Please sign in to post.

Picnic like a pro

In this month's travel news, Rick has an article titled "Picnic like a pro in Europe."

All was fine until I got to the last paragraph:

It's easiest to pay cash at checkout, but if you want to use your credit card, be sure you know the PIN — the clerk may ask you to enter it (clerks may also ask for photo ID).

When was this written? 10, 15 years ago? A pin for US credit cards?

Posted by
3992 posts

Also I was disappointed to see the picture of people taking up room on steps in Assisi to have their picnic.

Posted by
2744 posts

It was a good article. I love to picnic.

The only thing that bothered me was when discussing eating in a B&B that prohibits it, Rick says if you do it anyway, throw your trash at an outside receptacle, not in your room. How about saying don’t do it.

Posted by
10351 posts

The photo shows the people on the steps in Italy blocking the entry to an apartment building and blocking the ramp used for pushing strollers and shopping carts on the incline.

The people in Paris have champagne, olives, crackers and some processed spreads but no bread.

I agree that he shouldn't give advice for eating in the hotel room when it is posted no to do so. In France, it's considered disgusting to eat in a bedroom except in hotels where room service is available. Should I mention the shock of coffee cups in a bathroom?

Posted by
1177 posts

I just read it. Find it very strange. I’ve been to Supermarkets in America and they were pretty much the same as they are in every other country I’ve ever been to. Does anyone really need a lesson in using a supermarket?

Posted by
1808 posts

I think you'll find the website is in desperate need of updating everywhere. Not sure the effort on updating the website is a priority, except listing tours, which makes business sense.

Posted by
8239 posts

Times don't change. When in Europe, clerks very often ask me to sign a receipt on my Capital One Visa card.

Posted by
8637 posts

@Helen, there are at least two things that many first-time Americans might not be used to: one is self-weighing and tagging fruits and vegetables; and the other is not being provided with free plastic shopping bags.

Posted by
33318 posts

are Americans still using disposable plastic bags?

Posted by
8637 posts

Yes, Nigel. Maybe not in some of the more progressive coastal cities. But here in the middle, I came home from the supermarket yesterday, with approximately 12 plastic bags.** Some stores have bins to collect the used bags for recycle, but few people seem to notice.

@Nick, I think our eyes are too glazed over to notice.

** yes I have reusable cloth bags, but sometimes you cant find them when you need them.

Posted by
15682 posts

are Americans still using disposable plastic bags?

It depends on the market. Some now require reusable bags while others seem to put one item in each bag.

I now travel with a reusable shopping bag. I also bought a filter water bottle so I don't have to buy bottled water.

Posted by
1177 posts

@stan When they start charging you 60c a bag you will start finding them!

Posted by
4012 posts

are Americans still using disposable plastic bags?

Depends on the where they live. In NYC, NJ & much if not all of New England, plastic bags are not given out. In NYC, one can buy 10 plastic bags for $1 - $1.50.

I would have thought the main thing that would confuse Americans in European supermarkets is that the price on the label is the price you'll pay at the checkout. No weird extra "tax" added on at the end.

Why single out the US? We were in Montréal and the sales tax was added at the register.

Sales taxes vary even by city so it would be an expensive feat for manufacturers to include sales tax on the tags depending upon region on every sales tag of merchandise sold through distributors nationwide in the US and Canada. That would only increase the price. It’s not too hard to ask what the local sales tax is. Some states either have no sales tax on all products or are tax free on certain types of items like food and/or clothing. NYC doesn’t add sales tax on clothing, belts or footwear priced under $110. Last, sales taxes can change depending upon the makeup of the legislature & executive.

Posted by
6095 posts

We occasionally still run into times where a PIN is necessary for credit card transactions. We needed one in Poland a few times, especially for buses in Krakow. We used to need one at gas stations in France, I don't recall that we needed one last year.

I think the issue with no bags is that often we will pass a grocery during our sightseeing and then realize we have no way of carrying our purchases. We just got into the routine of keeping a few plastic bags in our day bags.

