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France and Italy - 2007 Archives

August 11, 2007

Planning for Italy and France in September

It was my great good fortune to win first choice in the 2006 Slow Travel contest. We had a very difficult time selecting our prize, but we eventually decided on this apartment in Trastevere in Rome in September 2007. One of the attractions of this prize is that it would allow us to offer a chance to see Rome to 2 of our 4 children. Our 2 sons, Steve and Brad, took us up on the offer.

Since then our travel plans for next month have expanded to include 10 days in Rome, 2 days on Capri, 2 days in Paris and 10 days in Provence. We are re-visiting all of our destinations. We were last in Paris in October 2006, Provence in 2005 and Rome and Capri in 1976. Our sons will be with us for the first 2 weeks (Rome-Capri--Paris), before they have to return to work back home to Canada. Here is an outline of our itinerary:

August 31 - 20:35pm ZOOM flight from Montreal to CDG Paris-arrive 9:10am Sept. 1.
September 1 - 12:35pm Air France Flight from Paris CDG to Rome FCO - arrive 2:40pm
September 1-9 Rome
September 10-11 Capri. We have 2 nights booked at this hotel in Anacapri.
September 12 Rome
September 13 9:25am Air France flight from Rome FCO to Paris CDG
September 13-14 We have 2 nights booked at Hôtel Saint-Louis Marais
September 15-21 We have one-week booked for a return visit to Mas de Briançonceu, a few minutes from Menerbes
September 22-24 Our final 3 nights will be at L'Auberge du Presbytere in Saignon
September 25 16.20pm ZOOM flight from Paris CDG to Montreal - arrive 18:05pm

August 14, 2007

Roma Pass

Yesterday I ordered a Roma Pass. € 80,00 for the 4 of us. We'll pick up the passes at the Colosseum. The 3 day pass provides free entry to 2 sites, 1/2 price entry to others and full access to the public transport system. It should be a good deal - plan to use it early in our visit.

It is still a bit amazing to me that I am able to do that from my computer at home here in Canada, with complete confidence that the passes will be waiting for me when I show up at the Colosseum in about three weeks.

Several weeks ago I booked and printed out our train tickets from Paris CDG airport to Avignon on the SNCF rail system in France. I just followed these very helpful directions. Our TGV tickets are tucked away with our passports.

Restaurants

One of the big decisions we have to make before travelling to Europe is where & when are we going to eat out. Food is one of the highlights of our time spent in Italy or France and I don't like to leave much to chance. I do my research, which consists mainly of reading the reviews on Slow Travel - along with a couple of guide books and some personal recommendations. I have never had a cell phone on our previous trips so I usually make several reservations made before we leave home.

This time, we are away for 24 days - a long time for us & our travel budget. We will have to pick our spots in Rome & Provence. We already have 3 meals arranged as part of a GTG at the following restaurants:

- September 5, Rome 1:00pm - lunch at Largo del Pallaro - arranged by Doru.

- September 17, Lacoste (Provence) 7:30pm - dinner at Domaine de Layaude Basse - a very short drive from our gite near Menerbes.- arranged by Kathy Wood

- September 21, Coustellet (Provence) noon - lunch at Maison Gouin with BC Brenda/spouse & possibly friends.

We will be in Paris for 2 evenings. I already know where we want to go - chez Nenesse and Le Florimond. Another option might be La Fontaine de Mars. I love the photo below that I took of La Fontaine de Mars in October 2006.

fontainedemars2.jpg

In Provence I have already booked dinner at L'Auberge du Presbytere in Saignon for Saturday September 22.

I will be deciding on a few more restaurants for Rome & Provence over the next couple of weeks.


Finances

In the past I usually have taken several hundred Euros with us and rely on draining my Paypal account to finance our trip and bring home a nest egg for our next vacation. I have a Paypal account because of my ebay activity. When a trip is approaching, I let the funds build up & withdraw the daily maximum (approx. € 300) at an ATM each time I need to get some cash. The transaction cost is minimal - only € 1, and since I am withdrawing my own money, there are no interest charges as with a credit card. However, this time my Paypal account won't be sufficient to finance our expenses over 24 days, especially when there will be 4 of us for 2 weeks. So I've been trying to decide the most efficient way of funding our vacation when we're in France and Italy.

I have contacted two credit card companies to let them know when & where we will be travelling so our cards will not be cut off because of suspicious activity. However, I plan to use the credit cards sparingly, and never as a source of cash.

Several years ago we established a line of credit at a local bank. We have not used it for several years, but it is still an active account. The other day I asked at the bank if there was any way I could tap into my line of credit when I am in Europe. The answer, not surprisingly, was "yes'". And so I acquired a card with a $1000/day & $2,000/week limit with a $3.00 transaction fee. The interest will be approximately 5%, rather than the credit card rate on cash advances.

The other source of Euros will be some $US money that I will convert at a post office in France - the best place to change money in my experience. The value of my $US funds (also from my ebay activity) has declined by approximately 13% over the past year against our Canadian currency - but greenbacks still come in handy in the south of France.

August 15, 2007

Walking tours of Rome

Dave, a new Slow Travel member, has prepared 3 walking tour itineraries of Rome in both Streaming Video and MP3 formats. I've looked at the videos and this evening I've downloaded the MP3 files onto an iPod. The tours look great - one starts a the Colosseum, one at Piazza del Poppolo and one at the Spanish Steps. I'm sure we'll try to follow them when we're in Rome - another great Slow Travel find.

Here's a link to the files.

