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Talking the talk

Contacts Book to learn French

I picked up this textbook for a class in KC. Looks like a decent book for building a basic knowledge base for the trip. I bought a used edition for 3 cents and it's easily worth double that!  No really, its a great book.

The Rosetta Stone software is useful for getting a feel for the pronunciation and feel for the language. We recently purchased the updated software suite and WOW is it impressive.It does not, however focus on key phrases required for travel, so get a good travel language book. If you are interested in Rosetta Stone, START NOW! Speaking from experience, waiting until 4 months before departure just won't be enough to get any useful phrases.

Here's a link to a cool little email service that sends you a French word every morning to assist in building vocabulary & learning the accent. www.transparent.com
You should make an effort to learn a few key words and phrases. Please (S'il vous plait) and thank you (merci) are obvious. Learning numbers is useful for shopping. If you make an effort to learn just a bit of French, the locals will appreciate it. Most speak English (some even better than we do!) so, you don't need to be fluent.

Here are a few key words & phrases to get you started.Dinan Vegetable Stall
Bonjour – Hello
Bonsoir – Good Evening
Au Revoir – Goodbye
Merci – Thank You
S'il vous plait (see voo play) - Please
De rien – You are welcome
Pardon – Excuse Me
Porquoi? (poor quah) – why?
Avec Plaisir (play seer) – It's my pleasure
Comment allez-vous (como tally vous) – How are you?
Ca va (sah vah) - How you doin?
Mon ami – (Male) my friend
Mes amis - (plural, masculine) my friends
Mes amies – (plural, feminine) my friends
C'est la vie – such as life
Oui (wee) – yes
Oui (way) - yeah

What to wear

Dinan, and the whole of Brittany is not quite the spring and fall paradise that Provence is, so be prepared for a full complement of weather.  The climate tends to be slightly colder and wetter than the American midwest, so be sure to monitor the daily weather this fall to get an idea.
From what I have seen so far in 2012, sweaters and umbrellas are a must!

Banking

Most banks charge a percentage to exchange money to and from Euros. Most definitely avoid exchanging money at the airport! The best and easiest solution is to just use ATM's when you get to France. Check with your bank or your credit card company and let them know that you will be going to France so that they don't see strange charges on your account and freeze the account for your safety. Check to see what your bank charges for foreign ATM withdrawals and take that into account when you take out money so you can determine how often you'll want to get cash. You'll also need to make sure that your PIN number is no more and no less than 4 digits.
Most stores will accept credit cards so in many cases, it's not necessary to carry much cash.

Potty Money

Believe it or not, many bathrooms in bars, restaurants, train stations and even airport bathrooms in France are coin operated. No joke! Always carry some coins in your pockets for those emergencies. By the way, in public places, NEVER enter a room called a "water closet". Its an open hole toilet you stand over. No, really. Don't even look, just trust me.

Pickpockets

  1. Dinan and the surrounding towns are an interesting blend of tourist destinations and rural agriculture. This means that for the most part in the big towns you should be aware of your surroundings, but you don’t have the pick pocket risks as Paris, or God forbid Rome. Just remembering a few things will make the trip a lot easier for you.
    Keep your passport with you at all times while traveling unless its locked in a hotel safe or the safe at the apartment. Never in a purse, never in a back pocket. Jam it in your front pants pocket or purchase a "next to the skin" passport and document holder. I have done both and felt comfortable. We bought a locking soft side “safe pouch” that we are more than happy to store passports, spare cash, extra credit cards, etc.  Just let us know.
  2. Never keep more cash on you than you are prepared to lose. Men and women both, get a money clip and keep it in your front pocket. Keep your credit or debit card in the other front pocket. Never, ever, ever keep anything you are not prepared to lose in a back pocket. The chances of getting pick pocketed in Dinan are slim, but a little caution never hurts. Hit an ATM in the morning on your way from the apartment, they are everywhere. Generally fees are quite reasonable so don't sweat daily transactions(I think we paid all of $13 in total ATM fees last time we traveled) Use your debit and credit card without worry. Most waiters will process your bill right at the table with a terminal, as will bars. I find it much more comfortable than the US custom of the waiter disappearing with my card to process the bill.
  3. Women folk, get a good traveling purse. There are many that have cut proof straps, etc. I'm not expert on purses, but my Mom tells a story of an experienced traveler shes knows that had her purse cut open and emptied when it was right next to her on a bus. I recommend keeping it on your lap when sitting in public transport, and in front of you when standing on public transport. Men folk, its your job to watch the purse in those places. Fun huh?
  4. Men folk, get a money belt. I got a nice leather one from Cabelas and use it as my daily wear belt when traveling. Keeping 200e - 300e for dire emergencies on you at all times is never a bad idea.