The Not-so-Nice Side of Nice (or how I got robbed in France)

By Clay Morrisson — 

April 21, 2015 —

A few weekends ago my roommate and I decided to travel to Nice, France. The plan was to spend a night in Nice, wake up the next morning, catch a train, and head to Monaco. I had been to France before (Paris) and —until then — had had nothing but great things to say about the country and its people. But what happened during our weekend — getting robbed — was an experience that I will never forget. Looking back, I can now see the lighter side of the situation, although at the time it was a nightmare.

How It Started

We departed Barcelona for Nice on a Friday.  The day started off like that of any other study abroad student who is leaving for the weekend: early morning wake-up; Aerobus to the airport; security lines and lots of anticipation mixed with tiredness.  Like I said, the plan was to go to Monte Carlo, so we had our sports coats in hand and a couple hundred euro in our wallets ready to be lost at the casino.  All seemed good.

When we arrived, we made our way to the hostel that we had booked for the night.  Here’s where things started to get a bit dicey.  Oddly enough, as we began our search for the hostel, we received an e-mail from the booking company indicating that the location we needed to check in at was different from the one where we would be sleeping.  Seriously?

My roommate and I had booked numerous hostels prior to this trip, and right away we knew that something seemed sketchy.  Still, despite our unease, we followed the instructions in the email and ended up hiking two flights of stairs to a rather suspicious-looking check-in desk.  After trying our best to talk to the receptionist in French, we decided that this place was not the right one for us. We continued our search for another option and eventually decided to book a night at the Best Western de Madrid (odd name for a place in France).

Actually, at this point, the two of us were in good spirits.  We felt relieved that we had made the decision to forego the hostel and stay at what we thought was an upgrade in terms of a hotel.  Accordingly, after dropping our bags off in the room, we went to get dinner. We asked the hotel receptionist if he could make reservations for us in French at a restaurant in the Old Town area. He did, and about an hour later we were eating dinner at one of the better restaurants I’ve been to while studying abroad. I wish I could remember the name of the restaurant, but unfortunately I cannot (you’ll understand why in a second). Two hours later, full and a little drunk off the alcohol we ordered at dinner, we walked back to our hotel and decided to call it an early night.  We had an early morning train ride to Monaco to think about, after all.

When we got back to the room, my friend asked if I had seen his computer (a MacBook Pro). I hadn’t, and noticed that my computer was also missing (another MacBook Pro).  We frantically searched our room looking for the laptops, but to no avail. Our computers had been stolen!

Who Stole the Computers?

In an effort to make a long story short, I’ll cut out some of the details and focus on the main events (with lessons learned to follow). 

After realizing that our computers were stolen, we ran down to the receptionist to explain the situation. The receptionist, a man named Quentin, was very cooperative in helping us figuring out who had stolen the computers, or so it seemed.  Initially, we came to the conclusion that the man staying in the room adjacent to ours was the person who had robbed us. This was at around 2:00 a.m.   At this point, we had already filed an initial report with the French police (we knew this was going nowhere).  Hearing odd noises from the room next to us, we knocked on the door and explained to the man staying inside what had happened. The man was approximately sixty-five years old and had been staying in this room for over ten days.  I don’t want to be judgmental, but the guy was one of the stranger people I have ever met.  With his permission, he allowed us to search his room. He even helped us look through his things.  After a thorough investigation, however, we found nothing.

Then we turned our attention to the receptionist, Quentin.  After all, he was the only individual who knew the precise time at which we had gone out for dinner.  He made the reservation.  He also had a master key to the hotel and was in charge of all of the doors.

With this in mind, and with the hour getting quite late, we decided to skip our trip to Monaco and spend our time trying to figure out who had stolen our property.  Looking back, we probably should have just cut our losses, but my friend and I were too upset and full of vengeance to let the moment pass without a fight. 

The next day, we approached Quentin with 1,000 euro in cash in an attempt to bribe him for the laptops. He demurred.  We then went to the manager of the hotel, and much to our surprise he showed us the hotel video footage. We stayed up for two nights with little to no sleep watching hours of digital recording.   What we saw was that Quentin had let someone into the hotel during the time we were at dinner, and he later unlocked the door so that that same person could leave.

Time was against us (and probably a few other factors), as it was now Sunday and our flight back to Barcelona was three hours away. We tried bribing Quentin once more (with a few choice words), but again it didn’t work.  Depressed and angry, we went back to the police to give them our case against the Best Western Hotel de Madrid.  Without inspiring much confidence, the French police told us that they would “look into the case” at a later time.  Uh, yeah.  Right.  Like that’s gonna happen.

A view of the beach in Nice -- not a bad place to visit so long as you don't get robbed!

A view of the beach in Nice — not a bad place to visit so long as you don’t get robbed!

Conclusion and Lessons Learned

To this day, of course, we have not heard from the French police.  Nor has the manager at the Best Western hotel responded to our numerous e-mails.  As for the infamous Quentin, well, we assume that he is several hundred euros richer after selling our laptops.   

Looking back, we both laugh now at the effort we put in into trying to find our computers. Who knows, it might not have been a total loss either.  We might have lost a lot of money at the casino.  Maybe getting a new computer wasn’t the worth trade-off after all.  At least that’s what I tell myself in order to make the memory a little sweeter.

For any readers who are looking to travel to Nice, however, there are a few things that I think you should keep in mind.  Let’s call this Lessons Learned after getting robbed in France:

  • Be wary of foreigners who have knowledge — and control — of your belongings and schedule
  • Always be careful when staying at hotels and be sure to lock your valuables
  • Never stay at the Best Western de Madrid
  • If you are traveling with a friend, make sure that only one of you brings a laptop
  • If you ever meet a man named Quentin in Nice, France, especially one who works at the Best Western, be sure to show him that karma is a bitch!

On that note, and more seriously, good luck to those who are traveling.  I hope you learn from my experience and get the best out of Nice or any other destination!

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