Invaded and Homeless in Paris: Photo Essay

When I planned the trip to Europe, I wanted to wing it in several countries, but not in Paris. The last thing I wanted was to panic and become homeless during high season. I booked an Airbnb near the Arc de Triomphe two months in advance. Super cute and fairly modern, I thought it would be the perfect location for touring Paris for a week. I would never have guessed it would be invaded.

Arc de Triomphe

Once we arrived in Paris, there was a problem with communication. We sat at a nearby café and tried to get a hold of the host. It took a while to find the apartment and the key. When we finally entered the apartment that evening my husband, Danny, and I were pleasantly surprised. It looked exactly like the photos on the site. We settled in and I set up my computer.

The host had left a couple of water bottles in the fridge so I walked across the room to quench my thirst. That’s when I noticed something. Something crawling on the counter. Ants. Okay, so a couple of random ants isn’t a big deal, so I sat back down at the computer.

When a few more ants found the computer cord and crawled to my laptop, it creeped me out. I walked to the cupboards and opened one. The clean glasses were crawling with them. Euw! We were booked for a week. What would we do? I didn’t want to spend hours cleaning. I called the host, but he was on vacation. What? I always thought there was supposed to be someone available.

This is a screenshot from a video I took for Airbnb and the host.

Ants in the cupboard

We went out for a short time and then slept in the bedroom. All night long I felt ants crawling on me. I’m sure it was psychosomatic… or was it?

A Cafe near Arc de Triomphe

The next morning we got a hold of the host through Viber. He thought I was nuts and overreacting to a couple of ants. I spoke with Airbnb and sent them a video. I explained that I really didn’t want the place fumigated since I had breast cancer a few years ago. She said she would have to talk to the host and her manager. At that point, we were paying for a week’s stay. I started the search for new places anyway. There weren’t many available.

When she called back, she was very understanding and told us to pack up.

As we were throwing our things in our bags, the host’s cleaning lady arrived and started spraying insecticide everywhere. I tried to tell her, but she acted like she didn’t understand, even though I used Google translate. In a panic, I bolted and hoped I didn’t leave anything behind.

Danny and I hit the street with our bags in tow. I needed to sit somewhere to regroup. Although I had looked other apartments, I had spent most of my time with Airbnb. This was my worst nightmare. Homeless in Paris. We had to find another place to sleep that night.

We sat at a cafe for a while, then I got antsy – pun intended. It was already noon and would take some time. How would we find something decent at the peak of summer vacation in Paris? One of the places I had inquired about was located near the Eifel Tower so we took off in that direction. As we walked down the sidewalk we passed a Four Seasons Hotel.

Four Seasons Paris Lobby

“Let’s check it out!” said Danny. We stayed at one in Maui for our tenth anniversary, but this was Paris. We walked inside. Whoa. Fresh flower arrangements towered in the lobby. To say it was high end would be an understatement. Danny asked the price of a room. $1600 per night. *gulp*

Four Seasons Paris

“Monsieur, we would be happy to check your luggage while you try to find suitable accommodations,” said the beautiful young woman and concierge. We walked to the bar and settled into a corner table. We could be stranded in a lot worse places.

The bar in the Paris Four Seasons

The apartment near the Eiffel Tower was already rented. As I researched more requests, I thought about how most Airbnb’s are reserved in advance. The hosts take a few hours to get back to you. I wondered if we would end up at a youth hostel. I enjoyed our amazing surroundings while it lasted.

I ordered tea which came with little muffins and candies. Danny ordered a beer and the waiter brought cashews and olives. The staff really took care of us.

Each time I sent out a request, I found the apartment was already booked for the night. I wanted to stick with Airbnb since the representative mentioned something about being compensated.

Minutes turned to hours. My phone battery started to die. The charger adapter was packed in the suitcase held in a room somewhere in the hotel.

I asked the waiter if they had a US adapter for my phone charger. He showed me to a sound proofed business room where another staff member offered to help me. She left to look for one. I waited and waited and waited.

Business Center with Quilted Walls

It was almost 5:00 PM. We had wasted lots of time the night before trying to find the apartment and then a full day trying to find another. It made me sick.

