5/18/12…Google Redux and Edinburgh and Leith plus travel tips

Bloomberg Quote of the Day: “Great services are not canceled by one act or by one single error.” – Benjamin Disraeli…was that after we found out he was a Nazi sympathizer. TB’s corollary: “one act does not make a leader…even if he makes billions taking it public.” Right Mark and especially Eduardo…you don’t know how lucky you are. Discussion follows…sign of a sick society.

 

Quotes from Keep Calm and Carry On – a book of quotes TB found on the trip, it will be a staple of TB:  “Happiness is nothing more than good luck and a bad memory.” _Albert Schweitzer

Bloomberg Top Stories:

 

*Schauble Sees Two Years of Market Turmoil as G-8 Leaders Weigh Debt Woes

*Stocks Head for Worst Week in Six Months; Futures Rise as Facebook Debuts – like sheep!

*Fascebook Set for Public Debut With Shares More Costly Than Most of S&P 500 – IPO  at high!… a good negotiator always leaves something on the table… not MS, JPM and Goldamn!

*Spain’s Crisis Lender for Regions Can Tap ECB to Keep Coffers Replenished

*Bonds Priciest Versus Stocks as Europe Turmoil Escalates – THINK people! Aarrgghh!!

*Facebook Banks Led by Morgan Stanley Are Said to Reap $176 Million in Fees – why not?

*Chesapeake’s CEO Chooses Fraternity Brother for $28 Billion in Deals – more sickness!

*Zuckerberg’s Facebook IPO Makes Him Wealthier Than Billionaire Google Boys.- gag!

*Hollande to meet Obama for First Time as Euro Debt Crisis Overshadows G-8

*Kenny’s ‘Lethal Injection’ Warning Spurs Irish to Support European Treaty – crying shame!

*Romney Rejects Proposed Wright-Based Ad Attack as He Decries Obama Tactics – funny!

(he has already accused him of blame for everything…but no racially tinged ads? Limits!   

The Dow had its FIFTH straight ‘lower low’ and it was a duzey (did you know that name comes from the famous Duesenberg automobile?)! Close was lowest since January 12th. Folks this is no ordinary selloff…and Facebook will only make matters cloudier…for a day or two…still think it will go down…why not at a p/e of 108x vs 13x for Apple…which one would you buy? Thought so! Since peaking on 5/1 at the highest level since the crash, 13338.66, it has been DOWN for 11 of the past 12 sessions, the lone gain was 20 points, and the loss is now 8.3%! Furthermore, the 10 of the past 12 have resulted in LOWER LOWS. We have now almost entirely wiped out that Q1 boost! Reminiscent of last year…ancient history?…when the 3rd quarter wiped out the second quartere gains and even with a strong 4th  we just about got back to where we were at end of Q1!!! Even a money market fund earning 0.1% beats that! We are now at risk of returning to that Q1 2011 level…in fact, we could do it today! Aren’t stocks great…and remember they are oh so cheap right now…relative to bonds…and could get a lot cheaper! The Dow is now 5.8% below the 3/30 close! Dow Utilities are now the only index up ytd, just 1.1%! As for Financials, so far this quarter they are off 12.1% surpassed only by Gold and Silver -15.8% thanks to a 3.8% gain yesterday!, Telecom -18.2% and Semis -15.3%, and Oil Services -14.9%. The bear HAS awakened! All major indices were down again with both Nasdaq indices and the Russell 2000 off 2%+

