Saint Tropez road trip France

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The summer is fast approaching and a small holiday was the perfect opportunity to take a road trip on the Cote d’Azur towards Saint Tropez. After visiting all of Marseille’s sights and surroundings, we wanted to go with our guest on a Côte d’Azur train trip, but unfortunately the unpredictable running schedule sprinkled with spontaneous strikes organised by the French SNCF lazy workers deprived us of this option. Another inconvenience would be that the train does not go all the way up to Saint Tropez, but only to Toulon or Nice, from where you have to take a local coach the rest of the way.

From Marseille to Saint Tropez there are only 150 km, but even for this distance, the train can be quite expensive if you do not buy the tickets well in advance. If you get a ticket today for tomorrow you can also spend around € 50 per person on such a train ride, so we’ve considered renting a car to make the trip. Unfortunately, this option can be quite expensive also if you do not make the reservation a few days in advance, but if you are 3 or 4 people in the car it is generally worth it. At the rental company called Thrift a Renault rented for one day costs 60 Euro + the insurance that on the internet costs 37.5 EUR … but if you take it from the office booth you will get it for 60 Euro’s ….. ( without this insurance you are liable to pay 1,000 EUR damage even for the Continue reading “Saint Tropez road trip France”

Romania road trip across the country

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It was the summer of 2017 and the weather was perfect for a Romania road trip. We decided to take advantage of our last vacation days and the available accommodation vouchers, so we jumped in the car and went roaming across Romania for a week. Our tour started at the “Danube Boilers”, stopping along the way at Orsova, Dubova, Timisoara, Deva, Hunedoara, Alba Iulia, Sovata, Praid, Sighisoara, Brasov and via Transfagarasan back to Constanta. As usual, the trip was planned on short notice and the accommodation was chosen from what was available through a travel agency.

Day 1: We hit the roads of our motherland, where, as I have mentioned in the previous article Road trip to Budapest, the experience can be excruciating and you will spend a lot of hours stuck in traffic on narrow 2 lanes national roads. From Constanta to Orsova we chose the route via Bucharest – Pitesti – Rm. Valcea with a stopover at Targul Jiu to see the sculptures of Constantin Brancusi. As soon as you exit A1 motorway in Pitesti, the ordeal starts and doesn’t stop until Timisoara when we return on the A1. Lately on the good roads of Romania we found loose gravel that is not compressed by the special machines, but rather by cars in open traffic, the kind of gravel that shreds your hood and your windshield in a million pieces  – WHAT THE FUCK?! The incident appeared on national news , hundreds of drivers got their cars damaged in the process and nobody was held accountable.

We chose to stop at Targul Jiu specially to see the sculptures of the well known sculptor Constantin Brancusi. The first unpleasant surprise we had was when we were driving to Brancusi Park but along the way we elegantly  drove past the Infinity Column. The column is in separate park on the opposite side of the city from the other representative sculptures , the Kiss Gate and the Table of Silence of the famous sculptor. Once in the park, after seeing the Kiss Gate and the Table of Silence, I left within half an hour because there is simply nothing else to do there. I can say that it is not worth the go out of your way just for this and the sculptures themselves are rather… unattractive. Brancusi’s works are not highlighted, and the only information that they actually belong to Constantin Brancusi are found on a small portable billboard in the park, you know the type of billboard you normally see in front on the terraces showing the daily menu. The Romanian authorities should take a visit to Brancusi’s workshop museum in Paris to get an idea on ​​how to display such a national value.

We go further on to Orsova and to the Danube Boilers. Orsova is one of the most beautiful cities we have seen on our side of the Danube, the river promenade that stretches all along the city is an absolute pleasure to walk, but the real star in the area, besides the superb scenery, is the recently renovated road that cuts the gorge of the Continue reading “Romania road trip across the country”

How to get PACS in France

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PACS or Pacte civil de solidarité, is a concubinage agreement that offers the benefits of a married couple but with fewer obligations. Initially developed at the request of gay couples to declare themselves a family unit, it has become very popular among hetero couples and a popular method used by immigrants and refugees to obtain a visa or residence permit.

In France, there is a well-thought-out and subtle tactic to encourage marriage and punish unmarried young people, regardless of their sexual orientation. If you are around 30-years-old and you are still alone, you are prone to being refused having social and professional benefits, you are prone to pay much higher taxes to the state (the celibate member can have 30% of his income taxed versus 14% if you are in a couple) and at any bank you you go will have lower chances to get a credit if you are single, so many young people choose to compromise by making a PACS contract with their partners.