With only 10% battery left, I finally heard back from someone. Yay! We tipped the concierge, retrieved our luggage and took a taxi to the apartment. It was located on the Rue de Rivoli across from the Tivoli Gardens.

As I stepped out of the taxi, I got bad news. “I am so sorry, but the apartment isn’t available until tomorrow.” Nooo!

Danny told me to wait with the luggage and he would find a place. I have to admit. I started to cry. In what seemed like five minutes, he returned beaming. “I found a hotel!”

We took one turn at the intersection and then another. As we approached a beautiful building he said, “The hotel is right there.” I followed Danny into a super skinny hotel with the sign, Hotel Relais Saint-Honoré. My eyes had to adjust to the dim lighting in the small lobby. I turned to Danny, “I can’t do this.”

A quintessential French concierge stepped from behind the desk wearing a one-button jacket and a smile. I expected a reprimand for my insult. “Madame Lindau, I assure you, Jerome has the finest room in the hotel for you. You will be most pleased, Madame. Come, let me show you.”

I went up the little elevator while doubt seized my empty stomach. When I walked into the room my jaw dropped. It was ultra modern and well-appointed in gold, black, gray, and white. Jerome did not disappoint. I could’ve moved in for a month. Our daughter, Courtney would arrive in a few days, so we needed a bigger place.

This picture was taken when we checked out. Sorry about the wrinkles!

IMG_0997

An hour later, I received another Airbnb response for a gorgeous two bedroom practically across the street. It was available the next day. Perfect! When we checked out of the Saint-Honoré the next morning, two other concierges worked at the desk.

“We really hope that you enjoy your stay at the apartment, but please let us know if we can do anything for you while you are in Paris. We can recommend restaurants or make suggestions for sight-seeing.”

Amazing.

Our new Airbnb was beyond my wildest imagination or the pictures on the site. Clean, quiet, and ant-free, the windows opened to a terrace in a very stately building, decorated in French decor. It was well suited for our daughter when she came to stay a few days later.

Airbnb refunded our money from the first disaster. I don’t think it helped that the host was away on vacation. The associate checked in to make sure we found another place to stay. I was most impressed.

On our last day in Paris, I insisted on stopping by the Relais Saint-Honoré. I hoped Jerome would be there. I wanted to thank him for saving us and introduce him to Courtney.

Rescue by a sweet man named Jerome.

Except for Ant-man, I found all the Parisians to be as warm and friendly as Jerome!

Have you ever found pests while on vacation? Have you been to Paris? Have you used Airbnb?

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80 thoughts on “Invaded and Homeless in Paris: Photo Essay

  1. Wow, what a mess at the ant palace! I was thinking that European standards are different than ours. Really glad you guys found a great place to stay. How scary it must be to be so far from home and be stranded like that! Your daughter is very lovely. 💕😌

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  2. How disappointing for you Susie (in the beginning) We have used VRBO, HomeAway & Airbnb a number of times when travelling & have had good success where in most cases, the properties have surpassed our expectations. There has only been one where we felt it was not represented as shown but the host went out of their way to assist us in our stay & we were only there for a couple of nights, so we just stuck it out.

    Love to hear that the Parisians came to your rescue. There are good people wherever we go!

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    • That is so true, Lynn! There are wonderful people everywhere. I’m glad the host helped out.
      We have rented apartments for years. Every once in a while, we get a dud. It worked out though since it was only a one bedroom. Courtney would have slept on the couch. The upgrade was fantastic. Now I’m spending a little more to get better apartments too. Lesson learned!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Once on a volunteer stint in Costa Rica, someone left a bit of cooking oil dripping down its container. We woke up to a full parade of ants to and from that pesky oil! There were thousands, in two neat little rows, heading between our kitchen area and the rainforest. I had to admire the little guys, even though there was a bit too many to comfort. *tries not to shudder*

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    • I would shiver too! I’ve had my own battle with ants and know how hard it is to get rid of them. We had one other ant infestation through Airbnb, but I didn’t report it since the homeowner was all over it in trying to help. They follow a trail. It’s all about interrupting it. Cinnamon works best! I’ll have to link up that old post…
      Thanks for sharing, Jennifer!

