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Update on claiming ticket refund from United Airlines

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Yesterday I posted about the situation with United Airlines and how they had told my mother (who has been diagnosed with cancer) that  she wasn’t entitled to a refund on her flights to Oregon to see my brother because “The illness, as described in your correspondence, does not qualify for an exception.”

I put up a post yesterday on United Airlines Facebook page voicing my disgust at their attitude and was overwhelmed by the response on Facebook, Twitter, and Ian (my brother’s) blog. (Thank you everyone who liked, shared, and got in touch with us.)

Here’s the update:-

United Airlines replied to me yesterday and this is what they said :-

“This is a very restrictive bulk rate ticket purchased through Expedia. The funds for bulk tickets are transferred to the airline after travel has taken place. We have no authority to refund your Mother’s ticket. We’re called Expedia and they tell us to have you call them at 01 524 5005 in Ireland or 35315245005 in Europe. We hope this helps. ^km”

I have two problems with this.

Firstly, this is a different reason given, for refusal of the refund, to the one that my mother was given, which makes me question United Airlines refund process.  One would think that if a passenger requests a refund that there is a procedure for assessing the validity of the request BEFORE any further investigation is done, and before any response is given that could cause upset or offence to anyone.

Secondly, my father had already tried to call Expedia’s Dublin number several times over the last two weeks and was diverted to a call centre that he’s pretty sure isn’t based in Dublin.  Expedia told him that he needed to contact United Airlines with regard to a refund.

So, between United Airlines and Expedia they’ve managed to create Mission Impossible with regard to getting a refund, by passing the book to each other.

To those of you who’ve been wondering why my mother didn’t claim off her travel insurance, I think that she thought seeking a refund would be the easiest option, especially as United Airlines offer a refund policy in the case of ‘unplanned events’.

Rather than it being a simple process, it caused her a lot of stress and anxiety on top of the worry she is already experiencing.

She is claiming through her travel insurance now, and I’m pretty sure will avoid both United Airlines and Expedia in the future.  I certainly intend to steer well clear of both.

A tale of Lions, Tigers, Chariots and Gladiators

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In Puy du Fou there’s a replica of a Roman amphitheatre, where a show called ‘Triumph’s Sign’ takes place, with gladiators, lions and chariot races.

Puy du Fou Colosseum

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Puy du Fou – The Secret of the Lance

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Photographs from another one of the shows (The Secret of the Lance) that we saw at Puy du Fou.  I have some video clips too but I’ll have to wait till a later date to put them up.

As with all the shows I was quite a distance away from the stage/performance area, and had to do my best to chop people’s heads off (when editing….not, obviously, as I was taking the photos).

I need a lot more practise at shooting stuff in motion.  I think I may also need glasses.

Anyway, we really enjoyed it, although I think it was a better show the first year we went to see it.  The jousting appears to have been dropped from the show, and the horses did less ‘dancing’, although I think the dancing horses have now been added to a new show – ‘Richelieu Muskateer’.

The Secret of the Lance

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An eye for the birds.

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These photos were taken at Parc Puy du Fou in France this year – a place definitely worth a visit. It’s a magnificent theme park in The Vendée region of France,  and this was our second time to visit it.  There are fantastic shows on life size stages that demonstrate viking battles, chariot racing and jousting.  The photographs below are from The Phantom Bird Dance show which features huge birds of prey that are let loose over the heads of the audience, culminating in dozens of birds swooping backwards and forwards at the end of the show.

Bird

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Le petit train de la Rhune

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We returned home last weekend after spending two wonderful weeks in Biarritz – our third time to holiday there.

The last time we were in Biarritz was in August three years ago and, on one of our many day trips, we came across Le petit train de la Rhune, a train that runs on rack railway, which takes its passengers right up to the summit of the La Rhune mountain on the French/Spanish border.  At the time, tourist season was in full swing, the car parks nearby were overflowing, and the train was filled to capacity on each journey, so we abandoned any notion we had of attempting to take a trip on it.

This year, however, we holidayed in June – a great time to holiday in France as everything is so quiet, and Le Petit Train de la Rhune is no exception. We arrived at the small, quaint, oldstyle train station at 10:30 in the morning and had no problems getting parking in the adjacent car park. There was plenty of room on the train and we’d no waiting around as we’d arrived just in time for the 10:30 trip.

Most people had taken up seats on the side of the train opposite the train station, but it doesn’t matter which side of the train you sit on, you’re still assured of some amazing views from the windows….

La Rhune - Summit

The train shuffles along at a leisurely 9kph and takes 30 minutes to reach the summit,  so there’s plenty of time to admire the scenery. Continue reading

The Birdman at Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

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When I was in Paris last November I saw this man standing outside the Notre Dame Cathedral feeding the birds.  It was fascinating to watch the birds darting backward and forwards, swiping bits of bread from the man’s outstretched hands.  Everyone who passed by stopped to watch or to take a photo.

Birdman

I came across the photos earlier when I was transferring stuff over to my external drive, so I had to share.  My photos only show a small amount of the birds that were there.  At times there were dozens of them fighting for the few crumbs on offer.

