When we planned our trip over 9 months ago and booked and paid for all the flights and accommodation we sat back, relaxed, and looked forward to a smooth journey with no major setbacks. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always turn out that way and has a habit of tripping you up when you least expect it. This is a story about a major JWalking stumble.
I’m not sure whether to write this in the first person as normal or refer to us as characters in a tragicomedy tale. I think I’ll go for the character angle as it makes me laugh at least.
If you haven’t been keeping up with these JWalking adventures then firstly I’m extremely disappointed and secondly I suppose I better introduce the protagonists. The central figures in my story are Jon and Jo who have been travelling around the world for a little while and this particular episode involves them simply moving from one location to another. Easy huh? You are kidding aren’t you?
Leaving their fabulous accommodation in Toronto was sad as all goodbyes are but the excitement of flying north to Quebec was the overriding emotion as our two hero’s (pushing it too much?) were dropped at the airport by Daryl their previous Airbnb host. The Air Canada flight was on-time and as usual Jon had insisted on being at the airport ridiculously early ‘just in case’ but bags dropped, security navigated, and coffees purchased saw the day easing on exactly as anticipated. Even the usual passenger scrum at boarding didn’t dampen their spirits as they settled into seat 12A and 12C on the twin prop Bombardier for the short flight up to Quebec.
Now I’m not sure how much you know about Airbnb but it’s exactly like booking a hotel really. You find the one you like, select the appropriate dates, and book. The main difference is that you swop a few emails with the prospective host before paying. The full amount is paid at that stage. No problem. During their trip Jon and Jo always contact upcoming hosts a week or so in advance to check all is ok and see if there are any particular arrival details.
The host for the nice little apartment booked in Quebec was Luc who had actually got in touch himself to offer a lift from the airport, very kind. Jon corresponded with flight details and pick-up times and Luc said that his friend Robert, which I think is pronounced Rob-Air for French reasons, would be at the airport to pick them up. Splendid.
Great flight, happy laughing cabin crew for a change, brilliant weather. All going perfectly. Confidence was high although Jon did have a slight worry as Luc hadn’t replied to any of the previous 3 emails since they had arranged pickup a week ago. You may by now be getting some sort of idea where this is leading.
Quebec Jean Lesage International Airport isn’t the biggest airport in the world but neither of our two arrivees were bothered about that as they collected bags and wheeled them outside to the passenger pick-up area. Two o’clock on the dot as planned and arranged with Luc (who we will now refer to as Slippery Luc). After 15 minutes waiting and with Jo smiling seductively at every single male Rob-Air lookalike it became obvious that something was awry. Jon dived back into the Arrivals Hall, well the Arrivals Room really, to use the WiFi and message Slippery Luc again.
With Jo fending off kerb crawlers and Jon setting up a temporary office it was obviously not the arrival our two travellers had planned. After another 15 minutes and failed attempts to call all of Sippery Lucs 3 phone numbers Jon decided to get in touch with Airbnb and get some heavyweight support. Not as easy as it sounds. After more trouble in contacting them and the realisation that a standard phone call to their US support would cost a fortune he went for a sneakier approach. Twitter.
A couple of Tweets stating that they had problems got an immediate response from Airbnb and a call from the support guys in New York. Things were looking up and appeared even better when the celestial-sounding Angel from Airbnb Support came on the line. Heavenly help? Jon relayed the whole problem with Slippery Luc and Rob-Air and Angel said she’d get on the case. Time now 4pm. She said she would give the slippery fella an hour to reply to voicemail and email messages.
The temporary Quebec arrivals office was now in full swing with phones, iPad, and laptop in operation. Jo had given up on Rob-Air and the kerb-crawlers so it was a team effort as she started to look for alternative accommodation. Not easy in the arrivals hall with people hugging and kissing all around and blundering about with oversized cases but nothing could put her off. Unfortunately Jon is easily distracted and the hugging and kissing wasn’t helping his blood pressure at all. Regular deliveries of snacks from their new favourite coffee shop Tim Hortons helped the mood but things seemed to be deteriorating fast.
So another hour passed and Angel is back on the line saying she’s had no contact from Slippery Luc so has cancelled the booking. All money will be refunded (eventually). She sounded pleased but Jon sounded depressed! Great! It’s now 5.30pm and they have nowhere to stay in a strange French-speaking city. Angel, speaking softly and calmly offers to look for alternatives. Again, that’s not as easy as you think. Her emailed list of options are double the original price and completely unsuitable.
“How about a hotel for the night so we can rest and properly look for somewhere to stay?”. Angel agrees and in a flash Jo has found one near the airport for just under the $100 US dollars limit they’ve offered.
Now Quebec airport had no public transport at all so the only way of getting anywhere is by taxi. Another call to request taxi-fare refund is approved and our tired and fed-up JWalkers hop in with Marcel Marceau the mime-only taxi driver to get to the Cofortel Hotel.
A short non-speaking drive later and they are comfortably in a basic double room at the Cofortel. Time to relax and eat and sleep? No way Hose. They only have one night here so need to sort out the next 13 nights in Quebec. Last minute bookings are fraught with danger as the only ones left at that stage are generally a bit ‘merde’. So as Jon collapsed with phone-exhaustion Jo got on the case and scoured the Quebec Airbnb listings like a crazy woman.
After another hour she had found two central apartments and fired off emails to the prospective hosts. Both replied sharpish and after a bit of jiggery-pokery a three night stay with Patrick Vieira of Arsenal and France fame was booked. Not sure he really was the same Patrick but he looked identical. A second booking with Jerome followed and all looked good.
Unbelievably, just to rub salt in the wound at the end of a long and very stressful day, they received an email from Slippery Luc asking where they were and saying that Rob-Air was waiting for them! Seriously? Was he having a laugh? It appears not as he also asked why they’d cancelled the booking and if there had been some sort of misunderstanding. After some relaxing breathing exercises Jon replied and eventually the Slippery one admitted it was his mistake and that he was sorry. Great, thanks a lot. These emails arrived at 4am bizarrely which confirmed that Mr Slippery was actually in France on holiday and not even in French-Canadian Quebec.
An amazingly good nights sleep and a hearty breakfast followed before the JWalkers got another taxi (not their style at all really) and met Patrick Vieira at his apartment just outside the city centre. Looked perfect for a few days and the relief at not sleeping in the gutter or the arrivals hall was immense.
All’s well that ends well I suppose and we ended up staying with a lovely guy in a great location but the stress and potential upset along the way weren’t great. Cost us a fair bit more but the worst thing is that Slippery Luc’s profile on Airbnb doesn’t show he left us and let us down. Just says ‘cancelled’. Hope no-one else gets the same treatment. ‘Grand merci’ to Airbnb for their support and especially to the angelic Angel, and even bigger ‘merci beaucoup’ to Patrick Vieira for taking us in at short notice.
So onto Quebec. It’s more French than France and we’re looking forward to some serious exploring.