Community seasons 5 and 6 – not recommended

SPOILERS

I liked Community seasons 1-3 a lot.  See previous posting How to watch Community.

Season 5

Dan Harmon returned as showrunner to Community in season 5 and was able to, sort of, put it back together, but Pierce is gone and then Troy.  This latter will become critical in season 6.  As a reboot the show is ok, but it just isn’t quite Community.  The show has gone beyond its natural arc.

Not recommended.

Season 6

Season 6 is interesting in a television analysis way, but not in an entertainment way.  Do not watch it.

A show has a certain structural integrity, certain key components that hold it together.  For a show that is explicitly about a group of people, the members of that group are key.  Community could have withstood the loss of one minor group member, as it did with the loss of Pierce.  But in season 6, Pierce, Shirley and Troy are gone and the show simply doesn’t work.  It turns out that Troy is a load-bearing member of the group.  His subtle, fun dynamic with Abed is in many ways the core of the joy of the show.  While Jeff is in theory the main character, Troy-Abed bring a key dynamic that balances the show.

Dan Harmon represents this quite literally in 6×01.  In a profile of Harmon in Wired, we learn

The circles are everywhere, if you know to look for them. They’re on the whiteboards around Dan Harmon’s office, on sheets tacked to his walls, on a notepad on the floor of his car. Each one is hand-drawn and divided into quadrants with scribbled notes and numbers sprouting along the edges. They look like little targets. …

the circle, an algorithm that distills a narrative into eight steps

The circles, in season 6, are frisbees.  When the roof collapses in 6×01, it’s Harmon saying that the show has collapsed without Troy, exacerbated by the loss of Shirley.  Leonard’s crumbling frisbee is the crumbling arc of his life in the show, and the crumbling of the show as a whole.

Without Troy, Harmon is basically in an impossible situation.  Imagery that came to my mind is that it’s like watching someone trying to put together a vase with missing pieces, when both you and they know it’s impossible, or trying to bring back an extinct animal when you have too few fragments of DNA.  The whole season is very angry and self-aware.  It’s like watching Harmon have a mental breakdown.  It’s a sad conclusion to a brilliant beginning.  You can see him speaking through Abed (who is essentially his avatar) in 6×08, and see him speaking through Jeff in the aptly-named finale, 6×13 Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television.  Jeff (who is Harmon’s secondary avatar) is basically phoning in his job (within the show), and throughout the season but particularly in the finale expressing how trapped he feels.  Everyone will leave and there he will be, eternally condemned to live a year at Greendale over and over.  How can you even make it work when the story has gone beyond its arc?  Do you make everyone teachers?  Do you bring back old characters and keep the new ones?  Do you cycle endlessly through variations of the same tropes and character quirks?  …  It’s a kind of showrunner hell that is depicted.  I feel really sorry for Harmon, trying to breathe life into the broken doll of his beloved show.

In any case, for the above reasons, season 6 is very much not recommended.

I imagine it may show up in future university curricula about television writing though.

How to watch Community

The short answer is: watch seasons 1, 2, and then season 3 up to and including 3×17 Basic Lupine Urology.  And then stop.  Consider 3×17 the series finale.

Later, you can watch 3×20 Digital Estate Planning and consider it a bonus episode.

That’s it.  It’s a truncated show arc, but it is the heart of the show.

An appreciation of Community

Community is basically about watching television itself.  Both the strange solitary-yet-social aspect and the tropes associated with TV shows.

Watching television is not like watching a movie.  A movie in a theatre is a collective, public experience.  Television is much more intimate, personal.  It’s in your home, it’s part of your life.  We extend our social sphere to encompass the people on the screen – somehow when watching Friends you are in New York, a silent friend in the gang, when you’re watching Stargate SG-1 you’re part of an SG team in a way.  Community recognizes the ad hoc nature of how we construct social groups from strangers, but the table has a key message – it’s Jeff, Britta, Abed, Troy, Pierce, Shirley, Annie… and an empty seat, which is to say, and you.

The show is weird, and funny, and clever.

