REVIEW – NEW YORK INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING

For those of you who haven't been following, a brief recap is in order.

Cathey and I are moving...have moved...from the Lehigh Valley in eastern Pennsylvania to Quarante in the Languedoc region of southern France. Several months before our planned move, I began researching international shipping companies online. I checked out their websites, read customer reviews, and eventually contacted several to seek quotes. In the end, I chose NewYork International Shipping for several reasons. Their reviews were no better or worse than any of the others with the exception that their agent in France was mentioned favorably in reviews a couple of times. (People either loved or hated their shippers. No middle ground.) Their quote was in line with the others that I solicited but their quote included packing our stuff for us while each of the others required us to do the packing ourselves. And NYINTSHIP (their own shorthand) answered my email and phone questions promptly and reasonably.

We scheduled the packers in for mid March. NYINTSHIP had told us that the move would take from eight to ten weeks, door to door, with the usual caveats about the vagaries of timing. Since Cathey and I had tickets for a mid April flight, we figured that living for a month without the bulk of our stuff in the States would balance out living for a month out of our suitcases in France while we waited for our stuff to arrive...hopefully in mid May.

As mid March approached, several glitches cropped up.
  • NYINTSHIP advertised that they accepted PayPal, so I sent the deposit through my PayPal account. What I hadn't been told was that the PayPal fee would be deducted. I lost about $50. I found that a bit confusing. If I'd used a credit card, they would have had to eat a fee, wouldn't they? Still, I decided that the $50 was not worth fighting over in the grand scheme of things. I needed their good will more than I needed the $50.
  • The packing and pickup was rescheduled twice. I can't really blame NYINTSHIP for that. The winter of 2013/14 in the American Northeast was the winter from Hell with significant snows every few days. I could understand the nightmare of scheduling under those circumstances.
  • The final invoice was about 50% higher than the initial quote. Again, I don't blame NYINTSHIP. I'm not a professional estimator and we decided to ship much more than we initially contemplated. We added a sofa to our relatively small load, for instance, the largest piece that we shipped by far. As a result, even though I inserted an extra 10% of wiggle room into my initial list of items to be shipped, the sticker still shocked me.
  • Communication broke down fairly rapidly after the sale was closed. I received a receipt for our deposit but I had to ask for receipts for our two subsequent payments. I had to ask for projected date of shipping and had to ask for projected date of delivery. Everyone that I spoke with was polite and responsive. Emails were answered promptly. But I had to ask.
  • Our stuff arrived on June 24th, nearly twelve weeks after pickup, outside the eight to ten week estimate. Cathey was frazzled by that time and when Cathey is frazzled, I am frazzled. But our stuff did arrive. The guys lugged it from their truck to the first or second floor as we directed. And they had to park 50 meters away from the front door because we live on a pedestrian street that trucks can't enter. We shipped 91 pieces (a sofa counts as one piece) and we received 91 pieces.
  • It's taken us a couple of days to unpack and unwrap. The Wedgwood is intact. None of the other china, pottery, or glassware arrived chipped, cracked or broken and there's plenty of china, pottery, and glassware. None of our clothing or linens have become water-stained or bug infested. The ladder back of one chair is cracked, easily glued and so far within the insurance deductible that it's not worth reporting.
Given all of that, you would think that I give New York International Shipping low marks, that I'd warn you away from them. Not so. I recommend them. I'll tell you why.

Several million containers enter and leave the Port of New York annually. Our stuff occupied a small percentage of one of those containers. The fact that any shipment at all is delivered to its proper destination thousands of miles away, reasonably intact and within a reasonable period of time, is a miracle of Biblical proportions. That shippers who handle millions of dollars worth of cargo every year should be courteous when answering the questions of a tyro like me who will make minimal use their services once in a lifetime is a second miracle. And the container in which our stuff was packed didn't fall off the deck and into the Atlantic. Miracle number three. In the face of the odds, I have nothing to complain about.

So I grade New York International Shipping a solid B.
I'd use them again.

SOCCER EXPLAINED FOR AMERICANS

The World Cup has started and my European friends will be paying careful attention. Since I plan to integrate as best I can, I decided that it was time that I learned something about the sport. So I found a site that streams all of the matches for free and I am trying to pay attention. Here's what I have learned so far.

My American friends should be aware that the World Cup is not a large drinking vessel. It's a sporting event. It's an international football tournament. And football is what the rest of the world calls soccer. The purpose of the event appears to be to provide a financial boost for ethnic restaurants around the world with large television screens. And the World Cup only takes place once every four years. For the intervening years, the team that wins the World Cup is the World Champion even though the team no longer exists. (The teams, by the way, are called sides because they are not really teams. The players get together just for the World Cup, then go back to their real teams in other countries where they make their real money.) See? It's already confusing.


The referees come from various countries from around the world who are at war with each other, but that doesn't seem to make a difference to them. They get along with each other so well that they come to an agreement before each match on which team should win, then help that team win by making obviously biased calls. If that happened at an American sporting event, money would have changed hands. Apparently, World Cup referees are simply doing their part without financial incentive. 

Things get going on a very nice lawn in front of groups of drunken men in color coordinated clothing. Women can be in the stadium, but only if they don't wear shirts. The first team to kick the ball barely touches it, rolling it just far enough to make certain that it's round. Then the teams of men, all of whom were so busy trying on colorful shoes that they forgot to shave, begin kicking the ball back and forth, sometimes even kicking it with their heads. The object of the game seems to be to find creative ways to fall down so that the referees can help you win or, if you find yourself standing somewhere near the ball by yourself so that it wouldn't make sense to fall down, finding creative ways to kick the ball past your own goal tender and into your own net.

It seems that in one of the early games that I saw, the world champion Spaniards lost convincingly to the Netherlands, apparently due to superior cannabis. At least I think that's right. I can't understand the announcers. They're speaking British.

EDIT: The Americans won their first game. They scored a goal in the first 30 seconds, then nothing exciting happened for over an hour and a half. In other words, it was a typical soccer match.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS EXPLAINED

Now that I live in France, I'm often asked about American politics. HERE is a quick primer on American political parties that appears on the Political Page. It's basic but it's a start.

FRENCH CHEESE - AN ENJOYABLE, DIVERSE HUNK OF OUR DIET

Unless we're dining out or have particularly tasty leftovers from the previous night's dinner, our mid day meal consists of chunks of fresh bread purchased from the bakery a block away, a plate of charcuterie (meat products, primarily pork but including anything and everything, like sausages and salamis, pates, bacon and the like), fresh tomato and/or cucumber and/or artichoke, olives, fruit, and a cheese plate.



Our typical cheese plate will have a variety that includes soft cheese (brie, Camembert, reblochon), firm cheese (cantal, emmental), Roquefort or other blue cheese, and a goat or a sheep cheese.




You can buy cheese where ever food is sold. Our favorite super markets have long cheese counters with varieties running the gamut. Smaller groceries' assortment reflects either the owners' taste, the local product, or both. And every market day usually includes a cheese vendor. The offering of the vendor in the Wednesday market in Quarante is pictured just below. Below that are two pictures of the charcuterie, meat, poultry, and cheese truck in the Capestang market.







10 YEARS OF EXPAT LIFE: COST OF LIVING PART 1

 I retired on April 1, 2014. Cathey and I boarded a plane at JFK on April 15th with four suitcases and two cats, determined to become lifet...