Posts filed under ‘travel’
Before I met my “Yank”- because north – south-east or west all Americans were “Yanks” in the British vernacular.
I spent an interesting couple of years being a “Temp” for the fashion and also the recording industry in London. This meant I got to meet and “party” with a lot of the people who made it in those industries and some that didn’t. I dated one chap ( not for long ) who was the event co-ordinator for EMI Records –
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EMI- which meant a lot of parties, concerts and events.
At one party, I sat on the stairs of the ‘house” with Ray Davies of the Kinks –
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kinks who I must admit was talking a load of rubbish and I was soon bored . I believe that is the last time I went out with the EMI chap ;)I had met this “Yank”!
So what has the Kinks, Ray Davies and culture got to do with what has happened in my life since locating and the subsequent pain and angst caused by the Italian- Polish Roman Catholics of control? https://thatwoman.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/kink-s-in-fathers-day-best-of-british-pt-one/
We have to go back in time once more – to my decision to marry my Yank– although I expected him to stay in England – he wished to go home as he knew and felt comfortable with being able to find employment in his country – he never was culturally comfortable in London-( apart from his love of the pubs) he hated the weather and preferred small town USA. He would , is where he was culturally formed and grew up.
I, on the other hand loved London, the big city sights and sounds, the transportation , trains, ferries – I could go to Europe for a week, the access to the English countryside, the lovely old world pubs and especially the food.
I had also lived in the equivalent of small town USA – Canadian style- for about 8 years until I was 15 so the reasoning was it wouldn’t be such a culture shock for myself to go the USA. I have to admit I thought of Boston, New York when I thought of the USA not Midwest America.
The clincher was my mother who said ( old school that she was )-
you have to follow your husband- that is how it is done when you marry
– and my father saying
“Loraine , one thing you have to remember is that you are going to his country, you must make the effort to acclimatize yourself to that way of life, be involved in their lifestyle and community. Do not make the mistake of comparing England with the USA learn the American Ways”
When my husband to be and I filled with the USAF the necessary paper work ( due partly to his security clearance at the time) I was investigated, interviewed ( I had been to Czechoslovakia which was a “red flag” ) had every aspect of my life scrutinized as well as my mum and dad. The shock on the face when meeting with one interviewer when this 19-year-old stated –she would like the investigated history of her fiancée as well was priceless. That didn’t happen, which was a shame because had I known then what I know now my husband would be speaking with an English accent 😉
and oppressive heat that July – I knew I was in trouble. I felt I had been picked up and dumped into a completely strange world. I hated every moment. My husband, comfortable in his world, could not understand my loneliness, my feeling of being trapped and isolated. There was no public transportation, , nowhere to go that I could walk to , where was the theatre, the discussions on world events. honestly I don’t think his family even knew there was a world outside the USA or even Ohio. I was totally dependent on strangers – even though we spoke the same language, I was drowning – terribly unhappy .
Getting employment was not that easy as the love of my life refused to work in a factory ( The Ford plant at the time) and take his coffee breaks by the bell. He was on a greyhound bus ( there apparently was one running between Sandusky and Cleveland) . He was on that bus as we had not yet been able to purchase a vehicle when to bus broke down in Lorain!
To be continued………
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 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 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.
BUYER BEWARE!!!!!- EUROPE-PLANE-TRAIN-BOATS- AUTOS- HOTELS
by Loraine Ritchey firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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………
by Loraine Ritchey email@example.com
I have not wanted to revisit HERE ON THIS BLOG my “trip” to Europe last September, for many reasons- one of them being the FRENCH and their lack of customer service, their attitudes and arrogance.
Well that is my opinion of them at least and one that was fortified by the disaster that was the trip from Ashford, Kent to Strasbourg via Paris.
I had such high hopes of High Speed Rail – 1st class – thinking back I was a little naïve- (well a lot naïve ) as I had visions of “The Orient Express”
HA! The only thing express was how quickly “the French connection passed the buck”
I would have given you a photo of the food received in 1st Class on the TGV however there was none and no drink either from Paris to Strasbourg leg of the journey ( to be continued when I have the stomach for it)
It will take more than a cursory overview of the “tale” to help me get rid of pent up anger and frustration that resulted in a “Trip ( up the river) in more ways than one.