NYSE stock volume was 4.6B shares vs 4.26B – yep higher volume once again and what did we get? A big down day! NYSE shares executed on the Big Board were 945M shares vs 872 million shares. 17 of the last 30 sessions have been less than 800M shares!!! Since 2/29 there have now been just SIX ‘average’ days, including 3/16’s high for 2012, but average has fallen to 813M and just seven have been above 900M – 961M is 12 month average. Since 11/1 there have been just eight 1B share days…only four in 2012! Since 2/6 there have been FIVE sessions less than 700M shares. 122 of the last 135 sessions have been less than the 12 month average! Advance/Declines were negative for a FIFTH straight session and horribly so: -6.3x!!! vs -2.1 vs -1.8x vs -5.4x!!! vs -1.5x on NYSE and -4.2x!!! vs -2x vs -1.2x vs -3.1x vs -1.5x on Nasdaq. Breadth was even worse: -7.5x!!! vs -2.5x vs -4x! vs -7x!!! vs -2.3x on NYSE and -7.9x!!! vs -2.6x vs -2.3x vs -2.9x vs -1.1x on Nasdaq. THIS IS A ROUT!!! New 52 week highs plunged to an incredibly low 34!!! vs 81 (high was 420 on 3/26), while new lows surged yet again to 345 vs 313 – a VERY HIGH level! Ratio is now negative by 10x!!!! The S&P VIX, which gapped up on the open Monday, had an ‘outside day’ (higher high and lower low) on Tuesday, had a slight INSIDE day (so close though it was actually parallel), rising on Wednesday, exploded to 24.51, a 10% gain!!! closing just .02 off the high, which has not been seen since 12/16/11!!! Since 4/26 and has ranged from 15.75 (low on 4/26) to 24.51 taking out the double top of the prior two sessions and now MAJOR support – 22.70!). THIS is bearish, a sign of a market in distress! Still want to buy those Facebook shares?

Here are the results:  Dow -1.2%! vs -0.3% vs -0.5% vs -1%! vs -0.3%; Transports -3.2%!!! vs -0.1% vs +0.1%  vs -0.8% vs +0.1x; Dow Utilities -0.7% vs -0.1% vs -0.5% vs -0.4% vs +0.1%; S&P 500 -1.5%!!! vs -0.7% vs -0.6% vs -1.1% vs -0.3%; Nasdaq Composite -2.1!% vs -0.7% vs -0.3% vs -1.1% vs flat; Nasdaq 100 -2.1%!!! vs -0.7% vs -0.4% vs -1% vs flat; Russell 2000 -2.3%!!! vs -0.7% vs -0.2% vs -1.4%!!! vs -0.2%; NYSE Financials -2.2%!!! vs -0.9% vs -1.9% vs -1%, biggest loser again! (KBW Banks -1.7% vs 2.6%, Nasdaq -1.2% vs -1.4%); NYSE Financial Leaders: BAC -1.8%! vs -0.7% vs -2.7%! vs -2%!, JPM -4.3%!!! vs +1.3% vs -3.2% vs -9.3%; C -1.9%! vs -1.2% vs -4.1%! vs -4%!; GE -0.6% vs -1.1%; F -1.5% (ranked by volume!).

European stocks slightly better – except UK, Asia trashed: FTSE  -0.5% vs -1.3%! vs -0.9% vs +0.2% vs -2%!; CAC 40 +0.6% vs -1% vs +0.3% vs +0.8% vs -2.1%!; DAX +0.2% vs -0.8% vs -0.8% vs +0.4% vs -2%!; Nikkei -3%!!! vs +0.9% vs -1.1%! vs -0.8% vs +0.2%; Hang Seng -1.3% vs -0.3% vs -3.2%!!! vs +0.8% vs -1.2%; Korean KOSPI  -3.4%!!! vs +0.3% vs -3.1%!!! vs -0.8% vs -0.2%; Indian Sensex UP 0.5% vs +0.3% vs -1.8%! vs +0.7% vs -0.5%. U.S. stock futures up??? – Facebook effect??? DOW +64, range 137 pts; SPX +8, 16 points; NDQ +16, 27 points. Pay no attention to o/n noise!

