Midnight in Paris

Midnight in Paris

Maybe I should have titled this “Why I Hate First-World Countries that Don’t have Wifi” or “Why I’ll Never Arrive in a Country at Night Again” or even something taking a jab at Parisians for being unhelpful.

I’ll probably never learn, but remind me not to stop arriving in foreign countries after dark when everything is closed for the night. Whyyyyy do I always do this? …Oh yeah, because it’s cheaper.

Thinking back to it, it’s like watching some horrible comedy. You know, the kind of comedy that almost everyone experiences as they arrive in the less than glamorous Gare Du Nord, the portal to Paris. Seriously, what is it about train station neighborhoods?

The train ride itself was smooth and easy. We arrived at almost 10pm and were ready to be taken to our apartment rental to pass out. I had told them the time we’d arrive but they told us to just call them so they can come meet us.

Call them.

Call them how?? We’ve just arrived in Paris and all SIM card dealers at the station are closed. Everything is closed. I pulled out my pocket wifi device and decided I would call via Skype. Little did I know that our France device does not work. Perfect.

It’s alright, I’ll just turn on Wifi and…. What? What do you mean “No wireless networks”? How can Paris not have wifi, we’re at a major train station.

Starting to panic, we at least knew the address of the apartment, so we decided to hop into a taxi to take us there. The whole ride I was hoping that the guy would be waiting for us to let us in. Pulling up to the address, that wasn’t the case.

We were stuck.

Luckily we were in the trendy Les Halles district, and we saw a few cafes open across the street. Wheeling all our bags around, we asked the waiter if we could use a phone to call the apartment manager, “No English” he replied.

I tried again, this time in French, asking if there was a phone we could use or if another waiter spoke English. He directed us inside.

Again we had to explain ourselves to another waiter, asking if we could use their phone, he told us to wait one minute and then promptly disappeared into the kitchen. We waited and waited for him to return, and he waited and waited for us to leave from the safety of inside the kitchen. It was clear that no one was going to help us here.

We wandered further down the street, checking for Wifi hotspots along the way– nothing. Approaching a semi-empty bar we decided to try one last time, we were finally successful and they handed us their phone.

Dialing the numbers I gave a huge sigh of relief, and then no one answered. I tried the secondary number they had given us, again, nothing. It was already past 11pm, maybe they had gone to bed?

I quickly tried twice more as the lady approached us to take the phone back. Finally, someone picked up.

We didn’t have a reservation that night. Or so he told me.

Arguing back and forth a few minutes he finally realized that indeed we did have a reservation that night and apologized. He explain how to get in and that he hid a key to our room for us to find, everything seemed perfect.

Feeling relieved we lugged our bags back across town to the apartment complex. Keyed in the code, door popped open. So far so good. Checked where he said the key was hiding… found it! We were excited to be finally getting into our apartment. But then, just when everything seemed to be working out, it all fell apart again. He didn’t tell us which apartment was ours.

Paris - June 2014

We looked at the key, the name on the mailbox, no clues, no hints, nothing. We had absolutely nothing to go on, and it was now almost midnight.

So what did we do? We started trying the key in all the doors, of course.

I probably freaked out half the building, thinking someone was trying to break into their apartment. A few people got up and came to the door, where I’d quickly apologize and pretend I thought I was in the right place. Thinking back on it, for being midnight, I’m glad no one came to the door with a knife or anything!

But alas, finally, we wiggled the key into a door on the seventh floor and the door swung open.

I walked back downstairs to collect my mother and bags, and we opened the elevator to go back up. The minute I opened the door to the elevator I knew that was not happening. It was about one foot wide and three feet deep– there’s no way we’d fit with our bags in that thing. So I began my ascent to the seventh floor, again, by foot.

Paris - June 2014

When I reached the top I wanted nothing more than to go to sleep. It was well past midnight now, so I quickly changed my clothes and popped into bed. As I closed my eyes to go to sleep I heard loud thumping noises coming from the stairs outside, followed by the sound of girls yelling.

The sound continued until they reached their room– right above ours.

The girls were drunk and angry at each other, never a good combination. From that point on all we could hear were doors slamming, screaming at each other, and crying. It was like a bad soap opera.