And I can only commiserate with fellow travelers stuck in France today because of the French lack of connection
They have my sympathy – I have been there and done that and it is horrendous!!!!!
In coming weeks I hope to be brave enough to revisit that trip which started out badly and continued to be an expensive lesson – one that I hope to be able to save others from sharing- but first I need to recover!
BUYER BEWARE – The French Connection doesn’t always connect.
AFRICA – THE PEOPLE – PART 8
I can’t believe my eyes and ears. I am standing there in front of Capetonians. A mix of people. A lot of them, I find out are Muslim. What an education this was going to become.
Our shift was 2:30 – 11:00. I wasn’t quite used to that time-frame for work as it had been a couple months since I worked evenings, let alone the time difference from the US to here! Six hours to be exact. I was tired from the trip, excited from my upcoming experience and awaiting to learn and experience as much as possible.
First on the agenda, of course, is they wanted to know all about me and my family.
Mentioning that my wife and I were going to celebrate our 34th wedding anniversary in late November, they applauded! Then, when I told them I had three children, a daughter married and 2 sons that were single; the questions started to fly. The majority of the girls in the class sat up straight in their chairs. Wanting to know everything I could tell them about my sons…the important things – age, what they looked like, and of course what kind of jobs they had! Me, not thinking at first, gave them as much information as they needed to know.
They applauded when they heard my daughter was a specialist in animal eye care, amazed that a woman could get that far. They really had no concept of where Ohio was, let alone other information about the US that I discussed when they asked me about traveling. All they wanted was to hear more and more about me, my family and my life.
When I told them I had taught high school for 35 years, again a round of applause.
Family and education seem to be very important to these young people. On the family part, I’m not sure because, the 2nd night of class, a lot of the girls came “dressed to the 9’s”…including dresses, heels and jewelry. Smiling from ear to ear. One up front even mentioned about a girl in the back of the class who was going to be my ‘future daughter-in-law”. Some of the agents and I laughed but some were serious.
Calling on their names to have them introduce and tell about themselves was quite difficult…especially trying to pronounce the “traditional” names….some were easy and then the list grew…..I will only mention first names for their sakes!
The easy ones? Renaldo, Felix, Amanda, Dudley, Samantha, Brenda, Fortunate and Linda.
Then the traditional names came through: Nadeema, Aneesah, Thandokazi, Nosiphiwo, Whafieka, Ruwayda, Zandile, Tembisa, Sisa, Sharrol and Bukeka. Those aren’t that difficult but…when I hit the last names; let’s put it this way, there was a lot of laughter.
I learned that they loved me laughing at my mistakes and understood my frustrations at times.
Class went very quickly that night. All in all, it was a good night and I knew that I would have a good experience with them. The driver, John, was ready to “zip” us home that night. When I say “zip” ….we flew at ground level. The lights of Cape Town were like diamonds in the sky. Cargo ships in the harbor, tall buildings, lights of the freeway.
Getting back to the hotel was a ‘blessing’. That night, I slept quite well.
It was a rough night sleeping, new surroundings, new ‘noises’ during the night.
Waves crashing against the break wall not very far from my room. Early in the morning, cars rushing by…people walking, doors closing, the sound of birds that I never realized existed. At least not in real life, only in the movies.
This morning, looking out my window, I noticed people on the rocks where the tide had gone out. They had bags in their hands, picking something up. Later on that morning, I found out they were going to the sea to get clams and other edibles that came in with the evening waves. Free food! Too bad I don’t like things like that, I thought to myself.
I had to go down to the water’s edge to see what it was like. As I walked, I looked around, a lot of people walking their dogs, jogging, bicycles and just sitting their in the sun. It was quite chilly so I had to wear my jacket! The water was very blue-green and glistening as the sun shined on it. Huge cargo ships were awaiting their turn to get into the harbor for unloading. Cape Town is a major shipping point from all around the world!
After a wonderful breakfast at the hotel, I went back up to the room to nap. Try to get my bearings and get some type of sleep pattern, which I realized later on, just would not happen! It was time to get ready for work. We were on the 2:30 to 11:00 p.m. shift and the driver would be there around 1:45 or 2:00 to take us to the new site in the old industrial area of Cape Town.
TelTech Cape Town
Turns out that the site is where the old Lion Match and Razor Blade factory was located. The African government is putting a lot of money into the renovation for the creation of jobs. My current understanding is that there will be approximately 2,500 employees. They’re “ramping” up for the event. Construction inside, and outside…getting ready for full force.
