Swapping Homes Anybody?


Friday, August 12, 2011


Some trivial news I picked up on the trip that is not to be trifled with, however. Shopping carts in Germany and France only work if you put a EUR in and then they come apart and you can use one. How US shop owners don't worry about losing theirs is a legitimate question. You get the EUR back when you return it. Sometimes a similar token or a coin of a foreign denomination works as well, but you need one on hand. I spoke about the return of plastic and glass bottles to shops in Germany before. Here is a picture of one of those machines that then give you a return receipt for the cash out. I had never done it before, looked rather stupid not knowing how to handle it, and thought I'd put it here.
In France, in our neighborhood at least, they collect recyclables: glass bottles on Wednesdays, plastic bottles, spray cans, drinking cans and cartons as well as paper on Friday and the remainder of the trash on Monday. That makes for three cans outside.
Another triviality but of the utmost importance is that in the whole Metro system network, miles of underground interlinked transport, there is not one toilet facility. Arriving at the Gare St.Lazare from which we always take our commuter train to the suburbs, there are exactly two Porta Cabins/loos for a 50 cent charge.But alas, they are closed after 10 pm.So run for the nearest McDonald or so.
I saw some confused faces in restaurants when patrons notice that toilets often serve for both genders. Often there is 'Monsieur' on the left and"Madame' on the right and the hand wash basin in the middle. See a very special soap below. Without going into  too much of a detail, stalls are often on a timer to save electricity. One has to be prepared to be suddenly in total darkness for a few seconds until you make a move and the light comes on again.
German gas stations,  as a rule, do not take credit cards outside. You need to go in and pay after filling up. Most places don't take American Express. That is slightly better here in France. Reason? Vendors want to avoid the exorbitant merchant charges. I did too when I was still in business in Ireland. There is a difference of almost six percentage points between Visa, Mastercard and Amex.
Gas stations in France have a barrier at the exit. You cannot do a runner and not pay. They are not geared towards using credit cards outside yet as we this side of the Atlantic.You're practically locked in until you've paid.
Talking of prices. A glass of wine in a modest brasserie is 5EUR, in a better restaurant starting at 10, same for beer. A half bottle of water is 4,80; a liter EUR. My beloved fruit tartelettes went up too.In a boulangerie they are 2,80; in restaurants, they vary between 4,80 and 9EUR. Same for a Creme Brulee.
For a meal in a mediocre restaurant in Montparnasse which attracted bonvivants and famous writers at the turn of the last century, we paid 160 EUR for four. Just a main course and a glass of wine or beer each (I had hot tea). No desserts. Now get your calculator out and do the math.
PS.A reader's comment:
That is a prime thing for a country that wants tourists.  Women have to pee... often... at unexpected times... often in a hurry.  If they want to lure the lovelies they'd better have lovely loos.  Right?
No more holes in the floor.
Maybe a loo report from every town and city you visit would be a real asset to readers.  Might even help get city fathers, if there are burgermeisters around who care about such things, to look at loos as a big ass-et. Tourist loo-res, as it were.
Tour a loo a loo ree, tour a loo a lie?

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