This is the third part of my netbook related tale telling the story of my travels through France with a netbook. We’re continuing on the road to France with my netbook on my lap and a glint in my eye. If you missed reading “Travelling With My Netbook — Part 1“ and “Part 2”, be sure to read those first!
We left off at my friend’s house where I was staying the night to catch the early ferry, and it was here that I was reminded of the interesting task of naming your wireless network — by having a quick look at the networks around this London suburb I was able to deduce the names of many of the neighbours simply by their unimaginative wireless names.
You’d be right in thinking that this is of little significance (unless you really want to know the surnames or router brand owned by your neighbors) but it is just one of life’s little interesting things; I personally am considering changing mine to something really off putting like “Chris’ stripper bar”…
But I digress! The morning dawned and we were on our way to the ferry, and although I was a little disappointed (but not overly surprised) to find there was no Wi-Fi on the ferry (one and a half hours wasted) I was generally happy as we disembarked and headed onto French soil.
With regards to the netbook not a whole lot was different in France as we drove down — using a netbook in the car in France is the same as using it in the car in the UK — but as soon as we started stopping in service stations I realised that there was in fact a very different outlook…
Firstly, Wi-Fi is actually advertised in French service stations (in the same way that that coffee cup denotes a cafÃ©) but soon enough I realised this was a bit of a waste of space as every station did in fact have free Wi-Fi which you could easily and quickly use. Difference number one!
Difference number two was that it wasn’t hidden away in a corner or attached to some retail brand but was just sitting there, password free, for you to use anywhere, some even had special rooms with power plugs, special shelves and bar stools for you to use.
Difference number three: people were actually using it. Admittedly I haven’t been to every service station in Britain and neither do I claim to be an expert on its usage but in my experience it is invariably limited to an American couple talking very loudly — but in France there was always a couple of people sitting around with laptops and a few more with phones. Wi-Fi for the masses.
So a big thumbs up for the French service stations — but it got better when I arrived at my hotel. As you can imagine it wasn’t a top quality one (the Travel Lodge of the French world) but it still not only offered free Wi-Fi but I was able to use it in my room. They had the common sense to not only use a powerful enough router but also to place it in the centre of the building so everybody could use it in the comfort of their own room.
I say comfort… the rooms weren’t brilliant and I was baking hot all night, but at least I had my netbook internet access!