Sunday, June 6, 2010

Home Sweet Home Survey Results Part 2

Q: Your space, your thoughts
Winning Answer: All of them
A: Everyone did there unique version of Thank You Ken and Cindy. Normally I don't print these but these were so touching...

Bill says:

"Mike & Maureen have raised three great kids. They are fun, happy, obedient, respectful and helpful. They were so easy to spend time with and take care of. Except for not driving, I think the kids are so good they could have watched themselves for the week.

I was surprised at how helpful my Droid was during the week. I would have gotten lost many times without it. And it helped me find Andy at MayFair.

I was also surprised at the parents of the kids' friends who let me pick up their children without meeting me, speaking to me or seeing me.

It was a really fun week. I hope you all had as much fun on the trip as I did in Macungie."

Cyn says:

"Woman of little words has no thoughts :-)"

Dad says:

"Aside from getting married and having three wonderful children (Cyn & Mo also included here), this cruise adventure ranks as one of the most memorable family celebrations ever.

We cannot thank you all enough."

Karen says:

Dear Ken & Cindy,

I had a wonderful and magical time with my dear family and the Mediterranean cruise is a journey I will treasure always. Thank you Ken and Cindy, for giving me the chance of a lifetime to actually see and visit places I once only dreamed about or read about in books. I kept a lot inside on the trip - and again, I will call you this week with an update - but being with the ones I love, I put my problems and trouble behind, if only for a while, and I treasured every moment ; it was refreshing and exciting and it has given me strength to face whatever lies ahead. It may be a while before I get a chance to write something in the blog, at least publicly, as I have some serious legal issues to deal with but I hope to contribute again as soon as the dust settles. Thanks again Ken & Cindy - your generosity and love is a brilliant light and I am blessed to have been touched by it. I love you both very much~


Ken says:

very nice

Mike says:

Oooooo... Wow... Thanks again Ken and Cindy!!! So very generous, with memories that will last a lifetime!

Mo says:

Thank you Ken & Cindy!!! Awesome idea and loved it all. Keep daydreaming about the sights we saw and the experiences we had. We are truly grateful for the experience and can't tell you how much we appreciate it. It's still a 'pinch me' feeling. Still can't beleive we were in Europe!! Gotta go back. Would love to show the kids. Would have to spend weeks showing them everything.

Mom says:

It was a great trip Ken and Cindy thanks to your generosity. We will cherish the memories forever. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Did we go to Europe yet?

P.S. I gained 3 pounds. BooooHoooo."

Ken and Cyn say:
Ken and I are very happy that we were in a position to afford the cruise but we know that the monetary aspect is truly of little consequence.  What is truly important is that we could and we all wanted to spend time together.  The time we spent together and the memories that we made are priceless.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Home Sweet Home Survey Results Part 1

As nice as life was on the Voyager of the Seas it is good to get back to our normal lives.  So what was it like to get back home for you...

Shown below is the "winning" answer(s) and then everyone's answer. The winning answer is arbirtartily decided by me for reasons only known by me. I've decided to post everyones response; let me know if you like this format.

It has finally happened and it proves that good things come to those that wait.  Our survey this week was answered by a non OPERATION: Poisson Rouge contributor; Bill of the Bill and Ed team of South Bound Brook NJ responded.  Thanks for responding Bill.

Q: What was the best thing about being home?
Winning Answer - Everyone!
Bill: being with Ed again
Cyn: Getting head butts from Whitey, having Farah camped out on my lap this morning, and a cup of hot coffee
Dad: Being home.
Karen: ...exactly that - being home..
Ken: Sleep
Mike: Seeing my kids! (Well, 2 of them. sam is at a sleep over.)
Mo: Kids & Pillow
Mom: Seeing my animals.

Q: What time did you go to bed Sunday evening?
Winning Answer - Michael: 0:00:00
Bill: 0:04:00
Cyn: Our plan was to go to bed about 9PM. We made it until 7:30.
Dad: ~3:30 AM (their time)
Karen: I believe I passed out at about 11's really all a blur...
Ken: 7pm
Mo: 10:30?
Mom: 10 pm our time.
Author interjects - isn't it something Dad answers their time and Mom answers our time?

