Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Strassbourg and Colmar: Christmas Markets on the Rhine

The medication that made my throat not hurt also made my heart run fast and beat loudly, and made me not sleep. I remember there are some cold medications that do that to me and stopped taking it, but after a really bad night, I had to tell AdventureMan I really could not go into Strasbourg for the day, I was really sick.

He was shocked. We have been in and out of Strasbourg and Colmar all our grown-up lives. We would stay at the Officers Circle in Strasbourg, just a short walk from downtown. We had so looked forward to this part of the trip, so . . . he knows I am really SICK.

I spend the day sitting up, sleeping. I couldn’t breathe. Remember how thankful I was for the constant supply of really hot water in the showers? I was so sick, I took a 15 minute shower every hour or so, so the steam could help me breathe. I think I ate something in the casual restaurant, or brought some soup back to my room, but I didn’t want to be around people and expose them to me.

By late afternoon I was better. Having stopped taking the pills for my sore throat, I discovered my throat wasn’t that sore any more and that mostly it was all in my chest. I was also able to sleep, well, as long as I was sitting upright, which helped me recover.

So this is what I have to remember Strasbourg by:

 

AdventureMan said he had a rotten day in Strasbourg. It was drizzly, and I wasn’t with him. He ate some Persian food, and found some cookies to bring back as gifts, but his heart wasn’t in it. He brought me this wonderful mug from the Strasbourg Starbucks. Remember, I am a Seattle girl, as well as an Alaska girl. I love the mug.

So. The next day is Colmar, and I am feeling so much better and I am really happy to be feeling better but I know I have a long flight coming up to get us back to Pensacola, and I don’t think I am better enough to risk a relapse by going into Colmar for a whole day. AdventureMan takes off, and this time, he eats mussels in wine for lunch, simple, but one of our favorite French dishes. I spend the day on the boat, but I do eat, and run into one of our friends and we take a walk in the area where the ship is docked. So here is what I saw of Colmar:

You do remember that the French designed and gifted us with our beautiful Statue of Liberty? I believe the sculptor came from Colmar, anyway, this Statue of Liberty parody stood in front of a motorcycle shop we could see from the ship. It was a great walk, maybe a mile round trip, to get a good shot of it, because there were gates and walls we could’t get past on the docks to get there directly, so we had to walk around.

 

 

I felt well enough to attend the ships gala dinner farewell that night, eight courses and I can only remember the dessert, which was flamed, and it took forever to flame the top of the creme caramel for every guest. One of the really good things about Tauck’s river cruises is the small size of the group guarantees you will get to know at least a few people with common interests during the trip. We found many who were independent in nature, as we are.

One thing we don’t understand is why the cruise lines don’t mention some of the more cultural experiences to their groups. I remember when we took the “Empires of the Mediterranean” tour with Viking, and we found the tour in Kotor very slow. We had a book and a map and took off on our own, finishing up at a fabulous archaeology museum. We sat on the steps outside, afterwards, people watching in the place, and several later Viking tours went right by, the guides never mentioning this fabulous museum was even there.

Yes, we like history and archaeology, and learning about how ways of doing thing evolved, and also, I find some of my best gifts in museums, unique items, not available in catalogs, many of them handmade, and lovely jewelry and scarves, authentic and hand crafted. I can only speculate that these attractions cannot be monetized, and are therefore ignored. You could say that it is the travelers responsibility to seek this information for him/herself, but it would be a courtesy to your shipboard guests and an enhancement of the port experience to mention some of these better museums, especially when they are very well done. We had the same experience in Seville; we found two museums that were totally fabulous, a lot of thought and creativity had gone into preparing the exhibits, and there were exquisite pieces on display, if only one knew to look.

I had told one of the women we had met of the Unter den Linden museum in Colmar, and its fabulous Isenheim triptych by Matthias Grunewald, housed in an old convent. They came back to the ship thanking us for the experience. None of the guides had ever mentioned it. Wow.

OK, enough of my travel editorial. Sorry! Sorry! Oh, wait. It’s my blog. I get to say what I want 🙂

Because of our large, roomy closet, packing was a snap, and the next morning we awoke in Basel. Our bags were already collected, we just had our day packs and handbags with us. We chose to have breakfast served in our room, which was lovely, and headed to the airport with plenty of time.

