Credit Cards, Shopping and Tipping
Magnetic stripe credit cards are now less common in Europe than
smart cards (with embedded chips). Most hotels and the larger
stores and restaurants take US credit cards (not Novus/Discover),
but local stores and unattended petrol pumps often don't.
Despite its chip, the American Express Blue Card doesn't count as
a European smart card. Maestro and Electron cards don't always work,
notably in the autoroute paystations.
The best way to pay for things in France is with cash from ATMs. Your ATM card probably is on the Cirrus, Star or Plus network. Make sure that you have a 4-digit PIN-number.
Most French shops close down for two hours at lunchtime. Some stores (mainly the "big box" out-of-town stores) are experimenting with staying open at lunchtime, but this isn't enthusiastically welcomed by the locals. We suggest that you do as the French do and have a leisurely lunch. The Cahors supermarkets are Carrefour (on the road to Toulouse), LeClerc (on the Luzech road, under the D820 and technically in Pradines) and Intermarché, just off the road East to Arcambal; there is another Intermarché in big box land on the way to LeClerc. Supermarkets don't close on Mondays, as many in-town shops do. By the way, supermarkets are the cheapest places to fill up the car.
Tips are rarely required in restaurants (the menu usually says "service compris" or "TTC"), but change is typically left (no coins under 10 centimes, please). The service charge in the prices does not go to the staff, who receive a decent wage, so you may leave a little more (5 - 10%) in cash for exceptional service, but don't feel any obligation. By the way, slow service towards the end of a meal is politeness, showing that they are not rushing you to leave the table. Taxi drivers expect a 10% tip and hotel porters (where they exist) expect a euro or two.