Q: What time did you wake up Monday morning?
Winning Answer - Mo: 6:10:00
Bill: 7:15
Cyn: About 5AM
Dad: ~4:30 AM (our time)
Karen: Woke up (WIDE AWAKE) at 5:30 AM - was bummed I couldn't go back to sleep
Ken: waokeup=4am, getup=545am
Mike: 4:30
Mom: 7 am our time
Author interjects - honorable mention goes to Ken who was obviously still struggling to wake up when answering survey.

Q: Did you watch the Lost finale yet?
A: Everyone watched the Lost finale except for Karen, Mo*, Mom and Dad. *Mo watched the finale but dozed off multiple times. Not sure if that counts!
Q: What did you think of the Lost finale?
A: Those that watched the finale thought it was so so.
Bill: Never saw the show before but loved watching Samantha react to it

Q: Did anything eventful happen in your absence?
Winner: Mike and Mo - see their answers below
Bill: new bedroom rug arrived
Cyn: Unfortunately my sister-in-laws' mom has a re-occurence of brest cancer. Say a prayer, send good thoughts!
Dad: Ant infestation in kitchen
Ken: Freezer frost
Mike: Billy and Ed redecorated our living room. New pictures onthe walls, furniture arranged differently, new desk for Mo's computer, pantry and kitchen drawers have organizers.
Mo: living room makeover, pantry organized, kitchen drawers organized, laundry new shelf and organized, new desk in dining room so now my dining room table is clear of 'stuff', more stuff to take to Goodwill, a framed new piece of artwork by Sam in the living room
Mom: I came home to a clean house. bless the Dickster.

Q: Anything surprise you?
Bill: there is always something to do with kids around
Cyn: BP oil leak still well, leaking
Dad: Dick M was able to get rid of ants
Ken: entire trip went smoothly (almost), no events at home
Mike: No (incuding the Billy and Ed remodeling)
Mo: all the work Billy did improving our place -- with the kids help
Mom: No.

Q: Now with the cruise behind us what are you looking forward to?
Bill: Getting back to my life with Ed
Cyn: I would like to train for a 5K.
Dad: June Fishing camping trip, July birthday celebration here, August Cape May camping
Ken: work, routine, summer, looking forwards to the year
Mike: Finish editing 'The Interview' with Nana and Pop-pop. 4th Annual RV fishing trip with Pop-pop and my boys. Wildwood, with the Bischers.
Mo: Returning!
Mom: Camping in Cape May and maybe Maine in September.

The last question of the survey is the "typical" open ended question where you write about anything that you want.  The answers ranged from funny to touching so come back to the blog tomorrow.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Ken and I are very gratful that by and large the OPERATION: Poisson Rouge adventure went off without a hitch (but stayed tuned for a blog entry by Karen if she feels up to it).

Oooooo... Wow...

We've come full circle:
Back from the Journey!!

Hello to all!  We are all back, alive, and well, and all the richer from the adventure we shared.  Over the next few weeks, (on no particular schedule) you can expect to read about some of the highlights from the great European Adventure we dubbed OPERATION: Poisson Rouge. 

You will hear about:

  • JJ - (Ooooo...  Wow...)
  • The Ken-isms (well, some of them at least)
  • Bucket lists, favorites, and surprises
  • Bruno, Clever, Linda, and more!
  • Mo-Scursions
  • Ninja Ken (pictured below)
  • Mur see bow coo, y'all!
  • Billy's 'While you were out' living room makeover
  • And dozens and dozens of other stories and memories.
        ...oh yeah.  There may be a few pictures, too.

    Hey, it's what I do...
    A few stats:
    I'm really not ready to write up anything substantial for the blog right now, so why am I writing this at all?  Let me explain.
    • Mo and I awoke on Sunday morning at 5:30 am "their time" and arrived at our house at 4:30 pm "our time" - 17 hours door-to-door.
    • We stayed up Sunday night until 12:00 am "our time" (6:00 am Monday morning "their time") we talked with Billy an the kids, put away a few tings, and sat down to watch the 'LOST!' finale) - 24.5 hours of awake time.
    • It is currently 4:30 am "our time" (10:30 am "their time") but because I woke up with a cough (nothing major, probably just swallowed my own spit wrong during the night) and the fact that it is already 10:30 am "their time" (we would have been up for four hours over there by now, and well into a Mo-scursion), I am wide awake, and writing a blog. - 4 hours sleep after 24 hours awake.
    • Hmmmm...  As I get ready to hit the "Post" button on this blog entry, I realize that an hour has passed...  Its 5:30 am, or 11:30 am.  I don't remember the last time I coughed.  Time to go back to bed.  But before I go:

    What did he just say?!?!
    Ken-ism #16:

    "I have no general knowledge.
    I have only very specific knowledge."


