Thursday, April 29, 2010

Better prices on those souvenirs?

Reading this, this morning:

April 28 (Reuters) - The euro tumbled to a one-year low against the dollar and Asian stocks fell after downgrades of Greece and Portugal's credit ratings set off a flight to safety on fears the euro zone's debt problems were spreading.

Currency converter tool:

However, the EU and IMF have agreed on some sort of bailout for Greece's financial woes, so maybe this slight "bump" for the dollar will be short lived. Hmm...

Sounds like Spain and Portugal are also have some financial struggles.

Any economic wizards out there who can add more to this?

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Greetings from Tour Guide and Packing Suggestions

From: Liz Mitchell
Date: April 28, 2010 2:22:31 AM
CDTTo: "Bledsoe, Ann M."
Subject: RE: EF tour in May

Hi Ann,Thanks for getting back to me, I use this Ef email and my personal yahoo so you can write to me on either!
I recommend that the students bring their student cards with them and the teachers bring their teacher cards.
I've attached a packing list, please email it to the parents, students and other adults on the trip as it gives all the information about packing, bank cards etc. If there's anything on it that isn't clear please just ask so we can make sure everyone arrives prepared and no problems with money etc.Here it is for you to look at.

Pre-tour Golden Packing Rules
1) Pack layers. The weather can be changeable in Europe so it’s best to wear layers. Also pack a rain jacket or umbrella, we spend quite a lot of time outside so it’s best to be prepared for the rain! We are not allowed to use hotel towels for the beach or pool so please bring a spare towel.
2) Pack light in a small suitcase. European buses, hotel rooms and elevators are much smaller than in the US and Canada so a big suitcase will not fit. The group has to carry their own suitcases to and from the bus, hotel, room, train, etc there is no porter service, so please make sure you can pick up and move your luggage without problems, sometimes you may have to carry your suitcase up and down stairs.
3) Airline weight restriction. Most airlines are now charging for the second check-in luggage and it can be about 55 Euros, so BRING ONLY 1 CHECK-IN. They are also now charging for extra weight, the limit on most airlines is 22kgs / 50lbs so make sure you have under this limit so you have room for souvenirs and things you buy while in Europe.
4) Pack comfortable shoes for walking. We do a lot of walking on EF tours so you need shoes that are comfortable enough to last a whole day sightseeing on your feet, flip flops all day can be uncomfortable and give you back problems.
5) Bring European electricity convertors, adapters and plug extensions. If you need to bring electrial devices you must have a convertor to convert the power to European 220V, plus an adapter for European 2 pin sockets (3 pin in the UK), make sure the adapter is deep enough to fit in European sockets as they can be deep set in the wall. Most hotels provide hairdryers and I have had a lot of girls burning out their hair-straightners as the electricity in Europe is too strong for the US models, you can buy them here.
6) Bring ATM cards with PIN number and/or Euros in cash. It is not recommended to bring traveller cheques and dollars cash, the exchange rate is very bad and they are increasingly hard to change. Bring an ATM card to withdraw Euros from ATMs, you must have a PIN number and INFORM YOUR BANK BEFORE LEAVING of the countries you are travelling to so they allow withdrawals and payments, if not informed they will block the card.
7) Bring money belt/ security pouches etc. It is advisable to carry money, credit cards, passport etc in a security belt, pouch, bag etc. Pickpocketing in Europe is widespread and can happen so quickly that you are not aware they have taken your valuables.
8) Bring EF telephone cards. If you need to phone home it is easier with an EF telephone card or to buy local telephone calling cards once you arrive in Europe, though a telephone card bought in a country can only be used in that country, for example you can not use a French card in Spain. The cards bought in the US or Canada do not work in Europe as you must have a European local access code. Parents can phone the hotel where the group is staying so the students don’t have the trouble of finding a phone card and it being an expensive call.
9) Bring alarm clock and watch or something which tells the time. We have strict wake up times, some hotels don’t have a wake-up call service or if they do sometimes a room is missed or the telephone has been knocked off the cradle etc, this can cause delays as we wait for those who woke up late, so bring something which has an alarm clock. When we are out during the day the group very often will have free time and be told to meet back at a certain time, therefore it is imperative that everyone has a watch or something to tell the time (cell phone, ipod etc).
10) Label your suitcase clearly. It is best to have your case labelled so everyone knows that is a case from our group, especially important if the group takes a train.
11) Bring a small day bag. Even if you bring the EF backpack bring a small day bag as well, some musuems don’t allow backpacks in and it can be more comfortable for you.
It seems that the airlines are getting back to normal, the direct flights from the US will have no problems, I had a group arrive from New York right in the middle of the volcanic ash cloud and they arrived on time with no delays or problems. The German airlines are clearing their backlog so everything will be fine in 3 weeks time, but I will be following the news closely.
I think that's it for the moment.have a good wishes,Liz
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Spain, 21 Days Away

