First World Travel Problems

My KLM flight to France left from Terminal 3 in Toronto. Those of you who are frequent flyers and have visited Terminal 3 will know of what I speak. Terminal 3 has only a passing acquaintance with the Nexus card. A Nexus card is a credential for which you go through several hoops, including an interview at the airport and scans of your eyeballs and fingerprints, to prove you have never been and do not plan to be a shoe bomber, toothpaste bomber, or peanut butter bomber. Hence, why you want a Nexus card is to be able to whisk yourself through security through a dedicated security lane (or whisk yourself through the U.S. border). And that’s exactly how it works in Terminal 1.

In Terminal 3, you go through a pretend Nexus line only to end up at the one-and-only security entrance point. Where you wait until the security agent decides how many of the non-Nexus holders to wave through before they deign to grant you permission to join the ranks of the amateur traveller. An important aside. Last month I flew back from Arizona and as a Nexus holder I am entitled to the TSA precheck designation on my boarding pass. TSA precheck has its own security line and does not require taking out your laptop, liquids, or false teeth. Nor does it require doffing coats, belts, or shoes. That is why Terminal 3 gets me a little cranky.

Anyhow, we arrived in Lyon for a river cruise to discover the striking lock workers on the Rhone had abandoned their posts at the locks that were required for passage from Lyon to Avignon (our ultimate destination). No boat for you, at least for the first three days of the non-journey. We managed to make the best of it. Somehow wine from Provence and French cheese mitigated the circumstances somewhat, but the no-choice (and no warning about what the no-choice would be) meals at the hotel did not. But that is now many glasses of wine under the bridge (table?).

The cruise sort of happened. The cruise ended. Then on to Nice for a few days. Nice is nice. The weather was sunny and warm. But it was Easter weekend and apparently the half-term school holiday for England and most of Europe. Flocks of children abounded. Not that’s there’s anything wrong with that, except if you want to promenade on the Promenade Anglais without being run over by electric scooters and skateboards. (Who knew electric skateboard were a thing? Not me.)

Prior to vacation departure, I had compiled many recommendations for where to eat in Nice, with the operative tactic being to avoid the touristy swath in the old town. We arrived on Easter Sunday when all restaurants worthy of patronizing were closed. On Mondays, any self-respecting restaurant will normally be closed for chef’s night off. This was mitigated by going on a tour of Monaco that included dinner. The meal, which was a typical three course thing lasting just shy of two hours, only included one glass of wine. Now there may be some of my first-world compatriots who can sip one glass of wine through a French gastronomic event, but I am not one of them. The tour guide intervened and convinced the restaurant to let us pay for a second glass of wine. Crisis averted.

In the manner of all things French, restaurants of note do not allow reservations online. Nor do they accept reservations by phone when they are closed. Not that I had a phone at hand. To serve you better, our cellphone provider no longer offers the thirty days of roaming for $80 plan they used to have until last month. (Another first world problem: thinking $80 for the privilege of using your phone in Europe is a good deal when Europeans pay about $80 for a full year, but I digress.) Instead, they offer a $16 per day option. I am not that important that I want to spend $16 per day to keep up in real-time with the email from Nigerians who want to give me money for no reason.

Anyhow, on Tuesday morning after breakfast I went to the front desk to ask to talk to the concierge to make a dinner reservation at Bistro D’Antoine. The guy I talked to told me the concierge did not come in until 10am, but I could give him the details including my room number etc. and he would convey them. The phone rang when I got back to the room. It was the guy from the desk telling me that since my hotel reservation was through the cruise group, I needed to talk to the cruise representative to make my dinner reservation. This irritated me somewhat. Okay. A lot. I am a Gold Elite Marriott member. I am staying at Le Meridian, a not-too-shabby Marriott hotel. I am entitled to speak to the concierge. I asked him to transfer me to the manager. It rang and rang and rang and rang. He’d probably transferred it to the desk of a striking lock worker.

Just after I hung up, the onsite cruise representative called me. “I understand you are having a problem making a dinner reservation,” she said. I told her I was not having a problem making a dinner reservation, I was having a problem talking to the concierge. “I can help you with your dinner reservation,” she replied. I said the reason I wanted to go through the concierge is that usually they have more sway with local restaurants. I may actually have come across a bit more cranky-pants than that. My bad.

On our way out for a walk, after 10am, I stopped by the front desk once more to ask to talk to the concierge. “The concierge doesn’t come in on Tuesdays,” the guy said. I reiterated my request for a restaurant reservation. He said he would go to the website to make one online. I told him that was not possible. So did his colleague (in French). He phoned the restaurant. No tables available on Tuesday. Would Wednesday work? Pas de chance. I would be on a plane.

I awoke the next morning with ample time for a leisurely breakfast. The hotel’s buffet spanned a long counter, with copious amounts of food. There were also people with their dogs. In a restaurant. Inside. One guy held little Fifi under his arm as he perused the spread, pointing out morsels she might find acceptable, giving her a good sniff to confirm. Suddenly, the idea of breakfast lost its charm. Oh well. C’est la vie. In France, anyhow.

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