    Thanks again, Ken and Cindy,
    and Happy 50th, Nana and Pop-Pop!

    Sunday, May 23, 2010

    We're sorry we can't come to the blog right now, but if you leave your name...

    We're sorry we can't come to the blog right now, but if you leave your name...

    196 days ago, the adventure began.  But only now have we actually set foot on European soil and begun our great adventure.

    While we are away, have some fun parking Voyager of the Seas.  (But please take it easy...  We haven't quite gotten our sea legs, yet!) 


    Saturday, May 22, 2010

    0 more days!!!

    The Finance Report:

    What a way to go! The $US dropped a wee bit from last week, but still finished incredibly strong, gaining a whopping 19% from when we first began tracking it in November 2009. It is no surprise at this point, but huge congratulations are in order for Mo 'Index Card' Lang as she handily walks away with the 1 EU prize.

    One last note. Converting euros to dollars will be rather simple on this cruise... A euro is currently $1.25. Viola!


    Thanks to everyone who played, or followed along in the fun!
    The Web Report:

    The final stats are in, and we had quite a ride.

       o We averaged 11 new vistors each day.
       o We had a record 42 new visitors on February 22, 2010.
       o (Click here to see what we were blogging about that week)

       o We averaged 64 unique vistors each day.
       o We had a record 270 unique visitors on April 2, 2010.
       o (Click here to see what we were blogging about that week)

       o We were visited by 66 countries.


    ...and we had a lot of fun along the way.


    Nana on the Titanic:

    For a while there it appeared that Mo might walk away with all of the big prizes, but not only did Karen swoop in to take this one, she did it with uncanny accuracy. Karen came within 46 views!!! 

    In fact, the judges in their utter amazement have decided this must result in some special rules to be called.  As a result, a 10% BONUS has been added to this pot, meaning Karen has won 1.1 EU for her effort.  Great job, Karen!!!.
    Mo - 40,356
    Karen - 39,423 - WINNER!!!
    (Currently - 39,377)
    Old Folks - 38,848
    Mike - 36,368
    Cyn - 35,112

    Ya snooze, ya lose!

    Free postcards will be sent to these lucky winners! Thanks for playing!

    Postcard #1: One Million Postcards
    Postcard #2: Pope Benny
    Postcard #3: Aunty E!


    But be sure to come back in the coming days for a few more surprises. You'll find something to pass the time while we are away, you'll see plenty of content when we return from our trip, and I would not be at all surprised if our Cruisemistress managed to post a few updates while we are away.

    Friday, May 21, 2010

    1 more day...

    OMG, OMG, we are so almost on our way.  Hard to believe.  Me and my OCDness had a fun week.  See what I've been doing.

    I have been tracking arrival times of our flight throughout the week.  

    Saturday -  Fight arrived 16 minutes early
    Sunday - Fight arrived 22 minutes early
    Monday - Flight arrived on time
    Tuesday - Flight arrived 12 minutes late
    Wednesday - Flight arrived 14 minutes late
    Thursday - Flight arrived 41 minutes late due to delayed cargo loading.
    I checked our flight on Saturday (I could do that even though it is only Thursday and as of right now our flight is on time!).

    I have been tracking Mount Heartburn as well...