The natural arc of the show would have been for them to progress through four years (four seasons) and then graduate, slightly changed, slightly better.  The Starburns Decision towards the end of season 3 disrupted that arc, and then the loss of Dan Harmon as showrunner for season 4 shattered it completely.

For a further (and spoiler-filled) analysis of the show in seasons 5 and 6, see my next posting.

Big Ideas for Ottawa 2067

The NCC wants 17 “big ideas” for 2067, so here are mine:

  1. convert parkway lanes, or the entire parkway system, to separated cycling highways e.g. https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/cycling/routes-and-maps/cycle-superhighways
  2. restore Union Station’s use as a (VIA) train station, with connections to Ottawa LRT
  3. replace the parking lots with the original symmetrical park (see https://www.flickr.com/photos/rakerman/5898482946/ )
  4. demolish L’Esplanade Laurier (block between Bank and O’Connor) and build a park to serve new towers along LRT line
  5. replace the high-speed arterials through downtown Ottawa with safer complete streets e.g. http://ecologyottawa.ca/complete-streets/ (also see map with arterials as red lines at https://www.flickr.com/photos/rakerman/6722994119/ )
  6. Make Gatineau Park a National Park (protected by the National Parks Act)
  7. Permanently close Gatineau Park to vehicle traffic; only active transportation in the park
  8. have a regular shuttle bus from Ottawa and Hull into Gatineau Park ; ideally with space for skis etc.
  9. replace current busy mix of OC Transpo & STO buses on Wellington/Rideau with a tram loop e.g. http://www.ncc-ccn.gc.ca/sites/default/files/pubs/2013-p07e-inteprovincial-transit-integration.pdf
  10. extend train service over Prince of Wales bridge to Gatineau again; but also have a cycling bridge at same location
  11. free Chaudière Falls (remove ring dam), connect to Rideau Falls with clearly signed, safe, separated cycling path
  12. separated bike lanes (cycle tracks) on Sparks Street, with good and safe connections to rest of cycling network
  13. well-signed, free public washrooms and water fountains throughout the downtown, along paths, and in parks
  14. Make Ottawa a Dark Sky Community, restoring beautiful night sky for residents and visitors – for more info see http://darksky.org/idsp/communities/
  15. Make Ottawa a Blue Community, with bottled water banned – for more info see http://canadians.org/bluecommunities
  16. Make Ottawa a carbon-neutral community – for more info see http://www.projectneutral.org/
  17. Implement “Most surface parking should be removed from the plateau” from 2007 Parliamentary Precinct LTVP (p. 27) – also see image from plan at https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CWWK78bU4AAUHHQ.jpg

Bonus idea: Clear (shovel, plow etc.) all steps, walkways and pathways, including in parks, throughout the winter.

The entire exercise is a bit puzzling as the NCC already did a big Horizon 2067 consultation.  Of note, in the 28 pages of the local consultation (PDF) there are zero mentions of the parkways, commuter highways beloved by the NCC and which many of the urbanist residents of Ottawa would like to see replaced with narrower, slower streets or replaced with bikeways (as I suggest above) or just removed altogether.

Star Wars VII: A New New Hope?

Star Wars IV

Written by: George Lucas

very good

Star Wars V

Story by: George Lucas
Screenplay by: Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan (and George Lucas, uncredited)

good

Star Wars VI

Story by: George Lucas
Screenplay by: Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas

ok

Star Wars I

Written by: George Lucas

terrible

Star Wars II

Story by: George Lucas
Screenplay by: George Lucas and Jonathan Hales

terrible

Star Wars III

Written by: George Lucas

terrible

Basically, with the exception of the first movie, the more George Lucas writes it, the worse the movie is.  (This also aligns with my “one great idea” theory, where many writers have one really good first book or movie in them, and after that, not so much.)

Star Wars VII

Written by: Lawrence Kasdan, J. J. Abrams and Michael Arndt

With Abrams and Kasdan writing, I have a new new hope.

