lastborn was getting.  Because of the nature of the structure, there are also many plaques warning about various dangers.  Seems that 13th century building codes differed slightly from modern ones…

As we were leaving, Lastborn kept tugging at my skirt hem and saying, “I saw a saying.  I saw a saying.  I saw a saying.”  We were halfway down the stairs when I finally said, “Okay, come and show me.”  With a long suffering sigh and a withering look, she trudged back up the stairs holding my hand.  At the top, stood a teacher lecturing a group of middle school children about respecting the site and other visitors.  Lastborn pointed right at him and in a loud and exasperated Canadian-accented voice asked, “WHAT IS HE SAYING?”  Everyone burst out laughing.  Firstborn summed up Lastborn’s frustration by quietly muttering, “Why did they invent British people anyways?”
(Firstborn wants to clarify to new readers this is a Lastborn quote from a few posts ago.)

View from top of Harlech Castle

View from top of Harlech Castle

And now, SWMBO offers a case study to back up yesterday’s blog post.

Camping in Downtown Paris?!  Not exactly. But we do have friends who camped in Paris a few years ago and despite our aversion to camping, (the royal) we thought it might be a good way to save money, do something different and stay in the heart of Paris.

Cost Benefit Analysis of Camping Versus Self-Catering

NOTE: The following case study is based on a family of seven visiting in March/April 2014 but useful data can be extrapolated for other dates/group sizes.

NOTE #2: The researchers have a strong bias against camping but that did not, in any way, affect the analysis. No way. No how.

Marsh grasses, Northern Wales

Marsh grasses, Northern Wales

CAMPING:

It is too cold to camp in Paris in March so the campsite doesn’t open until April 1. So that is the end of that. But, for argument’s sake, let’s continue.

The campsite, Indigo Paris Bois de Boulogne is located, drum roll, in the Bois de Boulogne.  That is to say, 11 km from Notre Dame Cathedral. There is a shuttle (with fee) that runs between the campsite and Port Maillot metro station.  As we know from previous research, taking the metro with seven people is expensive.

It is a walk to the communal washrooms/showers.

There is no communal kitchen so cooking options are minimal. Everytime you go to the cafeteria or get take-away or eat out, it will cost at $50 at the absolute minimum.

There is a fee for using the laundry facilities.

According to former clients, the tents are close to one another and the whole 435 tent site is a fenced-in compound. Lack of privacy and noisy neighbours are likely.

If it rains, you get wet. If it snows, you get cold.

Who wants to camp for a month?

The cost is $108.77/night.  That is based on 1/7 of a week-long stay (481.88 euros/$761.37).  In fact, the price would be higher because there is a maximum of 6 people per site.  But in practice, we would probably just stick one person under the invisibility cloak we keep in our trunk.

Flowers on slate, Northern Wales

Flowers on slate, Northern Wales

SELF-CATERING

The flat is located 4 km from Notre Dame Cathedral. It is in the desirable 18th arrondissement, on a quiet street. Most of Paris is within walking distance.

There is a private washroom and bath.

There is a private kitchen with dishwasher.

There is a private washing machine to be used free of charge.

There is lots of privacy and WE are the noisy neighbour driving the other tenants crazy with off-key piano playing.

If it rains, we are dry. If it snows, we are warm.

The cost is slightly less than $100/night.

View of beach from Harlech

View of beach from Harlech, Northern Wales

CONCLUSION

The cost of camping is high (especially when time and incidental costs are factors in) and the benefits would seem to be non-existant. The cost of self-catering is also high, but not nearly as high as people assume and the benefits are many.

Most people visiting Paris have smaller group sizes, stay for significantly less time and visit during peak/shoulder season. Perhaps, then it is not possible to find a reasonably priced alternative to camping? I would argue that hostels, couchsurfing, self-catering all still offer much better value for comparable money.