This is what Basel looked like as we prepared to depart the ship:

 

 

It began to rain, more like sleet, and as we headed to the airport, it got heavier and heavier. It was a great time to leave. My staying aboard through Strasbourg and Colmar had enabled me to shake most of whatever it was I had caught, and the trip home was comfortable, except for the normal hellish trek through Charles de Gaulle. We found the lounge in our terminal; LOL, trust the French to have chocolate mousse in their airport lounge, don’t you love it?

We are still talking about this trip. We think we might do it again some year, and maybe with our grandchildren, to show them some of the places we’ve known and loved in a low tourist season.

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March 28, 2019 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, Christmas, Cultural, France, Quality of Life Issues, Travel | , | Leave a comment

MS Inspire: Christmas Markets on the Rhine

Once we board the bus in Heidelberg, we are in new territory. The night before, we had packed all our bags and left them in our stateroom, carrying only a day-pack. This bus will take us south, into France, and to a new ship, the MS Inspire, which will carry us the rest of the way down the Rhine to Basel, where the trip will end, after hitting Baden-Baden, Strasbourg and Colmar, cities we have often visited in the past.

 

Our room is exactly the same, only with brighter colors, the colors of Klimpt, reds and golds. We have a little Christmas tree on our table.

 

 

Down the hall, in the casual restaurant, Arthur’s, is a tree totally decorated in owls, making me think of Hogwarts, and the messenger owls.

 

They have a simple breakfast buffet in the morning, and lots of hot fresh coffee. There is a much more elaborate breakfast buffet in the dining room, but this is close, and handy to our room. From afternoon on, they have a samovar full of gluewein available to all passengers, and boxes of Christmas cookies. So hospitable, LOL.

 

The ship is elaborately decorated. They must have had so much fun.

 

 

 

 

No rain, but mystical French fog and mist.

We didn’t do a lot of real “cruising” on this trip – one time it was 45 minutes!

 

The day we didn’t go to Baden Baden, I tried the hot tub. It was the hottest hot tub I have ever felt, I could hardly get in it was so hot, and couldn’t stay in. But it was beautiful!

March 27, 2019 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, France, Germany, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Accidental Early Adaptor

iPhoneXR

Yesterday was a stressful day. It happens every now and then. The last one was when Ragnar-the-street-cat ate the cord to the foot pedal on my Pfaff and I had to get it fixed. While I was in the store, I bought a new Bernina (the price was right and it was the machine I had always wanted, very quiet.) The problem with new technology is that you have to learn new ways of doing things. The old ways don’t work. It stretches you and it stresses you.

AdventureMan has been after me to update my iPhone. We are about to travel again, and he wants us to be accessible. He is right; it is my turn to upgrade. I’ve had my iPhone since 2011, and it works wonderfully. I am happy. It does everything I need it to do . . . except it doesn’t work overseas.

I’ve dragged my feet. To me, a phone is a tool and the tool I have does everything I want it to do, including . . . making me not too accessible. But (audible sigh) I know he is right. What if there is an emergency and they need to contact us?

I am also skeptical. When we upgraded AdventureMan’s phone, we went on the Viking Ocean Cruises Wake of the Vikings trip (which was awesome) and his new phone didn’t work, didn’t get texts, didn’t get phone calls, while my old phone occasionally got texts (I believe it was a Wi-Fi thing for me).

But I also know that AdventureMan is wise; things happen. We often take off from the group, and if our connection changes, if the shuttle back to the ship changes departure time and we are not on it, it causes all kinds of complications.

So Thursday night, AdventureMan said “Our travel time is getting close, and what are you going to do about your phone?”

He is a smart man. He knows how to ask me in an open-mannered way so I don’t go all defensive and nasty because I am feeling cornered and inconvenienced and wary of having to master a new technology when I have a lot of other things going on right now.

“I’m going to do it tomorrow,” I tell him. He is satisfied. He knows that when I say I will do something, he can count on me to do it. I didn’t sleep well; I was full of dread.

So I am working at my computer when AdventureMan gets up and says “So when are you going?” and I know that the day has a limited number of hours and some of them are already committed and I really need to do this, so I do.

When I arrive at the store, the door says the store opens at 10:00, but it is 9:30 and the door is unlocked and people are waiting inside for customers, and tell me to come in, it is a special sale day. I get a really great guy, Mark, and tell him what I need. 