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Bubbles – French Style

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Bubbles – French Style, originally uploaded by Susan Cloonan.

One of my favourite photos from when we were in Paris last November. There are just so many funny things about this pic – the altered road signs, the faces on the people. I love it!

Trip to Paris – Premiére Partie

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I was in Paris last weekend.  Ally was in London at an Evanescence gig so, seeing as Bláthny was a bit disappointed at not going with her, I thought I’d give her a nice surprise by bringing her to Paris.

She was overjoyed when I told her about the idea!

 

“I don’t want to go to Paris”, she said. 

“Of course you do”, I said, “Everyone wants to go to Paris”. 

 

14 year olds really can’t be expected to know what they want now, can they, especially when it comes to trips to Paris? I, as a considerate, thoughtful mother am well aware of this.

 

Luxury Travel

And, so it was that three of us, Bláthny, mam and I, jetted off in luxury, with Ryanair, to fabulous Frenchville!

We arrived in Beauvais late on Friday evening and, having just brought hand luggage, succeeded in being among the first onto the bus waiting to take everyone into Paris city centre.

Cost to get into Paris from Beauvais for anyone who’s interested:  €90 (€30 each) for the return bus ticket, and €20 for a taxi to our hotel as we decided against taking the Metro that late at night. (A good idea considering the dodgy area of Paris we stayed in.)

 

Luxurious Accommodation

Our hotel that we’d booked for the three nights was situated on the same street as the Gare de L’Est, a train/Metro station in the NorthEast of Paris.  It is the noisiest hotel I have ever stayed in.  The first night we arrived there was a large crowd of people attending an event at a club across from the hotel.  As I was checking in at reception I saw several of them battering the heads off each other as others stumbled drunkenly into the sex-shop beside it.

Mam was given a room at the back of the hotel and, thankfully, the view of the ‘shop’, from our room, was obscured by some very large trees outside our window.  Unfortunately the trees obscured everything else too.  It’s a pity they didn’t block out the noise of the traffic and sirens though.  Once darkness fell the traffic noise appeared to increase, and sirens wailed right through until the morning.  There is NOTHING more annoying than a French style Police siren blaring every ten minutes…..unless it’s MANY French style Police sirens blaring every ten minutes.

We were so tired though that we slept through the night.

 

Gourmet Breakfast

On the Saturday we thought we’d get breakfast somewhere other than the hotel, and we settled on a little restaurant opposite MacDonald’s.  I’m a firm believer that, when abroad, one should eat as the other locals do, and so I’ll always look for an authentic looking, traditional place that serves good local cuisine.

The restaurant we chose was empty.  Across the road MacDonald’s was full.  Two cold coffees, one bland ‘hot’ chocolate, and three disappointing breakfasts left me in no doubt as to why the locals were opting for Bacon & Egg McMuffins.  For the remainder of our Paris vacation we ate breakfast in MacDonald’s.

 

Romance in Paris

We walked on the Friday morning past the Gare du Nord, along the Bd de Magenta and back down the Rue du Rocheouart .  It was an experience.  The Bd de Magenta was lined with shops selling suits and wedding dresses.

Paris wedding shop

Two years ago when I was in Paris with John we walked up Rue du Faub. St. Denis which is, more or less, at the back of the Bd de Magenta.  I’m not sure where we were going but, the further up the street we went, the quicker we walked.  The street was lined with clothing boutiques that I’m fairly sure sold a bit more than clothes judging by the women dressed in leopardskin and leather standing in the doorways.

I suppose it’s very convenient to have the two streets in such close proximity to each other in the event of any potential ‘Pretty Woman’ romance stories.

 

The Sights

The three of us walked as far as Montmartre.  It used to be one of my favourite places in Paris but it’s not really like it was twenty years ago.  There are too many ‘scammers’ around.  You’d want eyes in the back of your head for them.

These guys (pictured below) would take a person by the hand and, before the ‘victim’ had time to blink, they’d find themselves with several strands of thread wrapped around their finger and wrist.  A couple of minutes later they’d be sporting a newly crafted ‘luck’ bracelet that they’d have to pay €5 for.

Bracelet for luck

All three of us were caught, but I insisted on paying just €5 for the three bracelets.  If I ever go back I’ll be keeping my hands in my pockets and doling out swift kicks to people’s ankles.  ‘Oops, my foot slipped’.

I do love the hustle and bustle of Montmartre though.

Montmartre

 

I love the Basilique du Sacre Coeur.  Years ago I met a group of Irish lads in Paris as I was nearing the end of my stay there.  So determined was I to see the church lit up at night that at 3 o’clock in the morning one of the lads walked out there with me.  Of course the place was in total darkness and I’d an awful rush on me to try to make it back to the hotel, pack, and get out to Charles de Gaulle airport for my flight back home that morning at 7AM.

 

Le Basilique du Sacre Coeur

I spent a lot of time taking photos of birds while I was there this time.  Is it sad that I’d be more interested in taking photos of them rather than the sights?

Paris

 

The pigeon below didn’t hang around long enough for me to take a second shot.

