France Strikes Again!

I really, REALLY want to love France. I mean, what’s not to love?! She’s got rich history, amazing artwork, beautiful monuments, a gorgeous coastline and let’s not forget the most important part – her fabulous wine! France, you have so much going for you! So why is it every time I visit you I wind up having an incredibly frustrating experience?! I fully acknowledge that I’m being totally unfair in developing an irrational feeling of anxiety toward an entire country, but honestly, I’m getting to the point that going to France makes me downright nervous. When we crossed the border into Italy I literally cheered. Not nice, Tracey…not very nice.

I think my therapy to get past this French phobia will be to focus on the positive experiences in France. In addition to my recent encounter with the French hero in leather who helped save us from running out of gas, we met some more wonderful French citizens when we arrived in Nimes. Our AirBnB host family met us at the apartment we were renting from them. They were so welcoming and friendly. Their daughter even made our girls Rainbow Loom bracelets as a little present. Our location in the town was perfect. We were just steps away from a Roman colosseum, a park with a beautiful fountain and a promonade with a playground. We had a wonderful afternoon walking around the city and enjoying all it had to offer….

Nimes 2
nimes 3
nimes 4

….UNTIL…

What, you ask? What might have ruined our glorious day in a beautiful French town? Um, Brian’s wallet getting stolen, that’s what. Argh! (So much for focusing on the positive.) While we can’t prove it, we believe our waiter at the restaurant where we stopped for a few crepes snagged it. As we were walking away from the outdoor table we were seated at Brian suddenly realized it was gone even though he’d just had it. We immediately went back and looked everywhere we had been but it was nowhere to be found.

In those first few moments after something like that happens, you’re a little bewildered and in denial. No, it can’t be…it’s here somewhere. I know I just had it…there’s no way someone could have…. Then later on, you begin putting the pieces together. While losing a wallet is certainly not the end of the world, it’s a little sickening how much money the thief got from us.

After we’d gone back to the apartment and made all the necessary calls to the credit card companies, I went out for a much needed bottle of wine. Out of my own curiosity I wandered by the restaurant again and saw the waiter we suspected sitting outside smoking a cigarette. An internal force propelled me forward even though I had no idea what I was going to say or do in this situation.

I marched up to him and asked in pathetic French if he spoke English. He nodded and smiled smugly, showing me a mouth full of surprisingly brown teeth for his young age. After a moment of motherly concern for the guy’s health, I just went for it. “I understand you picked up my husband’s wallet,” I said innocently.

I swear I saw a glimmer of panic in his droopy eyes. “Um…I…I don’t understand you….”

Oh, your English isn’t so good now, is it? I repeated my statement. “I understand that you found a small, grey wallet. It’s my husband’s.”

He tossed a lock of greasy hair out of those droopy eyes, glanced over at his coworker sitting across from him and muttered something in French. (I’m sure it was very complimentary about me.) Turning back to me he said “No, I don’t understand,” and then took a long draw on his cigarette.

As unfair as it might be, I decided this little jerk was guilty and I was boiling mad that I wouldn’t be able to prove it or do anything about it. He and his greasy hair and his half-open eyelids and his strangely brown teeth were going to get away with stealing money and credit cards, as I’m sure he’d done before and would do again. I wanted to punch him in the face. I wanted to scream, “Listen, you pathetic little leech on French society, keep the damn money to support the drug habit that is apparently turning your teeth that lovely shade of baby diahrrea, but give me back the credit cards and the drivers license so we don’t have to go through the hassle of replacing things that are totally worthless to you!” Again, not nice, Tracey. Very not nice. What can I say, I was extremely frustrated.

Suffice it to say, I didn’t scream in his face. Instead I went and talked to the manager, which I knew would result in nothing except maybe scaring him a little bit. Then I walked by him and gave him the evil eye. (Trust me, it will strike terror into a person’s soul…maybe.) His repeated, not-so-nonchalant glances at me throughout all of this further solidified his guilt in my mind, fair or not.

So that’s the story. In the big scheme of things it’s not a travesty, but it definitely put a damper on the start of our journey to Croatia.  This young man (or whoever stole Brian’s wallet on the off chance I’m wrong about him) is having a much tougher time in life that I am. I’m going to tell myself the thief needed the money to pay for a loved one’s lifesaving surgery. This mode of thinking helped us brush it all off quickly. We wound up having an amazing Indian dinner at a restaurant we found on a quiet side street. The next morning our friendly and helpful AirBnB host met us to say goodbye and send us on our way to Genoa.

Of course, France had to leave us one last parting gift of frustration. When we stopped for gas near Nice it took 45 minutes and a comedy of errors relating to credit card machines, door knobs and other seemingly simple items to actually get fuel into the vehicle. France is a lovely country with so much to offer, but she sure likes to make you work for it.

About the Author

Tracey Carisch

Mom, wife, friend and change agent traveling the world with my family to learn our place in it. After spending a career in organizational change management and community initiative implementation, I put my career on hold for our family's trip around the world. In April of 2014 we sold almost everything we own, put the rest in a storage container, and departed on this journey. While my husband continued his software development work to financially support our trip, I planned and documented our adventure, homeschooled our three daughters, and found volunteer work opportunities for us to do in the communities we visit. Now that we've returned to the U.S., I'm completing book about our family's adventure and our lessons learned.

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5 Comments

  1. It’s terrible and a pain when that happens, but this is a good warning early on. While violent crime is few and far between in most of Europe, petty crime runs rampant.

    The French are amateurs when it comes to this stuff. The amount of pick pockets as you head east will only get much worse. Here in Prague it is unbelievable, they are everywhere and as good or better then anywhere I have been.

    Never leave anything unattended for even a second. Not your wallet, purse, phone, tablet, backpack, gloves or pack of gum. It will be gone.

    When I worked for a hotel here I spent many afternoons taking guests to the police and filing a report.

    Hopefully this will be the last time you have to deal with this stuff, I know what a pain it is.

    A lot worse things could happen and I think you will love Croatia.

    Try some rakija, but be warned, it can be quite strong.

    Chris

  2. Tracey,
    I’m so sorry to hear that happened. I adore France and all things French and I hope that you can keep remembering all the good things! Twenty years ago, I traveled in Italy, Greece and France and found the worst pickpocket threats in Italy – mostly from gypsie children. Last summer we went to France and Switzerland and always kept our money and cards in pouches around our neck under our clothes. A little inconvenient but seemed like the safest thing to do. I love reading your posts!

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