TRAVEL with pat and lew

Archive for the ‘… 2007’ Category

* “Wed-nes-day”

Posted by Lew Weinstein on August 4, 2007

 Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Since we have company “from the new world” coming tomorrow, we go down to the village to make a reservation for dinner. I try my best to use only French, but don’t quite make it. Je voudrais faire un reservation pour quatre personnes pour se sois …..?

I don’t know the word for Wednesday. Pat points to the word in French (Mercredi ) and asks the waiter who is making the reservation, “How do you pronounce this word?”  He immediately answers … “Wed-nes-day.”

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Posted in ... 2007, speaking French | Leave a Comment »

* mobile phones in France

Posted by Lew Weinstein on August 4, 2007

    

French mobile telephones (nobody in Europe, except us, says cell phone) are next on our list. We go to the Orange store, this being the France Telecom outlet, and also SFR, which is the French representative for Vodaphone. At SFR, we learn that they offer phones and you can “top up” minutes on the internet, through the phone, or at any outlet.

But the minutes you but have a limited shelf life, use them or lose them, which is not what we want. Our objective is to have phones which we will use infrequently, and we want to buy a small quantity of minutes to last for several months.

Back at Orange, we select phones and make our purchase. Nokia phones, with instruction books in English as well as French.

The next day, setting up the phones, I learn that Orange “top up” minutes are also “use or lose.” It takes only a second to realize that the clerk in the Orange store is not at fault. She would assume that everyone knew how minutes were sold, so there was no need to spell it out. And we didn’t ask. My next reaction is to return the phones. But maybe that’s not going to solve anything either. The cost per two weeks, or per month, is not that great, and we can buy minutes for when we travel, since we have almost no use for mobile phones while we’re in Collioure.

Posted in ... 2007, travel technology | Leave a Comment »

* a day in Perpignan

Posted by Lew Weinstein on August 4, 2007

      

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Collioure is a marvelous place, but shopping is not its strong suit. We decide to train to Perpignan for the day with a list of tasks. We take an early train, and the shops are not yet open, so we walk to the Palais des rois de Majorque, the palace of the kings of Majorca.

In the 13th century, Majorca ruled our part of France, and Perpignan was their center for this region. A palace was therefore built for their visits, taking 30 or so years, which is remarkably quick when you look at the size of the stones that were dragged up the hill. I take lots of photos and think maybe it could have been a site for a meeting between the representatives of Lorenzo de Medici and King Ferdinand of Aragon in the 1480s. “Could have been” is enough for my evolving historical novel.

Finding a hair salon is highest on our priority list, since Pat was not happy with the lack of attention paid to her color on her last visit in Collioure. We find a local Jean Louis David, which may be adequate, and then we stop looking, although we had a list from the yellow pages with us. Guess we’ll have to go back.

mobile phones 

French mobile telephones (nobody in Europe, except us, says cell phone) are next on our list. We go to the Orange store, this being the France Telecom outlet, and also SFR, which is the French representative for Vodaphone. At SFR, we learn that they offer phones and you can “top up” minutes on the internet, through the phone, or at any outlet.

But the minutes you but have a limited shelf life, use them or lose them, which is not what we want. Our objective is to have phones which we will use infrequently, and we want to buy a small quantity of minutes to last for several months.

Back at Orange, we select phones and make our purchase. Nokia phones, with instruction books in English as well as French.

The next day, setting up the phones, I learn that Orange “top up” minutes are also “use or lose.” It takes only a second to realize that the clerk in the Orange store is not at fault. She would assume that everyone knew how minutes were sold, so there was no need to spell it out. And we didn’t ask. My next reaction is to return the phones. But maybe that’s not going to solve anything either. The cost per two weeks, or per month, is not that great, and we can buy minutes for when we travel, since we have almost no use for mobile phones while we’re in Collioure.

After purchasing our phones, we head to Galeries Lafayette, but the only purchase we make is a small “Catalan” flag to complement the French and American flags we already have. Galeries in Paris is spectacular, in Montpellier it is outstanding, but here the architecture is sort of drab, and the merchandise is limited.

