Real-Time Trip Report- France

Sep 15th, 2009, 12:49 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 51
Real-Time Trip Report- France

The following is my trip report for our trip to France. My deepest thanks to my fellow Foderites and Trip Advisors who answered my questions quickly and without ever making me feel like I should have known that. I do want to say that prior to coming on this trip in the last few years we have taken extended trips to Ireland, Scotland and Italy. Going to France was kinda a check-off the list of things we wanted to do. Not a real burning desire, I don’t know how to explain it. I do want to go on record as saying I LOVE this country.
My husband and I are middle age 52 and 51, physically fit and active. We have come to the conclusion that the world is waiting for us and the only way to see it is to get out there and get at it. So we save our money and plan accordingly.
We left Detroit on Wednesday September 9, 2009 via Northwest Airlines and the flight was okay. It was a hard trip on my bones… but what the heck the cost was 619/person 7 hours and 55 minutes to Amsterdam and I was amazed at the size of the airport. Personally I love the thrill of travel, you know landing at an airport and not knowing the language is a real adventure to me. Our connecting flight to Marseille left 2 hours later on KLM. Baggage claim provided our first hurdle, as we stood watching the empty conveyor belt go round and round ( I wish I had a picture of us standing there) a very nice KLM employee informed us in French that the baggage compartment for our flight had been emptied and if we were waiting for more luggage to come up, uh we were waiting in vain. So here we were in France for 23 days with no luggage. We went to the lost luggage department and met with a KLM representative who scanned our baggage claim ticket and said “sure your luggage is in Amsterdam, we’ll get it to you by 5 pm.
Cool-- off we go to Europe car for our intermediate touring machine, which we have rented for 15 days. Upon our arrival to the rental desk we were told that the car we rented was not available. You know I don’t know how this happens when it has been paid for by 3 months. Anyway I was tired and without luggage so I tried to let my husband do the negotiating because he always seems to have a cool head. The Europe Car representative was very professional and offered to us a upgrade to a Renault Scenic. This is a very nice car for 7 people, we were both disappointed when we found this mammoth out in the parking lot. It is a nice car so don’t take this wrong but we really wanted a smaller car to tool around in. Well anyway we did purchase the comprehensive insurance plan for the automobile, which brought its cost up to 1345.00 for 15 days. In hindsight maybe the insurance was not such a good idea but I do feel more comfortable knowing that the car is insured. You’ll find out later.
Our first French experience was to the mall. In our prior trips I have literally packed the house and drug it to Europe with us. This time was going to be different. We each packed one suitcase and decided to purchase toiletries when we arrived. So we plugged in our garmin gps we purchased the Europe city navigator card before we left the States. Off we went to Carrefour (previously recommended by the Foderites). Nothing could have prepared us for this experience. First of all I have never seen such a store. Big, beautiful, packed with goods and people. Here we purchased shampoo, a blow dryer, flat iron and other things including a loaf of bread. The bread is where we got in trouble. I think that we did not have a bread with a price tag or something like that. The cashier came across the bread and tossed it back saying non…I looked at Kevin and said give me your card, I’ll finish paying and you go get the bread tagged. Off he went to the bakery located in the back of the store and I stayed with the stuff at the check out. The cashier finished with our order, I handed her the credit card and she ask me for ID to go along with it. Uh-Oh my passport was located in my husbands pocket and all I had was his credit card. So while the cashier was continually framing her face with her hands to make me understand that I needed ID, I was asking her to speak slowly so I could understand her. It is here that my pigeon French was seriously lacking. She began yelling at the top of her voice English, English and a service manager came over and spoke with me in English that I needed to provide ID to prove that I was Kevin. So I told him the story of the bread and that my husband was back in the bakery and would be returning as soon as he finished tagging our bread. Time went by and the service manager was now paging my husband over the intercom to please come to register cinque. I am now convinced that Kevin has been gone long enough to bake his own loaf of bread. The service manager informs me that he will page “my husband” one more time and if he doesn’t answer the authorities will have to be called as I have a credit card that I admit does not belong to me and I don’t have any ID. Remember I am tired, as it is now 6 am Detroit time, I have no luggage and now I am facing what I think is arrest. Up walks Kevin sans bread because he couldn’t find any bread with a price…clearly we need some Carrefour lessons. He pulls out his ID and we leave. In the aftermath I am glad that this cashier requested ID, because many don’t and fraud takes place. The credit card we are using is the Capitol One premier. No international transaction fees period.

I'll follow up with a review of our self-catering arrangements that thus far have been awesome.
chb is offline  
Sep 15th, 2009, 12:58 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
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I would love to read your report, but my old eyes cannot deal with the lack of paragraphs.

Please, please, please, throw in a paragraph now and then ---

nukesafe is offline  
Sep 15th, 2009, 01:27 PM
Original Poster
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sorry, i wrote it in word with paragraphs...they did not transfer.
chb is offline  
Sep 15th, 2009, 01:47 PM
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I have had that trouble with some word processor programs. Try hitting the space bar twice between paragraps.

nukesafe is offline  
Sep 15th, 2009, 03:11 PM
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Put in a hard return between paragraphs rather than just telling word how much space between paragraphs.
jobo is offline  
Sep 15th, 2009, 05:14 PM
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Fabulous report no matter how it's formatted! Please keep going!
fbc34 is offline  
Sep 15th, 2009, 05:43 PM
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OH, I do hope things get better!!!
TDudette is offline  
Sep 15th, 2009, 06:42 PM
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Wow! This sounds like our trip to Provence in June...arriving in Marseille with no luggage and getting a MAMMOTH car from Europcar!! I am sure things will improve for you like they did for us! I am looking forward to reading the rest of your report! Thanks.
kansas is offline  
Sep 15th, 2009, 07:10 PM
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More, please, this is very very good. Yes, please paragraphs,don't know how that happened to you, but hard breaks if you possibly can, need more - very funny. We all want to ENJOY it with you. thanks.
taconictraveler is offline  
Sep 15th, 2009, 08:12 PM
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What an exhausting beginning...
travelgirl2 is offline  
Sep 15th, 2009, 08:38 PM
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We are travelling to Paris and Marseille for our 40th wedding anniversary at the end of October so we are following your adventure with great interest.
suewarren is offline  
Sep 15th, 2009, 09:11 PM
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I'm glad they let you out of Carrefour through the front door instead of the police van in back.