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  4. I only caught part of the segment, but I believe Inside Edition did a piece on AirBnB (or one of the others) a week or two ago and the reporter had a problem. (Not ants…not sure what, though.) Between you and the show, I’m kind of spooked on the idea. Give me a hotel* or a spot in a friend’s house any day!

    (*Brand name. I have my own story of trying to stay in a mom ‘n’ pop motel. *shiver*)

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    • What a cool experience! The Millennials and the global economy have changed everything. I noticed a difference since our trip four years ago. People are open and friendly where they barely put up with us in 2001, the first time we went to Paris. I’ve always found the southern French to be friendly. Did you travel around when you were there?

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      • I didn’t travel around the year I worked for a family, but I went back in college (French was one of my majors) and saw more of the country then. I’ve found French people to be wonderful, Parisians too. I’m not sure why they gets such a bad rap. I just happened to work for a couple that wasn’t very nice, but as for the rest of the Parisians I met, they were wonderful.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m glad it all worked out. I would have moved, too. I can’t stand bugs in hotel rooms. God only knows what was crawling in the bed. Sounds like you got lucky. We’ve had some French people stay with us at our inn and some of them can be very snotty and pretend not to speak the language. Others are very nice. I guess it just depends. Much like in America.

    Thanks for sharing. I’m glad you ended up in a good spot.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

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    • I wrote a long reply and my phone died!
      Thanks, Pat. We camp outside but I have my limits. I think it does depend. People from big cities are less likely to be friendly, that’s why I was so surprised in Paris this time. Millennials were especially good at reaching out since they’re so connected, but so were others. The internet has made the world very small. I’m sure you get all kinds!!

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  6. I sat on the edge of the seat as I witnessed all that through your words –even ants could have made me flinch! I am glad it worked out well in the end and you not only found ‘a clean and well-lighted place’ in Paris but a compensation for the adventure too.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hey, Courtney’s pretty cute, I don’t think she needs her mother trying to set her up with some French guy. Jerome looks like a nice fellow and was super nice to take care of you guys.

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  8. Lol. Fest up Susie, you brought your ant farm abroad with you, and Danny knocked it over off the night stand and they got out and infested the establishment, and you had to make up something to cover your Tux tails really quick.

    Ants freak me the hell out, and when I saw on the New of the Hurricane aftermath, and they showed floating islands of massed fire ants, I wrote the State of Texas off as places I wasn’t to see. The over three insects that freak me out, are Japanese Hornets, (those things eat holes in people’s faces.) And Bed bugs. Cockroaches I can stand off with a couple dozen 12 gauge shot gun shells. But Bed Bugs. I have a blogging acquaintance that went to Chicago for a weekend for a music concert, a few weeks after; his son comes up with serious welts all over him, then the dog. Upon an inspection of their home, they lifted his son’s bed, and un box spring hung hundreds of bed bug nests. Wow even my shivers have shivers. And they literally had to nuke the entire house from orbit. Man do I have stories.

    ‘Oh I remember now, Botfly, now there’s a frecken horror story for yah, if you’re ever out horseback riding in south America, and you fill something hit the back of your skull, get to a doctor fast. Think Xenomorph – Think Sigourney Weavor’s alien movie character and run, run far and run fast. There are a lot of invasive parasites and insects that would make me go insane on the spot! And that’s what I get for readying that stuff for a weird hobby.

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    • Ha! Love the stories, Brock! I have a few more of my own… Insects are small but diabolical and evasive. They will inherit the Earth!
      I hope to never go through bedbugs. Roxy had fleas twice. Thank God for hardwood floors. I don’t want to know about the Botfly…. Shivers

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  9. We rented a small apartment last time we were in Paris. It was so much nicer than a hotel room and no more money. But no ants! Yikes!

    And yes, we’ve found Parisians are quite nice, especially if you at least make an attempt to speak their language.

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  10. OMG! Ants are an international problem!
    They are always talking about having the “real” experience and meeting real people – can you consider yourself a local now as you have great friends? So glad it worked out so well ( that hotel looks cool!) Appreciate an insight about how AirBnB responded.