    Saturday - headline read Iceland Volcano Eyjafjallajökull Is Back, More Flight Bans Feared in the Days to Come but Barcelona airport unaffected.
    Sunday - headline read Northern Ireland and Scottish Airports Closed Because of the Return of the Volcanic Ash Cloud but Barcelona airport unaffected
    Monday - headline read The Volcanic Ash Cloud Keeps Many European Airports Closed but Barcelona airport still unaffected
    Tuesday - headline read Clear Skies Over Europe, as Winds Clean up UK’s Airspace of Volcanic Ash Cloud Barcelona

    Wednesday - no new news coverage
    Thursday - no new news coverage and you know what they news is good news

    I have been tracking the shopping habits of the North American West Orange-its and found the following:
    Saturday - local woman purchases digital camera after much agony
    Sunday - local woman purchases comfortable shoes, process causes much pain
    Monday, Tuesday - all quiet on the front

    Wednesday - locals converge on dry cleaners and woman receives digital camera and hands it over to local man for construction
    Thursday - local woman takes back digital camera and pretends to take pictures of local man.  Local man deletes photos and takes pictures of local cat (Goodie)
    Friday - locals take off from work to perform last minute tasks, local man goes to mall (why do today what can be done tomorrow) in search of comfortable shoes and dress shirts

    Who is vacationing this week in the French Riveria you ask?

    Saturday - 63rd Cannes Film Festival -12 May to 23 May 2010
    Ridley Scott's Robin Hood with Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett opens the festival.
    Tuesday - Rumors abound about America's newest darlings making an appearance in Cannes or possibly the on the Promenade des Anglais.  
    Thursday - Cate Blanchett shares a bottle of wine with local man while local woman consoles Russell Crowe over recent news stories abound about Crowes Irish accent.

    Finally, I've been checking out the weather in Italy and France.  Earlier in the week I would have said "don't shoot the messenger" but the weather has cleared up and seems quite pleasant.

    23-May Barcelona, Spain Sun: Sunny with a low of 57 and a high of 74. 0% chance of precipitation
    24-May Cruising Cruising Mon: ?
    25-May Naples, Capri, Italy Tues: Partially sunny with a low of 60 and a high of 72. 10% chance of precipitation
    26-May Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy Wed: Partially sunny with a low of 56 and a high of 72.  20% chance of precipitation
    27-May Livorno (Florence/Pisa), Italy Thurs: Partially sunny with a low of 57 and a high of 72. 20% chance of precipitation
    28-May Villefranche (Nice), France Fri: Partially sunny with a low of 54 and a high of 69. 20% chance of precipitation
    29-May Provence (Toulon), France Sat: Partially sunny with a low of 54 and a high of 72.  0% chance of precipitation

    Rain or shine let's make the most of this time together.

    Thursday, May 20, 2010

    2 more days....

    It is possible to minimize the effects of jet lag by following some basic steps before, during, and after the flight.

    Before the flight
    People are advised to get plenty of rest, exercise and follow a healthy diet. When the person is in good shape, it is easier to cope after landing.

    During the flight
    Long flights are dehydrating. Ask for "two orange juices with no ice" on the flight. Eat lightly, stay hydrated, and have no coffee and only minimal sugar until the flight's almost over. Alcohol and sedatives will stress your body and aggravate jet lag.

    Avoid the slight chance of getting a blood clot in your leg during long flights by taking short walks hourly. While seated, flex your ankles and don't cross your legs. Some people are more prone to clots (factors include obesity, age, use of oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy, pregnancy, smoking, or genetics).

    The in-flight movies are good for one thing — nap time. With two or three hours' sleep during the transatlantic flight, you'll be functional the day you land.

    Passengers are encouraged to exercise legs while sitting and move around the plane when the seat belt sign is switched off, every hour or two.

    And, finally, adjust sleeping hours on the plane to match the destination time.

    Upon arrival
    A helpful way to minimize the jet lag is to adapt to the local time and eat accordingly, following the meals that correspond. Also, exposure to sunlight during the day is helpful.  On arrival, stay awake until an early local bedtime. If you doze off at 4 p.m. and wake up at midnight, you've accomplished nothing. Plan a good walk until early evening. Jet lag hates fresh air, daylight, and exercise. Your body may beg for sleep, but stand firm: Refuse. Force your body's transition to the local time. You'll probably awaken very early on your first morning. Trying to sleep later is normally futile. Get out and enjoy a "pinch me, I'm cruising the Mediterranean" walk, as the ship slowly comes to life. This will probably be the only sunrise you'll see in Europe.