He was astonished. “You’re not here for the NEW iPhoneXR?” he asks, like he cannot believe what he is hearing. I tell him what I need, and he says “You need the new iPhoneXR.” He tells me all the things it will do, and then starts showing me how it will work. I tell him what I need is a phone that will work in these countries, and he shows me two ways it can work, both of which I feel comfortable I can do.

And the phone is beautiful. And handy. Within five minutes, I have said “yes” to the phone, have picked out chargers and phone case and protectors, and he is transferring all my phone stuff from the Cloud to my new phone. Of all the things that delight me, at the time, one is that I found a sturdy pink phone case that sparkles; my granddaughter will love it and think I am very cool. It makes me laugh; I am not a woman who would ever have carried a pink sparkly phone in my professional life.

The phone “recognizes” me. I no longer have to put in a code, but I have a back up code for when I need it, like I guess if I’ve been on a four day binge and it doesn’t recognize me, or . . . if I’ve been on an all night flight, which can have the same physical impact as a four day binge (those of you who know me know I am totally joking about the four day binge; I barely drink a whole glass of wine now.)

What I love, having played with it for a day, is that it is so easy. My eyes are really good, except for reading, and the screen of this phone is large and the writing is very readable. There are Tips! They tell me all the things I can do, whether I want to do them or not. There is Siri, whom I don’t intend to use, but I set it up because you never know, I might. 

(Big internal debate – who? whom? Siri is not a real person, but I would say “I don’t intend to use her” which means “whom” but who even uses “whom” anymore?)

So I just tried Siri, “Siri, open Google Maps and take me to Cologne, Germany?” and it took a couple steps, but . . . it’s a miracle! It worked!

“Siri, what is the water level of the Rhine River in Cologne, Germany?” (Blah blah blah blah “take a look!”) and the German website, one among many that she found, showed the water level in Koln to be . . . 74 cm. Hmmm. Not really enough to float a ship.

Our trip no longer shows on the company website. We have heard nothing. I am guessing they are both praying for an extended rain and scurrying to arrange alternatives should the water levels not rise high enough to float the boat along some of the narrower passages of the Rhine, which is experiencing historical lows following one of the driest, hottest summers ever in Europe.

AdventureMan and I avoid bus travel like a plague. It is too restricting on people who like to move, it is claustrophobic and not-private. On the other hand, you see a lot more on the road, and since we are really going because we miss the winter in France and Germany, on a bus (or two) we will have more actual time on the ground, eating winter food, wearing our winter clothes, more time to walk, God willing.

And . . . I have a new iPhoneXR, and I actually love it.

October 27, 2018 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, Christmas, Customer Service, ExPat Life, France, Geography / Maps, Germany, GoogleEarth, iPhone, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Technical Issue, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Two Chicks Restaurant, New Orleans

Google “best breakfast in New Orleans” and you will come up with some delightful possibilities, one of which is Two Chicks.

First, Two Chicks is not as easy to find as you would think. The address is 901 Convention Center Boulevard, but as it turns out, there is a sort of square OFF the boulevard, with other shops and restaurants around a kind of square, and, close to the Mexican consulate, is a small mall, in which is 2 Chicks.

Life is irrational. I love this place. I had a Cafe breakfast, like eggs and sausage, with fruit, and I didn’t eat a croissant; I wish I had.  The food was delicious, fresh and well put together. From the minute I walked in I had an immediate emotional response:  Edith Piaf was belting out “Je Ne Regrette Rien,” and the waitress, who knew all the words, was singing right along with her as she folded cutlery into napkins. I was beside myself with quiet joy.

The wall paper is French. The music is French, and from all eras. The coffee is really good. The food is French in that it is lovingly and thoughtfully prepared. Have I mentioned lately how much I miss France?

You have to have a key to use the restroom in the little mall, but what a surprise the ladies room is – 15 foot ceiling with marble walls, and gorgeous tiles. Who puts this kind of attention and lovely finishes in a restroom? The whole experience was irrational and lovely.

Service was attentive and efficient and we have eaten well and are out the door just in time to find a parking place at the Museum and be among the first inside.

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, France, Hot drinks, New Orleans, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Cafe Degas in New Orleans

We love our trips to New Orleans, and are able to go often, even just on the spur of the moment. Such was our trip last weekend, we needed to pick up some things from our friends at Zito’s, and decided to make it an overnight.