We have a nice lunch at an Italian restaurant, with a waitress whose mother came from Canada. We are impressed that the young girl moves quickly and is attentive, qualities which are not universal in France. We compliment her on her approach, and she says this is her first waitress job, and she’s still nervous. As if to prove her point, she spills a pitcher of water at the next table, drenching a man who, however, appears not to mind. You see, charm can overcome disaster.

We have other tasks to accomplish, but inexplicably, we just head back to the train station. We never look for another beauty salon or the picture frames we need.

trains & web schedules 

We are taking the 14:45 (2:45pm) train back to Collioure. I had purchased tickets for a later train but we’re ready to go earlier.

As the train is pulling in, Pat notices that the train board does not include Collioure. But I looked up this train on the web, on a search for ‘Perpignan to Collioure,’ and it had a departure time (14:45) and a Collioure arrival time (15:10), so up we go. 

As the train approaches Argeles-sur-mer, the stop before Collioure, and begins to slow down, I look for a conductor to confirm, just to be sure, that this train does actually stop in Collioure. But no conductor is nearby, and the train pulls out. It’s only 3 minutes from Argeles to Collioure, but in that interval, the conductor appears and informs us that the train does not stop again until it reaches Cerbere, the last stop in France, and not a place you want to linger.

We enter the tunnel before Collioure, there’s a brief flash of light, and we’re in the tunnel after Collioure.  We remember the Kingston Trio’s immortal song about the MTA in Boston, where you need(ed) an exit fee, and the poor man “would never return.” 

More to the point, I explain to the conductor that the web had stated a Collioure stop, and she, a lovely young lady with excellent English (“my boy friend is British”), writes a note on our ticket to her colleague in Cerbere that we should be allowed to return to Collioure without additional charge. In Cerbere, the colleague agrees and the return train is due to leave in 20 minutes.  

TIP:  The lesson is you cannot trust the web schedules completely. Always check in the station. 

This happened to me once before, when I was at the station trying to buy a ticket on a train which did not stop in Collioure. I thought that was my mistake, but now I think it probably wasn’t. I’m going to try to figure out if there is a way to read the web schedules that will reveal this kind of error.

Posted in ... 2007, ... France - COLLIOURE, shopping | Leave a Comment »

* let down by Budget Car Rental in Rouen

Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 25, 2007

On our way to Normandy, we train and taxi to the Budget location which is not at the station. We resolve to favor, from now on, car rental companies which are at the station. For this and other reasons, we’re beginning to re-think my choice of Budget as our car rental company.

The next hour provides much more reason to do so.

Our car is waiting for us. While doing the paperwork, I repeat that we are declining the collision insurance (covering damages to our rental car) since this coverage is provided by our Citibank MasterCard. I then say, offhandedly, that I understand the liability insurance (covering damage to other property and persons) is automatically included in French car rentals, which I have been told by Budget US when making the reservation.

The local Budget manager says this is not true, and if we want 3rd party liability insurance, it will cost 25 euros per day, 100 euros total for the 4 day rental. I protest, and ask him to call Budget in the US to resolve the question. Instead, he calls a friend of his who speaks better English, and after several interchanges between the friend, the manager, and me, he reluctantly agrees to call Budget’s main French office in Paris.

I explain the issue to the English speaking person, who says she thinks I am correct, but will check with her supervisor to be sure. She leaves me on hold so long I think we’re cut off, and I ask the local manager to call again.

Instead he calls the friend.

As you can imagine, this has taken a long time – we’ve now been waiting for 30 minutes with all these phone calls, and everyone is getting aggravated. Finally, the manager again calls Budget in Paris, and remarkably, I speak to the same woman, who tells me I’m correct, that 3rd party liability insurance is included in all French car rentals without separate charge.

So it’s now clear that the local Budget manager was trying to charge me 100 euros ($140.00) for something he knew, or should have known, I did not need.

OK, now to the car, which upon inspection, is filthy.

All that time on the phone, the manager did not see fit to make sure the car was cleaned. We wait another 15 minutes while the attendant cleans the inside of the car. By then, we say enough and decline the exterior cleaning.