    Wednesday, May 19, 2010

    3 more days...

    At this point, who cares about
    the volcano or the weather
    or the rate of the Euro...


    Thanks Ken & Cindy!

    We're All Going To
    Cruise Along & Enjoy!

    Tuesday, May 18, 2010

    4 more days...

    Time passes quickly!
    Another look back...

    Cruisemistress Cindy recently asked if I would update the slideshow near the end of the blog, which I am glad to do.  There are now only 4 days left until this great adventure begins.  The time has almost come.

    CLICK HERE to see the slideshow Full Screen

    As we all know, this is just an appetizer, or a "coming attractions" of sorts.  Imagine what the real world will be like! 

    Thanks again to Cruisemaster Ken
     and Cruisemistress Cindy!

    4 more days!

    Monday, May 17, 2010

    5 more days...

    The Finance Report:
    Off the Chart!!!

    What a way to go!  It had been a real nail-biter for most of this contest in which almost everyone was in the running for some length of the time.  It turned into a fierce battle between two strong competitors, and a storybook ending in which we all live happily ever after.  This was well worth the Euro prize for me!  So, is this it?  Are there any more surprises in store with just under a week to go?  Stay tuned to find out.

    We have lift off!
    Mo is running away with it!

    The winner of our contest (Grand Prize = 1 euro!) will be the one with the closest guess on May 21st, 2010. 


    66 Countries...

    I went and tallied the votes...  I got nothin' for ya.  Head back to camp.

    free counters


    Nana on the Titanic:

    While Mike is currently the closest contestant in the great 'Views of Nana on the Titanic on YouTube' race, one thing is for sure...  He will NOT be the winner.  Much like the $US, Nana's popularity is on a rocket.  This contest ends 5/21/2010.  Whomever bet the closest will claim a one Euro prize for their efforts. 

    Mo - 40,356
    Karen - 39,423
    Old Folks - 38,848
    (Currently - 36,938)
    Mike - 36,368
    Cyn - 35,112


    Our offer remains open to anyone in the world who wants to receive a postcard from the cast of Operation: Poisson Rouge during our European adventure.  Please click on the 'contact me' button below, and make your request.  There are 3 more postcards requests available. 

    Postcard #2: Pope Benedict 
    Postcard #3, #4, #5: Still available


    Just a little bit longer...

    5 MORE DAYS!!!

    Sunday, May 16, 2010

    6 more days...


    Tune in on Wednesday for the pre-departure update on volcanic activity in Iceland and if it will impact our flight to Barcelona!

    Click Here for Rome 10 day weather forecast

    Cruise along and (try to) enjoy!...^_~


    Saturday, May 15, 2010

    7 more days...

    In a stunning turn of events...fraught with mystery and intrigue...And our leading story tonight...woman breaks arm, foils family vacation*.

    This is the last full weekend before our departure to Europe.  What will you be doing?  Do you have Gazillions To Dos or just Odds and Ends. Almost 100% of the Lang Clan said that they only have odds and ends left.  I pity the poor person who said they have a Gazillion To Dos.  Psyche! Most have a Gazillion (how many is that in Euros?) things to do followed by Not Much!  You retired folks make us working stiffs look bad!

    But we pretty much agree that we are silly/stupid/dumb to get any Euros in the USA before our trip.  Mike of course is yielding to Mo on this one.   

    *Some of the best quotes came from the question asking if anything could make this experience better.

    - Mom goes for the heartfelt answer "with Tootie"

    - Ken the ever cautions, chants "No jinx, no jinx"

    - And Karen replied "The experience would be better if I don't have to get a hard cast - will see this AM at 11 - hope the orthopedic Dr. just gives me a sling/air cast and some mild pain meds...I know...terrible timing! "

    And to Karen's reply I said "watcha talking bout Willis?" and then called Mom and Dad.  For many days Karen was having pain and tingling in her arm.  Looking at possible causes was a little scary, what could it be? And then Karen remembered bumping her elbow/arm.  An x-ray later the doctor says Karen has a slight fracture, she should take a Advil, go on the cruise and then the doctor charges Karen's insurance a ton [sorry that was projection]. 