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    • Insects rule the world!
      Nope, not a local yet. But I’d love to do an immersion sometime and really get to know the people. Then I might get comfortable enough to speak more than a few French phrases!
      Airbnb was great. They had to make sure everything was legit first. They really don’t like to refund people. I think the no pesticide thing made a huge difference. As it was I had a sore throat the rest of the day because of my sensitivity. Dang Ants! We did end up in a much finer place!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. My skin is still crawling a bit after reading this – OMG – what a nightmare – it all worked out in the end though – Thank Goodness! I still remember the place we stayed for our Honeymoon and boy were those feral cats active once it went dark. We also experienced Green Monkeys on the island we stayed on for a work retreat – they would take off with your things if you were not watching and walking with food across the lawn to your room always felt like you were being watched and waiting for one of them to just do a grab and go – pretty good size teeth too. Oh the joys of traveling – ha! Happy Weekend – Enjoy 🙂

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    • Oh, my Gosh! They were like little pickpockets, but they could climb trees! That sounds like a nightmare. How could you ever go into the water? I’d be on my toes all the time and we go on vacation to relax, right???
      Yes, it all worked out. We ended up in a much larger and nicer place. It was worth the extra money! Airbnb handled the refund. Amazing! I know they don’t like to do that, but I couldn’t stay. Ants were everywhere!
      Great to “see” you, Renee!

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    • I love Airbnb and will stay at an apartment in September. I’ve gotten used to having the extra space and they are quieter. There really aren’t any other bugs around that I saw. We had the windows open 24/7! I’m glad you had a nice trip!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much!
      I don’t think this is a widespread problem at all. The housekeeper found a bag of sugar in the cupboard. I would guess it was filled with ants! I’ve had a problem with them too, but not for the last few years, thank God!
      Paris is amazingly bug-free. We kept our windows open all the time. You would love Paris. It’s one of my favorite places to travel!

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  12. Wow – what an incredible adventure! Glad it worked out OK. I’ve had adventures in Europe like that – back in 2004 my wife and I booked into what was advertised as a hotel in Ghent that Napoleon had stayed at. Sounded uber-cool when booking from New Zealand. Alas, the Napoleonic bit was under renovation (hopefully not for the first time since 1815) so we got put into the modern wing around the corner. It was, indeed, up to date. And full of mosquitoes. After a night of uneasily enduring relentless assaults we emerged with the bed-head covered in ‘mosquito splats’ where I’d managed to actually snag some, and our faces covered in bites that left us looking more like plague victims. I hope Napoleon had a better experience. Or maybe he didn’t…

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    • That sounds horrible, Matt! I can’t stand mosquitoes. I’m allergic to certain kinds. One time I went fishing in Northern Wisconsin and got bit on my face and neck. I had to work the next day with a huge swollen face! I looked like I went through the windshield of a car.
      I bet Napolean suffered too. If you believe in Karma he should have been riddled with bites considering all the damage he did to monuments!!!
      Thanks! It all worked out and the rest of the trip to Paris worked out great! Although we endured another hiccup in Amsterdam. More to come!

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  13. Yikes, what a nightmare few days, Susie, but glad that all worked out in the end. I’ve only ever been to Paris once, and that was by Eurostar from London Waterloo. It was early November 1997, a cold day, with sleet. We had an amazing day, though. We were back in London just before midnight having left at 7 am that morning. I should go back. In fact, I will go back.

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    • Thanks, Hugh and for sharing! It was a crazy stressful time, but with the help of Airbnb, The Four Seasons, and the Relais Saint-Honore, it worked out well.
      I can’t believe you don’t go to Paris every weekend. Ha! We’ve been there three times. I’ll have to write suggestions on offbeat things-to-do. There are too many choices!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I’m glad they were so nice to you. I heard that the French were only nice to those who at least tried to speak French, but since I had taken German in college I mostly saw Germany and Austria during my European vacation (and Venice, but who could resist Venice?).

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    • It has changed a TON! They all spoke English for the most part or at least tried to. On a few occasions, the Parisian actually apologized for not speaking better English!
      I would LOVE to go to Venice! Germany and Austria are also on my list. What were your favorite cities?
      Thanks for swinging by, Paullivers!

