We were on our own after the Lacoste
meeting, so we opted to take a tour to
Marseille, Nice, and Monaco.
The weather in April was ideal for travel
to the French Riviera, and we were
fortunate that throughout the trip we
encountered no rain.
We rented an Avis car at the Marseille
airport for our excursion.
We were given a manual shift car at Avis
Automatic shift car is a luxury class and
the rental cost would almost double.
Since I am the only one who can drive a
manual shift, I was the driver.
Ann was the map reader.
We managed to proceed to our destination,
Nice, on a toll road A8 at about 11 a.m.
on a Saturday.
The surrounding scenery was charming, and
we were merrily on our way.
About half-way into our journey, Ann asked
for a stop at a rest area.
The rest area was very similar to the ones
along our American interstate highways.
There were two levels: one for passenger
cars and the other for trucks.
I made the mistake of entering the truck area.
Ann had to walk a few steps up to the
passenger car area where the restrooms
I was sitting in the driver side while Ann
Out of nowhere a robber opened the passenger
side door and grabbed the travel bag in
front of the passenger seat.
I instinctively reached out to struggle with
the robber for the bag.
The robber was a white man in the thirties.
He easily outstruggled me and ran up the stairs.
When I ran out to chase him, he sped away
in a car.
There were many French people at the area
witnessing the whole episode.
However, no one noted the license plate
number since everything happened so fast.
There was an emergency telephone at the
I asked a French lady to make a call to
report the robbery to the police.
On the other end of the phone was an
officer who probably was deep in his sleep.
He told the lady that they do not handle
I was told to go to the next town and report
the incident to the local police.
We discovered that there is no such service
as 911 in France.
By then Ann appeared from the restroom and
saw the commotion.
She was visibly shaken in hearing of the
Her passport, credits cards, driver license,
work ID, cash, glasses, a diamond ring,
cosmetics, a new camera, and many other items
were all in her purse.
Since we spoke no French, I asked the lady
witness to write a short paragraph about the
incident so that I could show it to the
police about the robbery.
We have long learned that most French, in
spite of the proximity to England, are non-
English speaking people.
The next exit was to the town of Le Luc.
The toll booth collector exhibited no
emotion when I showed her the paper
describing the robbery incident.
She pointed to the empty yard nearby for us
to wait for the police.
After ten minutes, we decided that police
would not be coming and asked a young French
person to guide us to the police station.
Le Luc is a small town and we soon found
the police station.
It was 12:30 p.m.
There were two fortress-like defense
perimeters outside the police station.
Our French guide had to use the intercom
outside the gate to talk to the police
inside the fortress.
We were told to come back at 2 p.m. since
it was their lunch time.
Obviously, our robbery incident would have
We used the time to find a restaurant to
In cities and towns we traveled through
in France, we rarely found any fast food
Le Luc was no exception.
It was not our routine to have a steak
dinner for lunch, but that was the only
entree at the only restaurant in town.
Luckily, it accepted my Bank of America
Visa card since all our Euro cash was stolen.
We went back to the police station promptly
at 2 p.m. and were allowed to enter.
After a ten minute wait, a police officer
came to handle our case.
He read the note and appeared to understand
We waited for an hour and half more before
a woman from a Social Service organization
came to the station.
She explained to us that the local Social
Service would be happy to loan us some money
so that we would not be stranded at Le Luc,
if we promised to repay the loan after
We thanked her for the offer but declined
since I still had some American cash and
my credit cards.
The police officer then told us to leave
since he had already tried to help us.
We insisted that he gave us a copy of the
incident report since it would be needed
as an evidence of the robbery for passport
re-issuance and insurance purposes.
It was 4:30 p.m. when we received the
official copy of the robbery report.
The Le Luc police also verified that there
is an American Consulate in Nice, as well as
However, the offices are not open on
Saturdays and Sundays.
Therefore, there was nothing we could do
until Monday to replace Ann’s passport.
We decided that we might just as well to
follow our original itinerary to go to Nice.
We stayed in an Air France affiliated hotel
but garaged our car.
We did not want to risk driving again
The hotel is only one short block from the
The hotel clerk, although a fluent English
speaking charming lady, was least helpful.
