Pre-Blog posts from France 1

Bonjour all,
Have been in country for a little over 36 hours now. We arrived around 7:00 AM which is 1:00 AM our time so not at at our sharpest hour, which is lately becoming harder to define even under normal conditions. Having arrived without Euros, our first adventure was making sure our ATM card would function the way we were led to believe it would. At the the airport we managed to con the machine into giving us $112 worth of money for just $129 – not bad since in Newark they wanted to give us the same amount for $141. We’re on a roll. Next stop – the car rental. We’d already reserved a car so that went smoothly but they had no record of our request for insurance. I think we were lucky to get a good deal, on what the rental agent said was the last insurance policy in France, for just an additional $267. My French isn’t perfect yet but I think that’s what went down. We also couldn’t find any good roadmaps stateside for the part of France we’re visiting. The reason is, there aren’t any! The Car Rental agent said “No problem” this car comes equipped with GPS mapping. Just plug in the address. Great. After thirty minutes in the parking garage pushing every option on the touch screen multiple times and accessing NASA files twice we thought we’d figured the GPS out. I think Amit and Rich will understand, as will Cam and Gavin.
Next stop – we have to get a windshield sticker to drive a French rental car in Switzerland. Just so happens that the airport is in Switzerland so on the way out of the airport we had to stop at Swiss customs. The place that we stopped at turned out to not be the correct place; but we think that we eventually had a glimpse of the right pace in our review mirror. It seemed unsafe at the time to retrace our steps in busy Geneva traffic and we didn’t want to insult the nice French lady who was giving us directions from the GPS system. After what seemed like a few questionable directional instructions we we’re told to proceed 430 meters and and take the second turn off the round-about (MANY round- about”s here), next we were told to proceed 430 meters and take the second turn off the round- about, then proceed 430 meters and take the second turn off the round-about. I think your getting the picture. After a few more sequences like this, the scenery was becoming very familiar and Susan and I were talking louder and were less tolerant of each other’s suggestions. We made a bold move, disobeyed the French lady and took the FIRST turn off one of the round-abouts. We shortly discovered we were on our way to Lucerne. So Lucerne is in Switzerland on the north coast of lake Geneva and our destination is in France on the south coast of Lake Geneva. All is going well, especially considering we are now well into Switzerland without a permit.
Although I was not planning on using my cell phone in France, due to the helpful guidance I received from the people at AT&T, it was time to call Siri. And she delivered! I must say she mangled the pronunciation of every French word but got us safely to our destination. Somehow we managed to avoid the Swiss gen d’arms but turned a 1 1/2 hour drive into a 4 hour adventure. Rob and Kim – I hope this isn’t making you uneasy! We’ll leave very early when we come to pick you up next week!!
Susan likes to do just about anything but if there was ever another woman I would travel with, it would be Siri!

So we arrived. Scouted out the little village, Thollon-les -Memises, picked up some wine, cheese a baguette and found our condo situated at the base of a ski mountain with lake Geneva far below and towering peaks right behind us. Spectacular. Our time clocks were pretty far off by now so after a little wine we napped, got up, and scouted out a place for dinner. There are several places within walking distance so wandered down the hill to discover that even though we’re between the summer season and ski season, you need reservations everywhere. One of the restaurants took mercy on us and squeezed us in so Susan went for the French experience -Escargot, Frogs legs and even French fries! But Rich, this is Savoyard cuisine, your kind of food. Meat, cheese, meet dipped in cheese, bread dipped in cheese, cheese dipped in cheese, you could even get your Wheaties dipped in Cheese!

This morning we rose slowly, and after puttering around for a good bit decided to head out, take the ski lift up the mountain and hike down. We didn’t need the car but decided to put something in it only to discover that if you leave the lights on all night in a French rental car, it won’t start in the morning! That should be highlighted in more travel guides. I’m getting many unexpected opportunities to use my French and have left many of the natives quite impressed with how difficult their language is to understand. But Hertz was excellent. A few phone calls with French people trying to speak English and a certain American trying to speak French and within an hour and a half they got a man out to us. Between his broken English and my text -book French we sorted things out. A new battery later and we’re good to go.

So we had a great hike. Came back to our condo, opened a bottle of 9.80 euro ( about $10) Burgundy which was really good and got a friendly message from AT&T that Siri and I had wrung up about $100 in cellular data use in just over 24 hours. My next message was from Rich since I’m still on the office phone plan until it expires! He got the same message that I did! I think he got things sorted out for me – Thanks Rich – but I may be buying a few people drinks when I get home. And I WILL call Siri again if I have to!
So far it’s been a great adventure with lots to laugh about and absolutely spectacular views. Don’t try this with young children. I am going to bed, curious about what tomorrow may bring.

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