Bonds slightly weaker. TIPS reamin overbought and will correct or at least underperform here! TB would ‘hedge’ – long the basis, short the TIP! But what does he know? Nothing, you know nothing, right Mr. Cramer? l10’s and now 30’s well below 2% and 3% respectively – first time since 1/18’s 2.96%! 10 yr 1.73% -1/4, RECORD low 9/23 of 1.6855%; 30 yr 2.82% -3/4; Long TIP 0.61% -9/16. It was 0.57% at high. The 5 yr TIP yields MINUS 1.14%; 10 yr -0.41%. Bills 0.07% 1 month; 0.09% 3 months; 0.15% 6 mos. – 6 mo. starting to move…1bp a day but mostly unchanged since 4/26! Reverse Repo 0.28%. 3 mo. Libor 0.47%, and 0.74%; also steady. European problem sovereign 10 years, Germany-benchmark: 1.43% +2 bp’s; Italy 5.67% -12!!!; Spain 6.12% -14!!!; Greece 27.96%!!! +30!!!; Portugal 11.52% +25!!!; Ireland 7.08% +1???

Gold finally took off and that too should be a warning! Not so, Crude and other commodities. Since peaking on 8/1, the GS Commodities Index is off 2.2%, flat yesterday thanks only to Gold, which has been below $1600 since 5/9. It closed at $1574.90 +$38.30!!!, reducing the hit from $255 to $217 since 2/28, loss of 12.1% from 14.2%! 2/28’s $1792.70 intraday high was not seen since 11/16! The record high is $1923.70, a buying climax on 9/6. Res is $1635, the 40 day and $1646, the 50 day, then $1701, the 200 day – 40/50 are now dropping rapidly. It is now $1590.80 +$15.90!!! Wednesday’s o/n low of $1526.70 was lowest since 12/29! Crude closed $92.56 -.25 with a low of 91.60, lowest since 11/3!!! On 4/26 it closed at $104.55…that is an 11.5% LOSS!!! We took out 4/10’s low of $100.68, worst since 2/15/12 on May 4, a day crude fell by $4.55, or 4%! The range of $105-110 had held from 3/28!!! RES at $96.24 the 200 DAY!!!, the 40 day (101.91), the 50 day (102.84), and res/sup at $92.52-54, the lows of 12/16-12/17, a prior double bottom!!!. It is now $92.79 +.23. Yesterday’s o/n low was 91.60!!!, lowest since 11/3/11. Time to buy gold again? Due for a huge pop!!!

Banco Santander still going down. Santander was one of the best banks in the world…today, thanks to the capitulation to mediocrity of the central bank and risk-taking by management, it trades just above its 3/9/09 low (also the day our markets bottomed), yet they still have not cut the dividend so consider where it will go when they do – they have no choice: indicted dividend yield is 20.8%!!!…ex-date is 4/1!!! Watch what happens then! In April, these incompetents not only paid a dividend they RAISED it, nearly double!!! Remember the symbol of the stock: STD – might as well call it Chernobyl! Their Brazil bank (BSBR) was the largest non-U.S. IPO on 10/7/09. The ADS priced at $13.30 fell to $9.82 in May 2010, rallied to its record high of $15.66 on 11/4/10, then plunged to $6.73 on 11/25/11, back up to $11.30 in early March and closed last night at $7.69 …definitely an ‘E’ ticket ride, oh, and they have cut the dividend from 6.1% to 1.55%…THINK!!!

Facebook bgins trading today…TB is not a believer…especially at the high mark of $38!  Reiterating: current ownership: GS 10.4% of outstanding…think they will continue to hold? DST Clobal LTD 5.8%. T.Rowe Price 1%…have fun! Don’t forget the real owner, Mark Zuckerberg, 26.9% of outstanding…ta da! TB saiz: do NOT buy this stock…if you got it on the IPO sell it today on a large pop propped by hedge funds and flash traders…going down? TB hasn’t seen anything in his emails from Facebook for months…last night he got THREE saying friends, by name, had mentioned TB…is this an attempt at hype by Zuckerberg? Sure looks that way to TB. Caveat Emptor!

