Thank goodness time heals because I can now look back on a couple of mistakes I have made and laugh. They certainly weren’t funny at the time and they were lessons I had to learn the hard way but as a result, I’ll never make those mistakes again. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and won’t encounter them when you travel to France.
1. Hello! Is Anyone There?
I booked an apartment in Biarritz with a beautiful view of the ocean a few years ago. I arrived on a Sunday at 5 pm and no one was at reception. The place I rented was located in an apartment building with a front desk; however, I was not careful enough to check that reception was only open in the morning, so I had no accommodation for that night. Fortunately, it was mid-September, and I was able to get a reasonably-priced hotel room just 2 minutes away. Had it been high season…..lord knows! It was a costly mistake.
Lesson Learned: confirm when you are able to check in. Sometimes hotels require you to actually give a time that you will arrive.
2. But I Put The Key In The Mailbox!
I’ve rented apartments in Paris for many years. Most often the keys are mailed to me and when I return home I mail them back (to the company in the US). There was one time, however, when I was given the keys when I arrived and was asked to deposit the keys in the mailbox upon leaving. I swear I put it in the correct mailbox; however, as you might have guessed, they never got the keys back and they also searched the apartment and floor of the mailroom. No luck and I was out my deposit ($150 US).
Lesson Learned: mail back the key with insurance (or deliver the key to the office)
3. Let Us In!!!
A number of years ago, my friend Laurie and I rented a perfect gite in the Alsace. It was spacious, had a pool, two bedrooms, and a modern, fully equipped kitchen and it was located in a town that had a few good restaurants. Our apartment had its own entrance but it was connected to the house, so one had to enter the property to get in.
One night we went for dinner into the town. We didn’t finish too late; however, I guess it was too late for the owners of our gite because when we returned the gate to the property was closed and locked. We went around the gate to see if there was another side entrance. No. We had to find a way to get in….yes, we hopped a high fence and didn’t kill ourselves.
Lesson Learned: confirm with the property owners about getting into the gite after hours, perhaps getting a key to the gate.
4. What Do You Mean I’m On The Wrong Train?
I was on a train going from Paris to Barcelona. After I got on, something didn’t feel right. I thought had just gotten in the wrong coach (#1 instead of #11). Some students told me I was going to Perpignan, which is on the way to Barcelona so at least I was going in the right direction: south. But, I was on the entirely wrong train!
Train personnel confirmed my mistake and told me to get off at the next station. I did and had to buy another ticket to continue my journey. That cost me time and $$$. I wrote a lengthy letter in French to SCNF (French rail) to see if they refund part of my ticket. Still haven’t heard back and I don’t think I ever will. (Please don’t laugh at my french translation. It was the best I could do under the circumstances).
When you are on a train platform there are often two trains—-one on each side. Lord knows why I thought my train was on the right.
Lesson Learned: Now when I get on a train, I double check with the conductor which train I should get on.
Have you had any unfortunate lessons (or funny experiences) when you’ve travelled to France?
[The first photo in this post is of a sculpture I saw at Musée Quai Branly in Paris: Papua New Guinea Sculpture Societies Iniet Secret Tolai]