Pigeon

Pigeon in flight

 

It was a lovely warm, clear day and the view from the top of the hill was fabulous.

View from Basilique du Sacre Coeur

Bláthny had to put her sunglasses on.  Then she wondered why people were looking at her.

Funny glasses

 

The glasses drew great attention in a café we went into at the bottom of the hill and we found ourselves being served immediately while the barman took the opportunity to inspect the glasses.

 

Shopping

I’ve never been to Galeries Lafayette so we thought we’d venture there next.  I was awed by the Rolex and Tiffany counters, mainly by the glitter coming from them.  I’m not sure if I’d ever spend €26,000 on a ring or a watch though.  If I’d that much money to spend on jewellery I’d want to be able to afford the security to go with it.

There were a lot of Asian tourists snapping up bargains in Louis Vuitton luggage.  I’m sure the store must have been giving the stuff away for nothing because there were no prices on any of it and it was disappearing off the shelves at a huge rate.

Mam and I wandered over to look at the ‘Special Offer’ clothing rail but there was nothing less than a €100 on it and the quality was very poor, in my opinion.  I think I’ve seen better stuff in No Name.

Outside Galeries Lafayette

 

Opera

 

Ourside Galeries Lafayette

 

 

Paris

 

After our visit to Galeries Lafayette it was on to the Louvre for ‘Deuxiéme Partie’.

Holiday Inn Express, Croydon, London

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(Note: Update at bottom of page.)

My elderly parents planned to visit a friend of theirs in London this weekend and take my teenage daughters on a bit of a tour.  They booked the Holiday Inn Express in Croydon for the duration of their stay (Friday to Sunday).

However, as a result of the riots over the last few nights they decided to alter their plans.  They didn’t want to disappoint the girls so they opted to stay in Holyhead instead and meet their friend outside London.

Today my mother contacted the Holiday Inn Express in Croydon to cancel the booking.  From what I can gather, the bones of the conversation went pretty much like this:

Mum: Hi. I’m phoning in connection with Reservation No. XXXXXX.  I’d like to cancel that booking please.

Receptionist: I’m afraid you can’t cancel that booking.

Mum: Considering recent developments in that area I really don’t think it’s a wise decision for us to travel there. I’d like to cancel the booking please.

Receptionist: You can’t cancel the booking.  The area is very quiet here anyway.

Mum: We’re an elderly couple travelling with two young girls. I’d really prefer to cancel the booking please.

Receptionist: You can cancel the booking but you’ll forfeit the full amount for the booking.

Mum: (getting quite upset) But we can’t drive into that area now. 

Receptionist: The area is very quiet.  You can cancel the booking but you’ll have to reschedule it if you don’t want to lose all your money.

Mum (very upset): Ok, I’ll reschedule the booking.

Receptionist: When would you like to reschedule it for?

Mum (becoming flustered): October?

Receptionist: October. Ok. (confirms dates) That will be an extra £xxx

Mum: (gives details of credit card) What’s it like there tonight?.

Receptionist: The roof of the hotel was damaged last night by the rioting but everything’s quiet at the moment.

WTF???

My mother phoned her friend then – the one she’d been planning to visit and who happens to be a Special in London – and the friend advised her not to come near the place.

I am upset for my parents.  I am appalled that a major hotel group such as the IHG (Intercontinental Hotel Group) would pressurise my mother into re-booking her hotel stay, given the present situation in London (and the fact that the roof of the hotel they’d booked had suffered damage in the riots).

My parents are good customers of the IHG hotel group and have stayed at the Holiday Inns many times while in London.  While on holiday in Oregon we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Portland, and the last time my parents were in Portland they stayed in the Candlewood Suites, another IHG brand.

Holiday Inn Express Portland

Holiday Inn Express Portland

 

I’m not suggesting that because they’re good customers my parents should be given a refund.  But, I will be contacting IHG tomorrow and, in the event that I don’t find them sympathetic towards my parents plight, then I would certainly reconsider any future possible bookings with them.

I’ll post again tomorrow with the outcome of the phonecall to IHG.  Comments welcome.

Update:  10th August 2011

Just a quick update in relation to the above.  The General Manager of the Holiday Inn Express in Croydon (Stuart Clay) contacted us today through the hotel’s Facebook page.  He also emailed my mother.  He apologised for the situation, is investigating the story regarding the damaged roof (which he claims isn’t damaged) and refunded my parents for their stay.

Katie Jolley from IHG also contacted me earlier this evening in relation to this and provided me with a cancellation number for the booking.

St. Finbarr’s Oratory, Gougane Barra

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St. Finbarr's Oratory, Gougane Barra

St. Finbarr's Oratory

This is somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit.  I got the opportunity, finally, while on holiday in West Cork last weekend.  It’s a really beautiful place.  There was a wedding taking place while I was there (it’s a very popular place for small intimate weddings), and, as there were photographs being taken, I didn’t venture onto the island.

There’s a hotel across the lake from the church as well as a pub/café and shop.  Fishing licenses can be purchased at the shop and there were a few people fishing down at the lake.  There are some lovely walks around the forest park so it’s a really nice place to while away a few hours.