We love to picnic. Saves time, money and its fun. Sometimes we find it difficult to find a place to picnic. We had no idea that we couldn't do a small lunch/picnic in Siena's campo until 3 police office came over to warn us. That was a little intimidating. The next day, we had a bite to eat in the Campo del Duomo and were nervous that was inappropriate, too. I guess we were good and did notice others doing the same.

I am picky about the taste of water, but also picky about avoiding single use plastic. I've been bringing a water bottle with a filter for quite a while now. I do find the flow, from at least the bottles I own, is too slow. I've taken to filtering the water into a second bottle, and even chilling it when possible for day use.

Posted by
2497 posts

We get plastic bags from the grocery store but then reuse them to bag up our trash. Otherwise we would be buying plastic bags for our trash which seems stupid as those trash bags are a heavier (and I assume slower to degrade) material.

Posted by
9436 posts

Nigel, every grocery store in California i’ve been in has rolls of plastic bags in the produce section for people to use for free. We pay 10 cents per bag at checkout to put all our groceries in. Many stores offer paper or plastic bags at checkout. You’d think California would be more evolved on this by now.

Posted by
273 posts

Hi, Nick,

I'm sure (or at least I hope) that you didn't mean to come off as disparaging to all US residents as your post sounded. I live in NY, where the plastic bags are now prohibited, but as stated above, thin bags made of recycled or biodegradable materials are still available for produce. Regardless of what the government does or doesn't mandate, we still have the choice to individually act in environmentally friendly ways, as least in our homes and for things we can personally control. The very first time I went to Europe, it was eye opening to me how many small things I could change to decrease my footprint. That is why we all travel though, right? To learn and become better world citizens?

Posted by
776 posts

Virginia charges 5 cents for each plastic bag. They are so cheaply made that you need to at least double them if you don't want your groceries to end up on the ground in the parking lot. I have reusable bags. I regularly leave them in the car and realize I have when I'm ready to go to check out. Solution is to check out, dump everything back in the trolley and fill the reusable bags when I get to the car.

Posted by
11368 posts

It always shocks us when we go grocery shopping in AZ and they ask “paper or plastic?”
Why offer plastic?

Posted by
8637 posts

@Suki, the default here is plastic. A few places tried to charge for plastic bags several years ago (and some still offer a discount if you brought your own bag) but mostly people prefer plastic over paper. I think places here like Walmart and the Dollar stores only have plastic.

Posted by
3821 posts

are Americans still using disposable plastic bags?

Not these Americans. We have canvas book bags we take to the grocery and load them up after checkout.
Only reusable canvas bags for us.
They also double as beach bags on vacation.

NOW, Canadian companies chop down multitudes of trees to produce those kraft paper bags.

My pet peeve is the wasting of trees to print junk mail that is immediately thrown away/recycled.

Posted by
6095 posts

Plastic bags vary by state. In Minnesota, we often have choice of paper or plastic, though some places only have plastic. Makes me crazy! I know Hawaii, or at least Honolulu, and I believe Washington State do not provide plastic bags.

Now, I wish countries in Europe would do something to reduce single use plastics.

Posted by
14249 posts

Jules, the key is to have one of those very small squishable Chico bags on a carabiner that stays in my "travel purse". I'm sure I didn't pay $30 for them though!

https://www.amazon.com/ChicoBag-Original-Reusable-Shopping-Grocery/dp/B005ZV91T0/ref=sr_1_5?crid=23YLOM3HW2EQ&keywords=chico+bags+reusable+shopping+bag&qid=1688762279&sprefix=chico+bag%2Caps%2C282&sr=8-5

And yes, Nigel, Idaho still allows plastic bags. I find it hilarious in a state where many families have signs in the windows of their homes saying "This family supported by timber dollars" that they will use plastic bags instead of paper bags which are from the original renewable resource, trees.

I do use reusable bags but occasionally will get everything in plastic so I have liners for my trash cans.

(BTW I am kind of ashamed to admit this but several years ago I pulled out my bag in Paris and it was SO wrinkled. After that trip, I carefully washed and IRONED it, hahaha, and refolded it so it would come out nice and not wrinkled. AS IF the lady in Leader-Price cared that I had a wrinkled grocery bag!!)