The procedure is very similar to marriage, if not identical, and because we are in France,  it is very complicated and involves a lot of bureaucracy. Although it practically takes 5 minutes to sign the papers, it takes months to get to that point. The starting point is the government site Continue reading “How to get PACS in France”

Prague dream vacation

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Prague, a city that I always wanted to see and experience. I was always looking at the pictures of others and it seemed to be one of the most beautiful places in the world. After seeing it, I can say with all my heart that it is. The city offers beautiful landscapes, architecture, great old pedestrian squares, world class beer and bars where you can still smoke inside, and all this for prices almost identical to those in Romania.

From Romania there is no low cost direct flight to Prague, but the ticket on Czech Airlines is not too expensive, around 150 EUR per person bought a month in advance. Our 3-star hotel taken with TUI agency cost us only 121 EUR for 7 nights and not only it was very decent it also had breakfast included in the price.

From Václav Havel Airport to Prague city center take the AE (Airport Express) bus, the trip takes about 40 minutes and the ticket is bought directly from the airport counter and costs 60 Czech crowns (CZK) or about 2.3 EUR per person. I would advise to bring with you some Czech currency  in order to buy the tickets, otherwise you have to deal with the currency exchange offices in the airport that offer rip off exchange rates. You will get of at the “Hlavní nádraží” central railway station, which is a huge underground hub where you can access the buses, the subway, the S trains and especially the trams. I underline the trams because these are the main and easiest way of transportation in the city. The Czech capital is covered everywhere by tramlines, and they come every three minutes. The trams have dedicated stations and dedicated lanes, and around half of them are of the latest generation of Skoda trains. Tram tickets are found at any cigarette or food kiosk and are divided according to the length of time. A 30-minute ticket costs 24 CZK (1 EUR), and one 24-hour ticket costs 110 CZK (4.3 EUR) and can be used from the moment of validation on any line and any time you want until the expiration date.

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Expat beginner’s guide to moving to France

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Probably many people today ask them selfs or consider moving to another country for various reasons. France is among the top destinations, alongside England and Germany for expats. They either leave due to financial difficulties and go looking for better paid work or go to take recognized studies. I’m sure in every country the accommodation process is different, I’m going to tell you how it’s going down here. France is not exactly a country that makes your life easy when you are new comer: the bureaucratic system is remarkably similar to the one in my home country Romania,  and not in a good way: it is heavy, bushy and requires a lot of running around and patience to get the essentials papers you need. But let’s start with the beginning:

  1. I am starting from the premise that you are leaving your country with a secured job already and you’re visa status is ok.  If you go to any country without a clear source of income you have a good chance that you will just wander a little around and return to your country with your tail between your legs as soon as the money runs out.  First of all , make sure you take enough cash to survive a month or two until you find decent accommodation. Without  2000 EUR in your pocket,  do not even think to head for the airport. Secondly, be sure to take your Identity Card, Passport (not necessarily in the EU, but it helps a lot), Birth Certificate in Original and be sure to make a translation and a legalized copy of it before you arrive , because here it costs around 50-60 euros to make a legal translation of this document; Marriage certificate, divorce certificate if you have , all translated, a few ID size pictures of you, and if the company will not provide accommodation (permanent or temporary) you should start to look for cheap hotels in the city. A hotel if booked in advance and for long term (one month or two) can be relatively inexpensive, costing 35-40 EUR per night.

2. A local phone number: This is the easiest step to accomplish and you will need it to complete all the next steps. We have chosen the operator  Lycamobile, which offers for 15 Euro per month  Continue reading “Expat beginner’s guide to moving to France”

First 48 days as expat in Marseille

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One and a half months ago, I was packing my baggage to go to the airport again, only this time I was not leaving to board a ship for 5 months, but to a new job and a new life. I explained in great detail why I wanted to quit sailing in the much controversial and popular own article “After six years at sea”, so after the last voyage I made the final decision to look for something to work on land. I have ill spoken a lot about our country Romania (and for good reasons considering that people are working for 300-400 EUR / month and the government is ripping you off on absolutely every step of the way!) and I have seen too many beautiful and civilized places in this world during my voyages to ever settle there, so the only option left for me was to become an expat and luck had it to be in Marseille.

Most of my  CVs were sent in English-speaking countries, especially in the UK, but since the whole Brexit phenomenon, most companies  have been reluctant to hire East Europeans. Fate decided that the lucky interview would land me in Marseille, France, a city of which I did not know much about , in a country whose language I ​​vaguely understand and speak. It was this or other positions somewhere in South Africa or Mexico so guess what I chose.