    Everyone please meet Kitty Karen (happily not at the Kitty Sanctuary).  Please note, poor Karen did not get any happy pills.  Feel better Karen - we love ya.

    Looking forward to seeing you all at our house!  Be safe!  Be happy!

    Friday, May 14, 2010

    8 more days...

    Cruising with Cyn Collection of useless information circuitous to the OPERATION: Poisson Rouge Adventure.

    Provence is the last stop on our European adventure.  Collective sigh on 3, 1....2...3.

    This day next week, I will be [hopefully] completely last minute packing.  What will you be doing next Friday? 

    Ships, ships and more ships. Toulon is France's exciting naval epicenter. Bobbing sailboats dot its busy harbor. On land you'll find tons of maritime museums, ancient fortresses and a fair share of sailors. And in true French fashion you'll also find plenty of stylish spots for shopping and lunching. But what really makes this seaport so special is its proximity to glitzy Saint-Tropez and the Côte d'Azur.

    The One Thing You Don't Want to Miss
    If you're looking for the perfect photo op, take a cable car to the peak of Mont Faron. After you've soaked up the scenery, visit the Mémorial du Débarquement en Provence, a museum that houses an interesting collection of World War II memorabilia.

    Other Fun Things to Do
    Catch some Mediterranean sunshine at Plage du Morillon - the seaport's most popular beach. Pop into the Musée de Toulon and ogle its vast collection of Provençal, Italian and religious masterpieces from the 16th century to the present. Take a boat tour around the harbor.

    Shopping For Bargains There are plenty of places to shop for designer fashions, fine jewelry and French perfume. You'll even find a three-story mall that has just about everything, including a supermarket and a movie theater.  

    Blah, Blah, Blah, onto the survey.   

    See ya fine folks in Provence.

    Thursday, May 13, 2010

    9 more days...

    Toilets, Tipping, and Customs

    All toilets are not alike:
    Most European toilets are similar to our own, but some consist of porcelain footprints and a squat-and-aim hole.  Most people in the world sit on their haunches.  Our need to sit on a throne is in the minority.  Toilet paper is another Western "essential".  If wastebaskets are full of dirty paper, leave yours there too.  The plumbing may be frail.  While WC's have improved in Western Europe, it's wise to carry pocket-size tissue packs which are easy to buy in Europe (wonder why).

    Finding a decent public toilet

    Restaurants -- Any place that serves food or drinks has a rest room.  They may not be labelled so you can see it from the street, but you can easily walk into nearly any restaurant or cafe, politely and confidently, and find a bathroom.  Assume it's in the back and either upstairs or downstairs.  It's easiest in a large place that has outdoor seating.  Waiters will think you are a customer making a quick trip inside.  If you feel like it, ask permission.  Just smile, "Toilet?"  Fast food places are very common and always have a decent rest room.

    Public Buildings -- Train stations, government buildings, and upper floors of department stores.  Parks often have rest rooms, but be wary and hold your nose.  Never leave a museum without taking advantage of its rest rooms -- free and clean.  Large, classy, old hotel lobbies -- you'll always find a nice bathroom and plenty of soft TP.

    Coin-op Toilets on the Street -- Some large cities are dotted with coin-operated telephone booth WC's on street corners.  Insert a coin, the door opens, and you have 15 minutes of toilet accompanied by Muzak.  When you leave it disinfects itself.

    Trains -- Use the free toilets on the train rather than those in the station to save time and money. Toilets on first-class cars are a cut above second-class toilets. "go" first class even with a second-class ticket. Train toilets are located on the ends of cars, where it's most jiggly.  Some toilets empty directly on the tracks. Never use a train's WC while stopped in a station (unless you didn't like that particular town). A train's WC cleanliness deteriorates as the journey progresses.

    The Flush --  After you've found and used a toilet, you're down to your last challenge — flushing it. Rarely will you encounter a familiar handle. Find some protuberance and push, pull, twist, squeeze, stomp, or pray to it until the water starts. Automatic urinals, sinks, and hand dryers are increasingly common.

