Monday, July 12, 2010

Channel hopping: a case study

I've been a bit of a Eurostar whore lately; the details aren't important, except the one that has me in Paris on a Friday, which seems like too good of an opportunity to waste. I've booked a ticket for the man to come out and join me, then we'll both travel back together on Sunday evening.

It's a common complain that flights are cheaper than train travel in Europe, and that's sometimes indisputably true but not always. Quite often, the opportunity cost even out with a slightly larger cost, but sometimes the base fare is actually comparable.

Take for example this ticket I just bought for 4:55pm train from London to Paris on a Friday evening in October. The eurostar fare was £50

A quick search on skyscanner revealed the cheapest fare for a similar flight would be £25. On one hand, that's only a difference of £25, which isn't a huge deal, but it's also 50% cheaper. But that's just the base fare for the flight. To check a bag (which might not be necessary for a weekend, but for some would be) is an additional £9. And then the "booking charges". Paying by a visa debit card adds £3.50; paying by a credit card adds £8. Let's say for the sake of the extra insurance paying by credit card pays, I decide to use it for my dodgy flight, and I'm not a super duper one bag packer, so I need to check a suitcase. Now I'm paying £41.99 which isn't looking so hot against the £50 fare, especially considering all of the stress and environmental guilt that goes along with flying.

But wait! There's more!

To get to St Pancras, it's a stroll down from my office, or a £1 bus fare from home. It will cost the man a little bit more to get there directly from work: £1.80 tube fare. Shocking. To get to the airport at Luton, however, the train also leaves from St Pancras... and we all know how reasonable train fares in the UK are. Transport to the airport is an additional £11.90, on top of the tube fare. So now the flight costs £55.69 versus £51.80 for the train.

And of course, the train spits you out in central Paris. You might need a €1.60 metro fare to get to your destination. By contrast RER fare from CDG airport to central Paris is €8.40. So now the flight is costing an additional £3.89 and €6.8. Not a huge difference, but it's certainly not working out cheaper. You might break even by not checking a bag.

But at least you'll save time by flying, right?

Au contraire. Eurostar recommends arriving 45 min prior to depart, which means getting to St Pancras by 4:10 for a 4:55pm train. For a 7pm flight, Easyjet recommends arriving 2 hours ahead of time. A train leaves St Pancras for Luton at 4:30 arriving just after 5. Then of course there is the 50 minute RER journey at the other end of the flight. The flight arrives at 9:20 pm; the train arrives at 8:20pm. So while you'd need to be at St Pancras 20 minutes later to catch your flight, you'd arrive in central Paris nearly two hours after the train has arrived. You save about an hour and a half by taking the train versus flying.

The Eurostar is faster, cheaper, emissions free, and for most people, much more enjoyable. I can't think of a better way to get from London to Paris, except perhaps cycling (I hear that is pretty fun too.)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Stoke newington hippies stike again

Just back from the pet store, where I bought a cat scratcher with *organic* catnip. I suppose they think they can get away with it, but who am I kidding, of course they can. I would rather have the one I bought last time for £3 less but it's a scratcher that lasts months so I wasn't going to quibble over it.

I was after a compostable cat litter, and wasn't planning on being too picky, but I was amazed at the wide selection of "bio" cat litter they had. Tonks is not so picky, but I finally decided I was maybe asking a bit much of him using plain newspaper when he woke me up at 4 am to let him outside for the toilet. I'm planning on still layering the litter I bought with newspaper on the bottom to make it last longer, we'll see how it works.

But back to the litter -- at least three difference kinds purporting to be ecologically friendly, in paper bags. I bought Clean & Green, the kind with the most detail about *why* it was ecologically friendly (made from poplar trees planted just for cat litter, which suck carbon dioxide from the air while they're growing, and a no-emissions manufacturing process. Supposedly). It wasn't the cheapest -- about £8 for 2.5 kilos and the other ones were that much for more litter, but I don't mind paying a bit more, I guess, since I don't expect to use a lot (haven't bought cat litter since January; we've been on the newspaper experiment since running out.) Also it was lighter to carry home.

