A glitch or two in Europe

By Linda Lemieux
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My husband, Pete, and I have traveled to Europe many times by the “seat of our pants” without any major problems. This was not the case on our May 8-June 6, 2012, trip. 

We started off from Paris in our leased new Peugeot from Auto France (Rutherford, NJ; 800/572-9655). The 30-day rental cost $1,457, with bumper-to-bumper insurance coverage (including liability). 

We then headed to Rouen, where we looked up Pete’s ancestors in the library before continuing on to Bayeux and other towns in western France. 

Near Bayonne, we checked into our hotel. In the morning, I took my pills as usual, emptying my one-week pill container. I proceeded to refill it from my baggie of loose pills and discovered I was missing the one pill I can’t go without! 

Telling myself not to panic, I went to the reception desk. Thank goodness, the young woman spoke English. She called the one pharmacy that was open on Sunday and drew me a map, saying it was about a 5-minute drive away. After circling for 30 minutes, we found it.

The pharmacist did not speak English. I wrote down the name of my prescription and indicated I needed to contact my doctor but did not have computer access. She motioned for my husband to come around the counter to use her computer. It was 3 a.m. back home, so I knew we had a long wait. 

We went to the church behind the pharmacy and prayed. After Mass, we walked around the quaint streets and had lunch before popping back into the pharmacy. No word yet from my doctor, so we visited a couple of coast towns, returning at 6 p.m. Still no doctor’s email!

Then the pharmacist said, “That’s okay. I can sell.” 

She asked for my name and address and sold me the pills, charging 11 (near $14). For the same at home (if I didn’t have insurance), I would have paid $100. I gave her a big hug and left.

We then traveled all the way across northern Spain, following the Camino de Santiago, the path of the pilgrims, to Santiago de Compostela, visiting beautiful cathedrals along the way.

Dropping into northern Portugal, we pulled a ticket to get on the toll road. Just before we got to Porto, we noticed two lanes of traffic getting off and two lanes that kept going. We kept going, and soon the toll road just ended and we were in Porto with an unpaid freeway ticket. Oops! 

We didn’t know what to do, so we turned around, pulled another ticket, drove back five miles and then got off one exit later. When we pulled up to the pay booth and handed the man two tickets, he looked at us like we were crazy. It appeared he didn’t know English, but he seemed to understand what happened, smiled and charged us only 0.50 (65¢) for the second ticket, throwing the other one away. I’m sure that first ticket cost at least 10, but we weren’t about to argue.

If anyone understands the Portuguese toll road system, please e-mail us c/o ITN, as we plan on going back someday and still don’t know how we avoided paying the toll in the first place.

Our next hiccup was in Madrid. Checking into an Ibis hotel off the freeway, we parked our car in a space 50 feet from the front door. Since we were so close, we decided not to use the pay garage. Mistake! 

After the second night, we went out to load up the car and found the driver’s wing window broken out. Pete walked about five blocks to a police station to file a report while I cleaned up the mess and patched the window with cardboard and tape given to me by the hotel manager. 

We got no help from the car lease company, as it was a 3-day holiday in France, where we had rented the car. 

What the thieves stole was two weeks of dirty laundry! We still had two weeks of clean laundry in our room. We had insurance to cover our belongings, so it all worked out. 

What we learned — don’t leave anything in the car, even if it can’t be seen. 

We got the car fixed on our own in Barcelona and were reimbursed three months later through a separate travel policy we had with Allianz Travel Insurance (866/884-3556).

All and all, we had a wonderful trip and are planning another for August ’13. I wonder what’s in store for us?

LINDA LEMIEUX 

Elk Grove, CA

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

My husband, Pete, and I have traveled to Europe many times by the “seat of our pants” without any major problems. This was not the case on our May 8-June 6, 2012, trip. 

We started off from Paris in our leased new Peugeot from Auto France (Rutherford, NJ; 800/572-9655). The 30-day rental cost $1,457, with bumper-to-bumper insurance coverage (including liability). 

We then headed to Rouen, where we looked up Pete’s ancestors in the library before continuing on to Bayeux and other towns in western France. 

Near Bayonne, we checked into our hotel. In the morning, I took my pills as usual, emptying my one-week pill container. I proceeded to refill it from my baggie of loose pills and discovered I was missing the one pill I can’t go without! 

Telling myself not to panic, I went to the reception desk. Thank goodness, the young woman spoke English. She called the one pharmacy that was open on Sunday and drew me a map, saying it was about a 5-minute drive away. After circling for 30 minutes, we found it.

The pharmacist did not speak English. I wrote down the name of my prescription and indicated I needed to contact my doctor but did not have computer access. She motioned for my husband to come around the counter to use her computer. It was 3 a.m. back home, so I knew we had a long wait. 

We went to the church behind the pharmacy and prayed. After Mass, we walked around the quaint streets and had lunch before popping back into the pharmacy. No word yet from my doctor, so we visited a couple of coast towns, returning at 6 p.m. Still no doctor’s email!

Then the pharmacist said, “That’s okay. I can sell.” 

She asked for my name and address and sold me the pills, charging 11 (near $14). For the same at home (if I didn’t have insurance), I would have paid $100. I gave her a big hug and left.

We then traveled all the way across northern Spain, following the Camino de Santiago, the path of the pilgrims, to Santiago de Compostela, visiting beautiful cathedrals along the way.

Dropping into northern Portugal, we pulled a ticket to get on the toll road. Just before we got to Porto, we noticed two lanes of traffic getting off and two lanes that kept going. We kept going, and soon the toll road just ended and we were in Porto with an unpaid freeway ticket. Oops! 

We didn’t know what to do, so we turned around, pulled another ticket, drove back five miles and then got off one exit later. When we pulled up to the pay booth and handed the man two tickets, he looked at us like we were crazy. It appeared he didn’t know English, but he seemed to understand what happened, smiled and charged us only 0.50 (65¢) for the second ticket, throwing the other one away. I’m sure that first ticket cost at least 10, but we weren’t about to argue.

If anyone understands the Portuguese toll road system, please e-mail us c/o ITN, as we plan on going back someday and still don’t know how we avoided paying the toll in the first place.

Our next hiccup was in Madrid. Checking into an Ibis hotel off the freeway, we parked our car in a space 50 feet from the front door. Since we were so close, we decided not to use the pay garage. Mistake! 

After the second night, we went out to load up the car and found the driver’s wing window broken out. Pete walked about five blocks to a police station to file a report while I cleaned up the mess and patched the window with cardboard and tape given to me by the hotel manager. 

We got no help from the car lease company, as it was a 3-day holiday in France, where we had rented the car. 

What the thieves stole was two weeks of dirty laundry! We still had two weeks of clean laundry in our room. We had insurance to cover our belongings, so it all worked out. 

What we learned — don’t leave anything in the car, even if it can’t be seen. 

We got the car fixed on our own in Barcelona and were reimbursed three months later through a separate travel policy we had with Allianz Travel Insurance (866/884-3556).

All and all, we had a wonderful trip and are planning another for August ’13. I wonder what’s in store for us?

LINDA LEMIEUX 

Elk Grove, CA