    The Tip -- Paying to use a public WC is a European custom that irks many Americans. But isn't it really worth a few coins, considering the cost of water, maintenance, and cleanliness? And you're probably in no state to argue, anyway. Sometimes the toilet is free, but the woman in the corner sells sheets of toilet paper. Most common is the tip dish by the entry. The local equivalent of about 25 cents is plenty. Caution: Many attendant ladies leave only bills and too-big coins in the tray to bewilder the full-bladdered tourist. The keepers of Europe's public toilets have earned a reputation for crabbiness. You'd be crabby, too, if you lived under the street in a room full of public toilets. Humor them, understand them, and carry some change so you can leave them a coin or two.

    Women in the Men's Room -- The women who inhabit Europe's WCs are a popular topic of conversation. Sooner or later you'll be minding your own business at the urinal and the lady will bring you your change or sweep under your feet. Yes, it is distracting, but you'll just have to get used to it — she has.


    Tipping in Europe isn't as automatic and generous as it is in the US — but for special service, tips are appreciated, if not expected. As in the US, the proper amount depends on your resources, tipping philosophy, and the circumstance. Some general guidelines apply:

    Tipping in Restaurants

    Restaurant tips are more modest in Europe than in America. In most places, 10 percent is a big tip. If your bucks talk at home, muzzle them on your travels. As a matter of principle, if not economy, the local price should prevail. Tipping 15 or 20 percent in Europe is unnecessary, if not culturally insensitive.

    Tipping is an issue only at restaurants that have waiters and waitresses. If you order your food at a counter (in a pub, for example), don't tip.

    At table-service restaurants, the tipping etiquette and procedure varies slightly from country to country. But in general, European servers are well-paid, and tips are considered a small "bonus" — to reward great service, or for simplicity in rounding the total bill to a convenient number. In most countries, 5 percent is adequate, 10 verges on excessive, and 15 or 20 percent is unheard-of.

    In Mediterranean countries, the "service charge" servizio in Italian, service in French, servicio in Spanish) — usually figured at 10 or 15 percent of your total bill — can be handled in different ways. Sometimes the menu will note that the service is included (e.g., servizio incluso), meaning that the prices listed in the menu already have this charge built in. In other cases, the service might show up as a separate line item at the end of your bill. (In this case, in Italy, the menu might say servizio non incluso — meaning the individual prices don't include service.) Fixed-price tourist deals (a.k.a. menu) include service.

    In Northern and Eastern Europe, the menu or bill is less likely to address the "service charge," but you can usually assume that it's included in the prices.
    Virtually anywhere in Europe, you can do as the Europeans do and (if you're pleased with the service) round up a euro or two. This can vary a bit. For example, a 10 percent tip is expected in Hungary. And in very touristy areas, some servers have noticed the American obsession with overtipping — and might hope for a Yankee-size tip. But the good news is that European servers and diners are far more laid-back about all this than we are. Any tip is appreciated, the stakes are low, and it's no big deal if you choose the "wrong" amount.

    Typically, it's better to hand the tip to the waiter when you're paying your bill than to leave it on the table, particularly in busy places where the wrong party might pocket the change. In Germanic countries, rather than physically leaving a tip on the table, it's considered discreet and classy to say the total number of euros you'd like the waiter to keep (including his tip) when paying. So, if the bill is €42, hand him €50 while saying, "45." You'll get €5 back and feel pretty European. In most of Europe, servers prefer to be tipped in cash even if you pay with your credit card. (Otherwise the tip may never reach your server.)

    To tip the cabbie, round up. For a typical ride, round up about 5–10 percent (to pay a €4.50 fare, give €5; for a €28 fare, give €30). If the cabbie hauls your bags and zips you to the airport to help you catch your flight, you might want to toss in a little more. But if you feel like you're being driven in circles or otherwise ripped off, skip the tip.

    Special Services
     It's thoughtful to tip a couple of euros to someone who shows you a special sight and who is paid in no other way. Tour guides at public sights often hold out their hands for tips after they give their spiel; if you've already paid for the tour, don't tip extra unless you're really impressed  (€1–2). At hotels, porters expect a euro for each bag they carry (another reason to pack light). Leaving the maid a euro per overnight at the end of your stay is a nice touch. In general, if someone in the service industry does a super job for you, a tip of a couple of euros is appropriate...but not required.