Here are some MORE prominent IPO’s…this time all social media:

Zynga Inc. (ZNGA), 12/16/11, priced at $11, high on first day of trading $$11.50 – a bust!!! Closed at $9.50, fell to $7.97 on 1/9/12 THEN rallied to $15.91 on March 2 and was immediately slammed until it closed back at $8.75 on May 1st (MAYDAY!!!). It is off 17.3% since IPO! This company provides nothing but entertainment for 20 somethings and younger. Get real!

Zillow (Z), 7/20/11, priced at  $60….HIGH $60!!! Then, down to $23.50! Rallied back to $37.98 on 9/1/11 back down to a secondary low of $20 on 7/19 and back to $$44.23 on 5/9/12…closed last night at $38.77! Unlike the others this provides value in real estate but isn’t getting enough revenues…guess the realtors are hurting too much. Loss: 35.4%!

It should be obvious that good or bad companies…IF you can get in on the IPO, that is the only way to make money. If not, and company has REAL value, wait for the plunge. Why?

You have to understand how an IPO works and there is nothing new since the dotcom bubble…and yes…stocks are again in a bubble! Sorry Sir Alan but they are discernable and you saw them but for economic reasons failed to “take the punchbowl away!”

TB learned a lot while working for an investment manager after getting a new client who wanted us to buy IPO’s for him. For six months in the hottest market ever we tried but could not get into a single IPO. Why? Because we weren’t big enough. We soon lost the client which TB will come back to later.

First, you had to be a major player OR a retail client of a big firm to get in. The major players being hedge funds, etc. for the liquidity. The usual agreement was that they agree to buy an amount…say as much as 50% of their allotment when trading began. After that, do as you please. So ‘B.S. Fund’ receives 10,000 shares at the IPO price of $50. It opens and they buy another 10,000 shares in open market at $75…it rises to $100 – a double! – and they sell all 20,000 shares  say at $90 as it tops out for a neat profit of $550,000!!! Not bad for a day’s ‘work.’

Ah but poor Joe Blow…his broker graciously got him into the IPO for 100 shares. He sees the stock double the next day and being a rational guy and not greedy, he calls his broker to sell. “Don’t sell, its going higher” says Tom Friendly, his broker. Why? Because the firm will not pay his commission if client sells in the first 30 days! By then it could be back to the IPO price and if it does that…worse! Now the firm has two levers here: first, the commission…second…if client insists, HE will get locked out on IPO’s. Get it?

Now back to TB’s client. He was CFO of a successful tech company. We had gone to him to discuss cash management services for the company. He asked what kind of return we could deliver over the next year. By using some good but not common securities TB said he would be lucky to get 5% in the current market. He said that Ripoff Securities, a major firm, had said they could get 5% plus. TB said that was not possible. He said we were the only ones to tell him the truth! We then had a problem…see, they had an understanding that by taking them public THEY would manage the cash position…for a small fee of course! We took it away…within days TB got a call from one of their brokers offering money market securities that were unacceptable. He said, but the client wants you to buy them. TB told him to call the client and have the client ORDER him to buy them. Next came the call from the client and after TB explained the risks the client agreed.

Oh but there is more…much more…the broker then called back and said that he has recommended the company to his best accounts and they have accumulated shares. If we don’t buy from him he would be inclined to pull the recommendation. TB went ballistic!

“So in other words you don’t care about recommending a good company to your clients, unless you can profit from both sides of the trade?” “Of course not…but there are so many good companies to recommend…” Again, TB told him to call the client…and it might be better since the next call would be TO the client.

It stinks…but there is more! Remember the client personally wanted us to get him into IPO’s? He, the CFO, had a ‘blind pool’ for key officials of companies and prospects and they put them into the IPO’s then flipped them out the first day. He had made huge profits from this. TB then responded, “do you realize that they are doing this to buy the companies business? In other words, it is a form of bribe to give them the business over the best interests of the company.” It finally hit him, and being an honest guy he pulled out of the pools and then tried to instead have us get them. I think he made hundreds of thousands of dollars off the blind pool arrangement.