August 18, 2007

Rome Connections

In the past, when arriving in Paris or London, we've just taken public transport into the city. Since there are 4 of us arriving in Rome two weeks from today, a shuttle service seems to be the way to go this time. I am debating 2 options - the much-discussed and generally highly-regarded Romashuttle (€ 100 return) and a service offered through our rental agency Romepower.com (€ 145 return). So I can save myself € 45 by choosing Romashuttle. A no-brainer, right?

Well, maybe not. I have to travel to the Romepower.com offices to pay my rental & pick up the keys before heading to the apartment in Trastevere. Or I can always avail myself of Romepower.com's "Gold Service" and have somebody meet me at the apartment for an additional € 40 if I book their shuttle service or € 70 if I don't. "Gold Service"? - more gold for Romepower.com, I guess. I am aware that Italy is a pricey travel destination compared to, say, France, but € 70 to have somebody meet you at the apartment???

So, will Romashuttle make an additional stop and how much will they charge for the service - keeping in mind that it will likely take a few minutes in the office? I emailed yesterday and shortly after emailing, I phoned the office. The guy on the phone said he would get back to me today.

Oh yeah, Romepower.com indicates that if I don't book their shuttle service, I will have to return the keys to their office at check-out. Lovely.

So it looks like the options to avoid the office visit are € 170 with Romashuttle and € 185 with Romepower.com - a lot of bucks or Euros or whatever to get to & from the apartment in Rome. And I haven't even calculated the 20% additional charge for the return trip to the airport if we have to be picked-up before 7:00am.

August 19, 2007

Rome Connections, Part 2

Well, I've heard back from Romashuttle. They will provide a private shuttle service (airport-office-apartment & return) for € 125. Romepower.com's similar service is € 145.

On the one hand it's only a difference of € 20 - so maybe I should go with our rental agency. It might make things a bit smoother at the office.

On the other hand it is a saving of € 20 if I go with Romashuttle - € 20 which could easily be used for something else.

Since Romashuttle has a good reputation and has responded quickly to a number of questions I have had, I am going to book with them.

August 29, 2007

GetToGethers, Restaurants and Tours

Thanks to Slow Travel & the internet, we have several events planned for Rome, Paris and the Luberon. Yesterday, I heard back from the Borghese Gallery. We have reserved tickets for Sept. 6 - should fit in nicely with with the Scavi Tour on the 3rd and a 3-day Roma Pass.

Yesterday, I also made 3 restaurant reservations, one in Paris (Le Florimond) and two in the Luberon (L'Arome, and Maison Gouin). I tried to book chez Nenesse in Paris, but got an automated message - think they're away until Sept. 3. I'll try again from Rome. I must say that I enjoy making reservations by phone from here in Canada. I stumble around in French, but the obvious good nature of the people on the other end makes it worthwhile - and it often leads to a pleasant conversation when we arrive. "Ah, you're Doug du Canada!"

I am also looking forward to the FOUR GTGs that we will be taking part in. When I tell others that we are meeting people for lunch or dinner on our travels, they invariably think it's a great idea. It is, I assure them.

Roma bookings
3rd (Monday) 9:30am Scavi Tour – Excavations office – no backpacks – Holy Office Gate (through Colonnade to the left) – ask the Swiss Guard for the Excavations Office

4th (Tuesday) Pick up Roma Pass at Colosseum

6th (Thursday) 9:00-11:00am – Borghese Gallery. Pick up reserved tickets by 8:30am

GetToGethers
5th (Wednesday) 1:00pm - at the restaurant Dar Pallaro, Largo del Pallaro, 15, Roma, Tel.: (39)(06)68801488

9th (Sunday) 1:00pm - Osteria del Pegno Vicolo di Montevecchio 8, Roma, – Lunch with Gavin Crawford

17th (Monday) 7:30pm - Domaine de Layaude Basse - St Jean 84480, Lacoste Tel.: 04.90.75.90.06

21st (Friday) 1:00pm - Maison Gouin - Coustellet (04 90 76 90 18) Lunch with Brenda (BC Brenda)

Restaurant reservations
13th (Thursday) 8:30pm – Le Florimond, Paris - 9, avenue de la Motte-Picquet (01.45.55.40380)

15th (Saturday) 8:30pm - L’Arome, Bonnieux - 2 rue Lucien Blanc (04 90 75 88 62)

22nd (Saturday) 8:00pm - L’Auberge du Presbytere, Saignon (04 9074 1150)

August 30, 2007

Last minute surprise

Well, I thought I had everything arranged in Rome - pickup by Romashuttle to Romepower offices to pay the rental, pick up the keys & then on to the apartment in Trastevere. This morning I learned from Romepower that their offices are closed on Saturday and Sunday. They would have a representative at the apartment to conduct the business that needed to be done.

Any extra charge, I asked?

Yes, "The fee for check in in no business hour is € 50,00 as you can read on the rental contract."

So an extra € 50,00 because I'm arriving on a most inconvenient Saturday afternoon instead of a very reasonable Wednesday morning. Lovely, just lovely.

My previous rentals in France & Italy have been directly with the owners. This is my first time dealing with an agency. Perhaps I just don't know what to expect. But I made the booking 18 months ago and I am informed less than 48 hours from our arrival that their offices will be closed, and because of that, I will be penalized € 50,00.

The good news is that when I sent an email to Romashuttle to inform them of the slight change in itinerary, Alfredo acknowledged my email quickly and mentioned that the price would be reduced by € 10,00.

Another happy note. Back in March, I booked 2 nights in Paris at Hotel Saint-Louis Marais. I had a reservation number but no confirmation email. I inquired about the status of my reservation & heard back within an hour that all is OK in Paris for Sept.13 & 14. Thanks, Aymen

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to To Slow Time Down in the France and Italy - 2007 category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Food is the previous category.

Luberon is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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