    When in doubt, ask. If you're not sure whether (or how much) to tip for a service, ask the TI; they'll fill you in on how it's done on their turf.

    Europeans do many things differently from the way we do. Simple as these things are, they can be frustrating barriers and cause needless, occasionally serious problems.

    A European's handwritten numbers look different from ours. The 1s have an upswing. The number 4 often looks like a short lightning bolt. If you don't cross your 7, it may be mistaken as a sloppy 1, and you could miss your train (and be mad at the French for "refusing to speak English"). Avoid using "#" for "number" — it's not common in Europe.

    When counting with your fingers, start with your thumb. If you hold up your first finger, you'll probably get two; and making a "peace" sign to indicate the number two may get you three — or a punch in the nose in parts of Britain, where it's an obscene gesture.  Or you get three bacon!

    Dates and Decimals
    Europeans reverse the day and month in numbered dates. Christmas is 25-12-07 instead of 12-25-07, as we would write it. Commas are decimal points and decimals commas, so a dollar and a half is 1,50 and there are 5.280 feet in a mile.

    The 24-hour clock is used in any official timetable. This includes bus, train, and tour schedules. Learn to use it quickly and easily. Everything is the same until 12:00 noon. Then, instead of starting over again at 1:00 p.m., the Europeans keep on going — 13:00, 14:00, and so on. 18:00 is 6:00 p.m. (subtract 12 and add p.m.). Remember that European time is six/nine hours ahead of the East/West Coasts of the US.

    European countries (except Great Britain) use kilometers instead of miles. A kilometer is six-tenths of a mile. To quickly translate kilometers to miles, cut the kilometer figure in half and add 10 percent of the original figure (e.g., 420 km = 210 + 42 = 252 miles). Some people prefer to drop the last digit and multiply by six: Quick, what's 150 km? (15 x 6 = 90 miles.)

    Europeans measure temperatures in degrees Celsius. Zero degrees C = 32 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use a formula to convert temperatures in Celsius to Fahrenheit (divide C by 5, multiply by 9, and add 32 to get F), or easier and nearly as accurate, double the Celsius temperature and add 30. (To convert Fahrenheit to Celsius, subtract 32 from F, divide by 9, then multiply by 5.) A memory aid: 28° C = 82° F — darn hot. And a poem: 30 is hot, 20 is nice, 10 is cold, 0 is ice.

    House numbers often have no correlation to what's across the street. While odd is normally on one side and even is on the other, #27 may be directly across from #2.

    Floors of buildings are numbered differently. The bottom floor is called the ground floor. What we would call the second floor is a European's first floor. So if your room is on the second floor (European), bad news — you're on the third floor (American). On the elevator, push whatever's below "1" to get to the ground floor. On an escalator, keep the left lane open for passing. Stand to the right.

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    10 more days...

    You know, with me posting 4 out of 7 days of the week, you would think I would get the first single digit count down day but NO!  What odds would Monte Carlo give? But I digress..

    Our family has interesting buying habits when it comes to under-garmets and this you mostly only fnd out by asking. Answers to "are you buying new underwear" ran the gambit and includes these priceless responses:

    Michael says:
    The ones I have are all "like new"

    Mo, the-always-astute-one says:
    Better than buying old underwear

    While Mom solves all problems by NOT wearing underwear, Dad is insisting on wearing Speedos all the while Karen curses the skinny-minny French women with their skimpy thongs. 

    As far as what this family is most looking forward to in Nice our answers were mostly unamious: Relaxing, Sleeping In and combinations of putting mother's feet in the Mediterranean.  Why do 4 of us want to put mother's fee in the Mediterranean?  And who would they be?  Like I said interesting family.

    You heard it here first - there will be a throw down between Mom and I. For some interesting reason Mom thinks SHE will be trapsieing around Europe with George Clooney but Georgie and I have booked an excursion for the two of us.  You know the song, Georgie and Cindy in a tree...

    And lastly Karen's report on Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano IS highly antipated but the volcano will NOT be stopping our flight to Barcelona.  We are going to Barcelona come hell or hot volcano lava [high water].  Come on guys cut me a break -- all these blogs get hard :=)  
    See ya in Provence - a very very French excursion.