I ended up homeless on the streets of Paris.
I don’t always get it right. I’m just back from traveling through Europe for a few weeks, and one of the stops on the itinerary was (of course) the city of light and love – Paris. When moving to Canada I never expected to return to Paris for a visit, but I did – twice so far actually. Canada might be my country, but Paris will always be my hometown. But this time, things went wrong. Horribly wrong. I ended up homeless on the streets of Paris, and trust me when I say that the light and love quickly disappear when you have nowhere to stay.
In my travel book “The Freedom Project” I write a lot about picking a place to stay while traveling. It’s all about location, location, location. But on this recent trip to Paris I completely failed. Did I not follow my own steps and guidelines while booking the hotel? Quite the contrary – I practise what I preach, and followed all of them. I researched reviews, and used a well-known, major booking site to make the reservation. But got caught by surprise when on arrival the hotel I thought I had booked had no record of my reservation. There turned out to be two hotels, with exactly the same name. The first one, where I showed up, met all the expectations – just as the reviews and online pictures had suggested. The other one, the one I apparently had booked, did not – by any means. I’ve stayed in disappointing or even bad hotels before, but this one didn’t even register on a scale of good or bad. Simply put, I felt unsafe. Calling it a brothel would be a compliment. So I decided to leave, less than five minutes after check-in. I didn’t even care about losing the pre-paid “accommodation” – my health, safety and wellbeing were more important to me.
So now I found myself homeless on the streets of Paris. Tired, angry, and frustrated. But Paris has many hotels, so finding alternate accommodations was going to be easy, right? Wrong. For some reason everything was “complet“, which is French for fully booked. The last few available rooms (if any) were offered at any random amount ranging roughly between 500 and 4000 euro per night for a standard double room. Contrary to what I believed at first, those numbers contained no typos. I roamed the streets for hours – becoming more tired, angry and frustrated by the minute. When darkness was already setting in, I caved in and took the one last room regardless of the extraordinary cost. “Welcome to Paris”, the receptionist said after swiping my credit card. Suddenly I understood why people say they love Paris, but hate the French.
So was it a bad trip? Not at all, even though it started a bit off-key. I shot some some new work for my Paris portfolio, some of which is featured in my gallery this month. And I learned some valuable lessons about myself and my style of traveling, which I’ll share below. Because Paris is awesome – and if you haven’t already been there you should really make it a priority to go. Enjoy the photographs, and bon voyage!
My Top Paris Travel Tips
- Booking sites pride themselves in offering millions of accommodations worldwide. You think that’s good? Think again. That’s exactly what got me in a very bad, unsafe hotel. I canceled my account with the well-known booking site that got me into this mess, and will only use booking sites with a smaller amount of properties going forward. The ones that have hand-selected accommodations they already know are good. My accompany workbook to The Freedom Project has many of those booking sites listed. Get your copy and take advantage of the travel research I’ve already done for you.[space]
- The Paris Pass gives you free entry to over 60+ top attractions with Fast Track Entry privileges, a hop-on-hop-off bus tour, a Travelcard to get around the city and a guidebook to plan your trip. I saved both time and money using this pass while exploring Paris – if you manage to visit enough attractions within the number of days you book the pass for it’s definitely worth it.[space]
- If you don’t want to explore on your own and still do some sightseeing in France, have a look at these Tourism France activities. There’s a wide range of tours to visit the major sites and monuments: guided or non-guided visits, walking tours, hop-on hop-off bus, luxury coach or minibus tours or dinner cruises, among others.