We have never visited the New Orleans Museum of Art, so we looked for restaurants nearby and found Cafe Degas, a French restaurant.

We miss France. Going to France was one of the best parts of living in Germany, not far from the French border. We were in France all the time, and oh, how we miss France.

We found Cafe Degas with no trouble, and were able to find a parking spot within a short walk.

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Each table filled almost as soon as it emptied. There were families, people coming in after church, friends meeting up to share their weeks. It had a great vibe.

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The bread was wonderful, crispy on the outside, light as a cloud on the inside

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We LOVE mussels. These were perfect, and the broth was exquisite.

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The mussels come with fries. Normally I will avoid fries, but oh, these were so good. I ate about half, more than I had intended! I had thought “oh one bite won’t hurt!” and twenty fries later, I still had trouble stopping.

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3127 Esplanade Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70119
(504) 945-5635

Hours of operation
Lunch: Wednesday through Friday 11:00am – 3:00pm.

We are open for drinks, salads and appetizers between lunch and dinner service Wed – Sat.
Dinner: Wednesday through Saturday 5:30pm – 10:00pm.
Sunday: 5:30pm – 9:30pm
Brunch: Saturday and Sunday 10:30am – 3:00pm

HAPPY HOUR Wednesday and Thursday 3:00pm – 6:00pm

All Major Credit Cards Accepted

January 21, 2017 Posted by | Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, France, Mardi Gras, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Viking Sea Disembarcation

Somehow, we go to bed around 8:30 pm and actually sleep. At 0215 we get our wake-up call as requested, and, as ordered, a beautiful breakfast shows up with a cheerful room service waiter, and we have coffee, tea and croissants as we hurriedly dress. We are to be in the terminal by 0300.

We are there by 0245, us and just about everyone else in our timing – Viking seems to attract those sorts, people who show up where they are supposed to be at the time they are supposed to be there. We are astonished to learn that there was a group ahead of us, they are just finishing up, and yes, there are a few pieces of luggage not claimed, so I guess not quite everyone made it on time.

We identified our luggage, which had been picked up outside our rooms the night before, watched as it was loaded into our assigned bus, and drove for about an hour to the airport. At the airport, there were baggage carts waiting, and we were able to check in very quickly for our flight. We are amazed and delighted; Viking truly has this down to a science. That’s not easy with 900 people disembarking on the same day. Kudos to Viking, even the smallest details are thought through.

As we signed in to the lounge, I said “Kalimeri,” which means Good morning, and the lady said to me “You’re Greek!” and I said no, I am not, but I got that a lot in Greece, I must have a Greek look to me. In truth, there is no Southern Mediterranean blood in me; mostly Scandinavian, French and Irish, or so Ancestry.com tells me.

We depart as the sun rises:

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Everything is smooth until we get to Paris. We have to get to 2E, hall M. We know this drill; it’s the same as last year. “Oh no problem,” the “helper” tells us and hands us this paper with a map and directions:

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You know what? I’m a map reader. I am really good at it. I navigate. We look closely; this map is useless. We start looking for signs and asking as we go, and we go quickly until we find the inner circle of hell, which is the passport line. We have priority passes, so we head to the priority line, but there isn’t even a line, and the real priority line is only for French citizens.

There is one huge shoving, desperate mass of people, all nationalities (except French) and then we find a secondary priority line, and every wheelchair goes to the front, and desperate passengers afraid they are missing their flight go ahead, and those who think they have the right push through, pushing their way in front of others. We are feeling desperate, too, our flight is in a very short time, but we don’t think the scramble to get in front of others is worth the price you pay in karma points.

I will tell you honestly, I have seen similar lines. Laborers in Kuwait lined up to get processed for residence visas. Refugees, desperate to escape violence and poverty, and afraid the gates will close before they get through. It is truly humbling to be a part of this line. Bread lines in which food is running out.

There is no one keeping order. The line inches slowly forward. It is like the end of times, everyone looking after his or her own needs regardless of others. There is little kindness to be seen in this line.

This is shameful. It’s not like this is unexpected. CDG needs to man their passport stations with enough personnel to allow these lines to flow quickly. It’s not rocket science, but it does take a bureaucracy which takes pride in their work.

This is not new; the planes wait, they take off a little later. We make our flight. As much as we love flying Air France, this experience is enough to make us re-think traveling through Paris.

