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Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Rescued by security and an app

Rough night last night.

We're staying at Les Jardins de Saint Benoit, a big contrast to the smaller inns where we've stayed as we cross the south of France. It's a modern tourism village of its own on the outskirts of the medieval stone village St Laurents with 180 2-bedrooom villas, each with its own lovely patio planted with the wild rosemary, lavender and other plants that make this probably the most fragrant part of the world I've ever visited.

 When I explored my villa to discover how to turn on the air, I quickly learned it's confined only to the upstairs bedrooms. Since it's been between 36 and 38C throughout the day,    I KNOW it's hot even if my ability to switch between celsius and fahrenheit is challenged. So I switched on the bedroom air to allow it to cool off, then set out in my swimsuit to find the pool. A quick swim was a welcome cool down before dinner but when we gathered for our drive to a neighboring village we discovered that every one of us had trouble figuring out how to lock and unlock our villas. Success comes after first raising the door handle, turning the key, lowering the handle then turning the key the rest of the way. Very obscure. Over dinner we discussed the vagaries of French door locks and shower systems, which have been different at each place we've stayed. We rolled back in at 11, way too late for me as anyone who knows me is aware.

I climbed my circular staircase to bed, leaving my packed bag in the living room below while planning to gather my things in the morning.  I toddled up to bed with only my purse and cellphone on airplane mode so I could use it as my alarm clock without risking receiving expensive international calls. The room was nicely cooled, so I closed the door and settled in for sleep. Half hour later I realized I'd forgotten to take my evening meds, so got up to remedy that situation in the adjacent bathroom, where I'd left them,  my contacts and my cosmetics.

 Quickly I found the door was latched shut and no matter how I turned the handle I couldn't open it.  In fact it came off in my hand, trapping me in my bedroom. Knowing that 911 on a cell phone in another country wouldn't do a thing, I used the front door key as a screwdriver, figuring I could trigger the latch once the  mounting screws were off.  I planned to use a pen in my purse to work the latch loose from inside the hole that remained. But a quick crash led me to realize that the handle from the outside had dropped to the marble floor outside and I really was trapped inside.

 It was well after midnight by then, so I cranked open the window and looked to find any signs of security or anyone, soon beginning a quiet call for help so as not to disturb my neighbors. I don't know French but I figured anyone hearing me would understand distress.

 No one was in sight.

My shouts became louder after I saw a car pull into the resort village and drive down the row of villas to stop quite some distance away. By then I'd employed my cellphone's flashlight app, which has a setting that flashes like a police car,  figuring that would get attention.  Finally that and my louder screams for help resulted in the arrival outside my window of  a security man named Etienne, who knew English and had a pass key to enter my villa, climb the stairs and get the door open.

My late night adventure left me very tired this morning - our last full day. But I'll deal with it. We have an 8:30 a.m. departure today for Carccasson, and I'm hoarse from yelling last night.

Here's where we were: If you get Villa 22 check to make sure the bedroom door has been repaired.



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