All we wanted to do was sleep but now we couldn’t. They were arguing over some boy amongst other stupid things. It was so loud they might as well have been in our room. At points they were yelling questions to each other, and we voluntarily would yell our own sarcastic answers up to them.

I knew the next day was going to feel horribly long. It wasn’t until 4am that I could finally close my eyes and get to sleep.

Ah, midnight in Paris… C’est la vie!

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Have you had a similar crazy experience?

20 Comments

  • Beth Williams says:

    But not enough French for them to want to help! ;)
    And yes! Ridiculous!

  • Ugh, that is such a frustrating experience! I had an experience in Dordogne, France in a small village where the owner just told us to call the apt manager when we arrived. Turned out that the apt manager worked at a restaurant in town and was already on the job when we got in around 5pm. So she managed to get out of the kitchen for under a minute, handed us the key, and directed us (in rushed French) to walk up the hill and find a house with blue shutters and an open window. After a while, we figured out that we had to walk through an unlocked iron gate to the back of this house, where from the back you could see blue shutters (no blue shutters could be seen from the street!). Makes our little adventure sound easy compared to your rocky start in Paris – hope the rest of the trip was fun!

    • Beth Williams says:

      Your experience sounds equally frustrating! At least you finally found it, especially with weird directions like that!

  • Oh that sucks! What a night. Super early mornings and late night arrivals are the bane of travelling, when things start to unravel at these godforsaken hours it’s so painful and unnerving.
    The party girls must have been the icing on the cake!
    After travelling round Asia etc, it’s so weird to not get wifi in places. I try not to be dependant on it but it’s the times when you really need it that it’s not to be found.
    I felt for you reading this, and that lift is freakishly tiny!

    • Beth Williams says:

      Yeah, I try not to be dependent, but I guess I expected a major city like Paris to have wifi SOMEWHERE. Asia has certainly spoiled me :)

  • Oh wow this post makes my blood boil. I had a similar experience in France, though mine was in Biarritz….the owner of our AirBnB forgot to tell us that the code changed after 11 pm. So when we got back from the bar, we were locked out in the absolute pouring rain. Long story short, we ended up hailing some police officers, who shined bright lights into the neighbor’s rooms for them to look out the window, and then the neighbors so nicely came down to let us in. Apartment renters….get your shit together!!

    • Beth Williams says:

      At least the neighbors could let you in! Our renters lived on the other side of town and really didn’t seem to want to come out to meet us at 11pm.

  • Polly says:

    And who said Paris wasn’t romantic? ;)

  • Oh man :( always Paris, always!

  • Oh my gosh what a story! When I read the title I thought I was going to read a romantic story instead :)
    If I had been in the same situation I had probably ended up sleeping at the train station, or outside the first cafè ;)

    • Beth Williams says:

      Yeah, we were able to get inside the building, just not into our room… we almost slept on the floor. I guess I would’ve been fine with that (so long as they gave us our money back…) but my elder mother would not have been down!

  • Amber says:

    We had a very similar experience, but in the middle of the day in Taipei. After trying for 2 hours to get in touch with our airbnb owners, we gave up and used points to check into the Sheraton. This whole post I just kept chuckling thinking “yeah, we’ve been there.” When I saw the photo of the elevator, though, that totally made me crack up, out loud! Yeah, that’s Europe for you – no wifi, and tiny elevators.

    • Beth Williams says:

      Wow, even in the middle of the day? That’s horrible!
      And yeah, had no idea that Europe (Paris especially) was filled with tiny, scary elevators!

  • Kayla says:

    Wow that must have been frustrating. I know a part of me would probably want to break down and cry for a bit before continuing on. How stressful to have that happen when you are in a different country at night and have no idea where you are going. I experienced similar frustration in France in Charles De Gaulle Airport, never flying from or to there again. That is the worst airport.

    • Beth Williams says:

      I’ve heard horror stories about that airport, which is why we avoided it. But honestly, the train station was no better!

  • rough night girl! I hate that, but also in India all the overnight trains and buses show up at about 4 AM so you have to find a place .. it’s so hard! I also hate it, yet still keep doing it :) lol

    • Beth Williams says:

      At least it’s probably starting to get light by then ;P
      I hate it as well, yet I keep on doing it also!

  • This was actually hilarious, hahaha. At least you knew enough French to communicate! I also don’t understand when you’re in a city like Paris with no wifi…ridiculous.

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