According to Vanity Fair:

Abrams and Kasdan took over the screenwriting process, starting more or less from scratch. “We said, Blank page. Page one. What do we desperately want to see?” Abrams told me. Though Abrams said both men had pet ideas from the development process they wanted to incorporate, and did, Kasdan made the process sound like more of a teardown: “We didn’t have anything,” Kasdan said. “There were a thousand people waiting for answers on things, and you couldn’t tell them anything except ‘Yeah, that guy’s in it.’ That was about it. That was really all we knew.”

By mid-January, Abrams and Kasdan had a draft, most of it hashed out in plein air conversations recorded on an iPhone as they walked and talked for hours at a time through cityscapes that changed according to the vagaries of Abrams’s schedule: first along the beach in Santa Monica, then through a freezing Central Park, in New York, and finally on the streets of London and Paris. One day, the two men spent eight hours at Les Deux Magots, the boisterous café on Boulevard Saint-Germain where patrons are jammed elbow-to-elbow and which is famous for having once been a hangout for the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir. “We’re like yelling back and forth in this noise, saying, This should happen, that should happen, he can’t do that…”

Ottawa restaurants and shopping

Ottawa is a fairly typical small North American city, transformed in the post-war by “urban renewal”, highway infrastructure, removal of streetcars and suburbanization.

It’s important to understand that the downtown core (Centretown) only has a population of about 20,000.  Most people commute to downtown.

Some good tourism articles and guides:

Restaurants – Map & Data

A map with some restaurants – mostly ones I have been to (and like a lot), as well as a few others that are highly recommended.  Most of these places fill up fast, so you should make reservations.  NOTE: As this map is from 2011, some restaurants have closed or moved; I will (eventually) be making a new map and an open data list.

There are restaurants and pubs along Elgin Street and Bank Street.  There are also lots in the Byward Market, but I don’t know the Market very well.

Restaurants – Downtown / Centretown

The downtown core is basically the Central Business District (CBD) north of Gloucester, and Centretown, south of Gloucester to the highway (the Queensway).  I know this area best.

The good news is there are many excellent places to eat in Centretown.  The bad news is there are many terrible places to eat (mostly serving the lunchtime commuter crowd).

The trend in Ottawa is small plates, with locally-sourced ingredients.

I have grouped somewhat arbitrarily into lunch/supper/brunch/takeout just based on when I usually go and what I usually do but obviously your schedule will be different.

Breakfast sandwiches:

  • Bread and Sons, 195 Bank Street, Mon-Thurs 6:45 – 18:30, Fri 6:45 – 20:00, Sat 8:30 – 19:30, Sun 9:00 – 4:00
    • this is a small bakery so mostly just grab and go
    • I usually get the bean rolls.  And the jalapeno quiche (but they don’t always have it).
  • Cafe Delice, 197 Kent Street

Note: DON’T go to Cafe Saffron (next to Cafe Delice).  Cafe Saffron is not good.

Here are a few places I like for lunch:

  • Grounded Kitchen, 100 Gloucester, Mon 7am – 4pm, Tue – Fri 7am – 9pm, @groundedottawa
    • if you have a large party or want a seat by the window, reservations recommended
    • also open for supper
  • Bread and Sons, 195 Bank Street, Mon-Thurs 6:45 – 18:30, Fri 6:45 – 20:00, Sat 8:30 – 19:30, Sun 9:00 – 4:00
    • this is a small bakery so mostly just grab and go
  • The Scone Witch, 150 Elgin Street (I haven’t been to the new location), Mon-Fri 7am – 7pm, Sat-Sun 8am – 4pm, @sconewitch

These are good for lunch or supper:

