Posts filed under ‘The Trip’

Strasbourg- September- Remember

Strasbourg Cathedral 1574

I cannot believe that it was 2 years ago we took “THAT” trip- It was supposed to be to give a break from the stress of finding my son had the “curable cancer’ He was finishing up treatment – all prognosis was wonderful- so in order to celebrate a special anniversary – birthday, on September 1st 2008 we made our way across the Atlantic.

As it turned out it was the trip from hell and when we returned of course another hell awaited . BUT as we dealt with the “trip” I had every intention of writing about the disasters, the rip- offs to warn fellow travelers to beware.

At one point we ended up in the same little hotel twice in Strasbourg- although it wasn’t planned that way.
This small hotel at the very door to the cathedral was named after Cardinal De Rohan

The only drawback was being that close to the cathedral bells you were in for a rude awakening.

Whilst Nikki caught up on some sleep my husband and I went to the cathedral. I have been in cathedrals before, admired the architecture but this tour was a little different .

A child of my son’s (very new) extended family had been killed in an accident. There was nothing we could do being trapped in Strasbourg due to the misfortunes of a Rhine River Cruise and a fire in the “Channel Tunnel”.

I felt I should do something though and so we went to the cathedral to light a candle as the family were devout Roman Catholic and to purchase a rosary for my then daughter in law. I thought perhaps it might bring some solace to the child’s mother seeing they were of this faith to know he was remembered here in this great cathedral and a little candle burned in his memory.

There has been a cathedral on the site since the 7th century

It is known that a cathedral was erected by the bishop Saint Arbogast of the Strasbourg diocese at the end of the seventh century, on the base of a temple dedicated to the Virgin Mary, but nothing remains of it today.

I am not very religious or at least into organized religion but the place was awe-inspiring. I had many thoughts as I wandered around the great spaces filled with light and opulence some of which can be found here.

However, one of the thoughts that struck me and bubbled to the top of my cynical brain as I stood there in the 21st century , bathed in light, gold sparkling on painted faces of saints, aromas sweet, flowers and beautiful music of the bells and in total awe of the people who built such a place.

A poem described this cathedral decorated with gold and precious stones by the bishop Ratho

What must this wonder of wonders must looked like to the peasants who lived in hovels of mud and straw, windowless with no light, earthen floors down by a canal filled with offal and stench , the stink of disease and darkness that filled their lives, beauty glimpsed but rarely in such an existence?

Can you imagine what it must have been like to lift your eyes to this monument to heaven, to escape the slavery and chains of your life for just a brief while within the cathedral’s confines?

Can you imagine hearing the musical chants, the sound of powerful music ringing across the countryside, to smell smells so sweet , to breathe air not filled with swine , fish , sweat, rottenness , decay and disease, to be bathed in a light full of grace and colour? It must have seemed like heaven to be allowed to enter such a place of delights.

Is it any wonder men of religions , from the Egyptians ,

the Greeks, the Romans , the Christians ,

the Muslims, Hindus etc. build such edifices to the Gods they worship ?

The edifices that inspire awe and draw the congregation and bring a world that is not of the peasant’s world or understanding .

And this world certainly isn’t of my understanding either because for all the beauty found in such surroundings a mother’s simple question


rings unanswered through the great cavernous spaces .

It is a cry that needs no vaulted ceilings echoing back , it is a cry sent to the night sky and the tree tops and apart from the platitudes of men with their sweet music, incense, gold and creations of stone – no answer comes back to the mothers whose cries are heard ringing through the centuries .


A world that is for us, the mothers who grieve ,full of pain , bewilderment and the unanswered question- a simple question asked –


A growing childs question as he/she explores the world.


The stone walls , though beautiful, remain mute , the painted images look down with unseeing eyes. Only the gargoyles laugh, pulling their ugly faces at the joke of it all, sputter and spew as the rain full of tears drops to earth- they grimace with silent mirth at our peasant’s lot here on earth.


August 31, 2010 at 8:33 pm 7 comments



by Loraine Ritchey

This blog has had a huge amount of international traffic hitting this article ( post)
“BUYER BEWARE!!!!!- EUROPE-PLANE-TRAIN-BOATS- AUTOS- HOTELS in the past two weeks- thanks to being no 2 in a google search . Therefore now may be a good time to revisit “car rental”

I promised to continue with the observations on “car rentals” abroad. The “language barrier and terminology” was addressed in the first part of the article.

Lets talk “INSURANCE”

Part one of my car rental experience found me not only confused as to the type of vehicle I was renting but the difficulty in deciphering “access” and “excess”. Finallly I twigged it ( even though I was born and bred in England- I was confused) the Enterprise member of staff was actually talking deductible

I had decided to use Enterprise – One they were an American company ( so I know where they live)

Two they picked up and dropped off .

Anyone who has rented a car ( especially abroad ), knows there are hidden charges of insurance.


How many times have I stood at the counter stating My credit card company covers that”- . only to have the “counter cretin” blankly stare and say –

We are sorry Madam this isn’t America – you will need to purchase our insurance or pay full price for the any damages and we charge your credit card.

There have been times when I have taken my chances and not paid the extra charges and times I have .

One car rental garage in Seven Oaks, Kent ( booked through Avis) two years previously put the 500 pound ( around $780.00 at the time ) on the charge card but did not process it until I took the car back – any damage would have been charged !

However, I had gone over the car with a fine tooth comb and made them mark down every knick , dent or tiny scratch and took pictures.

