Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Vive La France!

Okay so it’s taken me forever to write about my trip to France here. Partly because I’ve been this weird combo of lazy and busy. But mostly because it was too cool a trip to put into words. So I’ve decided to type up a few observations as they come to me.

I heart France. Maybe not as much as Spain, but still quite a bit. The language barrier wasn’t so difficult (thanks to earworms learning, podcasts, and a dictionary) and it turned out to be a just like any other major city in terms of getting around. (I even have a great stuck in Paris when the Metro was closing story.) People were nice enough (hey, I’m a NY’er) the food was great and it was beautiful! I can’t wait to go back.

Get out on the open road! I didn’t drive in Paris, but did throughout the countryside. Thank God for countries that drive on the same side for the road as us and universal signs. I also used a European car rental company to get a GREAT deal on an automatic.

Hot bread! I honestly don’t know how I survived this long without a neighborhood patisserie in my life. It was so great to start my day with a REAL croissant and pick up a baguette on the way home. And it should be against the law to pass off the crap some places call croissants in this country.

Make new friends! We met an American who worked at our resort and he was a HUGE help to us. We made way better day trip choices due to his quick and easy insight and saved time and money with his advice. He also helped us navigate a customer service issue during our stay to our best advantage.

Speaking of our issue I am reminded again to ALWAYS speak to a manager when you have a problem and keep at until you’re properly recompensed. My friend got 90,000 hotel points because our hotel couldn’t remember to replace our towels every day. Sound trivial but when it’s 9pm and you’ve returned from a cold, wet and dirty city and all you want is a hot meal and shower as you stumble into your place but there are no towels (AGAIN) and the lid to the trash can is on the counter where you prepare food…. you get the picture. BTW, 90,000 points with Marriott amounts to almost a week’s stay and it can be used worldwide.

Why am I still dreaming of and going on trips in the midst of these harsh economic times? Opportunity is knocking. Airline fares are the lowest they’ve been in YEARS. I just spent a third of what I did two years ago on airfare to Spain. Hotels & restaurants want your business and are offering sweet deals to get it. Pay your bills, save some money (for now and later) and if you can – go travel! I doesn’t have to be for weeks at a time, it doesn’t have to be to Europe, but go!

My “TripTip”:
Use your miles/awards points. Never spend a dollar without seeing how you can get the most out of it. We stayed at a $400/night Sheraton in Paris for $20 using Starwood points. I used credit card rewards points to stay at a Ritz Carlton in New Orleans last summer.
Renting cars from local companies can save $$$ overseas. Especially if you’re the typical American who doesn’t drive a manual (like me, LOL). Make sure to compare the prices on their local sites to the us versions.
Sign up for weekly airline and travel discount emails. Between a cheap flight and using points you can have a quick and fun getaway for a lot less money than you think.