Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Prague 2

One of the tours our travel agent set up for us sounded quite interesting. She did tell us about this one. It was a sort of folklore evening of music, dancing and dinner. That was a good one, even though there was a very steep incline up to the many stairs into the building. It took my son, the driver, and several of the patrons of the establishment to get my husband up and into the building and, at the end of the evening, back down again. With all the attention focussed, rightfully, on him, I had a really tough time slipping and sliding down the icy stairs on my own. The travel agent had promised that all venues were wheelchair accessible. Well, maybe if she had shared some of the responsibility of choosing activities, I might have spotted some difficulties. But, of course, the details were none of my business. As long as I kept that credit card coming. After all, there's that commission to consider.
We went on the next tour. It sounded vaguely interesting--a tour of two castles in Southern Bohemia. Accessible? Well, yes, I guess so. Of course, it took the tour guide and another tourist to help my son get the wheelchair up some steep inclines and down (more treacherous than going up) the same inclines. Impossible without the help of that gracious tourist from China. I'm sure he didn't come to the Czech Republic all the way from China to push some Canadian invalid up and down castle passageways. The castles? I can't remember the names right now, but they weren't very memorable anyway.
So, that was Prague. It never was on my bucket list, so I don't even get to cross it off.


Prague was very nice, despite the fact that it was January, and rather cold. Snow on the ground in some places.
Our travel agent had set us up in a nice hotel, The Grand Majestic Plaza. Not quite as grand as its name, but clean and pleasant and it tried to be fancy. For example, in the lobby there's a tall fountain coming out of the ceiling into a pond. Until you get up close and find that the pond is dry and so is the fountain--just strips of clear plastic that shimmers like water. Neat trick.
The rooms (we had two, one for my husband and myself and a second for our son), were clean and comfortable. It had a minibar, which I used as a fridge in which to keep one of my husband's medications that is supposed to be refrigerated--didn't happen for most of the trip, of course.
Breakfast was included, and was better than most hotel breakfasts. Excellent omelets!
But when we came to use the same area, the restaurant, for supper that evening we found the prices to be quite out of line, IMHO.
However, there was a cute little pub across the street.
Our travel agent had also signed us up for some tours. Tours? Tours? When did she mention tours? I didn't ask for tours. But of course, the details of our trip were none of my business.  By the way, I was the one who did all the arranging of the trip because my husband is partially blind and partially deaf. It doesn't make sense for him to try to handle details. They were none of his business, either, of course. And there was the matter of her commission.
There were four tours arranged for us. The first was an introductory tour of the city, culminating with a river cruise. January. Snow. Twenty steps down to the river to board the boat and another twenty steps up to the city. My husband is in a wheelchair. We didn't go on the river cruise. Instead we asked the driver to drive us back to our hotel--which was not included in the tour.
The second tour we cancelled outright because is was an all-day ordeal of visiting glass and porcelain places. Not happening.
Instead, we hired a taxi to take us to a place the travel agent had not considered--even though she knew we were Franciscans and she often spoke of her own association with the Roman Catholic Church. We went to the Church of Mary Victorious to see the famous Infant of Prague.

Rome to Prague

So, on our first day, January 9, 2017, we flew from Penticton to Vancouver, from Vancouver to Frankfurt, and from Frankfurt to Rome. Italy? I thought we'd cancelled Italy.
We landed in Rome, stayed overnight in the Hilton located in the airport, never breathed a breath of Italian air other than to walk from one part of the airport to another. The next morning we flew from Rome to Prague.
Have you looked at a map of Europe lately? If you were booking your own flights, would you go from Frankfurt to Prague by way of Rome? No, I didn't think so.
There were those same two issues I spoke of in my last entry. We had to rescue the items on that mysterious list that was none of my business. And there was, of course, the small matter of her commission.
Prague had never been on my bucket list, nor on my husband's, nor on our son's. However, in order to preserve whatever it was that had to be preserved, we went along with it. I bought a couple of guide books about the city, and watched Rick Steves' video, and was impressed with what I saw. It looked interesting, so we weren't really put out about being obliged to go there.

Frankfurt to Rome

Our first day of our recent trip began on January 9, 2017. We (my husband, who has numerous physical problems, and our son, who came to help my with his dad, and myself) had several places that we wanted to visit.
At first, we wanted to go to Assisi. Frank and I are Third Order Franciscans, and although I'd had a chance to visit Assisi, my husband had not. And as he is in his eighties and has health problems, we thought it would be now or never. Unfortunately, there was an earthquake in Umbria (the province where Assisi is located) and we were afraid there may be aftershocks and with his disabilities, we would be in serious jeopardy if anything like that happened. So, although we had told our travel agent that we wanted to go there, we contacted her as soon as possible and cancelled Italy.
"Oh no!" she said. "You can't do that. It's already paid for." Really? We hadn't had any conversation about how we'd get there or where we'd stay. As Franciscans, we'd planned to make our own accommodation arrangements, preferably with some members of our Order. But no. She'd already gone ahead and done all that. Oh  yes, she had asked for my credit card, but I really thought I'd be consulted about details before she went on a spending spree. But there were two issues I hadn't counted on. First, that all indications were that she thought the details of our trip were none of my business. Second, there was the thing about her commission.
So, with Assisi cancelled, in order to "save some of what we'd already spent" we'd have to choose another destination on some list she had. She offered Barcelona or Prague. We picked Prague.

travel agents

I don't usually use the services of travel agents, but I can tell you right now that I certainly never will in the future.
Normally, I would have simply gone on line and made my travel arrangements myself. But there were a few obstacles, the most relevant was that my laptop is old and will no longer take updates, and is therefore vulnerable. Not a good idea to do anything regarding money using it. I could have used the computer I'm using at the moment, a Surface which I bought in October 2016. But this thing has a mind of its own and often suddenly decides that it doesn't like my project, and simply moves onto something else. For example, this very blog entry. I started it once and it changed pages on me. So I had to start again. Not the sort of instrument that you want to use to arrange complicated travels.
So I went to a travel agent. The company name and the name of the agent will not be mentioned, but their actions have turned me off all travel companies and all travel agents everywhere. Some, I'm sure are reputable. Some, clearly, are not.
Rather than give all the details here in one entry, I'll just post how my recent trip went, and you can fill in the blanks for yourself.

Let me state once and for all, just for the record, that I have no problem with people earning their commissions, although that is something I mention frequently in these blog entries. I do, however, take great exception to having unnecessary additions to my journey for no observable reason other than padding the commission package.


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