When I was a high school sophomore, during spring break, my French class flew to Paris, France. Our French teacher and a few parents chaperoned our group of 18 girls. Little did we know that the travel agent had booked us in a Paris brothel.
Our French teacher, Mrs. M, had arranged everything, and the travel agency had offered us a package that was reasonably priced and included the hotel, flights, and a few tours and meals.
We booked our flights on a 747 double-decker jet. Most of us had never flown before much less traveled abroad.
During our evening flight, we were up most of the night talking, playing cards, and walking up and down the stairs to the lounge to calm our exploding energy.
After a nine-hour flight, we arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, France. We looked disheveled with messy hair and wrinkled clothes, and we felt exhausted with jet lag due to the six-hour time difference. Therefore, we were eager to check into our hotel rooms, shower, and regroup. To our dismay, that didn’t happen for several hours.
After grabbing our bags, we met our tour guide and boarded a bus. Our chatter reverberated throughout. Moreover, little did we know that we were headed to a dingy smog-coated hotel with curtain-covered windows.
Booked in a Paris Brothel
When we arrived at our hotel, I noticed our French teacher’s face flush. She told us to wait in the bus while she scurried down the bus stairs to talk to the hotel manager. We stayed for 45 minutes, but we were feeling fidgety, and our chaperones were getting angry. We couldn’t imagine what was causing our delay.
Finally, Mrs. M emerged from the hotel, and we exited the motorcoach and entered the inn. As we took the grand tour, Mrs. M spoke incessantly in high pitched tones to the manager while her arms flailed in all directions.
They must have decided to show us the rooms. We lugged our carry-on bags down a dirty, dimly lit hallway. When we opened the door to our room, a musty smell hit our noses before we saw the two double beds without headboards, a nightstand, and a rickety dresser that furnished the living quarters. More importantly, we couldn’t find a bathroom.
Luckily, the manager informed us that guests shared a bathroom down the hall and it was even equipped with a tub and shower. Though we could have used the facilities, when we glanced at the tan-tinged shower and tub we stopped in our tracks. Furthermore, we made a unanimous decision: We weren’t staying in that filthy place.
Mrs. M later told us that the sign that hung outside the hotel advertised rooms for rent by the hour. Surprisingly, our travel agent had booked us in a Paris brothel. Looking back, I understand how the agency gave us that money-saving deal.
Moreover, the brothel was just the first of many unnerving incidents that we faced on that trip to Paris.
When our chaperones refused to let us stay in the hotel, Mrs. M called the travel agent again. After a 20-minute conversation and a 30-minute wait, we climbed back in our coach, ready for the next adventure. Happily, we arrived and checked in to the beautiful Le Meridien. I suspect that the travel agency absorbed the additional cost.
The Next Paris Incident
After an exhausting first day and visiting several tourist sights on the following days, I decided that I needed to rest if I wanted to enjoy the trip. I skipped a midweek tour that I later regretted because I missed a lot. My group left for the tour, and I was the only student who remained in the hotel.
The Unwanted Visitor
As I relaxed and read my book, someone knocked on the door. I guessed that it was someone from our group. I opened the door, and a dark-haired man dressed in a navy blazer and khaki pants stood outside my room. He asked for Madame Bertrand, and in my limited French I told him that she was not in my room, and I politely closed the door.
He knocked three more times about 30 minutes apart, and I did not open the door. I had no way to get in touch with my group, and my face felt sore from clenching my jaw.
I scoured the room for a weapon. I found a thin-stemmed wine glass on our bar that I could break if he barged in.
Someone knocked again, and my heart pounded. I spoke through the door like my mother had always told me to do. This time, the visitor was a flower deliveryman who held a large bouquet of red roses and yellow lilies.
I inched the door open, and I tried to explain in French that the flowers were not for me and that a man wouldn’t leave me alone. I accepted the flowers and quickly dialed security while the deliveryman, my only friend in the hotel, stayed.
Security and the Concierge
Within 10 minutes, about five employees, including security and the concierge joined us in my room. In my panic, I must have dialed the concierge too, even though I didn’t need restaurant reservations.
I attempted to explain that a man “un homme” had knocked on my door. No one understood my French, and I felt like I was losing a Charades game. I paced, knocked on the door, pointed to the flowers and used the French words that I knew. They laughed, but I was glad they stayed.
While I made a scene for my new French friends, my roommates returned. They were amused, but not surprised that I had disrupted the hotel by gathering the employees in my room, while they were gone.
My French teacher learned that the persistent door knocker expected to meet Madame Bertrand. I guess he thought that I was hiding her.
As mentioned above, during this trip, I nearly stayed in a brothel, plus I played Charades with the hotel staff at Le Meridien. Unfortunately, the commotion didn’t end there. In another incident on our Paris trip, we were mistaken for prostitutes. Who would think that high school girls chaperoned by my friend’s mother, who happened to be a beautiful model, were call girls? For that matter, who knew that Paris could be so much fun?
In today’s world as a result of the internet, you can avoid the added anxiety that we experienced when the travel agent booked us in a dirty disreputable hotel.
How to Avoid Travel Nightmares
Before booking accommodations, a tour, transportation, or a reservation on an unfamiliar airline or cruise ship, read the reviews first, especially the bad reviews. Also, compare the photos from the business website to the ones posted by the people who had used these services. A little research can help you avoid travel nightmares.
Please Comment Below
What is your worst travel nightmare? Ironically, I had a travel incident that was much worse than when we were booked in a Paris brothel.