For the past several years, we've abandoned the traditional warm-weather spring break destinations in favor of European vacations. Paris heads the list as a great place to go. Off-season prices, outstanding food, low airfares (with thousands more frequent flyer miles) and the sheer cultural weight of it all make the choice an easy one. It's 'cheap' as these things go, educational, stimulating and fun.
We've left out the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe -- you can read about them in any guide book (we can comfortably recommend Eyewitness Travel Guide from DK Publishing, www.dk.com, but there is certainly no shortage of excellent options). Instead, we offer a strategy for enjoying Paris on your own terms by selecting an attractive neighborhood with lower tourist density (and lower prices). You can hop the metro and see all the famous sites and then leave the masses behind to experience a living, breathing Paris neighborhood where you may not hear any English -- but it will be easy enough for you to get along. (You didn't really think that all the French were blowing $100 per head every night for dinner and staying in $300 hotel rooms, did you?)
The neighborhoods we've selected as our own include active crossroads near Place de la Nation and Place de la Republique. You can choose your own, but the point is that you can spend time in Paris for less than many people probably believe and it's more economical than many traditional family trips that nobody seems to bat an eye at. Give it a look. Make it your own.