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Hoffman Travels to France: Don't trust your vacation to salespeople and ads

Hoffman Travels: Don't trust your vacation to salespeople and ads

Houston, iPad, September 2017
Click the DirecTV Now app and the iPad screen says, “Sorry, DirecTV Now is not available outside the U.S.” Courtesy of lifewire.com
Houston, Hoffman, Nice France travel, September 2017
A one bedroom apartment in Old Town.  Photo by Ken Hoffman
Houston, Hoffman, Nice France travel, September 2017
The one bedroom is just a mattress on the floor. Photo by Ken Hoffman
Houston, Hoffman, Nice France travel, September 2017
The shower stall in the mini-bathroom was tiny. Photo by Ken Hoffman
Houston, Hoffman, Nice France travel, September 2017
The ceiling in the bedroom dripped.  Photo by Ken Hoffman
Houston, iPad, September 2017
Houston, Hoffman, Nice France travel, September 2017
Houston, Hoffman, Nice France travel, September 2017
Houston, Hoffman, Nice France travel, September 2017
Houston, Hoffman, Nice France travel, September 2017

Fake news doesn’t take a vacation. I took my iPad to the AT&T/DirecTV store.

“I understand that DirecTV has an app where you can watch television on your iPad or phone or any device outside of your home.”

The store guy says, “That’s right, it’s called DirecTV Now. It’s regularly $35, but I can give it to you half-price.”

“Sign me up. But here’s the deal. I’m going to France for a week, and I want to watch the U.S. Open tennis tournament. So if I get DirecTV Now, I’ll be able to watch ESPN on my iPad over there?”

Guy says, “Absolutely, as long as you have access to Wi-Fi, you can watch DirecTV Now, and the package you’re buying includes ESPN.”

“How about CNN?

Guy says, “CNN, sure.”

I’m good to go. There’s nothing I like more than visiting a foreign country and sitting in my hotel room watching American television.

Naturally, I click the DirecTV Now app and my iPad screen says, “Sorry, DirecTV Now is not available outside the U.S.”

But the guy said …

You know what they say, necessity is the mother of hacking the Internet. If I sign up for ExpressVPN, my iPad will trick DirecTV into thinking I’m in Los Angeles. And I can get ESPN and stay up all night watching Roger Federer get beat in the U.S Open quarterfinals. There’s a night I’ll never get back.

That ExpressVPN app worked perfectly. It cost $12.95 for the month, but there are cheaper plans for people staying longer – or permanently – outside the U.S. Another bonus to ExpressVPN, let’s say you’re visiting a country that cracks down on certain Internet sites, now you can view them. Not sure this would be a good idea in some countries, though, you might get a knock on your door. 

I will be having a word with the DirecTV Now guy when I get home. Don’t you hate salespeople who don’t know their own product?

There ought to be double the penalty for bad information that crosses countries’ borders. For example …

Instead of staying in a hotel in Nice, France this week, I thought I’d rent an apartment through a travel website. I wanted to experience what it’d be like to live in Nice (apartment) instead of just visiting (hotel) like usual. Plus an apartment would give me more room. European hotel rooms are typically tiny.

The ad said, “one bedroom apartment in Old Town,” and showed photos that sure looked like a kitchen, living room, comfortable bed, and spacious bathroom.

I get to the apartment, meet the landlady outside and she lets me in. And up. Seven flights of stairs, but not stairs like at your office building. These were steep, thigh-burning, high-steppin’ steps – 103, I counted. And I was lugging a heavy duffle bag with my week’s supply of new Coke Zero, which I’m not crazy about, either. Ten thousand brands of soda, and they’ve got to change the one I drink.

Landlady said, “You didn’t know the apartment was on the 7th floor?”

No, I didn’t, because you neglected to mention that in your ad. And thanks for leaving out “no elevator.”

We get to the apartment. There’s no kitchen, just a sink and toaster on a counter. There’s no “one bedroom,” either, just a ladder that climbs up to a ledge jutting above the sink and toaster, with a mattress on the floor (I thought those days were over) and the ceiling only three feet over the mattress. If I sat up in bed – bonk, my head!  The electricity wasn’t working. The landlady had to go downstairs and flip a fuse.  

The shower stall in the mini-bathroom was so small, I had to squeeze in sideways between the sliding doors. My shoulders touched both sides of the stall.

One night it rained, and I was awakened by the ceiling dripping on me. I spooned with a soup bowl in bed that night.

This isn’t a one bedroom apartment in the heart of Old Town Nice – this is a flophouse. My apartment was smaller than a 2-star Euro hotel room. I would have checked out the first day, but I had paid for the whole week in advance, and just try to get your money back from this landlady.

On the bright side, there was an Italian restaurant down below, outside the front door. Location, location, location. Pizza, lasagna, chicken parm. I left the windows open to fill my apartment with the aroma of hot focaccia. Glade needs to know about this.

Now for TripAdvisor. I took the train from Nice to Monaco, which is next door. And Monaco is next door to Italy on the other side. It’s only a 7 Euro ticket roundtrip, about $9. I hit up TripAdvisor for a pizza recommendation. Found a place that “readers” claimed has the “best pizza in all Europe” … “unbelievable pizza” … the “best-kept pizza secret,” etc. It’s on a winding little side street deep in a corner of Monaco.

It was a take-out hole in the wall, with reheated, school lunch pizza by the slice.  The worst. The only people who would possibly recommend this place are the owners. I will give them “unbelievable,” though.

But I muddle on. I’m in Nice, the most beautiful city, and tonight I’m going to have lasagna at La Favola restaurant in the Cours Saleya flower market. The portions are huge and delicioso. All will be back to wonderful.