On the bus and saw a rainbow up ahead – my juices must still have been flowing!!!
Somewhere over the rainbow, our hotel
4 hours into the future, Cardiff means we’ll sleep well
We woke up this morning, blissfully unaware
Of the chaos awaiting, car hire and credit card hell!!
We walked up to the counter smiling, here’s our reservation booking – car-now-please!
The lady wanted ‘driver’s license and 200 pound deposit – bank-cards-only!
We began crying and snarling; girl apologised
Sorry sir, it’s company policy; rules by which I must abide!
Is there an-other option? This strongly sucks!
No, and it’s not our problem; okay lady, you can get …. stuffed!
We have been seriously stuffed for three days!
Firstly because we had a run of charges on our pre-paid credit card and didn’t top it up fast enough AND then because we didn’t know about the 200 pound security deposit required (to only be paid with an international credit card).
So, we had Harry Potter tickets booked for Friday 18th and worked out which trains to catch to get there (HP booked for 10am and ticket said if we were late they couldn’t guarantee entrance). We caught the first train from Horley to Clapham Junction but the number of people getting on the bus to Watford Junction was amazing (rush hour) and about 20 people were left on the platform – including us!!!
So we caught another train to Shepherd’s Bush (from which we could catch the next train to Watford Junction (don’t you love that name – WATFORD JUNCTION!!) but when we got there we realised that there was a wait for the train AND then it would take about another 40 minutes. We didn’t have 40 minutes +, so we decided to catch a taxi.
We knew this was an extravagance (maybe 40 pound?) and tried not to notice it getting higher and higher – until by the time we got there, it was 91 pound!!!! That’s approximately $180 AUD folks!!!
So crying on the inside but smiling on the outside, we handed over our cash (because his EFTPOS machine was broken) and kindly he’d reduced it to 80 pound. We knew it was a waste of money and not something we’d happily do every day – but we had resources and we had to be there by 10am. It was 10.07!!
We were waiting in line at HP and realised that some people were just buying their tickets on the day! What the??!!! I guess it isn’t peak season, so they were able to do it AND of course they weren’t fussed that we were late. We could have called them and turned up an hour late and it would have been okay!!!! 😦
So, we enjoyed Harry Potter – it was very well done – and luckily (phew) didn’t feel the need to buy lots of merchandise and caught the train to Victoria Station. We’d planned on doing a Charles Dickens walking tour of London, followed by a quick run into Harrods (in the many times we’ve visited London we haven’t gone in) and then high tea at the Atheneum! Cool!! But when Eric went to use his card to call home – the operator said there wasn’t enough money on the card! And that was when we learned that we had only the cash in our pockets – and we’d blown 80 of it on the bloody taxi!!
We quickly calculated what was happening for the next few days (this was Friday). Saturday at Rachel’s. Sunday collect car and visit Becky and on to Cardiff. Monday at Dr Who in Cardiff. Tuesday drop car off and fly to Dublin. All accommodation paid for, car paid for, flights paid for and Dr Who paid for – all we needed money for was eating and sightseeing.
So when we visited Rachel and Andy we got our courage up and asked for a loan. It was embarrassing because as I said on the ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS blog, I only know Rachel from a Mauritius holiday and Facebook penpalling! BUT thankfully Rachel said yes immediately. That gave us 200 pound in our pockets.
Then when we turned up to collect our car rental at Gatwick to drive and visit Becky in Poole and on to Cardiff (which we had paid for online) – we couldn’t collect it because we didn’t have an international credit card with us! We’ve been travelling with only our prepaid Currency Card.
We booked the car with a booking agent online with our prepaid card – but when we went to collect were advised that we also had to pay a refundable 200 pound security deposit, but that this can only be paid with an International Credit Card (attached to your bank accounts)! Not prepaid currency cards and not cash – we could have had 1000 pounds in cash and it would have made no difference!
Therefore, our plan to drive to Gatwick to Dorset to lunch with Becky and then on to Cardiff that afternoon couldn’t work. We luckily had enough cash to buy a bus ticket direct to Cardiff, where we had two nights accommodation booked and paid for. It seems ridiculous!
We have ID (passport and driver’s license) but we most likely won’t be able to hire a car in Dublin on Tuesday either (which we weren’t able to, of course) because of this problem.
