When traveling to a different country, booking a hotel on-line can overcome a language barrier. Just click the British flag at http://Cote-dAzur-Hotels.com and French is translated into English, with plenty of photos showing many hotels to choose from with a list of facilities and a map. For my trip to Cannes, I chose Villa du Parc Apartments in Juan les Pins, which offered the best price just ten kilometers from Cannes. I sent an email about bicycle rental to ride the 10km along the beach to Cannes, as indicated by the online map, and was told they would help with rental.
Arriving at my hotel at 20:30, the registration desk had closed at 20:00. A sign gave a cell phone number for emergency. We called but only got a tape. I recalled a sister hotel from my online search and we drove until we saw the sign. Registration closed. The bar was open, and the bartender reluctantly admitted someone would come by. An hour later a guy showed up who claimed ignorance that his cell phone was switched off. Back at the Villa du Parc, he entered a code for a safe next to reception and extracted an envelope for me. No explanation, no apology. The online service had not provided any information about check-in times or a code for the safe.
Exhausted, I entered the room, which had no sheets or towels (website indicated EUR 16 extra charge). Of course, the on-call guy was gone, so my friend drove me an hour to his house to collect some. Had I not known anyone there, I would have been stranded in a closed-up town, unable to speak the language, with two pieces of luggage and no clue how to find a place for the night. Finally to bed at 1:30, I would have to skip the first film to register. At 9:30, registration was closed, as it always is on Wednesdays. I was on my own to find a way to Cannes.
I found a bus which took forty minutes instead of fifteen, due to construction, missing another film. The last bus back to the hotel left Cannes at 20:30. Since movies last until after midnight, I needed an alternative. The train station was too far to walk, so Tourist Information gave me the name of a bike rental place, which was not convenient to public transportation either. Once there, the only bikes were heavy men’s mountain bikes, but I had no choice as there were no buses to the train. The muscled twenty-something rental guy actually asked if I knew how to ride. A EUR 230 deposit covered theft. I was advised not to leave the bike at the train station or it would be stolen and not to ride to Cannes as the roads are too dangerous. So, I had to carry the bike to the right train track (always up/down stairs) to go to Cannes. Trains run from Juan les Pins to Cannes (just two stops) only every hour with trains running rarely on time. I had to leave my hotel at 7:00 to be sure I could get into Cannes (a ten minute train trip) by 8:00 for the first film.
Getting back to Juan les Pins on my second day, close to 23:00, I could not find a place open for dinner. I noticed a wine shop and found it was only open because the owner was installing air conditioning, for his wife – and the wine, he joked. With a bottle of red I cycled to McDonald’s, even though I hated to break my boycott since seeing Supersize Me. It closed ten minutes early. Red wine and chocolate were my dinner. On Friday night, speeding back to my hotel, I saw the wine store was open. Exhausted and starving I stopped and the owner offered me a complementary glass of wine. After listening to me spout off the indignities of the day, he offered to order me a pizza (which he picked up!). His friends invited me to share their wine, and for the first time on the trip, I relaxed and enjoyed good wine, entertaining conversation and a real meal.
There was so much misinformation on this trip, but not because I could not speak French. Information was helpfully provided in English; it was just wrong! Some other examples:
Now I realized why everyone waited in the car park ticket line so patiently, in kind of a party atmosphere. Service was not expected, so they just enjoyed the moment. After all, the sun was shining, and you could see the deep blue of the Mediterranean Sea.
The moral of my story is Buyer Beware – make sure you check details of online reservations. However, perhaps more important is my French lesson – relax and enjoy, c’est la vie!