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  15. What a wonderful story! And with a happy ending too! We had a lovely experience in Paris. It was years ago, way before AirBnB. Interested ng, tho, that our hotel looked remarably like yours. Very skinny, near the Luxembourg Gardens. Nothing special on the outside but charming as heck inside. Your piece definitely made me want to go back.

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    • Thanks so much! There are so many amazing places to stay, I’m sure. 🙂 I’m glad you had a great trip. We’ve been two other times without a hitch or hiccup.
      You should go! The Parisians we met were so helpful and friendly. It won’t be long and their snobby reputation will completely disappear.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I know you’re not blaming Airbnb for the experience (which… yeah, technically not their fault since they didn’t plant the ants) but my takeaway is that you had encounters with two hotels and both were lovely and hospitable, and two Airbnb apartments, one of which was a nightmare (infested with bugs and he expected you to just coexist with them because… they weren’t the flesh eating kind?)

    I am clearly not Airbnb’s target market: I have no interest in adventure when it comes to my pillows and even in hotels I lay traps for the cleaning staff. Because strangers were naked in that room. Naked.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! Definitely not. I come from a camping background, so I have wide parameters, but even I have limits. I might not have minded an ant sweep and a good cleaning while we were out, but I couldn’t handle knowing the whole place had been fumigated. I’m super sensitive to pesticides.

      I think one of the rules for AirBnB is to have a contact person available. They usually meet us at our place and show us around. So that was also a problem. In most cases, it’s a great option for travelers!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Duuuuuuuuuuude the ants would have freaked me out! I’m so glad that things worked out and that Danny found that amazing place and saved the day. It is so awesome that when things go wrong random people surprise you with acts of kindness I’m so glad that things turned the corner for you and that the ant invasion didn’t totally mess up your trip. I’ve never tried ABB, mostly because I don’t stay anywhere longer than a weekend and my kids always need a pool, but I imagine if I ever go anywhere for more than two days I’d probably do that. But if ask your advice first 🙂

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    • Ha! Danny did save the day. We ended up with the quintessential Parisian apartment with a fabulous location. The ants were soon a vague memory. (Nightmare!)
      Thanks so much, Guat! I am always amazed how things quickly turn around when asking for help. Sometimes they recognize your state of mind, and you don’t have to!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Wow … quite the horror story (and also my fear of rentals as airbnb). Not only did it work it, but I was impressed by the kindness that stepped up for you. Meanwhile, I haven’t been to Paris … yet!

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    • Hey, Frank! Nice to “see” you.
      Yep, a very stressful situation turned out well. The Parisians were extremely kind. Airbnb is usually wonderful and we’re renting again this month!
      You will have to go to Paris sometime. The architecture and art are amazing!

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  19. I’ll know to take an ant trap with me on holiday in future!

    No pests on our trips thus far. The most ‘interesting’ was when a ‘washing machine and dryer’ turned out to be a fridge in an apartment in Amsterdam. Quite a different white good indeed!

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  20. Oh my, that’s not fun, lucky you that you didn’t have rats in your apartment as well we have a rat problem in Paris… I haven’t heard of anyone struggling with ants. (I think more outside than inside though).
    I have come across a cockroach on a motel pillow in Nevada… that was well not so much fun.
    I am going back for the 3rd time to the same Airbnb in Normandy.
    When were you in Paris? Paris was super calm in August, my neighbours were trying to rent their apartment with Airbnb (I had the keys while they were away) couldn’t find anyone.

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  21. I’m glad you got a satisfactory result in the end with your AirBnB. My sister recently booked what seemed like a lovely place with AirBnB on Victoria Island. She booked it months ago for a family wedding and get away. Paid in full. In the mean time we found out her breast cancer had returned and she ended up having the full mastectomy. While she was in the hospital having her surgery the AirBnB cancelled her reservation and refunded all her payment through emails. The day after her surgery she checked her emails to find that she now had nowhere to stay and no recourse of action. Every place in the vicinity of the wedding had been booked. In the end they had to stay in a place that cost them a fortune much like your Four Seasons and offered her some challenges on a personal level in dealing with privacy for her new situation. It has left a bad taste in our mouths for most of the family with the idea of booking through AirBnB.

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