To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.
Freya Stark (1893-1993)
The other day I remarked to someone that I had recently travelled to France alone. This was not the first time that someone (female) responded with astonishment that I could do this, that I had the guts to do this. A woman travelling alone? Yes! I sensed their fear had to do with one or many of the following: Continue reading →
Although it’s only been a week since I have been home, I am now planning my next trip to France—in the Spring 2015. I hope to go for 2 months; however, let’s see how the costs pan out. In my research, one of the best tips I can share has to do with using one’s frequent flyer points. I have a ton of points with Aeroplan, which is a Star Alliance member along with Lufthansa, LOT, Austrian, Brussels Airlines, Singapore Airlines, and many more. I collect my Aeroplan points primarily through Air Canada; however, the tax and fuel charges by Air Canada, when I am using my Aeroplan points is ridiculous. For a one-way, direct business flight from Toronto (YYZ) to Paris (CDG), the tax is $492.16 and 45000 Aeroplan miles. That’s just one way! Round trip would be $984.32 and 90000 miles. Economy is $584.3 and 60000 Aeroplan miles return. One might as well just pay for a flight. Certainly you are getting kind of a deal going business class; however, the taxes/fuel surcharges are insane!
Who doesn’t like to save money? If you spend at least 175 Euros in the same store on the same day, you can get the VAT (Value Added Tax) back. When you are paying, be sure to tell the cashier that you would like to claim the tax so you will need the necessary form. Some stores, like Galeries Lafayette require you to go to a different floor where they have a booth that deals just with refunds.
Thanks to technology, the store will give you a customs receipt with a bar code as well as an envelope. It is now much easier to submit the form and get money back.
Now, all you have to do is go to the Tax Refund booth at the airport. (In this case, it is more reliable to go to the one BEFORE you enter customs) and have a machine scan the bar code. The machine will tell you if all is OK and if it is, you just have to put the receipt in the envelope and deposit it in the quasi-mailbox located beside the Tax Refund booth. This mailbox is only for tax refunds. Now you just have to wait up to three months for the refund on your credit card (or depending how you paid, it might also be a cheque).
So I finished five mornings (9-1pm) at Alliance Francaise. Overall I think the teaching methods are excellent as there are a variety of ways to learn the material; however, a lot depends on how the teacher engages the students particularly when there is ONE student who monopolizes the discussion. A girl from Turkey was sitting beside me today and she agreed that unfortunately, the Italian classmate talked all the time so it was difficult to get a word in. That being said, I still think it was a great experience worth trying. The hardest part for me is continuing to practice my French in Toronto where no one else does. Maybe that’s why I keep returning to France? Would I do Alliance Francaise again? Yes. Continue reading →
I am realizing that this trip to France has caused me to be on a mission on two fronts: first to take pictures of all the places and things readers might be intrigued to see; and two, to try many of the sweets and breads outlined in David Lebovitz’s new app, called, “Paris Pastry”. This app is a MUST for travelers to Paris as it outlines the best places to buy chocolates, ice cream, breads and pastries in the city. I love Lebovit’s blog and book, “The Sweet Life In Paris” and he recently came out with a new book “Paris Kitchen”. I won’t say I am trying to hunt down every single place he has mentioned; however, many of the names are now on “my radar”. Continue reading →