This ID thing for non-chip cards is relatively new, but it appears that now you must show ID for all Visa/MasterCard transactions when a signature is required.
kerouac is offline  
Sep 16th, 2009, 01:16 AM
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Poor you! I wonder about the bread... I do my weekly shopping at Carrefour and noticed there is no price on bread either. But usually there is a code like on any other item. Maybe the cashier couldn't read it properly. Bad luck! I hope the rest of your trip went smoothly
cocofromdijon is offline  
Sep 16th, 2009, 12:50 PM
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Thank-You all for your kind remarks. Let me clear up something I do not think that anything is wrong. The story I am telling is life as it happened for us and maybe you can take something and use for your trip to France. I certainly owe my share to the Foderite Nation. Kevin and I always make the best of what we have and think positively.

Enough of that, we are having the time of our life. Before I continue our journey let me give some background on us. This trip to France is to celebrate our 25th Wedding anniversary. So- voila off we go.

I left off leaving Carrefour from there we drove to the first stay on our journey a small gite in St. Cannat. I know I already mentioned previous trips to Europe where we stayed at hotels, this was our first attempt at self-catering. I booked this gite on VRBO totally by e-mail. The rate was 85 Euros/night (included breakfast) they accept in cash only. The owners are Nicole and Robert Auriel. who live on the property. We stayed in gite #1 and could not have been happier. The gite itself has 1 bedroom, a living room/kitchen and bathroom with a nice sized tile shower. The inside is decorated very nice. There is also a very nice patio with a stone fireplace that opens to a beautiful backyard surrounded by vineyards. it was clean and well kept.

St. Cannat is in the Aix-En-Provence area. It is a small village with few if any tourist spots. For us this was just what we wanted a few days to rest and recuperate from the journey in a peaceful setting.

Robert greeted us when we arrived at 3PM, with no luggage. We rested and washed up. Nicole came by to greet us at about 5pm we paid her the agreed upon fee and told her the tail of our luggage. She took the new ticket claim from us, called KLM had a what appeared to be stern discussion with who was on the other line. Long story short about 10:00pm Robert came to the door to tell us our luggage was making it's way down the lane and we had to go meet it. We drove the Scenic to the end of the driveway just about 100m just in time to hear some very loud rap music coming down the lane out of a small white van. The van stops at our car, out pops a very young driver who has the music blaring and his girlfriend snuggled up next to him and asks us if we are waiting for luggage. VOILA our luggage has arrived. All is now right in the world, we went to sleep with the window open and there was no screen, that was a new experience for us.

On our first and only day in Provence my love affair with bread began. We awoke to find that Nicole had placed on the patio table a very nice selection of fresh fruit, handmade jams, butter and GLORIOUS bread and pastries. I have always thought that it is the details that matter and the presentation was beautiful.

As soon as I tell you that I planned only 1 full day in Provence I will probably hear the groans all the way to where I am. I know ---I am now sorry also. Prior to leaving Michigan I had checked out a book on chateaus from the library. In this book the village of Gordes was pictured over several pages. So Gordes was our destination. We were not disappointed. A fabulous provincial village, a little touristy the the setting was incredible.

Getting there was half the fun, remember I told you we would talk later about the Renault Scenic driving escapades. Well, I think to drive a stick on these roads you have to have nerves made of steel, I do not. Picture the two of us in the car...Kevin driving and me making sounds of fear from the passenger side. I know we can't be the only couple who has driving issues We ended up on a few one-way streets (the wrong way) and ran a few red lights and sat at a few yellow lights. Day one was not a good driving day because of our lack of preparation. I am happy to report that we got it straight now.

On the way home we stopped at the market in Saint Cannat purchased enough food to make a small evening meal of tomatoes, bread, cheese and olive oil. 2 bottles of red wine were also purchased we spent the evening on the patio in the beautiful setting. We had decided months ago not to gift each other for our anniversary, I think we have moved past the material things. I did put together a small 25 song play list, one from each year of marriage as a small token for him. Listening to Van Morrison singing "These are the Days" off of the Avelon Sunset album, while sitting under the stars was a moment I shall have all the days of my life.

Thanks for reading, next travel with us to Villefranche-Sur-Mer. Hope the paragraphs work this time. chb
chb is offline  
Sep 16th, 2009, 01:46 PM
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They did, and made readeing your very interesting report a joy!

nukesafe is offline  
Sep 17th, 2009, 02:19 PM
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Enjoying your report. I know exactly what you mean about driving a stick shift in Provence - when you haven't driven one in 20 (or 30) plus years! I did that a few years ago, and my first day was hellish! I was also around the Gordes area that first day. Needless to say, things got better during the next 2 weeks. And I loved Provence. However, I never have gotten used to how French drivers (mostly young men) come right up to your TAIL to pass - even on small winding roads - and don't seem to pay any attention to the speed limits. It makes it difficult to enjoy the lovely scenery!
Sue4 is offline  

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