A driver by the name of John picks us up at the hotel. Smiling and greeting us as we enter the van. He is very happy to see the other trainer again and meet me. Laughing, and smiling. Very difficult to understand at first. I have to make a concerted effort to listen closely to what he is saying. He explains the different venues as we drive past.
Driving through Cape Town was a trip. I’m not used to riding on the opposite side of the street, let alone with 3 lanes of traffic, sometimes almost bumper-to-bumper. We just went past the new stadium being built for the 2010 World Cup. Cape Town is sprucing up for this major event! It sure is going to be HUGE! Next area? Virginia and Alfred Waterfront…talk about a shopper’s/diner’s delight! People, stores, ships everywhere!
On around the corner, looking up at the center of Table Mountain on the freeway. Seeing the trees sway and soon feeling the van shake from the wind! Here to find out, if the wind is not at ground level coming from the ocean, the higher winds hit Table Mountain and flow down across the city from the other side.
We pull up to the site, the site. Not in the best part of the city yet I see they are working to make the surrounding residential areas nice. Row houses! No ‘yards’ so to speak, fences everywhere. Some graffiti and some abandoned buildings. My mind wanders off to a previous time, wondering what it was like in its heyday. I can just imagine how nice it once was. John does say that it is not safe for us to walk around alone. No problem with me. I don’t plan on venturing in this area!
The site is beautiful. Restored brick, paver drive and parking lot. Security guard out front, right across from St. Michael’s and all the other Saints Anglican Church! Again, another wall around it to protect it from the people!
The guard waves us in. We get out, go inside. Beautiful facility – very state of the art!
Security greets me and gives me a temporary badge until the supervisor comes in to do my fingerprint and photo badge. All grinning a mile wide to greet and meet another American who will be training their people.
Fingerprints allow agents and people in the call center area. The guard lets me in through another locked door. Not many people there yet. Some taking calls, others waiting for class to begin!
Jack introduces me to a couple of the supervisors that he knew from his previous training experience in Cape Town. They are very warm and welcoming to me and almost everyone has asked if I have had the chance to eat and how my accommodations were. Well-knowing the time it took to get to Cape Town. I remember back, leaving my home in Lorain at 8:45 a.m. on a Thursday and getting off the plane in Cape Town at 6:30 p.m. Friday evening. The time change was 6 hours ahead of home but, looking at the travel time is mind-blowing.
Jack shows me to my classroom. They have named all of the training rooms after American Football teams. Funny, I thought. Later on, I wished they had not. Why?
They are losing their heritage….too many things are becoming Americanized through the influence of our movies and music!
My room is the Minnesota Vikings room! Purple walls and about 26 computers. I enter the room! There they are, about 24 young Afrikaans, only 4 guys, the rest girls! Dressed quite like a lot of the young do back in the States. They kept looking at me, waiting to hear me speak.
Nervous? HECK YEAH I WAS …..nobody to introduce me. It was my ‘gig’ so to speak, so I had to start things off!
“HELLO CAPE TOWN! My name is Richard and I will be your trainer for the next 5 weeks!” They smiled and said nothing more. I asked where I was. One person said…”you are in Cape Town, South Africa” with a very proud voice. I smiled as they all did. My next comment, I was not sure how they would take it but, here goes …..”Well, if this is Africa, it is beautiful. Definitely not like anything I’ve seen in the old Tarzan movies!” Laugh? Yes, they loved that comment. That broke the ice; they were ready to learn about me, about my family, America and my travel there! Me? I was hungry for their cultural experiences and the knowledge they had to share with me.
I knew right from that moment that this was going to be a life-changing experience and I was ready for it.
To be continued……
We pull up to the hotel. Not only does Edgar get out of the van but a gentleman comes out of the hotel and quickly approaches me with a smile and a greeting!
“Welcome to Cape Manor Hotel. My name is George.”
Quickly he picks up my bags and brings them into the lobby. Everyone smiling. Me totally exhausted from the 26+ hours of travel time. All I wanted to do was get to a bed somewhere!
The front desk ladies are very welcoming and courteous. I could not believe the difference in the employees of the South African hotels and the American Hotels. Somehow I could tell that ‘courtesy’ was not an option. You did not have to look for a bellhop or anyone to help with your luggage. They were right there waiting on you. Come to find out, that is how everyone in South Africa I come in contact with is.