She showed no sympathy on our demise, would
not take the trouble to find the phone
number or the address of the local American
Consulate, would not convert my U.S. money
into Euro dollars, would not extend any
credit on my American Express cards for me
to have some spending money and only
reluctantly arranged our next day tour to Monaco.
I resented her attitude and quietly asked
whether she would ever say “oui” to any
of my requests.
She was not amused.
There was only one restaurant near the
hotel that opened on Saturday and Sunday,
and fortunately, it accepted my credit card.
Although there were many ATM machines on
the street, we couldn’t remember our
passwords for taking out Euro money.
For these two days, we had to be very careful
to eat and buy only from places that would
accept my credit card.
No currency exchange place was open on weekends.
In spite of the dark cloud of the outrageous
robbery, we loved the beautiful view of the
Mediterranean Sea and the French architecture
along the shore.
After meals, we strolled along the walk by
the sea and, for a few moments, we did cast
away the shadow of robbery incident and
enjoyed ourselves under the balmy French sun.
We reported our credit card losses to both
American Express and Bank of America on
American Express told us the thief had
already charged $3,000 worth of high quality
clothing to Ann's card.
Bank of America said the thief attempted to
cash money twice from ATM machines in France;
however, these attempts were denied because
they were out of ordinary from the history
of Ann’s card use.
The thief also tried to buy something from a
French optical shop and was denied.
The driver/guide of our Sunday Monaco tour
picked us up promptly at 8 in the morning.
We two were the only guests.
It was a very nice tour and the driver even
accepted my U.S. dollars.
He would stop at any place we wanted to have
pictures taken, after we bought a disposable
one-time-use camera at a tourist shop.
We viewed the changing of guards at the
Monaco palace, heard the story about Princess
Grace Kelly, and overlooked the famous beach
and sea from various vantage points.
The day was well spent.
We got busy early Monday to get Ann's
Unfortunately, we were told by the Consulate
people that Nice location does not issue
We must go to Marseille instead.
An appointment was made for us at 2 p.m.,
allowing ample time for us to drive there.
But for the sake of saving time, we were
told that Ann should have her pictures taken
After retrieving our car from garage, we
headed back to Marseille.
The U.S. Consulate is at the eastern part
of the city.
It took some time for us to find the place.
Due to the terrorists’ threat, the compound
was heavily guarded.
We arrived one hour before our appointment
hour and had to wait for the lunch break.
Although we could use the time to have lunch,
we did not want to go through the tedious
security checks to enter the compound again.
When the Consulate officer showed up, she
said that the picture taken in Nice was not
of the proper size and it must be redone.
Finally, around 4 p.m. Ann got her
She was fortunate that she had an old expired
passport in her luggage, saving a great deal
of hassle in verifying her citizen status.
The first leg of our return trip started the
next morning from Marseille to Paris, on
In most of our trips, both Ann and I only
take one carry-on bag, a small roller type
that easily fits into most airplane’s
overhead storage bins.
I purposefully stowed my brand new cell
phone in the outer pocket of the roller
before leaving the airport hotel.
The counter clerk insisted that we must
check our two bags since, allegedly, there
was no room for us to stow the carry-ons.
I didn’t even think about any consequence
and allowed the clerk to check our bags.
Our connecting flight was U.S.Airway from
Paris to Philadelphia.
We had our bags with us on that flight all
Upon arrival in U.S., I was ready to make
a phone call and found the cell phone missing.
There is no doubt in my mind that the
Air France ground personnel had stolen
my cell phone.
It is generally known that carry-on bags
usually contain valuable items.
It certainly appeared obvious to us that the
counter clerk was a party of the swindle
since our Paris-bound airplane was half empty
and there was plenty room on the plane to
stow carry-on bags.
I did write to Air France complaining about
They replied that there is a warning message
in the ticket envelope that the airline is
not liable for loss of valuable items in the
The two unpleasant incidents in our travel
to France were regretful and can serve as
lessons to other travelers.
However, our memories of the cobbled-stoned
terrace at Lacoste, the serene beauty of
the Mediterranean Sea, the splendor of Monaco,
and the vast acreages of grapes are not erasable.
Soon we will embark on another trip somewhere
in this wide world.
Next time, though, we will carry less with us,
avoid check-in baggage, and tape our passports
to our underwear.
April 25, 2004, Charlotte, NC