I must have had an inkling that something was amiss because I tossed and turned all night. I awoke at 3am and checked my emails only to find a message from my host.
I’m writing to you, because I’ve a big trouble with your reservation. I have some personal problems, and i will need to be in my flat. Could you check if you can find an other flat for your stay ? I’m really sorry about it, don’t hesitate to contact me if you need some more help.
I should mention that under normal circumstances, finding another place to stay wouldn’t present much of a problem. There are plenty of places to rent in Chartres – but not with cats. Finding the first place had been challenging so of course I was in full blown panic mode. I had to have a plan. I couldn’t just wing it when I arrived. My trip across the ocean was complicated enough without adding homelessness to the list.
I sent a message to Marina imploring her to help me find another apartment since she cancelled my reservation only 3 days prior to my arrival. She offered banal platitudes and nothing more. I was on my own.
I told Marion, my realtor, what happened and she sent me a list of pet-friendly places specifically tailored for people relocating to the area. I thought I was home free. Until, that is, I read the fine print. ‘One cat allowed per unit.’ I won’t lie, I contemplated smuggling in the other three cats and taking my chances. But hiding one cat is difficult enough. Four is close to impossible. Besides, what would happen if I got caught? At least, at the moment, I was home in a safe and familiar environment. If I tried that stunt in France and failed…
So it was back to my old friend Google. I searched for gîtes in Chartres that accepted pets. Nothing. Short term rentals, vacation rentals, shared hosting sites, nothing. I came across another website that specialized in vacation rentals for dogs not cats. (yes-people do make a distinction) I went back to airbnb. The pickings were slim. The few places that were available stopped being so when I mentioned four cats. And because it was for a relatively long time, 2-3 weeks with the possibility of more if I didn’t find my own apartment, people were not keen on the idea. My guys are extremely well behaved but cats have a public perception problem. People tend to ascribe the worst behavior to them. It’s a bit unfair, actually. Imagine saying to someone ‘Can I rent your place for a few weeks with my 4 cats?’ The responses, although very polite, were no.
I reached out to a friend who had a friend who had a small apartment in Paris. Desperation was setting in. I had to check under every rock. I went back to airbnb and looked again. I found a few potentials but none close to Chartres. This would make house hunting unmanageable. I needed to stay in Chartres if I was going to have any chance of actually seeing apartments. But, homeless with four cats wasn’t an option so I had a contingency plan just in case.
The day was winding down and I still had no viable solution. I went to the supermarket to get dinner when the friend of the friend called. After about 40 minutes with no mention of the use of his apartment, it became obvious that I provided a nice outlet for him to relive his glory days as a young man in Paris and nothing more. My time was extremely limited and the day had been an unmitigated disaster. It was very nice of him to call me back but it took me over an hour to get him off the phone and I didn’t have that kind of time to spare.
I decided to try the airbnb site one more time. The same properties popped up…too expensive, too far and then I saw a new listing. It was a cute pet-friendly place. I wrote a message to the host, Virginie, explaining the situation and apologizing for the urgency of my request. She responded right away.
‘It’s ok for me, for you and your cats ;-). Now you can sleep good ;-)’
*exhale* Seven hair pulling, teeth grinding, soul cleaving hours later, I booked the apartment with Virginie. It was more expensive than the first place but it was larger and better for the cats. It was definitely not a long term solution. At twice my monthly allowance, it made staying more than a couple of weeks problematic but I had an appointment on Friday with Marion to go apartment hunting so it was all good.
I woke up early the next morning to another email, this time from the Century 21 agency where Marion worked.
Bonjour Mme Jones,
I am sorry but Marion will be out the rest of the week and will not be able to keep your appointment on Friday.
*sigh* Was it supposed to be this difficult? There was a moment (admittedly a brief one) when I wondered if I was making the right decision in moving to France. It just seemed as if the universe was conspiring against me.