Marrakech Morocco via Paris France.
Our previous posting was : “Dulles Airport to Marrakech via Paris France” !
We landed at Paris Orly airport a little after 11am, so only one and half hour late despite our unscheduled stop in New York. After collecting our luggage in the baggage claim area, we started looking for the check in gates for our next flight to Marrakech Morocco . The South terminal at Paris Orly is always crowded, today even more so; and stuffy too as it seemed that there was no air conditioning.
We finally found the check in gates, but they were deserted as it was too early. So we looked for a place to sit down and have a cup of coffee. After being informed that the restaurants in the Paris Orly terminal were on the third floor, we located the elevator area; only one elevator was in working order, an elevator which could only take two of us at a time. But the elevator seemed to be full of people whenever it reached us, so it took us a while to make it to the third floor.
But make it we did, only to find that the restaurants were all closed. Why? Because today is a day of strike in France, at least for restaurant workers. My luck continues, it seems.
So we started making our way back down to the ground floor. On the first level, we saw a coffee place which was open, and even had tables and chairs! It seemed wonderful, although I am always taken aback when I have to pay the equivalent of five dollars for a minuscule cup of coffee.
But at least we had a place to sit down and relax until the check in gates opened. Right?
Wrong. I had barely finished my cup of coffee, in one little gulp, when I noticed a group of people gathering next to us at the entrance to the coffee place. Within a couple of minutes, the group numbers about a hundred people and they all pull out whistles and start whistling as loudly as they can. Apparently, we found the one coffee place in Paris Orly which did not shut down in sympathy with the strike, and the strikers want it closed. The noise is so deafening that we have to leave and try to find our way down to the ground floor.
Thankfully, the check in gates opened a few minutes later and we were able to check in for our flight to Marrakech Morocco and escape to the duty free zone of the Paris Orly terminal, with the sound of the whistles and shouts diminishing gradually as we worked our way through security.
The next question is: will the strike affect the departure of our flight to Marrakech Morocco?
We were scheduled to fly from Paris France to Marrakech Morocco on Transavia, the pack-them-like-sardines subsidiary of Air France. I was not sure whether the restaurant strike at Paris Orly airport would affect the flight departure, and my nervousness increased as time ticked by and the departure time came closer. Half and hour before flight time, there was still no boarding or any announcement. Then, suddenly, fifteen minutes before the scheduled departure time, boarding was announced and the sardines all converged on the gate at the same time. This was a full flight, yet we took off from Paris Orly only fifteen minutes late.
What a relief. Now we only had three hours left before reaching Marrakech Morocco . And we had more good news: they were going to show the movie “La Fille du Puisatier” during the flight, the Marcel Pagnol film we had first seen in Provence back in June. This would help pass the time and keep us awake until landing. I was also looking forward to the meal I had been told would be served on board. Alas, the meal consisted of a thin brochure with the picture of snack bars, drinks and a few sandwiches and the price of each. Given the exorbitant prices charged, I imagine the airline makes more money with the snacks than it does with the flight tickets.
Finally we landed in Marrakech Morocco, where the weather was sunny and hot. Naturally (based on our luck so far on this trip), when we came out of customs and started looking around for our driver, he was nowhere to be found. We walked the whole airport, inside and out, looking for someone with a sign with our name on it. I was about to get us a taxi when the driver finally showed up, thankfully with a nice and big Mercedes Vito which could easily accommodate all of us and our luggage.
We arrived at our hotel, the Sofitel Palais Imperial, confident that we were finally at the end of our travel and would soon be in bed after this long trip. After check-in, we were shown to our two rooms. Oops, there is a problem. Both rooms only have one bed each, and they are far apart from each other. So we tell the bell boy to bring the luggage back down and we ask the reception clerk to see if he can get us two rooms close to each other, but with one room having two separate beds. The guest relations manager came over and, showing me a copy of my reservation, said that my reservation at the Palais Imperial did not mention the requirement for two separate beds, but they would try to help. After a long wait, the reception clerk informed us that the rooms were not available as requested; however, they could accommodate us in the regular Sofitel hotel, which is located in a separate but interconnected building. I pointed out that the rooms in the regular Sofitel were not as nice and were cheaper than what we had reserved and paid for; the guest relations manager came to explain that the prices were the same and the rooms were simply the same types of rooms decorated with a different concept. Having no other option, we consented and made our way to the rooms we were being offered in the regular Sofitel.
The room for our daughters indeed had two separate beds, so this was a step forward. And our room was the next room, … in a manner of speaking. You had to walk around a wall, down some stairs, back up some other stairs in order to get to the next room. And that room was a much smaller room than the room we had just rejected in the Palais Imperial. So I asked for a different room, now telling them that I would accept a room which was not next to our daughters’ room, but it had to be at least as large as the room we had in the Palais Imperial.So they moved us again to another room located down the hall from the girls’ room.
You would think that, by now, in our third room for the evening, we would be set for the night, right? Not a chance. I noticed that the room was relatively warm and I checked to see if the air conditioning was working. As our luggage was being delivered, I asked for the maintenance people to come check the air conditioning. They came, checked everything and told me that everything was working fine and that the room would be cool in a little while, now that we had set the thermostat to the coldest temperature. So we settled into our third room, unpacked the bags and got ready for bed. But the room was not getting any cooler; there was no way we would be able to sleep in that room. So we called down to reception to mention the problem and ask for a third different room, one with a working air conditioner.
By that time, the hotel staff had changed and the night shift was now on duty. Someone came up to see us in the room, and agreed with us that changing rooms was appropriate. The young woman said that the only thing she had was in their sister hotel, the Palais Imperial, but that this would represent an upgrade from what we now had and it would cost more! It took a while to convince her that the room she was offering us was the same type of room we had paid for and moved in at the beginning of the evening.
So we packed up everything and got ready to move back to the Palais Imperial; unfortunately, the bell boy did not show up so I had to go downstairs to try to locate him. It was only after I returned to the room that he finally showed up, but without any chariot or cart with him. There was no way he could handle our move, so we had to send him away to get a cart. Another long wait followed, and I just about resigned myself to making the move myself without help via four or five trips when the bell boy finally returned with a cart.
So Lynn and I moved back again to the Palais Imperial, our fourth room for the evening, and, I am glad to report, one with a working air conditioner. So we again unpacked and again got ready to get to bed for a well deserved rest. … Not so fast!
The telephone rang. It was the young reception clerk again. She was calling to tell me that she had looked and had found no evidence that we had reserved at the Palais Imperial! (a reservation which I had prepaid in full months before, and which, as I was about to find out later, the hotel would charge my credit card in full a second time at the end of my stay, despite the check out manager’s assurance to the contrary; I have never been able to recover that money).
And that is how we came to Marrakech, Morocco, not for the first time, but, I thought at the time, probably the last?
(2014 Update: At the end of our fateful stay at the Palais Imperial Sofitel Marrakech Morocco, I was presented with a bill to pay for the full cost of our stay, even thoughI had prepaid our stay. I was told that the pre-payment was merely a pre-authorization and that it had been canceled; they even gave me a stub showing the cancellation. Yet, when we arrived home and checked our credit card bill, we found out that we had paid the hotel twice, and that the hotel had never actually canceled the pre-payment. To this day, Palais Imperial Sofitel has not responded to my request to refund my overpayment! Incredible, but true. No wonder then that BonVoyageurs does not recommend the Palais Imperial or Sofitel in Marrakech Morocco!)
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