I wanted to bring our Mastercard as well – for emergencies – but Eric said “No. It defeated the purpose of having bought a prepaid card – nobody getting hold of our card attached to a real banking account if lost/stolen, no scanning it at shops/ATM”.
The ticket seller at National Express (buses) said ‘it happens all the time!’ So, it’s not just us eejits!!
We had to decide (for both timing and cash reasons) not to visit Becky – which was very sad because we were so looking forward to it and since Becky and Joe left Australia to return to the UK last December, they are now expecting a baby. Joe has done up the nursery and of course Becky looks preggers!! We were really looking forward to seeing where they live and eating in their local!
For financial reasons the best decision was to head straight to Cardiff where we had 2 nights accommodation already paid for. The bus cost 105 pound for the two of us, which left us less than 100. Transfer of funds into the prepaid card was already in progress, but takes 2 to 3 working days to process, so potentially we wouldn’t have any more money until Wednesday (and it was Sunday).
We talked to Von that night about maybe using Western Union to send some instant cash – and she got that happening. But the next exciting money adventure was that the bank decided to ‘freeze’ our credit card in case it was a fraudulent payment out of our account to an overseas business – because they didn’t know we were overseas and because Von used our bank account but with her name and details. ALARM BELLS RANG AT BANK WEST!!!
It was all sorted and on Monday we got cash out. Our new BFF in Alora, Mark of Finca Fenix was offering to send us money immediately – but of course are his guests and we didn’t feel at all comfortable letting him help us. It was crazy! We had money in our bank – but we were living on ham and cheese sandwiches!!! 🙂
We hit Dublin airport on Tuesday morning assuming that the money wouldn’t be through to our prepaid until Wednesday – but checked it out at the ATM anyway and BONUS we had money again!!!
MORAL OF THE STORY IS: DO NOT LET YOUR PREPAID CARD RUN OUT OF MONEY and bring the bloody REAL CARD with you in case of emergencies – a message I need to pass on to our travel agent to pass on to their customers!
Reminds me …. better check what the balance of our card is now!
On this day in Surrey in the United Kingdom, Eric and I met up with Rachel and Andy at their lovely home.
We met Rachel and her mum Sue in Mauritius four years ago, when we joined the same day trip and we offered to take a photo of them. They were staying at the HIlton further down the beach; we were at the Sands and we organised to meet up with them to eat at a local Indian restaurant (delicious food) and they joined us for drinks at our hotel on another evening.
After that day we only caught up a couple of other times, but I thought I’d found a kindred spirit in Rachel!
On the surface we aren’t that similar. Rachel has a big personality and a passion that saw her actively and intensely pursue a career (in the police) that had not been available to her as a youngster, due to entry requirements. So, in her late 30s and after a 21 year Admin job in high end retail she had completed all the testing and interviews and was waiting for confirmation she had made it!
They said “YES” but it took another two years of waiting due to cutbacks; and as the queue of successful applicants grew – Rachel worked full-time while “volunteer policing” to improve her chances of getting in. Finally, two years ago she got her ‘dream’ job and I was as proud of her as if I’d done it myself (or was her mother, sister, best friend …..)!
So, what do we have in common? At the same time that I ask that question, I feel that if we had grown up together OR lived in the same town, we’d be buddies! As it is, through the wonder of Facebook and email (basically the internet) we are modern day pen pals – often though in ‘real time’. And we both love to get snail mail – and try to write or send small prezzies a couple of times a year!
In planning our holiday there was a magnet pull from Surrey, UK and it would have been seriously disappointing if we hadn’t caught up.
When we met, there wasn’t any awkwardness! The four of us talked and laughed the afternoon away. Andy cooked a simple and delicious meal and made a lovely cheesecake (hello Cheesecake buddy 🙂 ). Rachel had to work in the evening and pushed on as long as she could before she had to chase us out!!!
We had a great time and it was easy and comfortable. Andy was lovely with these strangers that Rachel had brought home!
Rachel is the woman who had a dream and went for it, with the loving support of her ‘rock’ Andy. Eric has always been my rock and will support me in whatever I want to do. Perhaps I need to decide what that is – and go for it 🙂
Thanks guys for a great welcome and a fabulous afternoon! xxxx
P.S. Thanks for the lend of 100 quid! That is part of the next frustrating and dramatic (da dum!) story – to be blogged soon!