Travel Memory: Using Airbnb for the First Time in France

I think I’m one of those people that weird things always happen to. I’ve had my fair share of travel disasters. Here’s a story about something that happened to me that wasn’t funny at the time, but definitely makes me laugh now…

I love using Airbnb for travel – it’s a great way to experience the local culture and meet new people. But my first time using the site did not go so smoothly. In fact, it involved rousting my parents from their bed in Boston via a panicked payphone call at 5AM their time (they were not happy).

A couple years ago I was visiting Paris as part of a short Eurotrip to four countries. My travel partner and I decided to be adventurous, skip the touristy hotels, and book our stay using Airbnb. Oh, how interesting of a choice this would turn out to be.

Montmarte, Paris

Montmartre (source)

We arrived via the overnight train from Milan (a story for a future post) and took the metro to the Airbnb apartment, located in the neighborhood of Montmartre. Our host had arranged for his mother to meet as at the apartment since he was on vacation. Feeling pretty good about ourselves for finding the place on our own, we rang the buzzer. No answer.

At this point we didn’t have international cell phones or data plans… just our iPhones with wifi capabilities and no free wifi in site. Did I mention that we spoke next to zero French and couldn’t find anyone to help us? Yikes!

After waiting for what seemed like forever, we attempted to use a nearby payphone to call our host using a phone card. But we literally could not figure out how to dial a French number using it. We followed the instructions exactly, but absolutely nothing happened.

In a panic, I called my parents’ house and they answered the phone right away. I’m sure they were thrilled to wake up to my call, but what are parents for – right Mom and Dad? They sleepily Googled how to properly connect the phone call and eventually we got through (whew!).

About an hour later, our host’s elderly French mother showed up. She brought us upstairs to the apartment, and although she spoke not a single word of English (and we told her we spoke no French) she began a 25 minute tour of the place. We just nodded along and repeated “oui! oui!” over and over, hoping she wasn’t saying anything along the lines of “so don’t press this button or the building explodes.”

After she left, everything seemed fine and dandy. That is, until nighttime came around and we realized that the kitchen was infested with roaches. Both of us were so grossed out – and there was no roach killing spray, etc. anywhere. The only option was some sort of gel with a picture of a roach on it.

Our solution to this problème de parasites? We put coffee mugs over the roaches and surrounded each mug with roach gel. It seems totally silly and foolish now, but I can still remember our screaming and frantic mug placing.

So yuck. Right? But there’s no way we were going to let a few bugs ruin our trip to the City of Lights. We took all the precautions to ensure they couldn’t get into our luggage / clothing and laughed it off. By the end of our stay, we both started yelling “Bonjour roachies!” in French accents every time we got home. It wasn’t the end of the world. We were there to see Paris, not hang out inside!

The Blonde Banana, Paris

Here I am, managing to enjoy Paris despite it all!

I should note that I’ve had many other more successful Airbnb experiences as a host and guest. Have you ever used the site? Would love to hear about your experience in the comments!

If you liked this story, then please subscribe to the right! You won’t want to miss hearing about the time I was locked in a train compartment for 6 hours with no bathroom and two creepy guys, the time the Fung Wah bus I was taking lit on fire, or the time I got food poisoning in Morocco.

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