There’s a downside to 3 weeks in Europe? Actually, there is. Three weeks is enough to put you solidly on Europe time, and you eventually have to come home. So? I’ve been wide awake since 3am. Not just kind of awake. I mean….full on…ready to rumble, I could go run a few miles awake. Instead, I will blog about a random smattering of reflections on the longest vacation I’ve ever taken.
Credit Cards and Cash
Early in my trip I wrote a post about my first credit card experience in Europe. I was unable to use my Chase Sapphire Preferred card to purchase a ticket on the regional train from the airport into Rome. When I used my Chip & Signature Marriott Rewards Premier Visa, my transaction processed. I wanted to let you know that I had very few issues beyond that with my Chase Sapphire Preferred. All the shops and restaurants we visited (except one) were equipped with both chip card readers and swipe card readers. Some had separate readers for each type of card, while others had a single reader that could process both cards. When attempting to purchase train tickets in Livorno, Italy for the short trip to Pisa, we were unable to get any card to work. Thankfully, the machines accepted cash because the line to purchase tickets from an agent was excessive. On the return from Pisa, my Marriott Rewards Premier Visa worked just fine for purchasing train tickets. Moral of the story, always keep some Euros (or other local currency) with you when traveling. (Funny story (to me): met some nice people from the southwest US in a restaurant in Athens. They seemed shocked when the restaurant did not want to accept US dollars for their meal. Seriously people?!)
You May Have Trouble Using Your Credit Card Even if You Call Them First
I have to admit, this one caught me by surprise. MrsMJ intended to use her Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Visa while we were away. It is Chip & Signature, and has no foreign transaction fees. She dutifully alerted Citibank to our travel plans before we departed, naming each country we would be visiting during our trip. Everything was fine until we arrived in Kusadasi, Turkey. We took the trip fully intending to purchase a carpet for our dining room while in Turkey. We visited the same seller we made our last purchase with, Topkapi, and found the perfect carpet. Offer the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Visa – “transaction declined, call bank.” Topkapi offered their phone to make the call. MrsMJ called and was placed on hold….for a LONG time. Frankly, I was getting a little hacked off that Citi would do this even if it wasn’t my dime paying for the call. When they finally did come back online, the fraud department went through the normal spiel of questions, which MrsMJ answered correctly.
Nonetheless, the final answer was that she would have to present herself in a Citibank branch with a picture ID before they would approve the purchase!!! Keep in mind, we were in Kusadasi, Turkey at the time. She handed over another card while on yet another long hold attempting to reach some kind of resolution, and the purchase was immediately approved with that card. I’m still trying to convince her not to cancel the Hilton Reserve Visa, because I think the Hilton Gold status alone is worth the annual fee. She is also on the hook for some not so insignificant foreign transaction fees because of Citi’s intransigence. Poor Citibank, they have made my wife mad. I really kind of feel for them.
My Fellow Countrymen
I love America. It is my country, afterall. A friend of mine, an ex-Marine, who has spent time all over the world and relishes travel to foreign locales used to have a saying, “only in America” when something funny (and good) would happen that really can only happen here. That said, I saw some behaviors exhibited by American tourists that played to the stereotypical “American tourist” picture that many have of us. Almost to a tee, we are loud. We speak loudly when others are quiet. We wear loud clothes. And then there were the nice folks we met that just assumed everyone accepts US dollars (though I admit that there are some countries where US dollars are widely accepted). Later, I witnessed one of my fellow countrymen lecturing the guest relations staffer on the ship about how the ship rocked too much during the night because we were trying to sail too fast. To each his/her own, I suppose, but I’d rather try and fit in, and try to learn a few basic phrases of the local language than just assume things will work out for me. And by the way, you’ll never hear me question the judgement of an experienced sea captain on the ship’s speed in public either….. though I guess I might feel differently if I cruised on some other cruise line that shall remain nameless. (Off soapbox)
Something else I noticed on this trip – more positive images of America. Yes, I see the contrast in these two paragraphs. What am I talking about? Upscale and locally focused retail shops were offering more clothing featuring more uniquely American images than I had noticed in the past. I saw more than one trendy looking European wearing an image of the American flag, scarves imprinted with a “stars and stripes” theme, handbags imprinted with the same, etc. Maybe it’s just me, and maybe it means nothing, but I think this is probably a good thing.
The Last Musing For Now
As much as I loved being in Europe, visiting so many fabulous places, eating great food, and drinking wonderful wines, I really am happy to be home. As my friend says, only in America! And on this American holiday, I wish you all the very happiest of Thanksgivings! I am thankful for my wife, my family, my job, the ability to travel, and for all of you who flatter me by reading this blog.
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