Posted by
2389 posts

I’m in Germany now and needed my pin for my credit card yesterday to buy train tickets at a kiosk (BofA card). Thankfully I set up my pin in advance, having read about the need. My brother needed a pin to purchase gas, and didn’t know his. Didn’t even know such a thing existed. So yes, in some instances a pin is still required.

That said, we have not needed a pin at the grocery. What we HAVE experienced, is that we cannot use the self check lines without causing a delay because we must sign for purchases. Using 4 different bank cards, all with touch pay. Sometimes the grocery stores require us to insert the card, which requires us to sign a receipt. I would say about 80% of purchases have required a signature in Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy.

Posted by
3992 posts

Add Austria to that list. Have to insert my chip ready card into the little reader every time and sign the receipt. They see to be fine with it here. Also have only seen one place that said cc only in the week and a half we’ve been here.

Posted by
33318 posts

very interesting.

when England (all 4 nations did it differently, Scotland first) banned free single use plastic bags (except for fruit, veg, deli and fish counter) they put a small charge on. This was mandatory across the country except for small corner shops. Then department stores, all other stores were added, then the price went from 2p to 10p. People were encouraged to buy "Bags for Life" for a small charge and reuse them and now disposables are gone. Now the newer bags are north of £1.00. Some places give non-petroleum, usually potato starch or cellulose based, compostable fruit and veg bags but most charge for reusable net bags for veg and fruit.

There are some cloth carrier bags around but very few other than in very "aware" areas such as university towns, some heavy grade plastic or non-woven synthetic, but many are a heavy nylon and they last a very long time.

I have a collection of many reusable bags from various stores. My favourite is one from a German supermarket south of Freiburg im Breisgau, Hieber's Frische Center. What a supermarket - such quality. If they were a department store they would be Nordstrom or Harrods.

I haven't used a single use plastic bag since the law came in. And I live in a town well away from London or large universities.

Parenthetically - magazines now come in compostable corn or potato starch bags, or a few in paper envelopes where 2 years ago they all came in plastic, and plastic envelope windows have virtually all been replaced by various non-petroleum windows.

Most take-away food from chain restaurants now comes in paper bags with nice handles. I reuse them until they fall apart.
Nandos likes to see me turn up with a reused Nandos bag!!

It is a shame we didn't start earlier.

Posted by
15682 posts

I spent two weeks in Vienna in May and never had to insert my card. All contactless via Google Pay.

Same for Hungary and the UK.

And if a train ticket machine gave me a hard time, I either went into the ticket office or bought the ticket online.

Posted by
7075 posts

Since we're all talking about plastic bag bans where we live, I'll chime in. Corvallis was the 2nd city in Oregon (after Portland) to ban plastic bags in 2012. That was the year I moved here so I've been using either reusable bags (which I have a nice collection of like NIgel) or paper as long as I've lived here. Before that I preferred the reusable bags to plastic when I lived in Colorado even though plastic was not banned there. All the grocery stores offered some type of reusable for a small price (usually 99 cents).

I brought a string shopping bag with me when I went to France back in 2012 because I knew that was the norm for shoppers over there. I think they are wonderful and scrinch up very small.

Posted by
18773 posts

In Budapest, I use a reusable bag as the law requires charging for bags (all plastic). Then, I purchase plastic bags for trash can liners. In Texas, I dont use a reusable bag and use the free grocery store plastic bags as trash can liners. Really don't see the difference? Personally I am disgusted by plastic waste and open to ideas.

Posted by
76 posts

Seattle's plastic bag ban used to be good but now it's a joke. "Single use plastic bags" are banned so what have companies done? Switched to heavier "reusable" bags (made with MORE plastic) that they are supposed to charge for. Some stores still do not have plastic bags at all (Fred Meyer and QFC, Kroger stores, are two) but do have paper bags for which they are supposed to charge. The "rules" are ridiculous and include thickness and compostability, blah blah blah. (All stores still have those super thin produce bags available.) And of course those thick bags are just sitting next to every U-scan station (looking at you, Target) and no one checks to see if the customer has added those to their bill (hint: no one does). Plastic bags had all but disappeared until those monster thicker bags showed up. Just ban all those plastic bags regardless of whether they are recyclable (they are but many people don't and you cannot recycle them curbside in Seattle because they mess up the machinery). Sorry for all the rant and parentheticals but this whole topic just makes me mad. BAN.PLASTIC.BAGS!