21 days--it doesn't sound like a long time away, but I'm still measuring time in how many hundreds of pages I have to grade. I have visions of a few sights ahead, but I doubt if my list matches everyone else's. I'll be curious to hear what others are eager to find.

I'm been to Barcelona. I did the official "stay behind" from our school Italy trip, and flew to Barcelona to meet friends. It's a great city--from Gaudi's elaborate and bizarre buildings, the relaxed walks, to the beaches. I felt safe and immediately at home (with a good map). But one of my Korean students warned that he had been robbed, walking alone in Barcelona, just last year....We'll be careful, and maybe not wander off alone too often.

Madrid? I don't know much about it, and really only picture it from various films, like Vantage Point-- , which showed lots of beautiful plazas, between police chases.

I'm excited about our daytrip to Morocco. I had wanted to spirit us away for an extra day, and found the train schedules from the coast down to Casablanca. Patti was willing to sign up on the spot if I could guarantee Rick's Cafe, and Carla M. said we really needed to just abscond and visit Fez, with its winding medieval market, but we won't have time. Those adventures will have to be another trip. (A North Africa tour? Morocco, Tunisia? I read about a great Roman villa recovered from the desert sands in Libya, and there are a dozen sites from the original Star Wars sets all around Tunisia!)

And I had hoped to get Brad and Diedre Lookingbill signed up for this trip because of our last couple days in Portugal. This has been one of Diedre's dream vacation spots for many years, and she was headed there, already in the air, everything great, on the morning of 9/11/2001...and she wound up diverted to Canada instead. And now she's about to have that second kid any minute. Ah. Maybe next time.

And there are things we probably won't get to see in Spain. I'm very excited about this new solar tower just outside Seville--http://http// --but haven't gotten any big enthusiasm for this short--short!--detour. (Likewise, for our next year's trip to France, I suggested we go have a tour of a French nuclear power plant. Stephanie was aghast at this proposed waste of time; Kim Major said something in French which my high school language teacher hadn't thought it appropriate to teach us; and Jim Earhart scrunched his face and said I would destroy the romance of the whole tour. I quickly backed away, offering up wine tours in Burgandy. Alas. Add on another cathedral, another postcard icon...).
[but just for basic info: ]

But everyone travels in a different way. Sometimes all of us travel with too narrow a focus. When we went to Egypt 3 years ago, we went to see the monuments of a culture 3000 years dead and didn't prepare to meet living Egypt--which is impoverished, struggling, desperate. There were the tourist police with submachine guns at every intersection, air in Cairo I could scarcely breathe, and the incessant beggars and salesmen.

But Spain--what will we find there? What story do we expect to hear?

later, bob
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A First Post for CC Travelers

I know that many of you are ready to post your first comments to this exciting new medium. I think that this venue will provide great insight to those considering future travel opportunities with CC and offer a useful communication with which to share various experiences.
Ok folks, don't be afraid to start posting. Feel free to experiment now - we can easily take these comments down before "going live". Just wanted to get a post up so you could get a feel for what you are in for- :)
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