Our train from Lyon to Paris arrived around 9:00 pm on Dec 28th. We were thankful to be in France's capital after several delayed trains and hours of wandering the overcrowded stations. We purposely left ourselves an extra day in Paris before our discount flight to Glasgow - but we'll touch on that experience in a separate piece.
Being smack in the middle of Christmas and New Years Eve, accommodation options were lean and very expensive. We managed to find a tolerable rate at the Hotel des Olympiades located just north of the city centre. After reading the reviews our expectations were low.
We mapped out the hotel and found the nearest metro station - said to be extremely close. It was a dark and rainy night. The streets were gloomy and appeared unsafe and dodgy. Random drug addicts passed us, staring with blank expressions. We wanted to get indoors quickly.
After checking into the hotel we decided to find a store to buy some food and drinks before calling it a night. The hotel lived up to its mediocre reputation.
Because the area was sketchy, Cameron decided not to bring his cash with him. Instead, he stuffed it in the bedside table with his bank card, etc. We've learned to limit the amount of 'losable' items that we carry when out at night. We live by the mantra "better to be safe than sorry".
We actually found the neighbourhood to have a lot of character. It's amazing how the area transformed with the morning light. It came alive and converted into a vibrant street market with touting produce merchants and busy butchers chopping the daily meat. It was clearly the Middle Eastern part of town and brought back fond memories of our time in Jordan and Turkey.
We checked out of the hotel at 11:00 am and locked our bags at reception. Our plan for the day was to visit the nearby artsy neighborhood of Montmartre and its star attraction - the magnificent white stoned basilica Sacre Coeur.
The weather was manic that morning. At one moment it was warm and sunny; the next it would downpour heavy rains. During one of the rain storms we snuck into a cozy artisan café and treated ourselves to colorful café lattes and a platter of delicious cheese and freshly baked breads. It was one of the best café experiences we'd had on our trip. We were, of course, in one of the world's finest culinary cities.
When it came time to pay the bill Cameron opened his wallet and felt a sudden loss of air. The wallet was empty!
Did you see that one coming?
We certainly didn't.
As you've likely deciphered, the cash and bank card was forgotten in the bedside table. It was a considerable amount too - about 180 Euros (close to $300 CDN). We raced back to the hotel only to find the receptionist 'out for lunch'. Our hearts pounded with anxiety.
Cameron ran up the four flights of squeeky stairs to room 33 and banged on the door repeatedly. There was no response.
Our minds immediately jumped to the worst case scenario.
Had the cleaning lady found the money and kept it?
Did a new guest check in and find the stash?
We managed to go 11 months without an incident - why now?!
The receptionist finally showed up, startled to see two frantic Canadians speaking a mile a minute. Her English was broken and she had a tough time communicating. She didn't understand what was going on. Our poor Francais didn't help the situation either.
"Stevens?" she replied as she flipped through her dated ledger book.
"No, Wears!" was our response in unison.
She paused and looked thoroughly confused. "Stevens?" she repeated.
After what seemed like 15 minutes of heated dialogue (it was probably only 3 minutes in reality) we finally understood her confusion. Apparently 'Stevens' had already checked into the room. This wasn't good.
It took some convincing but we finally got her to escort us to the room. We banged and banged on the hollow door. No answer. She hesitantly let Cameron in the room and he ran to the drawer, opened it and… it was all there! PHEW!
Another disaster averted. As we walked downstairs the woman repeatedly said, "you very lucky. Lucky man. You should not do that. You lucky." (insert strong French accent for effect)
We got the picture. It was definitely NOT what to do while in Paris!
December 29th, 2009