Atlanta is straightforward. Our luggage, by the grace of God, is with us. We fly into Pensacola, and our son is there to meet us and take us home. All is well that ends well.

November 18, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, France, Interconnected, Paris, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, sunrise series, Survival, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Still Standing: 9 Year Blog-a-versary Extravaganza

It’s time to celebrate, and, my friends, we have to do it fast because September 11th is nipping at our heels, and September 11th is a day that makes me very sad, very sad, indeed. So for now, forget September 11th! For today, we will celebrate nine years, yes, nine years of blogging.

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So many times I have thought “why bother?”

I do it for me. I do it because writing is what I was born to do. I do it because from the beginning, you have given me such wonderful support and feedback.

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I’m in a Paris frame of mind 🙂 I’ve gathered some wonderful cookies and cakes for you; you can nibble, peruse, re-acquaint yourself with old friends in the comment sections – I know I did, and it re-inspired me.

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Back in the beginning, back in 2006, the blogging scene in Kuwait was such fun, so wide open. Bloggers had really interesting things to say, and said them. I learned so much from the Kuwait bloggers, and made some great friends. 1001 Nights and I became life long friends, even though we are far apart. Other bloggers, one in particular from Saudi Arabia who is now deceased, and another from the Netherlands, Aafke, with whom I have stayed in touch and maintained a friendship were full of ideas, started great conversations, it was like being in a salon in France when ideas were steaming and popping and revolutionizing everything.

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While the newness of blogging has long worn off, the need to write has not. Mostly, I keep blogging because every now and then I have something to say, and this I where I say it. Yes, there are other, newer platforms, but sometimes you need a place where people with a longer attention span can come and work through an issue alongside me.

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Of course, I also continue because we still love to travel, and I love to share my adventures and my resources with you of similar interests 🙂

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Life has greatly changed, once again. This year, our oldest grandchild started kindergarten, real school, and comes to our house where his parents pick him up from work. He is so much fun! We are loving seeing life through his eyes, hearing about his day, learning his new song and his joy in learning. We also get to see either our son or our daughter-in-law every day; it may be just a few minutes, but it keeps us up to date. Life is sweet.

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This coming week we also have Grandparent’s Lunch Day with our granddaughter at her school. She is now fully two, and as my favorite nephew Earthling says about his daughter of about the same age “she is very opinionated.” She is also very sure of her right to be right, and to have her way, and she is full of spirit and energy, so she, too, leads us on a merry race. It is a joy to watch her struggle to express herself – and increasingly, to succeed. She is learning new words every day, and you can see the excitement on her face as we understand what she wants so desperately to tell us.

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We never have plans for just one trip; we always have one coming up and one in the plans 🙂 so here’s a hint:

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Thank you, thank you, all who have remained with me so loyally, those who comment and those who lurk, those who check in now and then and those who write to me in the background to bring me up to date on your lives. You, and your feedback, are what makes this all worthwhile.

Have a cookie, or three or four and some cake and some of this wonderful Moroccan mint tea we’ve brewed, and celebrate nine years and still standing.

September 6, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Blogging, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, France, Generational, Hot drinks, Interconnected, Kuwait, Morocco, Relationships, Values | 4 Comments

American Heroes: “With Your Bare Hands”

I started this Monday with a great big smile. American Heroes! Our three young men, off to explore Amsterdam and Paris, and without giving it a second thought they tackle an armed man who has already shot and injured one passenger and intends to kill as many more as he can? They disarm him, and they tie him up, and deliver him, relatively unharmed, to the authorities.

They don’t behead him. They don’t beat him once they have him subdued. They don’t treat him with gratuitous cruelty. No. They turn him over to the authorities. One hero seeks out the Frenchman who has been shot and plugs his throat wounds with his own fingers to staunch the flow of blood until he can be treated by medical professionals.

And I love what French President says to these khaki and polo-shirt clad All-Americans (from The Guardian):

“Awarding them the Légion d’honneur, Hollande said: ‘The whole world admires your sangfroid. With your bare hands, unarmed, you were able to overcome a heavily armed individual, resolved to do anything.’

Hollande praised the soldiers, saying: “In France you behaved as soldiers but also as responsible men. You put your life in danger to defend the idea of freedom.”

Referring to the bravery of Sadler and Norman, he said they did not have military training and had “doubtless never seen a Kalashnikov in their life”. He added: “They stood up and fought, they refused to give in to fear or terrorism.”