  • Clover, 155 Bank Street, Mon-Thurs 11am – 2pm, Fri-Sat 11am – 2:30pm and 5:30pm – 10pm, @CloverFoodDrink (I haven’t been)
  • North and Navy, 226 Nepean Street (between Bank & Kent), Mon-Fri 11am-2pm, Mon-Sat 11am-5pm, @northandnavy
  • Fauna, 425 Bank Street, Mon-Fri 11:30am – 2pm, Sun-Wed 5:30pm – 10pm, Thurs-Sat 5:30pm – 11:30pm (or “till late”), @faunaottawa
  • Whalesbone Oyster House, 430 Bank Street, Mon-Fri 11:30am – 2pm, 7 days a week 5pm –
    • reservations highly recommended (small space, very popular)
    • online reservations for lunch only, otherwise call 613 231-8569
  • Ceylonta (fantastic Sri Lankan food), 403 Somerset Street West (between Bank & Kent), Mon-Fri 11:30am – 2pm, Mon-Fri 5pm – 9pm, Sat 5pm – 9pm, Sun 12pm – 2pm, Sun 5pm – 9pm

For supper:

  • Town (this is my favourite restaurant), 296 Elgin Street, Wed-Fri 11:30am – 2pm, Sun-Thurs 5pm – 10pm, Fri-Sat 5pm – 11pm, @townlovesyou
    • reservations highly recommended (small space, very popular), call 613-695-8696 (613-695-TOWN)
  • Union613, 315 Somerset Street West, Mon-Sat 5:30pm – 10pm, Wed-Sat 10:30pm – 2pm, @unionlocal613
  • Share Freehouse, 327 Somerset Street West, @sharefreehouse (I haven’t been)

Brunch:

  • The Manx, 370 Elgin Street, Saturday and Sunday 10am
    • you will have to line up by 9:50am or so if you want to get in to the 10am first sitting
    • the Manx is downstairs (in the basement); you line up at the top of the stairs
  • Wilf & Ada’s, 510 Bank Street, Saturday and Sunday 8am, @wilfandadas (hipster brunch)
    • unless you get there by 9am you’re pretty much guaranteed to have to wait outside
    • they will take your number and text you when your table is ready, if you want
  • Erling’s Variety, 225 Strathcona (east of Bank), Saturday and Sunday 10am, @ErlingsVariety
    • this is in the Glebe (south of the highway), not in Centretown
    • can be a good alternative if Wilf & Ada’s is full as usual

Resturants – Lansdowne

Lansdowne is pretty much all generic chain restaurants, mostly Toronto chains.

The only local restaurant I know of is SEN.

Joey’s (a Toronto chain) also has a nice patio.

If you head north up Bank, a couple places are

(I don’t know the Glebe restaurants well.)

A short imperfect list of Ottawa restaurants by cuisine & specialty:

There’s lots of Chinese, Vietnamese (pho) and other cuisines along Somerset Street West starting roughly west of Percy and running to Preston.  The Chinatown Gate marks the notional entrance to Chinatown at Bronson and Somerset.

Little Italy runs along Preston.

Coffee:

I don’t know anything about coffee.  Some popular places I think are

Shopping

There is good local shopping along Dalhousie, from York to St. Andrew.  L’Hexagone, Victoire, Wunderkammer, Cylie artisans chocolatiers, Goods Shop, …

On Gladstone, Seed to Sausage and Red Apron have lots of local food items.

Bookstores & Magazines

The very good Perfect Books, at 258A Elgin Street.  Also Books on Beechwood, at 35 Beechwood Avenue in the New Edinburgh neighbourhood and Octopus Books at 116 Third Avenue in the Glebe neighbourhood.

Most of the magazine stores have closed.  Mags at 254 Elgin Street is still holding on, but is mostly a gift shop now, along with its sister store boogie + birdie next door.  Byward Market News, which is now located in the Westboro neighbourhood, and is also the Toy Soldier Market, 1242 ½ Wellington Street West.

To Market, To Market

Despite its name, the Byward Market is no longer the central farmers’ market in Ottawa.  People still go to buy from various shops (cheesemonger, butcher etc.) but not so much from the stalls.

The primary farmers’ market is at Lansdowne Park, in the Aberdeen Pavillion and outside.  It’s open Wednesdays & Fridays (11am) and the biggest market is on Sundays (8am to 3pm).  http://ottawafarmersmarket.ca/lansdowne-park-ottawa/ Twitter: @OttawaFarmMkt
The market is the main reason to go to Lansdowne, everything else there is a chain store or franchise.

