Our first city on the two-week trip around France and Italy started with a trip to Nice! Originally our itinerary looked a little something like:
Madrid -- Nice
Nice -- Florence
(with day trips to Pisa + Cinque Terre)
Florence -- Rome
Rome -- Paris
Paris -- back to Madrid
Nice was perfect because it was an affordable flight from Madrid and who wouldn't want to experience the beautiful coast of Southern France? Our drive in was beautiful -- right along the beaches swarming with tourists and folks ready to soak in that hot Mediterranean sun. We dropped off our luggage at the hostel, walked around to soak up the sights and searched for some food, but our scenic backdrop quickly turned into a traveler's worst nightmare.
THE NOT SO NICE
Within 10 minutes of exploring the city, my passport, debit cards, some cash, ids, luggage keys (and a little bit of my dignity) were stolen. You hear the horror stories, read about the European pickpocketers, but assure yourself, "It won't happen to me..." until the day it does. I felt completely embarrassed. The pickpocketer just swiped it out my zipped up bag. I didn't even feel a thing. How could I let this happen? How could I be so stupid? You've been living in Spain for almost a year!? I felt my world crumble a little... okay, I felt it crumble a lot. No tears, just utter fear.
After the initial shock (and running around the town retracing steps, looking under cars... 'maybe I just dropped it', contacting police, asking strangers) I got my thoughts in order and reminded myself "Focus on the solution, not the problem", just like my dad always says. What's the first thing to do when your passport gets stolen? Report it to the police and find your country's embassy. This is the moment where I started to count all my blessings and realized even though this awful thing has just happened to me, someone was looking out...
As we were wandering trying to find the US Embassy, my mom happened to hear some folks speaking Tagalog (Filipino language). She stops to ask them for directions, explains what just happened and one of them (Rocky) decides to accompany us to the embassy! He officially became our guardian angel, translator, tour guide and now lifelong friend. He canceled all his plans and spent the rest of the day helping me apply for a new passport, get passport photos, etc. Fortunately, it was only two in the afternoon when everything got stolen so the embassy was open, but unfortunately it was Thursday, July 3rd, aka the day before our Independence day and the closest embassy that made passports was in Marseille (a three-hour train ride) that would reopen Monday, July 7th...
So here I was... stranded.
Stranded in a city that made me feel vulnerable, unsafe, attacked and on edge. I couldn't help but feel a little off in Nice. After all, I didn't have a passport or any form of id (yikes) and I was supposed to be on my way to Florence! I asked for an adventure and surely, I got one. I realized how lucky I was that (1) no one was hurt during the pickpocketing, (2) fate led us to meet Rocky who went above and beyond, (3) all we had to do was stay in Nice for the weekend and head to Marseille and (4) we didn't have anything officially booked until July 10th so our plans were already flexible. For some reason that I may not ever understand, we were not meant to travel to Florence, Pisa and Cinque Terre this time around. Instead, we got to explore Nice and Marseille!
This is my warning.
Please, PLEASE, be cautious when you are traveling. Some things are truly out of our control, but the important thing as a traveler is to be aware of all your surroundings. I urge you to read this article titled, "How to Avoid Pickpockets in Europe". It's unfortunate that we live in a society that does this, but hopefully my situation can stop another one from happening. They give you great advice on who to look out for, where to find them, who they target and what to do.
My advice (that I need to take myself)
• Always know where the closest embassy is. Have the address saved somewhere or printed! They will tell you everything you need to know to get your emergency passport. In Marseille, I showed up at the embassy at 9:30 am and got my emergency passport at 10:30 am!
• BUY A MONEY BELT
• Never keep all your cash, cards, passports, etc in the same place
• Be aware of your surroundings
• Keep your valuables at home. Try your hardest not to look wealthy because, unfortunately, you will be targeted.
Nice, I don't blame you for what happened! You are still an amazing city with the most beautiful backdrop. It could have happened anywhere and to anyone. I guess you just wanted us to stay there longer than we intended! Thanks for letting us lounge along your rocky beaches (so much better than sand!), swim in your salty Mediterranean Sea, experience and fall in love with the Mirror D'eau, walk along your plazas and appreciate your gorgeous architecture.
Never thought I'd be so happy to see that! Lesson learned.
--- <3 ---