Emma Lindsay lost it in Paris. So did Michael Fitzgerald. But both were let in on a little-known secret that allowed them to keep their wits about them and, in at least one case, reunite them with that which was lost.
“I left my iPod in the taxi,” admits Fitzgerald, a Seattle-based businessman. “I realized it before I even got back to my hotel room.”
As for Lindsay, a Boston chef spending three months in Paris, “I left my camera in the taxi at Orly.”
Both Americans learned—the hard way—just how easy it is to lose your valuables when surrounded by the beauty of Paris. But both were fortunate to have Parisian friends that could point them in the right direction: to the 15th arrondissement. That’s where many of the treasures lost by city-dwellers and visitors alike end up, at the Prefecture de Police’s Bureau des Objets Trouvés et des Fourrières—the Lost and Found of Paris.
Like Lindsay and Fitzgerald, I left something behind in my taxi at Orly Airport, where I was flying off on a press trip to Barcelona for the day: my beloved Canon Powershot. I thought I checked the taxi before stepping out, but in my defense, it was early, I was tired and, being in a black canvas case, it would have been difficult to see the camera on the dark floor of the taxi.
So, a few days later, I found myself stepping out of the Métro at Convention and making the five-minute walk to the Prefecture de Police on rue des Morillons. Located on the first floor (which is the second floor for Americans), the Bureau des Objects Trouvés looks like any other government office in Paris. A big room with plenty of bench-style seating, those hoping to find their lost objects complete a green form—written in both French and English—asking for all the pertinent information. Name, address and a description of the lost item. After completing the form to the satisfaction of the greeter behind the desk, visitors are given a paper ticket with a number.
Bureau workers sit behind glass windows, while ticket numbers and available windows are announced on the LED display on the wall. It’s all very quiet, orderly and civilized.
Once my number was called, I made my way to the window and slipped my form beneath the glass. The gentleman entered all of the information into his computer. Apparently, my camera had not yet been turned in to the Bureau, but because I had the taxi receipt, I was told that they would contact the taxi company (something not listed on the receipt) and see if they were holding on to the camera. I was given a sheet of paper with my case number and told that I would receive a letter within two weeks letting me know if my camera had been located. My total time at the Bureau: 30 minutes.
According to the Bureau’s pamphlet, there are anywhere from 600 to 700 objects turned in daily. They come from the Métro, taxis, buses, the airports, city streets and even some department stores. And while it seems like a pretty hefty number, I was told that only 10% of items lost are actually found. Cameras are a common item, but other items recovered range from the simple (gloves and umbrellas) to the unexpected (Oriental rugs and wheelchairs).
Emma Lindsay never recovered her camera, but Michael Fitzgerald was delighted to find that his iPod had been turned in to the Bureau. “I was not expecting that,” he said. “It made me wish I’d given the taxi driver a bigger tip.”
If you want to try to recover a lost item in Paris, visit:
Prefecture de Police
Bureau des Objets Trouvés et des Fourrières
36, rue des Morillons
75732 Paris Cedex 15
You can also call 08 21 00 25 25 (the call costs 0,12€ a minute).
To get there, take the Métro to Convention (ligne 12). Follow rue Vaugirard to rue Leriche and turn left. Rue Leriche turns into rue des Morillons, and the Prefecture is on the right.
Hours: Monday thru Thursday, 0830 to 1700 (8:30am to 5:00pm) and Friday 0830 to 1630 (8:30am to 4:30pm)