Thursday, May 14, 2009

Europe 2009: Thursday, May 14th, Dune Du Pilat and a Robbery

Friday we visited the Dune du Pilat, the biggest sand dune in Europe at 100 to 117 meters high. This is where we made a fatal mistake that would color the rest of our trip. There is a gated parking lot at this popular tourist attraction where we parked, locked the car and started for the dune. We took the steep stairway all the way to the top for a fabulous view of the ocean and surrounding area. It was windy and we got a free facial in the process. It is definitely worth the visit.

When we got back to the car, we were standing there chatting and as I glanced at our vehicle I noted, incredulously, that our back window was smashed. I could hardly believe my eyes. First I thought we were at the wrong car, and slowly it began to sink in that we had been robbed. I can't describe the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as I remembered the conversation we had when we left the car, whether we should take our backpacks and purses on the climb. We had opted to leave them stashed under the seats. The realization sunk in that we had stupidly left all our money, passports, credit cards and cell phones in the car and now all were gone. We only had what my husband had in his wallet. I am so embarrassed to write this and I am only doing it so that others might not make the same mistake.

Our next stop was NOT a tourist attraction: the police station. I was so grateful to have my French speaking friend along! It took hours and hours to fill out police reports and call credit card companies to cancel the cards and try to make arrangements for more money. Thank God we were in an apartment with internet and free phone calls! I can't imagine trying to use public pay phones during this process. But what an eye-opener. Each of the credit card companies were so "sorry" about what had happened to us. My Mastercard company promised to wire me money to the local Western Union. They also took the address of our next location, a hotel in Paris, so they could send me an emergency card. That was lovely, EXCEPT the money did not arrive at Western Union, nor did the card arrive at the hotel in Paris. When I called back, they were very apologetic again, but could not tell me when or where the card had been sent or why I couldn't get the money at Western Union. I can't tell you how frustrating this all was. Then I called the US Consulate in Bordeaux and in Paris to find out what to do about our passports. I got only recordings, even when you push the option for emergencies. I realize now in retrospect that a stolen passport is not an emergency for them, but it certainly was for us at the time. I did finally get a call back from the Bordeaux consulate. We had to go to Paris to get replacement passports. Luckily we were headed there anyway the next day.

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