Leaving the ceremony, Norman told TV crews: “I just did what I had to do.”

That’s exactly what true heroes say 🙂

I smile, too, seeing these young men being presented their medals with everyone else in dress uniforms and suits, and they are in their polos and Khakis; polos provided, I am guessing, by the US Embassy, with French and US flags intertwined.

I imagine they are going to have a wild time in France, and I can imagine they won’t be able to buy their own wine or meals. It all makes me smile.

August 24, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Character, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, France, Interconnected, News, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cash or Credit or Debit: Generational

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AdventureMan and I are not even typical of our generation. Living overseas, living in so many countries, we just got used to paying in cash. In our early years, even countries like France had more places that didn’t take credit cards than places that did. When it comes to buying gas in France, you’d better have a bucketful of cash 😉

 

But even those in our generation tend to pull out their credit cards for meals out, so this week AdventureMan asked wait staff percentages of who paid cash and who paid with cards. The most common answer was around 85% paid with a card.

 

I can understand. The restaurants/stores don’t have to keep as much money on hand for change, so it is easier on them, and those who pay with a card can track their expenses. Part of me laughs and says I think we don’t want to track our eating-out expenses, and another part thinks that because we pay cash, we probably don’t indulge in extras so often, which, for us, is a good thing. If we have dessert, we normally split it.

 

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I do remember how wonderful it was to be able to pay all the tolls on the toll roads in France with a credit card, how wonderfully easy it was to use my credit card and the ATM’s in Kuwait and Qatar and Saudi Arabia – for some reason, it was like they were years ahead of the USA in banking technology, and banking by phone. But even there, in the smaller shops, you needed cash.

So I read with interest this column from The Motley Fool, on AOL News:

 

Pssst, Millennials! When You Pay, Choose Credit, Not Debit

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Wavebreakmedia Ltd PH29L/Alamy

Hey, millennial! Yes, you there, standing in line at the Starbucks (SBUX) counter, tapping away on your smartphone, with the button-like doodads growing into your earlobes — put away that debit card.

No, don’t worry. No one’s going to nag you about buying a cup of overpriced coffee. We all have our vices. And you’re still basking in the fresh glow of youth. At least your vices won’t hurt you as much as they’d hurt us old codgers.

But the way you’re buying your coffee — you’re doing it wrong. And you’re not alone.

Paper or Plastic?

According to a recent survey by CreditCards.com, only about 1 in 3 American consumers currently uses a plastic card — credit or debit — when buying something that costs $5 or less. Most folks still pay with cash for such small purchases, with folks ages 65 and up having the greatest fondness for paying with greenbacks (82 percent).

But when it comes to the Millennials, 51 percent use plastic to pay for such purchases.

On one hand, that’s not terribly surprising. The younger you are, the more comfortable you are paying with plastic, which didn’t gain widespread acceptance in America until the 1960s. Conversely, the older you are, the more likely you’ve been told, at some point in your life, that shopping with cash is a good way to limit your spending and encourage saving.

There’s only so much cash that will fit in your wallet, and if you limit yourself to paying in cash — you eventually run out. Old folks like me, whose memories aren’t what they used to be (and maybe never were), like this “automatic” check on spending. And as a result, CreditCards.com reports that the older a consumer is, the more likely he or she is to pay for small purchases in cash than to pull out a plastic card.

Not All Plastic Is Created Equal

Among plastic cards, nationally, consumers are about twice as likely (22 percent) to use a debit card to pay for a small purchase as to put the purchase on credit (11 percent). When the data is broken down by age group, it turns out that millennials are even more fond of debit cards than the average shopper. Consumers ages 18 to 29 use debit cards more often than any other age group when making small purchases.

But here’s the thing: Debit and credit cards may be nearly equal in their convenience of use when shopping for small items (eliminating the need to carry weighty pockets, jingling with unwanted coins). But they’re not at all equal in the financial benefits they convey to a consumer.

To cite the most obvious example, credit cards often offer you “rewards” for using them. With card companies charging retailers fat interchange fees for every transaction they process, they can afford to pay you generously when you “choose plastic.” Airline miles; “points” redeemable for cash back, account credits, merchandise, and gift cards; and just plain cash-back offers, as high as 5 percent, all make the choice between credit and debit a bit of a no-brainer. (Granted, some debit cards offer rewards of their own — but they’re rare, hard to find and usually much less generous.)

