dem doggone bloggin’ blues …

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St. Emilion …

family 2

I am carless .. finally. And what a grand feeling it is! We managed to find the Enterprise Auto drop-off in the center of Bordeaux amidst the hubbub of the morning commute and ubiquitous construction. With great pleasure and a sense of relief, I handed off the key to the nice representative after she thoroughly checked the car for dents and scratches, checked the mileage, and insured we had filled the tank with petrol. ‘Au revoir’ we both exclaimed as we literally skipped to the tram to take us around the city to our hotel.

Here’s the deal .. apparently, if your car gets stolen or you damage it severely, the car company can put the value of the car onto your credit card and you must await resolution from your insurance company back in the states. Gulp!

And this is the beauty and wonderment of having a great travel partner by your side. Imagine, if you will .. Debbie’s incessant positivity versus my doom and gloom. I wake up, to three alarms (they do fail you know) and wonder if the car is still in the parking lot. Stolen? Did the battery die overnight? Will the engine start? Did someone break-off the side mirrors? Will I find a gas station? Was there a trucking strike overnight such that if I do find a station it will have petrol available? Wasn’t that front tire a bit low? I don’t think I saw a spare … get it? And for Debbie? Everything has a viable solution. No worries .. the universe is of a grand and beautiful design, as long as she gets her morning coffee. If something goes wrong, we will find a solution. We always do. Geez … must be nice.

So … unencumbered now without car rental, I feel liberated. Shoulders relax, smiles return. VISA balance zero. Of course the car started – no flat tires, mirrors intact, gas tank filled, we arrived safely, and Debbie got her coffee. Life is good.

Here we are in the town of St. Emilion. We drank a lovely Merlot, Franc, and Cabernet blend in the very chateau where the treaty was signed ending the 100 Year’s War in 1453 and France regained control from the British. Behind us … hectares upon hectares of green grapes ripening for Autumn harvest.

Off to Spain tomorrow …

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akrasia …

chateau2

For six months, back home on San Juan Island, Debbie would return from work and ask me how my day went. Generally followed by ‘Did you line up a car for us in Paris?’. And for six months ‘le procrastinator’ said not to worry as there was plenty of time. Of course, we arrived in Europe without having a reservation for an automobile! Crunch time .. our first trip to EuropeCar quoted us $1600 Euros for two weeks, or about five times what I thought I saw on Expedia when I checked at home. We passed up on their offer and went to Enterprise Auto Rental because we knew we wanted a car in Paris and would drop it off elsewhere in Bordeaux. They quoted us $550 Euros, with two drivers and no insurance. We use the insurance provided by our VISA card (bring a VISA card). GPS would have been an extra charge as was the second driver that we paid for but didn’t use. ‘le procrastinator’ did all the driving .. a form of punishment methinks, and the Apple driving apps worked wonderfully well obviating need for what they call SatNav (GPS) here.

Remember .. Maps.Me is a must have app.

The cost seemed reasonable and we have been quite pleased with the staggeringly good mileage our little Renault Twingo has provided. Better or equal to our Toyota Prius. I think next time I won’t lolly-gag as I did. There is a comfort knowing you are in a strange land and don’t have to forage for a driving machine, where no one talks your language, the money looks funny, the road signs indecipherable, and cars are in short supply. Yes, we paid dearly I am afraid .. but well worth it now that our two weeks has played out so well. I’m sure we could have done much better if I had reserved a car from home .. but apparently that just isn’t the way ‘le procrastinator’ rolls. I am sure Debbie would love to comment.

Moral – reserve a car from home with plenty of time to spare!

Today we took a driving tour thru the Medoc wine country. A 15th century Chateau on every corner, and Napoleon apparently slept at every one of them. Or so the signs on all the doors claim … I jumped out of the car and took this photo of one before the gardeners could get off their mowers and chase me away.

Napolean slept here too … really

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insufficient funds …

atm

We’ve been traveling for six years and every so often I’ll get a query on Facebook asking about how we deal with language barriers, currency exchange, favourite airlines, banking, tipping, finding accommodations, and driving. I must say that I am not the all-knowing Mr. World-Traveler fancy pants. Heaven knows, without Debbie I would still be in Istanbul, Turkey trying to find the bus station! No, I have simply subjected myself to all forms of ridicule and failure during our travels, and somehow have managed to survive. I’ve learned a few things along the way.

So .. let me toss a few hints and kinks out there, knowing that most readers will find them as common sense suggestions and most likely quite obvious.

It keeps getting easier .. the internet and ATM machines are great friends to have! There are three things of note regarding credit cards that I should mention, because we have been tripped-up and had to scramble when we first started our travels.

One – bring a debit card that is chipped. Without the chip .. all bets are off. Holland will spit your card out without funds, and many restaurants will not get approval. The chip is a big deal in Europe. It seems that they are cursed in the states, but Europe is a fine-tuned chip-loving machine!

Two – call the security department for the bank that issues your card before your departure and inform them of dates and countries related to your vacation. Otherwise, more than likely you will have your card declined when you least expect it. Reference a credit card too .. which might be handy when funds get low, for car rental, or those big purchases calling your name!

Three – call your bank and increase the amount you can tender per transaction. Many B&B’s will want to be settled in cash upon arrival and if you don’t have the correct currency you will have to find a bank or an ATM after an exhausting flight. Your recalcitrant and parsimonious ATM will most surely deny your big-money request. You won’t be amused! I bumped mine up to $3000 per day which should be adequate unless you fancy staying in castles or have a thing for beach properties.

I’ll talk about the other topics later ..

dan

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Brittany blues …

debbeach1

Tomorrow, 14 July, is France’s Bastille Day to commemorate the storming of the Bastille in 1789. We have been in Paris on this day years ago and it was just wild enough to convince us to hang out for another day here on the beach and not deal with traffic as we make our way south. We finally had our seafood plateau at Chez Jacky’s and stuffed as we are … Deb is out and about town buying our favourite Speculous cookies and a bottle of Cotes de Bourg.

Life is good in France … kenavo

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En plein air …

pontaven

Paul Gauguin, the famous painter, painted here because of the light. The Pont-Aven Contemporary School of Art is here for the same reason. Outside our hotel window … I am thinking that is why Debbie is here as well. That, and the crepes …

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bivalvia mollusca …

oysters

We follow the antics of Anthony Bourdain thru his ‘No Reservations’ and ‘Parts Unknown’ travel series, and long ago Tony traveled to Anne’s Oyster Farm of Belon, France – years later … here we are with Anne eating Belon Oysters and setting our sights on Chez Jacky’s Seafood ‘plateau’ for tomorrow night.

bivalvia mollusca .. yummy!

We are now in Pont-Aven heading towards Bordeaux for wine tasting. Still a month left to travel thru Spain and Portugal. The weather has been perfect … not too hot, not too cold. Our little Renault Twingo chugs along at 90km/hour thru the French countryside. So beautiful! I have the best navigator .. that would be Debbie of course, as long as she has her marvelous Apple App called Maps.Me. We could NOT be doing what we do without the help of this magic software. Make a wrong turn and it instantly reroutes you back on course, but not without displaying a little sad face and the French word for ‘Le IDIOT’.

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bicycling thru Brittany …

bike

Île de Batz, a small island off the coast of Roscoff, France

bay

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