At first, I was leery, but traveling through Europe by car had been fun.
My husband said, “We don’t need hotel reservations. We’ll be just fine.”So far, it had worked, just fine. We had been traveling (in a small rental car) from Luxembourg, Belgium, making pit stops (we had 3 small children with us) so you get the picture. Trust me, we were all tired and slightly claustrophobic after three weeks, but were happy. We arrived in Paris (our last major stop) at noon that day to find a hotel quickly so we could sightsee the rest of the day. Easier said than done.
We went from hotel to hotel: no rooms. We started at the lower priced. Slowly, it went higher and higher. By 6PM, my husband would’ve settled for anything with a bed. No go. By 11PM, we were all dizzy, tired and getting slightly grouchy and about to give up when my husband came running back to our car saying he found a room. Cheering with what little energy we had left, we all dragged our luggage into the four-story quaint hotel. Since it was the rule of the hotel, my husband had to pay in advance. And since it was located in the center of Paris and located in a nice area, it was perfect. It was their last room available. Just one snag: the elevator was broken.
So my three sons and I carried up the lighter luggage. My husband would bring up the heaviest after he paid for our room. The stairs were narrow and winding. We were on the fourth floor. I think this was when I started to have some reservations of my own about this hotel, but I was exhausted and so were the kids. Out of breath, the four of us finally dropped our luggage just inside the door to our room.
As we ventured further in, my son said, “Mom, what are those things on the walls?”
I walked closer. Creatures, bugs …whatever! Ugh!
“Don’t move!” I ordered, as I walked over and peeked into the bathroom. There were bugs crawling all over the place: walls, tub, etc. I whipped around in time to catch my other son about to throw himself onto the bed. I yelled, “No!” He stepped back as I gingerly pulled the sheets back. …Bed bugs! “Out! Out!” I ordered, as I ushered the boys out of the room with their bags. “Now!”
Halfway down the stairs, we met my husband, (sweating profusely) lugging those heavier pieces up. I gave him the death glare. “Don’t even bother! We are not staying here. We are leaving. Now!”
His head whipped around, as I kept moving downward. “But I already paid….”
“Then get a refund! The room is infested with bugs crawling everywhere!”
“Are you sure?” he asked, glancing back hopefully toward what (was) our room.
I gave him the death glare again.
“How am I going to explain this to the manager? He doesn’t speak any English.”
My husband followed us, marching down to speak with the manager. What transpired was a lot of screaming in rapid English then French, while my husband shook his head no. (I must explain we didn’t know French back then. We hadn’t purchased our home in the south of France for several years yet.) But we were extremely fluent in English. So everything was lost in translation and the shaking of heads, as my husband went through the motions of moving his fingers like legs walking all over, trying to explain the bugs on the walls, tub, beds, etc. I stood there with our three sons while my husband imitated his best French, saying, “infeeestaaasseeoon!”
Finally, the shocked manager got the message then began swearing passionately, like my husband had just insulted his mother. I covered my smallest’s ears as I marched them back outside to our parked car. After several minutes ticked by, my husband joined us, slamming the door closed. He then turned to me with a smile, holding up his refund.
I frowned after checking my watch. “Now, where? It’s after midnight.”
Exhausted, we circled Paris again, my husband stopped again, we waited again.
“That’s the last straw,” said my husband getting back into the car at the last stop.
“So, where to now?” I asked.
“I’m pulling into the first open parking space I can find, that’s what,” he announced.
And he did: directly under the Eiffel Tower. (This was pre 9/11) Then he turned the car lights off, saying, “Everyone get comfortable and get some sleep.”
I turned to him. “We’re sleeping in this economy car …here with three children?”
“How was I supposed to know there are three major conventions going on in Paris?”
After some moaning and groaning, everyone settled in. I was almost asleep when a small voice said from the backseat, “I have to go…real bad.”
My husband eyed me then we both looked over to that tower and back to each other.
“There are more shadows over there. Besides, he’s only 3 ½ yrs. old…”
Afterward, we settled down once again and covered ourselves with our jackets. We did see the gendarme go by a few times, but they never stopped, just smiled at us and kept going. I guess we weren’t the only one’s without a hotel room because no one bothered us all night.
Lesson learned: we never traveled again without reservations well in advance.
Now during the holidays when the whole family gathers around the table and old family stories are retold, the boys always ask, “Did you make hotel reservations, Dad?”
Now, he laughs, “Very funny…”
Did I ever tell you about the time I had to use a hotel toothbrush for the bottom of my children’s sneakers one trip? You see, they had this petting zoo…
And people ask where I get my inspiration and imagination from for my mysteries. Ha!
P.S. Little did I know then that a future home in France would inspire 2 of my 12 books:
My true Memoir: The Rivera Is Burning & Mystery #3: 86 Avenue du Goulet