But rewards are only the most obvious monetary benefit of choosing credit over debit. Consider: When you pay for a purchase — large or small — with a debit card, that money is almost immediately deducted from your account.

What Warren Buffett Thinks

In contrast, a charge placed on a credit card is a debt that doesn’t come due — and needn’t be paid — until your credit card bill is sent to you. Depending on the date of purchase and the due date on your credit card bill, you may not have to pay that bill for as long as a month — which means you may be able to hang on to your money, and collect interest on it at your bank, for that time. (Super-investor Warren Buffett calls this concept of using someone else’s money, and collecting interest on it for your own benefit, “free float,” and deadpans that his business partner “Charlie and I find this enjoyable.”)

Granted, with the ultra-low interest rates that banks are paying on checking accounts these days, free float isn’t as profitable as it used to be — probably only pennies per credit card billing cycle. But still, free money is free money. Are you going to turn it down because you’re not being offered enough free money?

Of course, you do need to remember to pay your credit card bill on time, so as not to get hit by late fees. But as long as you can manage that, a credit card isn’t really a card you use for taking out long-term credit at all. It’s a pay-once-a-month debit card — that pays you free money every month.

The High Cost of Not Buying on Credit

Another advantage: CreditCards.com quotes Martin Lynch, director of education of the Cambridge Credit Counseling Corp. of Massachusetts, noting that “debit cards … can’t be reported to the credit bureaus and, thus, they don’t build [up] credit [ratings].” Building up a strong credit rating is crucial to a young person looking to buy his or her first car or to secure a mortgage on a starter home.

Getting charges and on-time payments, onto your credit report — to establish a track record as a reliable borrower — is therefore a good thing. It’s something you want to do as often as possible, and using a credit card to pay for small purchases is a great way to build up your credit report quickly.

Melinda Opperman, senior vice president of community outreach at Springboard Nonprofit Consumer Credit Management Inc., another expert interviewed by CreditCards.com, echoes the sentiment: “We like the idea of using credit cards frequently for small, manageable expenses. This gives users the benefit of an active credit history, but leaves them with monthly bills that are small enough to pay off in full, so they don’t have to pay any interest.”

Suffice it to say, any idea that’s supported by professional credit counselors, and by the world’s third richest man, is one that millennials would be well advised to take to heart.

Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned, and hasn’t used a debit card in years. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Starbucks. To read about our favorite high-yielding dividend stocks for any investor, check out our free report.

 

October 11, 2014 Posted by | Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, France, Generational, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Qatar, Quality of Life Issues, Saudi Arabia, Travel | Leave a comment

The Fresh Breath of Fall and Bicycling in the Water

Our grandson is back in swimming lessons, and I have to admit, it is one of my favorite things to do with him. I get to pick him up at school and get him ready, then shower him down and take him home. During all that we have the most amazing conversations, and we laugh a lot, too. Yesterday he did something new, something he called “bicycling in the water” that we used to call “treading.” He had never done it before, and he was good at it. There are days when you are greatly blessed, if you only have the eyes to see it.

00Bicycling

 

AdventureMan and I are having too much fun! We are in the midst of planning two smaller trips, and one larger trip. We call back and forth from office to office – “Have you looked at this place? It gets great reviews!” or “You could book that motel where I stayed when I went there with the birding group!”

 

The first trip we will take will be in conjunction with a conference AdventureMan will attend, and then we will head on into the southwestern wilds of Louisiana, tracking the Cajun Nature Trail, ending up in Houma after several days. We love knockin’ around with our binos and cameras on the backroads, love the moodiness of James Burke Country, True Detectives, the pure idiosyncratic nature of southern Louisiana.

The next trip will be in the other direction, back to a birding area through which the birds travel south when winter sets in.

The third – back to France! Wooo HOOOOOO!

Fall is kicking in in Pensacola, AdventureMan is out mulching and trimming up the garden, taking out a summerload of weeds, and I am grinning at a lowering utility bill. Even a few degrees difference make a giant reduction in the need for the A/C. I am smiling more; the humidity is lifting and I can feel cool temperatures around the corner. My favorite time of the year!

September 30, 2014 Posted by | ExPat Life, France, Gardens, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Travel, Weather | | Leave a comment