I was reminded the other day of a trip I went on when I was 18, organised by my college. At the time it was awful, but looking back it is quite funny.
I thought I’d share it with you.
To start off, you need to know that for the previous 2 weeks before the trip I’d been off college with a really bad throat infection. Bad enough that one night I couldn’t breath, and had a panic attack.
I wasn’t 100% by the day of the trip, but I was well enough to go – after all it was to Paris, and I love Paris.
With this in mind though, both myself and my mother notified the tutors on the trip of what was wrong, and what to do if I couldn’t breath again.
So on the day of the trip I met up with my two friends, who I was to be sharing a room with, and we boarded the coach and headed to France. One of these friends had also been ill with a chest infection, but like me, was determined to see the galleries of Paris.
On arriving at our hotel though we found the first problem, the hotel had double booked! After quite a while the hotel got most of our class into rooms, but two groups of us remained. Myself and my friends, and two of the boys. If you were the tutor, what would you have done?
a) Kept on at the hotel to get the last students into rooms?
b) Gone out for a meal?
Yep, you guessed it. They went for a meal. This was at about 9pm, and we were exhausted, and feeling worse. Some of our friends offered to have us stay in their room, even offering to sleep on the floor so we could have their beds. But were told that this wasn’t allowed as they were male. I have to confess, at this point I was in tears.
The tutors, in their infinite wisdom, decided that a meal would make us feel better. Ignoring the fact that at that point, I couldn’t actually eat solid food – my throat was still sore enough that I was living off water and ice lollies. Impressively they even tried to convince us to have alcoholic drinks, none of us drank, and I was the only one over the age of 18. They were very insistent! Even bullying! You know you sometimes get people who just cannot accept that you don’t want to have a drink? That was them.
The restaurant we went to was also full of smoke, and we were starting to struggle for breath, so said we needed to go and we needed a room. None of the tutors were willing to help though and told us to go for a walk instead, saying they’d meet us at the hotel at 10:30pm.
This is where we discovered that, in the dark streets, we were walking through the red light district. Three young girls alone. It was as we passed a strip club with missing girls posters on the wall that a car stopped just in front of us, opened the doors, and the driver tried to beckon us inside.
We went as fast as we could back to the hotel.
10:30 arrived, and passed. So did 11:00. Around 11:30 we were sat on sofas in the reception area when one of our tutors ran past to the lifts, head down and door keys in hand. Did I forget to mention that the tutors got rooms?
He was hoping we wouldn’t see him, he wasn’t that lucky. Turns out he’d just come back to get something from his suitcase and was heading straight back to the pub. Not with us stood in his way he wasn’t!
After forcing him to stay and get things sorted, we were given a room. The room was a corridor with one bed in, then a doorway to a room with a double bed. You could see from the corridor straight into the double bedroom and vice versa, which would have been ok.. but of course we had to share with the two boys who were also without a room. Luckily they were really lovely, and waited outside the room while we got changed. But after the earlier comment about us not sharing with boys, we were bitterly aware that we could have been resting for a few hours already, in the company of our friends.
But we slept, happy in the knowledge that in the morning we were off to see the Rodin museum. Unlike most of our class, the 5 of us crammed into that dingy hotel room with the holes kicked in the walls, we were on the trip for the art.
We wake though to be told that the rest of the class will be heading to the Rodin museum by coach, while we were to wait at the hotel while the rooms were sorted out, then we would follow on the metro.
After an hour or so, it became clear that the rooms weren’t going to be sorted any time soon. So we were sent out to find our way to the museum. Bearing in mind we had paid for the trip, and that payment had included the cost of travel. We then had to pay again for metro tickets.
We arrived at the museum about half an hour before we were due to leave the museum. I am glad to say that we at least had half an hour there, but sad that due to the short time, we didn’t really have a chance to stop and sketch the beautiful surroundings.
When we eventually returned to the hotel we were told we had rooms, but the rooms were at another hotel, and that none of the staff at the other hotel spoke a word of English. With our limited French, this was difficult. But the hotel staff at the first hotel translated for us, and told us we had one night there, then we were to return at lunchtime to get our suitcases and move the back to the first hotel. We asked if it was definitely lunchtime, this was confirmed, and we spent a pleasant night in a lovely hotel room.
The next morning we went out, enjoyed ourselves and returned in high spirits to our rooms. Only to be greeted by a group of German men.And no sign of our suitcases.
Of course we tried to talk to the receptionist, but neither of us could understand each other. So we returned to the first hotel without our belongings, and wondering if the nightmare would ever end. Each of us sincerely hoping we’d wake up soon.
After much back and forth we got some of our posessions back. Not all, of course, things could never run that smoothly.
So now we had a room, but not all of our stuff.
That night the rest of our class held a party in their room, enough of a party that the hotel manager threated to kick the whole class out of the hotel and/or call the police.
I’m glad to say that we did eventually get all our stuff back, and the rest of the trip was without incident. However, after the stress of all this, my recovering body fell ill once more.
We tried complaining to the college about the “organisation” of the trip, and the irresponsible actions of the tutors, but were brushed off. We even found that of head of department was doing everything he could to hush it up. We were sat one lunchtime with some other students, who didn’t make the trip, telling them about it, when our head of department came over and told us to go to class. Pointing out that it was the lunch break made no difference, he was determind that those of us on the trip should be split up from those who weren’t.
Since leaving the college I’ve heard that he lost his job, I can only hope the other poor excuses for tutors also lost theirs. After this trip we had many run ins with them, they blamed us for daring to complain.
SO that was my Paris trip, wonderful city, tainted with bad memories.