Posted by
10351 posts

"Personally I am disgusted by plastic waste and open to ideas."

Starting now, all food waste goes into composting bins where I live in southern France. We have recycling bins, food waste bins. I remember this was the procedure in Boulogna Italy, too.

Posted by
9436 posts

Just to clarify… there are two kinds of plastic bags that posters are referring to without differentiating.

There are thin plastic bags (often not the “green” kind) in the produce section of a grocery store in California.

Then there are bigger, thicker plastic bags to put all your groceries in at checkout.

Not all grocery stores offer the bigger, thicker plastic bags for all your groceries, but many do. Most grocery stores have the large, brown paper bags for all your groceries, but some only have the bigger, thicker plastic bags for all your groceries.

Posted by
15682 posts

Regarding the plastic bags for fruits and veggies, M & S Simply Foods in the UK has replaced them with paper bags that have a small clear strip so you can see what's inside.

Posted by
240 posts

Seattle's plastic bag ban used to be good but now it's a joke. "Single use plastic bags" are banned so what have companies done? Switched to heavier "reusable" bags (made with MORE plastic) that they are supposed to charge for.

Well those thicker plastic bags have worked out for me! During last year’s trip to Washington State I ended up with a couple of them, I think they were 8 cents each. I’ve been using them ever since! Where I live in Pennsylvania there are no grocery bag regulations and I prefer not to return from the grocery store with a dozen new plastic bags every time (the old ‘thin’ ones). So I fold my Washington State bags flat, and tuck them into my purse. Then I always have a bag with me for random stops at the store for a few things (kind of the same idea as the foldable Chico bags). For larger grocery orders I also take the canvas bags. I even used these thicker plastic bags last month in Europe. I had them in my day bag and they came in handy for packing up a few items for a ‘picnic’ meal from the grocery store.

I think reusing the thicker bags hundreds of times is much better then getting new thin bags every time. But I see your point about people not even bothering to pay for them. Kinda of goes against the principle of the matter and I bet most people aren’t reusing them.

Posted by
1808 posts

It takes four times the amount of energy to create a paper bag as opposed to a plastic bag. Additionally, Paper and pulp are the 3rd largest industrial polluter of air, the methane gas is 25x more toxic than CO2. Paper bags, in production, emit 70% more air and 50% more water pollution than its plastic counterpart.

Paper products weigh more than plastic products and as such increase carbon footprint in logistics.

4 billion trees are cut down each year for paper- this is the equivalent of 1% of the Amazon Rainforest

Paper accounts for 25% of landfill waste

Paper or plastic? Flip a coin.

Posted by
7075 posts

Paper or plastic? Flip a coin.

The correct answer is "neither". Reusable (and washable) cloth bags are the way to go.

Posted by
33318 posts

It takes four times the amount of energy to create a paper bag as opposed to a plastic bag.

Does that include the oil exploration and extraction, transportation, refining and storage?

Posted by
1808 posts

Does that include the oil exploration and extraction, transportation, refining and storage?

Actually I read that plastics bags are made from by-products of petroleum and even natural gas. I don't think oil exploration's main purpose is plastic. At least based on gas prices it doesn't appear to be.

Posted by
76 posts

BarbaraG: Glad to hear you are reusing your bags. Unfortunately most people will just toss them out after a few uses (or use them as garbage bags) instead of returning them to a store for recycling. The point is that they should not be offered at all since plastic bag waste is a huge contributor to the plastic problem. They started being used to circumvent the "single use plastic bag" ban but people toss them out just as much as they toss the thinner ones. We all got used to bringing our own bags but now there's little incentive so people have gotten very lazy. No one needs those bags when there are so many reusable alternatives available.

Posted by
1 posts

I came home from the supermarket yesterday, with approximately 12 plastic bags. because I think It depends on the market. Some now require reusable bags while others seem to put one item in each bag.