I am an Australian traveller. For three years I saved up for the time I could come to at least one country in Europe to enjoy another culture; and professionally, make contacts with other filmmakers - and that is what this trip represented ie. a CHANCE to meet other professionals; and have a little time-out from the stress of daily living. As a film professional, I chose my first stop for a few days at Villa Saint Exupery Gardens Hostel in Nice, France, because it looked modern and clean; and, their website promotes,
*Video surveillance systems
*Luggage room locked and under video surveillance
*Lockers in the dorms (Use your own lock) (*Soon in all rooms)
*Staff on site 24/7
One would think you'd be right in thinking this would provide a nice experience - and, 'security' to one's belongings, right?
I left my camera bag in the luggage room after checking with staff the room was 'secure'. AND, because the dormitory I was staying in was full when I arrived, and there was only one locker left; but not big enough to take all my gear. Besides, one would think a 'secure' luggage room with a cyber-key locked door, is a secure room????
Six days into my trip, the bag was stolen.
The thieves had checked into the hostel as 'guests', complete with a big empty brown bag (confirmed by three other guests I spoke with)... they collected a laptop and other expensive items from around the hostel, without being noticed; then asked to go to the luggage room. They saw my (new, professional backpack) bag, and without looking into it (confirmed by security footage), put it on their back, and walked out with it. These were professional thieves targetting the hostels around Nice.
Contained in the bag, was $5800 worth of broadcast quality camera & sound recording gear, mikes and sundry items (including a makeup bag full of goodies).
I did not discover the theft until a few days later - firstly, the theft happened when I was asleep at 10:12pm (the office is open till midnight most nights, so collecting the key 'as a guest' is easy, and recption do not/were not monitoring what was taken from the room - who the stuff belonged to - there is no book to vett what guests are taking when leaving the luggage room); and secondly, I had to leave very early the next morning, with business to attend to outside the hostel for a few days and didn't get to check the room until a few days later.
The shock has been shattering - devastating. Firstly, that was my whole professional and personal passion - film production - inside that bag. It just walked out with thieves, unchecked by the Villa. I had worked my butt off to get that gear finally....
I saw the security footage, and it was clear as day, those two young men, walking in, looking around the shelves and floor, picking up my backpack, and walking out, bold as brass.
The staff were 'polite' but completely 'hush hush' about the incident, at reception desk - I was left to have to deal with things for the next two weeks from the aftermath.
I had made a police report immediately (taking the tram, then walking to the station - 40 minutes journey all-up, and out of my own pocket expenses, each time - total, three times back and forth to the station). But, I was made to wait two days by Management at the Villa, for a piece of paper confirming that the Villa had security footage of the incident - for insurance purposes. I could not leave there without that piece of paper, signed. What if I left without it? Insurance??? It's worth a think, to anyone reading this post. ALWAYS make sure you get PROOF of incidents, in writing, signed by Management, with an official letterhead.
I am picking up the pieces of a completely shattered life now, being forced back to Australia, immediately after. I had to pay for a flight to Paris; plus pay for the change my ticket date of return at a considerable cost; and pay for two nights in Paris whilst I waited for the flight back to Australia to sort out the insurance... there was no use staying in Europe without my gear... and, my money ran out due to staying longer at the hostel dealing with insurance, police and the villa's actions.
I have paid dearly for trusting the hostel's luggage room.
BTW - additionally, I also purchased food down at the local supermarket, lugging it back up the hill to the hostel; and what I didn't eat, I stored in one of their advertised fridges. The next day, most of it had been taken by other backpackers. AND, if you go there during busy season, the music is fairly loud until midnight. Sleep somewhere away from the main room in the Villa.
Thieves abound at the Villa Saint Exupery - but don't expect any liability from Management, at all.
A terrible, terrible time all round. It will take me a long time to recover from this whole mess. As for my gear? I cannot replace it, as the costs to return back to Australia have swallowed up a good whack of my payout; and including that I now also, don't have a car (which I had sold, thinking I would not be back to Australia for some time). I was completely wiped out, by two thieves, laughing and smiling as they took my bag.
Beware of smiling assassins. And that includes Management too - the lack of liabilty, is disgusting.
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- Also Known As:
- Villa Saint Exupery Hotel Nice