So now that you know the anatomy of an IPO, the only remaining question is: ‘do you feel lucky?…well do ya? TB was watching CNBC at his club yesterday with the discussion of Facebook going ad nauseum…a 20 something came bounding into the locker room and yelled, ‘go Facebook!’ Do you want to be in that circle? TB doesn’t!

Now the most disgusting statement on young people in business today…generalization. First for background, not only has TB witnessed this but a friend in the business has a son working in it. They were discussing the fraud, etc. with mortgages. His son shocked him by saying Wall Street bears no responsibility…buyers made up their own minds. Even when he pointed out that the instruments were impossible to decipher and had the blessing of the rating agencies, he saw it as the buyers fault…THAT is why we don’t have reform…if the goal is to get rich and only that, it is the only way you can think. Otherwise you are lost in the dust. You can thank the ‘B’ schools for a failure to teach ethics…after all it would just impede their success and in a country that either looks the other way or gives out hand slaps (after all they are big contributors to Congress), we know the path of least resistance.

Just ask the wunderkind rapidly turning into a fool: Jamie Dimon. TB learned yesterday that a shareholders suit has been filed – against him. Thanks to proxies being returned early he remains chairman and CEO, had his compensation affirmed, has not been held accountable for the fraud in the deal with American Century, has rewarded the perp, J.E. Staley who engineered the deal then reneged a month later. This is not Citi…this is the top and biggest bank in the country whose CEO is on the board of the New York Fed. Where are the adults??? It’s up to you to stop them. Reform Corporate America (RCA)!

Last night, TB turned on FOX News and heard that Eduardo Saverin, a Facebook co-founder who is wealthy now beyond any possible dream. He has decided to renounce his citizenship to avoid taxes. So? Eduardo grew up in Brazil but due to fear of kidnapping his parents sent him to the U.S. for his schooling. They wanted someone safe for him. He took all the benefits and would never have had a chance at his wealth if he had not moved here. You decide what he is…to TB? Scum…and he will come running back here if things go badly abroad.

So there was a panel discussion with Jonathon Hoenig (aka Capitalist Pig) saying that is the thing to do as our taxes are ‘oppressive.’ Then some airhead blonde made the same statement only worse: the government is blind. People are leaving this country in droves, for places like Singapore who does not tax heavily…we need to wake up and cut taxes. Just like the example of TB’s friends son…if you are lucky enough to get rich it is the parasites that comprise the rest of the country that are the problem. God help us!

(tonight they are going to have Grover Norquist on…can’t wait for that one. You rock, FOX…IF you are wealthy! Everyone else be damned!)

. . .   – – –  . . .  (SOS)   . . .   – – –  . . .  (SOS)   . . .   – – –  . . .  (SOS)   . . .   – – –  . . .  (SOS)

…it had rained for five straight days in Edinburgh, drizzled our first night, rained light to moderate all the next day then on our last day it was beautiful and sunny. It is a beautiful old city and once you find the old section easy to get around. For example, High Street, which contains the Royal Mile runs from Edinburgh Castle at the top to Edinburgh palace at the bottom…don’t try visiting them in the opposite order. Not prudent.

TB joined Rotary in Minneapolis about a year ago. There were two main reasons. First, he liked the organization and wanted to do some service but the world of investing doesn’t allow weekly early morning or even lunch meetings. Moving here he found one a five minute walk from home in the best restaurant on Lake Minnetonka…not bad. The second reason was visiting other clubs in foreign countries or even other parts of the country.