Hmm, I've just done some research and it turns out the cat litter is made by Almo Nature, a company that makes really posh all natural pet food. Food in which the main ingredient is chicken! I got some samples once, and Tonks loved it (it was wet food), but I figured it would cost about £3 a day to feed him, which is almost how much I spend on food for myself, so... no.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Tea Rooms, Church St

£: 2.00 for drink-in cappuccino. Loyalty card

Atmosphere: yummy mummies chatting and artistic looking guy reading poetry

Pros:Large window opening onto church st. Amble background noise but not too distracting.

Cons:Traffic a bit loud

Open until 6pm

Thursday, August 7, 2008

In Istanbul

But I'm not goıng to wrıte a post because thıs turkısh keyboard ıs too annoyıng to type onç

Monday, August 4, 2008

Amateur Linguistics

Jenn and I are in Plovdiv (safe, for all you worriers). We were supposed to be on the Istanbul train tonight but it is full!! I am kinda bummed about that, but what can you do. I have waited three years to be in Istanbul, I can wait another day. Plovdiv is a really nice, charming city, the second biggest in Bulgaria. You should remember from last year that I really like Bulgaria. I am having somewhat of a different experience here this year. Now I know even Serbian that every Slavic language doesn't sound like Serbia (I used to think Polish or Russian classmates were great at Serbian when they were really just speaking in their mother tongue), it's nice that Bulgarian doesn't sound like Serbian to me, especially since I can realise how similair the languages actually are. Of course, this doesn't mean I can get around in Serbian. I egotistically thought so, but now I'm thinking whenever I say anything in Serbian, what I want is so obvious that I could be speaking English. Today while trying to order a pancake/crepe the conversation went something like this:

me: *points to 15 on menu*
lady: oh, petNAEST

Apparently the accent is in a different place on the word than in Serbian. My host corrects me everytime I say ZAsto ne (zaSTO ne or zasto da ne in Serbian. with a thingie over the S. Why not. One of my favorite phrases.) Either that or I don't say things correctly in Serbian. Who knows.

We've had many hilarious linguistics incidents. Here is a typo Bulgarian joke I will share with you:
What's the difference between Roma and Macedonians?
The Roma have a language but no nation, Macedonians have a nation but no language. (Bulgarians think Macedonian is simply a dialect of Bulgarian.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

I'm sure this is just another side effect of learning a slavic language

Something I've noticed when speaking or writing extensively in English: the English language is soo... imprecise. As it, it lacks cases. It's starting to feel so sloppy!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Hague's Most Wanted

My host country is again in the news for something good, which is almost a newsworthy even in and of itself. Just kidding. I love you, Serbia.

It seems that notorious Bosnian Serb war criminal Karadzic has been arrested in Belgrade, where he had been hiding under an assumed identity. This is a really big deal since one of the main conditions for Serbia entering talks with the EU is they cooperate handing over war criminals to the Hague. It's kinda an open secret that Karadzic and Mladic were hiding somewhere in Bosnia or Serbia and that if they reeeeally wanted to, the Serb authorities could track them down and arrest them. The fact that Karadzic was arrested two weeks after a new, pro-Europe government came to power in Serbia sort of seems to confirm this. A lot of people think Serbia will never join the EU, but a lot of people also thought that Karadzic would never get arrested, so who knows. I guess anything can happen in this crazy world.

So what do the people on the street think? Unfortunately I am not any special help here, as I haven't heard anyone talking about it. My language school is stubbornly apolitical and the two people I've hung out with today didn't mention in. Instead of politics we talked about music and sex in the city. Maybe there is more in common between Americans and Serbs than previously suspected! But I do know that most Serbs are fed up with the Hague because a lot of Croatian and KLA war criminals "suspects" have been acquitted. I can't really blame them, and it would be hypocritical anyway since America has such issues with the ICJ. Extradite Bush!! I mean...

Anyway, I am an optimist and like to take any sign as a hail of the coming of good times. So, yay. Basically anything that will get Serbia closer to joining the EU is a good thing in my opinion, whatever the naysayers say. If I know anything about the current situation in Serbia, it's that Serbs are tired of having to get visas to move ten feet to the left. But I think this article from the NYT, basically crediting the EU with everything good that has happened is Serbia in pretty much ever, is a little over the top. Sooo typical. Never the twain shall meet?

despite appearances, I actually don't know what I'm talking about. So if you disagree, please don't get mad.