I ask if the other trainer was there yet. They said, “Mr. Jack?” “He is at work and will be back soon. We will leave him a message to contact you.”
George takes me up to my room and would not allow me to carry the littlest thing. Opening the door, I see out the window! Still daylight out….it should be, it’s 6:30 p.m. South Africa time, 12:30 p.m. back home! But the sun is going down. I forgot that they do not change time here like we do back in the States. The ocean was blue and green while clouds were covering the sun as it was setting over the Atlantic. I look out again, there it is! For some reason, I was either hallucinating from the long travel or just imagining but. The American eagle was in the cloud formation! Amazing. I HAD to get a picture of that.
I begin unpacking. George checks back in after about 15 minutes to see if I needed anything and if my accommodations were acceptable! All I could do was say “Thank you! This will be just fine.” He said he will check with me every day to see if I needed anything.
The room was very clean, updated bathroom, cream colored walls and dark furniture. All I could think of was some of the movies I saw in my ‘younger’ days showing people in Africa. A lot of mahogany-like furniture with cream-colored walls. I went downstairs to see if I could get something to eat. A real meal, instead of an airplane foil-wrapped foil container. I greeted the chef and waiters in the dining area. Very neat, clean. One woman mopping floors. Here to find out, she was there over 10 hours per day, mopping at least 3 times a day to keep things clean.
The buffet was amazing, all for R95 (about $9.50 American). Roast beef, roast pork, grilled vegetables, roasted potatoes, salad, breads and many side dishes. Desserts on another table. Thank goodness I could put it on my room tab as I had not gotten to a currency exchange yet and my American Express Corporate card had not arrived! They were shipping it to me at the hotel.
Sleep! I needed sleep, uninterrupted with people, sounds, and bells dinging every time a stewardess would walk by or the captain telling everyone to put on their seatbelts. Surprisingly, I remembered, the flight was very smooth. It is just amazing to think that I was flying over 400 miles per hour at about 38,000 feet for so long.
Jack, the other trainer, sees me in the dining area of the hotel. He greets me saying he just got back from the training site. He said it is quite nice and we will be training from 2:30 – 11:00 p.m. My jaw dropped, but at least I knew I could get some rest before going to work.
We walked about a block and a half away to a small bar he had become accustomed to. Not real busy but me, this being the first time I was there, was quite hesitant to walk the streets. Jack said “it’s cool…just be aware of those around you as we walk.” Oh thanks! Now you tell me, when we’re almost there. The bar had a few people in it. Signs on some walls that recommended safe sex. Here to find out, South Africa is #1 in the world for STD’s and HIV. Very heavy accents. A lot sounding very British/Scottish with an “African” flair to it. It was interesting to listen to the other people in there. One couple sitting in the corner, not wasting any time for what was going to happen later on that evening with them.
Open public display of affection, as I looked around, was not anything to hide. If it felt good, go ahead, just ‘do it’! That seemed to be their motto!
Reaching into my pocket for my alcohol wipes, I cleaned off the table where I was sitting and my hands. The Health Department recommended I bring them along with me and used them wherever I went. I thanked the nurse in my mind. With it being so dark in there, who knows if they wiped off the tables from the last people. Jack bought the first round. It was known as a ‘Springbok” ….Mint liqueur with a shot of Irish Cream on top.
Tasted good. I actually had 2 more that evening and could feel it.
Going around the corner in the bar, I could see the slot machines in the back room. Not sure if they were legal because nobody seemed to advertise them anywhere but they were busy! Boxes of free condoms sitting in a couple of areas from the Health Department. Good idea, I thought with the high birthrate of illegitimate children as well as diseases.
As we walked back to the hotel, I kept looking around. Any noise I heard, I made myself especially aware of its direction as well as what was causing. Was I paranoid? Was I just being too safe? After all, my family was very insistent before I left that I be ‘extra careful.” That was not going to be an option for me!
One thing that surprised me, it was NOT WARM as I opened my window to get some fresh air.
Temperature? Heck, it was colder here than it was home! When I looked at a map, I was down….way down below the equator so I assumed it was just starting to warm up.
Sleep, blessed sleep overcomes me back in the room. The breakfast buffet will be served in the dining area from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
To be continued.