I only had sea experience on my resume so the only way to make the transition to land was to remain in the maritime business. I will not say the name of the

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Primele 48 de zile in Franta ca expat / First 48 days as expat in France

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Marseille dupa 48 de zile de locuit.

Acum o luna si jumatate imi faceam iar bagajul sa ma duc spre aeroport , doar ca de data asta numai plecam la vapor pentru 5 luni, ci la un nou job si o noua viata. Am explicat foarte detaliat de ce numai am vrut sa navig in mult controversatul si cititul articol propiu “Dupa sase ani pe mare” , asa ca dupa voiajul trecut am luat decizia definitiva de a imi cauta ceva la uscat. Am injurat mult tara noastra Romania (si pe buna dreptate considerand ca se munceste pe 300-400 EUR si guvernul te jegmaneste absolut la fiecare pas!) si am vazut mult prea multe locuri frumoase si civilizate pe lumea asta in timpul voiajelor ca sa ma pot stabili definitiv acolo , asa ca singura optiune era de a deveni expat afara.

Majoritatea CV-urilor trimise au fost in tari vorbitoare de Engleza , mai ales in Marea Britanie , dar de cand cu Brexitul se cam sfiesc firmele sa angajeze Est Europeni. Soarta a facut ca interviul norocos sa ma aterizeze in Marsilia, Franta. Un oras despre care nu stiam in principiu mai nimic , intr-o tara a carei limbi o inteleg vag. Era asta sau alte pozitii pe undeva prin Africa de Sud sau Mexic asa ca ghiciti ce am ales.

Fiind doar cu experienta pe mare , cam singura cale de a face tranzitia la uscat era sa raman in domeniu maritim , nu voi zice numele firmei dar fiind in Marsilia cred ca nu e asa greu de ghicit. Asa ca imi rezerv dreptul de a comenta si implica in orice discutie despre shipping , mai ales ca acum am acces la o perspectiva mult mai generala a sistemului , nu doar de pe vapor la fata locului , voi reveni si cu detalii de la locul de munca mai tarziu.

Mutarea nu pot zice ca a fost foarte grea , avantajul de a fi obisnuit cu impachetatul la tot ce ai nevoie intr-o valiza si plecat la aeroport dar si firma a fost foarte sustinatoare si mi-a oferit o luna o Continue reading “Primele 48 de zile in Franta ca expat / First 48 days as expat in France”

Budapest road trip

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We wanted to avoid the big crowds of the National Navy Day back home so we decided to leave for the extended weekend on a road trip to Budapest. Like any good idea, this trip came to our minds during a drunken night in Vama Veche. All being said and done, on Saturday morning, two couples were in my car, on our way to the border with Hungary. From Constanta to Budapest there are about 1050 kilometers, of which only 218 km are on national two lane roads and not on the motorway, namely Olt Valley between Pitesti and Sibiu entrance, and the missing A1 section between Deva and Faget – Dumbrava. In theory you should do this trip in 11 hours, in practice we live in Romania and it’s baaaad , very bad. I recommend a lot of patience and cold blood, on the Olt Valley I lost at least 3 hours in the still traffic, blocked between coaches and an infinite number of cars on both lanes, bringing the time up to 15 hours. Once you cross the ring road of Bucharest and the Olt Valley and you reach the A1 highway from Sibiu, it’s clear roads from there. The new section of A1 highway goes all the way to the border of Hungary at Nadlac and on to Budapest. The new border crossing point at Nadlac has enough lanes and works like a drive-in, just show the id or passport at the booth and go on. Immediately after the border at the first car park on the M43 motorway, you need to stop and buy a vignette.  A 10 days pass will cost 2975 Forints (10 EUR) and if you buy it from the Internet you pay this price, if you buy it from the parking lot you will pay EUR 14, as we have discovered. The roads and the highway system in Hungary are impeccable and everybody drives very civilized on lane 1, lane 2 being used on short intervals only when you overtake a slower car from lane 1. Lane 2 is not always busy and when you’re on it no one will come in your back and flash you insistently, but will rather wait calm until you finish overtaking and come back on lane 1 or at worst they will turn on the left signalling to alert you that you keeping the lane busy. The GPS assistance is truly holy during this trip, especially in the city.

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Due to the fact that all the trip was planned at a very short notice, finding accommodation was a challenge. Unlike the previous visit in 2012 Budapest  , when all the travel package came at 100 Continue reading “Budapest road trip”