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Travel Babel: World’s Best Airports

Posted by Miss Maccy on Apr 30, 2009 in Automobiles

Travel Babel: World’s Best Airports.

Huh, look at that, no Aussie Airports on the list at all. Who would have thought?

Interestingly these are based on surveys done four times a year. Next time I see someone doing surveys in an airport, I am their best friend!

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Books can be Lemons

Posted by Miss Maccy on Jan 30, 2009 in Automobiles, Transport

It continues to be a bazillion degrees here and I’m still Miss Crankypants. I guess not every book I order can be the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow but I wanted to tell you what not to buy. The book in question is called ” Driving in Europe 101″ [amtap amazon:asin=1599754894] This is one instance where the product description on Amazon is better written and more informative than the actual product. The book itself promises “Your fun and easy guide to planning a driving vacation through Europe” and “Everything you will need to know to take that driving vacation through Europe including planning suggestions, to-do lists, document requirements and conversion tables..” and  “With the clear explanations and expert advice in this friendly guide , you will discover just how easy it is to drive the streets of European countries”.

Credit Card Tolls are the default
Image by erik jaeger via Flickr

Well, obviously it sold me. I am just a little bit nervous about driving in Europe. What with driving on the opposite side of the road, different signs and road rules. I am quite keen to follow those road rules. I don’t  want to pay large fines or get arrested, in fact it’s a rather high priority. I was really hoping this book was going to put my mind at ease. One of the things I was a bit nervous about was how the toll road system would work in Italy and France. I’d really like to be prepared to deal with it before we get there. I flipped through this  book to the pages on France and here’s what it had to say about the tolls in France,

“Tolls are Levied on most Highways (autoroutes).”

Ooooooookaaaaaay. Not as informative as I’d hoped. How about Italy? The book says,

“Most of the limited access roads (Autostrada) are toll roads. You pay with cash or with a major credit card. Like an ATM , you will have to read or hear instructions from the tollbooth credit card machine in Italian. Unlike an ATM, there will probably be a long line of impatient people behind you. Cash and a pleasant smile may get you through the toll gates most expeditiously, but plastic is always an option if short on cash”.

So after reading that I basically went from mildly anxious to completely petrified at the thought of enormous queues of irate Italians piling up behind us while we desperately try to figure out mysterious spoken Italian instructions. I think in this case, denial was actually better. 

Just as a comparison, here’s a sneak preview of a completely different series of books. These books are written to give kids “fascinating facts and stories” about different countries. The one on France has this to say about toll roads,

“Many of France’s motorways are “toll roads”… On some you get a ticket and have to pay at the end of the motorway., on others you pay several times along the way at barriers. Epect your driver to frequently whinge about how much it costs! If you have the correct money you simply throw it into a type of metal basket by the side of the toll booth. This is the fun bit and should definitely be tried if your hot, cross driver will let you. The machines are very sensitive and weigh the money, so they know if the wrong coins (or something that is not even a coin)are thrown in, in which case the barriers will stay firmly locked down”. [amtap amazon:asin=1860111556]

You know, I hate to knock the little guys but “Driving in Europe 101” is a self-published type book and it really shows. It really needed much better editing and there simply isn’t enough worth while content in it. Despite the translations into European languages of obscure excuses used by drivers involved in unusual accidents, the humour of the book fell sadly flat in my opinion. At first I thought the book was a bit on the smarmy side but then after going back and reading it from the beginning I decided it was down right patronising. For example on the very first page of the introduction, Bowman says.
“Pull your son’s globe of the shelf. That’s the big-ball-thingie you purchased thinking your son would absorb geographic knowledge by osmosis if you simply put it by his bed”.
If I’d read that first page in the book store I would have put the book right back on the shelf where it belonged. Save your money and make a donation to Wikipedia instead.

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