J’APPRENDS TOUS LES JOURS (We Learn Everyday)
1) When going to a grocery store in Southern France, always bring your own grocery bags…they do not supply paper or plastic.
2) Produce in many of the grocery stores in Southern France must be placed on the scale which then prints out a price tag based on the product and weight.
3) Sit in your assigned seat on the train or risk a domino effect…you may end up without a seat.
4) Vignettes are a tax enforced on drivers in certain European countries which allow drivers to use the freeways. It is a sticker in which one can purchase at a major gas station and then is placed on the windshield. If you are caught driving on one of these highways without the sticker…a hefty fine is charged. The highways have the symbol of the sticker on the entrance ramps but unless someone tells you what that symbol means you may not know to buy the “toll” sticker or where to buy it!
5) When in Austria, some groceries will have the carts locked together. Deposit 1 euro coin and the cart will be released (similar to the luggage cart racks in airports) however, if and when you return the grocery cart back to the pile and re-lock it…your 1 euro coin will be returned.
6) Yes, they will ticket you if your parking ticket stub is past due. The main machine found near the parking areas will have you place coins in it for up to the maximum time allowed. It will then spit out a piece of paper with a time. Place the piece of paper on your dashboard. You must be back to your car to either move it or put more money into the machine or they will give you a parking ticket. This is similar to our parking meters except…there is only one machine for many parking spots so just because you don’t see the meter right at your spot, doesn’t mean there isn’t a piper to pay!
7) 11) The younger the coconut…the sweeter the juice and the softer the flesh- these are the best suited for drinking. As the coconut ages…it turns brown on the outside, the flesh is so hard it has to be scraped out and the milk is only good for cooking.
8) Always bring toilet paper with you while visiting China. Not only are most toilets holes in the ground for squatting, but there is usually no toilet paper. Out of all the countries we’ve been to…China has the worst toilets.
9) In Beijing, they have set days where certain cars are not allowed on the road…they do this in hopes of cutting down some of the pollution. It forces people to carpool or take public transport on the days their license plate is not allowed on the road. So for example on Mondays, if your license plate has 3 set numbers on it…it can not be driven that day.
9) In China, they are not allowed on the grass…grass is a living thing and walking on it would hurt it.
10) Instead of peeling and slicing a kiwi, cut it in half and use a spoon to scoop out the fruit like you would a grapefruit.
11) It is not necessary to hire a tour guide for a trip through SE Asia…it is very easy, safe and cheap to get around on your own.
12) One of the most well-known sayings in SE Asia is, “Same Same but different” meaning…you can go to many vendors and many stores and see the same exact products at different places for different prices.
13) There are many rabid dogs running loose in India…if you are approached by one, pick up something off the ground even if you are pretending because there isn’t anything to pick up and while yelling back at the dog, act like you are throwing something at it. You do not want to get bitten and this was taught to us by a local…we saw it work with our own eyes!
14) The high-end hotels in India charge so much more money to hire a driver to take you around town…instead walk a block or so away from the hotel and catch your own tuk-tuk or cab which will save you money and be the same ride.
15) The tuk-tuk drivers have pre-set arrangements with specific stores selling to tourists…if they can talk you into visiting one of them, your price will be higher because the store has to pay the driver. So…try to go shopping on your own for the best negotiation in price.
16) When on a safari, never walk without a ranger at night to your bungalow from the main lobby…lions hunt at night, better safe than sorry!
17) When planning a safari, make sure you find out how many people are allowed in the jeep at a time…you do not want more than 6-8.
18) When picking your lodge for a safari, make sure you find out whether or not kids are allowed to ride along. We did not want to have a PG rated drive for the price these lodges charge!
19) Make sure you pre-schedule appointments for wine tasting in Mendoza or risk not getting in and wasting a lot of time! It is unlike in the USA where you can just walk in…some places will take you but most need a reservation.
20) Make sure to stay really hydrated when hiking, specifically the Iguazu Falls area was super hot weather and there was a lot of walking around. In fact, bring hydrating tablets to throw in your water which will energize you with lost electrolytes…those are amazing and we bring them with us on hikes. They also really helped all of us to feel better on the Machu Picchu hike.
21) In Argentina, they are very good about specifying whether or not the wine was aged in barrels but another rule of thumb is it will have the word reserva/gran reserva on the bottle.