There is another market closer to the downtown core, the Main Street Farmers’ Market which is temporarily (for the next two years) located at the Canadian Museum of Nature.  It’s open on Saturdays (9am to 2pm).  http://mainfarmersmarket.org/ Twitter: @mainfarmmarkott

Restaurants – Byward Market area

There is a restaurant in Nordstroms in the Rideau Centre (attached to the convention centre), one of their Bazille brand.  It has a patio.  I haven’t been.

Just east of the Rideau Centre, at 408 Dalhousie (east of Nicholas), is Kothu Rotti – Sri Lankan food, mostly for takeout.  You can get a generous portion of curries for $9.  Anne DesBrisay gave it a positive review.  I also really like its parent restaurant Ceylonta.

The Byward Market has a reasonable selection of restaurants and a nice street experience.  It is mainly visited by tourists and the lunchtime crowd, so it (like Sparks Street) has a bit of an artificial quality.

Some good places to eat in the market are:

You can get excellent sandwiches at La Bottega Nicastro, 64 George Street.  Go way in to the back of the store to the sandwich section.

If you want a really quick meal in the market, Shafali Bazaar is a small curry shop at 55 Byward Market Square (in the Byward Market Square building).  Shafali has two other locations in Ottawa.

Corazón De Maíz, 55 Byward Market Square (in the Byward Market Square building).

Ottawa’s inexpensive, ubiquitous fast food is shawarma, to the point that Ottawa calls itself the unofficial shawarma capital of Canada.  See e.g. The city of shawarma.  There are shawarma places everywhere.

Please don’t go to Metropolitain, on Rideau at the edge of the market.  It is not good.  I’m told Milestones (a Canadian chain on the upper part of the same location) is ok.

There is good shopping and some good eating along Dalhousie at the edge of the market.  It’s the only Market street I actually go to consistently.  It runs up basically to Das Lokal, at Dalhousie and Saint Andrew.

If you want a high-end dining experience, just go to Beckta.  It’s at 150 Elgin (a new location).

Food Trucks / Food Carts – downtown core

Yes, Ottawa has food trucks.  You can see 2014 vendors and added 2015 vendors.  At the time of writing, I haven’t tried most of them, but here are a few suggestions:

  • Dosa Inc. (truck), north side of Dundonald Park, Somerset St. West between Lyon and Bay, @Dosa_Inc
  • Sula Wok & SuzyQ doughnuts (cart), Bank & Sparks – east side of Bank Street, south of Sparks Street, @sulawok
  • Stella Luna Gelato Café (cart), Bank & Sparks – west side of Bank Street, south of Sparks Street

Many of the food trucks and carts can be tracked using http://streetfoodapp.com/ottawa/

The Street Food Vendors open data (for the locations only) was updated March 27, 2015.  (Check the History to see updates, don’t look at Date First Published.)

Some street food vendors close in the downtown core are:

(This is a modified crosspost from my work blog.)

Previously:
October 1, 2013  Centretown restaurants and shopping

science podcasts

There are lots of interesting science podcasts available, particularly thanks to the BBC and French radio.  English radio is almost always just continuous talking.  Some of the shows from France (maybe just France Inter) have (sometimes jarring) musical interludes (marked with ♫).

Interviews with scientists

  • The Life Scientific with Jim Al-Khalili – BBC, iTunes
  • Les savanturiers ♫ – France Inter, iTunes
    • Bernard Croisile, neurologue, August 30, 2015 (talking about his expertise in memory, particularly as it relates to Alzheimer’s) – France Inter, iTunes
  • Discovery (see below) sometimes has interviews
    • Life Changers – Anita Sengupta, September 14, 2015 – BBC, iTunes

General Science (separate segments)