He tried to find one in Ireland, both of them, but the timing was bad so while there were several it didn’t fit our itinerary. But in Scotland, he had a choice of Inverness, St. Andrew’s, or Edinburgh. His wife spotted one in Leith, which adjoins Edinburgh. It was about five miles away at the Scotch Whiskey Distiller’s Society, a private club. A great experience, meeting new friends, drinking single malt scotch, dinner, and a talk on the Gretna train disaster in 1914 which killed over 200 British soldiers. The cab driver said he always wanted to go there…but you have to be a member…inside it is like a posh old club. There are no names on the scotch just numbers, like: 23.2309. The first refers to the distillery that made it, the second to the batch number…all labels look exactly alike except for commemorative ones they do occasionally. They also had a very good Armanac if you like brandy. There are clubs in many countries but due to tax laws only one in U.S. is in Fort Lauderdale. There are also some in Canada. Below the number is a description as you might find in a wine review: bold, layered in peat, with a hint of blackberries…yeah, right. That was one of the better experiences of the trip.

We toured the city the next day and the highlight was the Castle. Incredible views of the Firth of Forth, all the way to the Fourth bridge, the famous railroad one mentioned yesterday. We found an incredible wine bar…yep, another one, on high street, Angels with Bagpipes. Great seafood, wine, and TB tried haggis, a sausage that used to be made from parts of a sheep you don’t even want to know about. This place and other good restaurants service excellent haggis…this one in a whisky sauce. So much for those who turned up their nose at trying haggis…but order it as a starter, not a main.

That night we found another tapas restaurant just two doors from us. Bariolo, owned by a Spaniard and all servers and cooks were Spanish. For 20 pounds each we got the sampler and it was incredible…plus they said they would bring more…also had excellent Spanish wines and the best Sangria ever. TB went back alone the next night…it was that good!

The following day our last before flying home, we went to the port at Leith and visited HMY Brittania which was of interest as we saw it in SF harbor in 1997…the year it was retired. Leith bid on it being berthed there and won. Sooo, they built a modern shopping center and it adjoins the yacht. It has a beautiful royal blue hull…prior to Queen Elizabeth having this one built they were all black. You cannot see a single rivet in the hull and it has a sheer stripe of gold leaf. Think about that…a 270 foot long ship, with a crew of 230. There were bars in each classes wardroom. As for the staterooms, both the Queen and Prince Phillip had twin beds in their cabins but more like a dorm. Everything was well appointed but not flashy. The most impressive part was the State Dining Room where Ghandi, and virtually every other prominent world leader dined including Eisenhower, JFK, and Clinton. On the fantail they have a replica of the ships binnacle from the prior royal ship painted white with gold. Also the sheer stripe is not just gold paint but gold leaf and if you have ever made an ocean crossing in a storm you know how much of that had to be replaced after each cruise. There was also the royal Rolls Royce with davits to lift it on board and a barge and six motor whaleboats. The laundry was huge as you might expect and they used all galley’s to prepare the state dinners. When the ship was away and the queen was aboard they flew the palace chef’s out to the ship.

It’s good to be queen! Once a king always a king but once a knight is enough.

Or final meal was at The Dome in the new city. A beautiful glass dome hovers over a sumptuous dining room…it was wonderful.

After taking a long cab ride to get out of the sprawling city we arrived at the airport for our flight home. TB had 9 pounds 70 pence left and found no deals on scotch in the Duty Free Shop. Sooo, he entered a raffle for an Aston Martin or choice of five other cars, some included cash. If you win you can select right or left hand drive and it will be shipped to you. They hold these drawings once a month collecting money in six UK airports. Rather than a number there is a picture of a soccer (football) game. One area is black. The object is to pick where the ball is and the one closest wins the car. You can see where three of the players are looking and try to project where the ball is. A referee decides who is the closest…will let you know at the end of the month. Fingers crossed!

Whenever we had a misunderstanding or a problem the reply was ‘no worries’ and they sincerely meant it. That was nice…everyone we met was nice. Typical conversation was where are you from? To which, we began to reply, San Francisco. Then if the talk continued we would say, “but we recently moved to Minnesota.” To which they would say, “why?”

Minnesota is an interesting place. Whenever we tell anyone from SF we moved here, they say, “why?” When we tell Minnesotan’s we moved from SF they say, “why?” How many places can you have that happen??? But  it was surprising how many we met had visited here. One guy said he went to Duluth in March…TB said even he wouldn’t do that.

