My friend Deborah negotiated to rent a car in western France for us, including me emailing my wife’s driver’s license so she could show the dealer. I tried to secure the vehicle myself, but the webpage was terrible. Among other things, it kept slipping back to French, even though it had an English-language option.
Finding a vehicle with an automatic transmission was a challenge. Also, it was fairly expensive compared with US rates.
The downpayment for the trip we gave to AAA to give to Avanti was paid on January 21. I guess we’re really doing this. We booked another hotel for the night after the wedding, and all the accommodations were set.
My wife in the US had never met my friend Deborah. One of the lovely things about technology is that they got to at least see each other on Facebook. They seem to hit it off.
The one unsettled element involves buying train tickets. We’ve discovered that Avanti won’t order them until they have our valid passports.
Our passports expired in August 2020. We didn’t rush to get them renewed since we weren’t planning to go anywhere during COVID. I decided to get mine and received it in March of 2022.
My wife mailed her application on January 8, 2023, which was supposed to arrive at the processor on January 10. (We found out later that it wasn’t delivered until January 17.)
On February 5, Deborah frantically called my cell phone. We were waiting in line at an Indian food buffet. For reasons I didn’t understand, everyone within range of me could hear her, and I didn’t know how to fix it.
She checked with the train service and adjudged that there would be NO train tickets if we did not buy them immediately. The next day, she wrote: “Big problem. I went to the train station today to find out why there are no trains showing for the 18th from Paris to Auray and no trains showing for the 20th from Auray to Paris, and it seems…the SNCF has cancelled all trains for those days to do work on the tracks. Right during the four-day holiday weekend, the Semaine du Golfe, etc.”
I attempted to navigate the website The Société nationale des chemins de fer français is France’s national state-owned railway company. But I was having a terrible time. I was on the site for 45 minutes, and as it kept switching back and forth from English to French, I was quite literally getting a headache.
Ultimately, Deborah bought us tickets. I gave her my credit card number, but it didn’t work. I sent her 375 Euros via PayPal, which was $422 US.
On March 20, my wife’s passport finally arrived, and I emailed the vital info to AAA. I wrote on April 5 to AAA: “Do we have train tickets?” They wrote back, but neither my wife nor I received it. Finally, on April 12, it was confirmed: train tickets to Auray and then back to Paris.
Deborah worked on getting me a refund for the tickets she bought, complicated by the wonky technology on the part of the SNCF website, which is totally believable.
I could not have foreseen protests over French legislation that would increase the pension age to 64 from 62. President Macron said the measures are needed “to keep France internationally competitive amid declining fertility and an aging population.” The pushback started in January but intensified in March.
Alan Singer wrote in March: Macron “used a Parliamentary tactic to avoid an up or down vote on raising the retirement age.” He survived a vote of no confidence, which would have scuttled the bill and forced Macron’s cabinet, but not the French President, to resign.
More protests took place on May Day. “The pension overhaul was approved by the country’s Constitutional Council and officially signed into law, so while Mr. Macron will not find the issue easy to leave behind, there is little chance the protesters will be able to persuade him to reverse his decision.”
Talk about great timing.