  • Canada’s classic science show, CBC’s Quirks and Quarks (generally very short segments) – CBC, iTunes
    • New Horizons Reaches Pluto, June 27, 2015 – CBC, iTunes
    • Dinosaur Fossils Preserve Blood Cells, June 13, 2015 – CBC, iTunes
  • The Science Show (Australia) – ABC Radio National (RN), iTunes
    • The Science Show celebrates 40 years, August 29, 2015 – ABC, iTunes
    • Quirks and Quarks – also celebrating 40 years, July 11, 2015 (Australian tribute to Canada’s show) – ABC, iTunes
    • Current sleep patterns far from normal, June 25, 2015 – ABC, iTunes
  • Discovery (BBC World Service) – BBC, iTunes
    • James Watt and Steam Power, July 13, 2015 – BBC, iTunes
  • Future Tense (Australia) – ABC Radio National (RN), iTunes – more tech focused than science
    • Science Fiction: Earth’s repair manual, November 23, 2014 – ABC, iTunes

General Science (entire shows)

Single-Topic Science

(one topic or theme per episode)

  • La Conversation scientifique – France Culture, iTunes
    • Qu’est-ce qu’un minéral ?, September 19, 2015 – France Culture, iTunes – « A l’occasion de sa réouverture, visite de la galerie de minéralogie du Muséum d’histoire naturelle, en compagnie de François Farges, Brigitte Zanda et Etienne Klein. »
    • Rosetta, Philae, Mars Express et les autres, January 31, 2015 – France Culture, iTunes
  • Science publique – France Culture, iTunes
  • Continent sciences – France Culture, iTunes – usually starts with a segment about an animal or animals, “La chronique animalière” (about 5 minutes) and then the main topic

History of Science

Mythbusting

Single-Purpose Shows

(single-purpose shows, a set of episodes on a particular topic, ends once the topic is covered)

  • A Brief History of Mathematics (10 episodes) – BBC, iTunes
  • A History of the World in 100 Objects (100 episodes) – BBC, iTunes
  • Seven Ages of Science (7 episodes) – BBC, iTunes

Other

  • The Long Now Seminars about Long-Term Thinking – Long Now, iTunes – sometimes has science episodes
    • Beth Shapiro: How to Clone a Mammoth, May 11, 02015 – Long Now (video), iTunes (audio)
  • In Our Time – BBC, iTunes – sometimes has science episodes
    • The Photon, February 12, 2015 – BBC, iTunes
    • Note: Although iTunes and the BBC site have an In Our Time: Science feed, it hasn’t been updated since 2013, so subscribe to the main feed instead.

Shows that have completed

  • Frontiers – BBC, iTunes – completed in 2014
    • Crossrail – Tunnelling under London, July 10, 2013 – BBC, iTunes
  • History of Science (UK Royal Society) – iTunes – last episode in 2014 – appears to have been replaced by Lectures and events – iTunes

Previously
April 19, 2015  light and dark, night and day, asleep and awake
April 12, 2015  podcasts I like
December 13, 2014  two urbanism podcasts

France iDTGV train and iDCAB taxi

France has not one but three high-speed train companies that share the same rails.  There’s the traditional TGV which you can book about 3 months in advance, the low-cost iDTGV which you can book up to 6 months in advance (but only runs on certain routes), and Ouigo, which you can book up to 9 months in advance but which departs from outside Paris and runs only along a single route.

(There’s also TGVpop, where it takes a certain number of votes before the train is confirmed to run and can be reserved.  Voting starts 2 weeks before the train would depart.)

Booking iDTGV

iDTGV can be booked from its own website or app, which has the advantage of offering seat selection, or through voyages-sncf, which I gather doesn’t.

It has two types of “zone”, basically a quiet one (iDZEN) and a family/louder one (iDZAP).  See http://www.idtgv.com/en/idservices/idzen-and-idzap  It also has two classes, but in my experience it’s not worth getting 1st class on French trains.

It sort-of works for booking outside of France (including a good English interface).  There are a number of issues though (and some outright bugs / website errors).

