France travel tips

If you are returning your rental car to the Bordeaux train station, drive past the main door of the station, turn left over the tracks, then left again on the other side. There. Now somebody told you. Nobody told me and there are no signs. Better yet, if you are traveling with at least one other person, drop them off at the main door with all the luggage–there are no luggage carts to traverse the vast parking lot. Oh, and no elevators inside the train station.

Use your ATM card: my credit card charges a 3% foreign transaction fee vs 1% for the ATM card. Sure $20 on every $1000 isn’t that much but hey–it’s two bottles of Dr Vino picks!

If you’re in Paris during a heatwave, take the bus. No AC in the metro means that it is an odorific, heatastic experience. At least in the bus you can open the window two or three inches. Or better yet, splurge for a taxi (no charge for extra passengers) and get some AC–maybe.

Have a pique-nique on a shady park bench. Any decent boulangerie will have (pre-made) sandwiches that will knock the snot out of any Subway 12 incher. If you’re traveling with kids under 10, the best spot for this pique-nique is the jardin du Luxembourg with its pony rides, playground, puppet shows, and pond with sail boats.

Take a couple of large ziploc bags with you when you go. That way when you buy some yummy, transportable foods to bring home, it won’t get all over your luggage the way my AOC green lentils spilled in mine. My stews this fall will have a nice aroma de luggage.

Drink local. Many local wines offer compelling price to quality ratios. However, many of them stink. Only one way to find out.

If you fly home on American Airlines from CDG, have an e-ticket, and are a US citizen, bypass the check-in lines and head straight for the short self-check-in line in the middle. Nobody knows about it and it’s totally legit. It only took me 45 minutes in the other line to find this out.

And if you’re in Paris, be sure to hit some of the cool wine shops and wine bars I will be posting about over the next few days!

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4 Responses to “France travel tips”


  1. Bois de Boulogne is another place — more wooded and breezy than Jardin de Luxembourg — for a picnic. It’s been cleaned up a bit, and quite recommendable — at least during the day.

    I must say though… I just got back from NYC and having AC in the subway cars makes things no less odorific when you get periodically stranded on platforms that are 135 degrees! Whew!


  2. Good point about the credit card 3% rip-off. There are a few cards that don’t charge the 3% fee (certain Capital One and MBNA cards, for example).

    Another scam to watch out for are places that automatically convert your charge to dollars at the point of sale. DEMAND THAT THEY RE-RUN THE TRANSACTION IN LOCAL CURRENCY. Otherwise, you will get a terrible exchange rate and your credit card may also tack on a fee. Typically, this happens at restos and shops frequented by tourists, and is much more prevalent in Ireland than France. To read more about the burgeoning scam, see my story in the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/29/AR2005072900927.html


  3. g58- yes, the NYC subway is also hot in August but ah what relief in the subway car–when the AC is working that is…

    Gayle, thanks for that tip. I have pasted a link to your story here since it got cut off on the comments section.

    Cheers,


  4. For years I have avoided the foreign purchase fees on credit cards by using the debit card on my brokerage account. They get the industry exchange rate and no percentage fees!


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