When I returned the car they tried to charge me for a door dent and bumper scratch – but I had the pictures and signed paper stating they were on the car when I had picked it up.


This time however, I was a little more concerned with the driving in England -( as I have aged -I now pay the extra for an automatic – standard shift is cheaper by quite a lot in England) also I have become less confident with British driving) –

We would be doing a lot of miles and I would be parking on a very narrow side road. I didn’t want to take the chance of not having the “deductible” covered and the worry some clot would clip me!

I was informed the excess ( deductible) on this Mercedes A class 1,000 pounds or at the exchange rate at the time over $2,000 dollars.

Since I hadn’t ordered the Mercedes A class , Enterprise lowered the deductible to the Fusion “excess rate” of 600 pounds just over $1,200 .

This is the insurance that would have been covered under my Visa- but I got the old song and dance
“So sorry Madam……”
so I bit the money bullet ”

Ok give me YOUR insurance to cover the 600 pounds-

Oh! Madam our insurance only covers 500 pounds of the 600 pound excess- you will have to put the extra 100 pounds ( 200 dollars) on your card and also another 100 pounds deposit

So 400 dollars was then put on my card.

Still with me?????

Now things have also changed from previous rental agreements I have held – Enterprise not only charged the card for the “deposit” but charged all the charges separately so I ended up having the car rental charges, the insurance and the deductable and all the other add ons put through on my card as separate items.

For those unfamiliar with the way this works I was charged 5 different transaction fees ( due to the exchange rate)for one car rental .

Then when returning the car ( and yes some twit had opened their door in parking lot and dinged the door which then meant I lost my “deductible 100 pounds” ( 200 dollars)

They then credited my account for the other 100 pounds BUT the exchange rate had changed so I LOST MONEY cost me over 200 dollars but only got back $186.00 and I was charged another transaction fee.

A couple of weeks later I had to get the 2nd half of my rental – and went through the whole rigmarole again – no dings this time but since the dollar was falling in free fall I lost $50 dollars on the deposit and once again was charged separately on the card and all the damned transaction fees.
When I received the statement I called Visa who explained that they will give you a number internationally that the car rental companies can call collect to verify your “excess” coverage or they will give you a letter stating your coverage- BUT some car rental companies will still give you a hard time and if you accept their coverage you will not be covered under your “credit card coverage” . You could be charged up to the cost of the vehicle – and strange things do happen
carhorse SOURCE

Such was the case with my $200 ding from Enterprise. If I hadn’t paid it upfront they could have charged me whatever and I would have been stuck paying the repairs and trying to get the credit card to pay me.

I had visions of an estimated $3,000 dollar repair bill being the cynic that I am …… YUP sure is enterprising this car rental lark!

to be continued………

April 21, 2009 at 10:24 am 1 comment

One Man’s History is another’s ?

by Loraine Ritchey

As regular readers are aware, I spent the month of September in Europe. The trip wasn’t exactly wonderful and one of the reasons I have only touched upon the trip on this blog is the fact I have to literally relive some of the incidents in order to write about them- and quite honestly the will to do so at this moment isn’t there yet- but I will if only to save other travelers from the trauma!

You can find some of the trip on these links listed below

and of course the plane trip

Actually I am somewhat surprised at the amount of material I have written about so far regarding the trip .
My family and I spent thousands of dollars and a great deal of effort to see “the sights” most of which were “historical or old ” – . We weren’t alone, even in these depressing economic times, there were fellow travelers from all parts of the globe jostling to see the buildings, the stones, the cathedrals, the windows, the “what is left” of a wall. They were enthralled by the tour guides stories of what had occurred- oohs and ahs in many languages.

One particular incident came to mind , that of the tour on the Rhine . We had been told about the wonderful Rock of the Lorelei

According to German legend, there was once a beautiful young maiden, named Lorelei, who threw herself headlong into the river in despair over a faithless lover. Upon her death she was transformed into a siren and could from that time on be heard singing on a rock along the Rhine River, near St. Goar. Her hypnotic music lured sailors to their death. The legend is based on an echoing rock with that name near Sankt Goarshausen, Germany

The PA announcement for days had mentioned this wonderful sight we would be experiencing- indeed as we approached the part of the river in question there was a count down at lunch and then every few minutes reminding the passengers to get their cameras ready. In fact the 5 minute warning found everyone massing on the port side of the vessel in order to experience The Lorelei. I was a little concerned actually that with everyone rushing to one side there could be a problem.

We approached the Rock of the Lorelei- rocklorelie
I really didn’t see anything special – the “Grand Canyon” or even the “White Cliffs of Dover” it wasn’t- in fact you could see something similar anywhere along our lakefront.

Still thought I, the statue of the Lorelei must be wonderful, like Nelson at Trafalga or the Statue of Liberty with all the fuss being made – judge for yourself
As cameras whirred and clicked and the story was retold of the mermaid , I thought of the stories and adventures that abound in a little known community named Lorain, whose history hasn’t been embraced , whose stories are just now being told
The other interesting note was that apparently Napoleon had destroyed most of the Castles and Keeps along the Rhine but in the mid 1800’s tourists flocked to the Rhine so in order to bolster the tourist trade most of those ancient old castles are renovated and rebuilt and date from around 1868 – what was Lorain doing in 1868 I wonder – any traces left ?
To Be Continued…….

January 3, 2009 at 10:14 pm 1 comment



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