When we return the car four days later, our charge sheet includes the CDW insurance we had specifically and explicitly declined, and some other charges. I’m furious. The desk clerk calls someone (the manager?) and the charges are removed. I get copies of both charge sheets so I can later document my complaint letter to Budget. We also decide to cancel all remaining Budget reservations (Ireland, Italy, Key West, etc, etc, and do business with another car rental company.

Posted in ... 2007, planes, problems | Leave a Comment »

US Air sent our luggage where?

Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 12, 2007

We’re flying from Key West to Philadelphia, the prime reason being the graduation from grad school of Pat’s son. Of course, the clothes for the ceremony, as well as the weekend of busy events with all six of our children before we leave for France next week for over 5 months, are all in our one suitcase.

We check in and the ticket agent places a luggage tag on the suitcase.

Prompted long ago by something Pat read and told me about, I ask, “Does that tag say Philadelphia?”

“Yes,” answers the agent without looking, as another US Air person grabs the bag and starts to put it on the conveyor belt.

“Don’t take that bag,” I say, loudly enough to attract the attention of everyone in the general area. This irritates him, but I could care less. “Show me the bag,” I add.

He turns it so I can see.

“What does BDL stand for?” I ask, reading the destination on the luggage ticket.

“Hartford, Connecticut.”

I turn, furious, to the ticket agent. “Did I ask you what the ticket said? Did you say Philadelphia?”

She changes the ticket (she had switched luggage tags with the agent standing next to her) but never apologizes. When she’s done, I insist on seeing the suitcase again.

The point is not that she made a mistake. Mistakes happen.

The point is that travelers must check every single time to avoid the impact of losing your bags, for a few hours, a few days, or forever.

Do the airline personnel get irritated when you do that? Sure. Do I care? Not one whit.

Posted in ... 2007, planes, problems | Leave a Comment »

using our own laptop in Ajijic

Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 13, 2007

The internet is a very important element of our travel, before and during. If we have no on-line capability where we are staying, we use the now ubiquitous internet cafes. A year or so ago, we were total neophytes, but now we are accomplished internet café users, able to get to our own home page and email without difficulty.

But it’s better to be able to use your own laptop. I would bring the laptop anyway, to use for my writing, but if there’s an Ethernet connection in the house, as there is in Anne’s house in Ajijic, then it’s just like being at home.

In this case, there was an Ethernet cable going to Anne’s desk top computer, and it took but a few seconds to disconnect it from her computer and plug intt to my laptop. Before we leave, we’ll reconnect her computer.

Once connected, we have our own email, Skype, and Slingbox available to us. This is not only useful for keeping in touch, it also allows us to make or change travel arrangements as we go, and to check the local weather forecasts.

Posted in ... 2007, travel technology | Leave a Comment »

Paris in September

Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 10, 2007

Pat has been corresponding with the owners of an apartment in the Marais district of Paris since last year, and we have now finalized an exchange for the first ten days of September. We hope to go to Paris several times this summer. It’s a very pleasant five hour train ride from Collioure, so anyone who makes a trade with us can easily include a Paris trip before or after Collioure.

Posted in ... 2007, home exchange | Leave a Comment »

Mexico in March

Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 10, 2007

We’ve just arranged a non-simultaneous exchange with a woman who lives in the Lake Chapala area of Mexico. We’ll go there in March, and she’ll go to Collioure in May, before we arrive. Pat has been tracking the Lake Chapala area for some time. It’s one of the largest ex-pat communities for Americans and Canadians. We’ll fly to Guadalajara and drive (30 minutes) from there. Ann, our exchange partner, called today, all excited about Collioure. Unlike a simultaneous exchange, where of course you don’t meet, Ann will be staying with a friend when we are at her place, and we’re making plans to meet. Pat tells her that we’ll bring our “Instructions for Guests” and the key to our Collioure apartment. This will be the only vacation travel we do from Key West this year.

Posted in ... 2007, ... Mexico, home exchange | 3 Comments »