The point is that people love to talk and meet new people and are very helpful. But you have to see them…approach them…and if in a group don’t get occupied with yourselves as you miss far too much.

Travel Tips:

A lot has been said about the new embedded chip cards in Europe. There is one important rule: get a four digit PIN for every card you plan to use, both debit and credit. We only had to use it on cash machines but if there are computer problems you could need a pin with a credit card. Our system is archaic…thank you big banks! Four digits is a joke.

Do not use a free-standing ATM due to high fees…we were not charged any by the Cirrus bank ATM…look for the symbol! Make your withrawals wisely: as big as you need but you will also have to use the conversion rate to calculate your withdrawal. For example, 180 pounds is as close as you can get to a $300 daily limit. TB put in for 200 pounds and got this reply: this account has insufficient funds…not good news. Reduced it and no problem.

If you are an AmEx lover you are in for a shock. VISA is accepted everywhere. Several places would not take AmEx, would prefer not to, or added a 3% surcharge! Who says you get what you pay for? A hedge? Long VISA (V) – short AXP. Due to the major European bank participation it is far better than Mastercard (MA) too. Note, not an outright long position…not a recommendation…just a thought…you decide.

Oh how we wish U.S. establishments would do as European ones do with credit cards: they bring a machine to the table. Enter the bill, SOMETIMES ask if you want to add a gratuity and if so put the full amount in, then it prints the receipts and you sign. You never lose sight of your card. In the U.S. there are scanners that serves sometimes use to get your credit card info…that can be nasty! As for the chip embedded, there are scanners that can read them from nearby…a foot or so, so even that isn’t foolproof.

Due to going from the Republic of Ireland to (Northern) Ireland, we had to go from euro’s to pounds, then to Scotland for pounds (there are also Irish, Scottish and UK pounds which are interchangeable except in one place they did a double take at the Irish ones before accepting them. Going in that order saved a lot of conversion expense, fyi.

Another thing is that those huge breakfasts at B&B’s not only saved us by having just two meals a day but on almost all menus there was a prix fixe menu like France originated. That could cut the cost of the meal by a third or more and while portions were smaller they were very adequate. No more Europe on even $100 a day but closer to it. Biggest expense: B&B’s averageing about $100, next gas since we drove nearly 1,000 miles, then food. Souvenirs and gifts don’t count…priceless.

Next, car rentals. We broke our pattern on this trip and used Budget because it worked in both Ireland’s. We were not pleased. In Scotland we used our old standby EuropCar. Better for service than any American agency because only they have locations in every city. Expect to pay more for an automatic but as much as TB loves driving a shift his LEFT arm was killing him by the time we left Ireland. TB believes the preference for stick dates back to when automatic transmissions were fuel inefficient. But now they get better mileage than a stick. EuropCar gave us a Vauxhall with automatic at no extra cost.

Lastly, gas or petrol: It is sold by the litre and there are 3.785 litres to a U.S. gallon. In Ireland we paid 1.46 euros per litre ($7.85 a gallon) and in the U.K. 1.62 pounds ($9.93!). This is a major expense of travel in Europe, so if offered a free upgrade to a Benz, consider…especially since a small car, will get you around those narrow, winding roads with rock walls on both sides much easier. We had a Nissan Micro and a Renault Clio, both with four doors and a roomy hatchback. Worked for us. Don’t forget to fill the tank…and TB means FULL before returning it as they will rip you off…even when we had to turn in cars for mechanical problems

Parking and traffic in even medium-sized cities is limited and expensive…we spent three days in Edinburgh and turned in the car the first night. Forgot to fill tank and we had to drive five miles to find a station.

We used our old standby’s Rick Steeves and Karen Brown for B&B’s and travel highlights but found a few on our own…great resources!

Enjoy your well-deserved weekend.

TB

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