To make it work without a European credit card and French phone number:

  1. When creating an account or checking out, do not try to enter a cellphone number unless you have a French cellphone.  The form only accepts French numbers (of form e.g. 06 xx xx xx xx).  The cellphone number is optional, except…
  2. When going through the booking process, on the options page, do not select the iDCAB taxi option.  It will make the entry of a cellphone number at checkout mandatory (this is a bug in the system).
  3. If you have a non-European credit card, your first checkout will almost certainly fail with “rejected”.

iDTGV support says « les cartes étrangères, non Européenne sont bloquées par défaut sur notre site par mesure de sécurité » which translates roughly as “non-European cards are blocked by default on our site as a security measure”.

However, having done the initial transaction and gotten your card rejected, you can email or contact form them and ask them to unblock it.  Just send them the last four digits of your card, not your entire number.  Thanks to Seat 61 for the info about credit cards.

If that doesn’t work, try also calling your credit card company to see if they have blocked the card on their end too.  Sometimes transactions on European websites trigger North American credit card company blocks.

I had to both email iDTGV to get the card unblocked at the website end as well as phone my credit card company to get the card unblocked on the card end.  I had the credit card support stay on the line while I ran the transaction through, a practice I highly recommend as it saves you calling back if it’s still not working.

Be aware that the iDTGV website will silently time-out if you’re idle for a while.

Other bugs:

  • In the Details of My Order section of Print My Tickets (the summary page), the links under “You Can Still” mostly don’t work (they just point to the summary page).  Use the links under My Booking (upper left) instead.
  • If you’re booking in English in the iDTGV app, check the dates very carefully.  it looks to me like there is an off-by-one error (e.g. you have to enter January 1 in order to get January 2), probably due to the fact that the French calendar week starts on Monday and the US/Canadian/UK calendar starts on Sunday.

Booking iDCAB

iDCAB is a taxi-like service for travel to and from the train station.  It’s available for quite a few of the major stations in France.
iDCAB 10 Euros
You can add iDCAB to your iDTGV booking (on the website) without any problems AFTER you’ve booked and paid for your main train trip.  However (if you have a one-way ticket at least) it appears to only offer the option for a taxi on the departure end of the trip, not the arrival.

In the iDCAB interface you can enter an international number (e.g. +1 xxx xxx xxxx) although it’s anyone’s guess whether it actually gets recorded correctly in the system.

iDCAB is not currently available as an option in the iPhone app.

You can also book iDCAB as a stand-alone service at http://idcab.sncf.com/ (thanks to Jérémie Croyère, CTO of iDCAB for this info – @cpasbanal on Twitter).

On the SNCF site you’re supposed to be able to submit your train booking reference to get it to autoload your train stations, but I couldn’t get it to work with an iDTGV booking reference.

Unlike the interface at iDTGV, the SNCF interface won’t give you options for how early you want to arrive or estimate travel time to the station; you have to choose your pickup time yourself.  It also won’t let you specify the number of passengers (however this doesn’t really matter as it’s a flat price regardless, up to max 4 passengers).  The price on SNCF is also higher than on iDTGV.  The SNCF interface will tell you what car service is picking you up though.

Baggage Restrictions

Note that iDTGV has tighter baggage restrictions than the TGV:

You can take 2 pieces of luggage for free (details below).

If you take more than two pieces of luggage, you will have to pay an extra charge of €35 per piece of luggage (on the iDTGV website in “My travel options”), within the limit of 2 extra pieces of luggage per person.

If you did not pay this extra charge when you booked, the payment will cost you €45 on board.

The free pieces of luggage per person cannot exceed:
– two pieces of hand luggage (suitcases, rucksacks, travel bags) per traveller; or
– one hand luggage and an object per traveller (a children’s pushchair, a wheelchair, a bicycle with its wheels removed and placed together in a special protective cover of 1.20 x 0.90m maximum, a surfboard placed in a protective cover of 1.20m x 0.90m maximum, a pair of skis, a monoski or a snowboard, a bag containing a ‘small-sized’ domestic animal; or
– a piece of hand luggage per traveller and a piece of luggage of 50cm x 50cm x 50cm ; or
– a piece of hand luggage per traveller and a musical instrument.

For more details, check out the full page at Seat 61: www.seat61.com/idtgv.htm