Les Beaux Pharmaciennes by
(94 Stories)

Prompted By Customer Service

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Gina and I, along with two dear friends from back in New Jersey, went to England and France for two weeks at the end of August, 2021. We flew over during a short lull in COVID travel bans. How short? Two days after we arrived in London, the UK once again banned entry from the US. Two days that saved us from losing a lot of money for no travel.

Behind the counter were two very attractive, serious looking women in crisp white lab coats...

The trip was a morass of testing, crossing our fingers that we didn’t spend the trip in one hotel room, and then testing again. And then there was La Passe Sanitaire.

The French government required everyone in France to carry official proof of COVID vaccination in the form of a government issued document, the Passe Sanitaire. It had to be shown to gain entry to bars, restaurants, museums etc. We applied for them a couple of months before our scheduled departure from Chicago. We waited. And waited. Our only inquiry was met with a stern warning that if we bothered them again, they would cancel all of our applications and we’d have to resubmit. This was, in fact, the only rude or unfriendly interaction we ever had with French people or bureaucracy. Everyone else in France was welcoming and helpful.

We left O’Hare with no Passes Sanitaires.

Venues in England were chill; our CDC-issued vaccination cards were fine. Taking the high-speed train from London to Paris; no one even asked. Places we went in Paris asked for La Passe, but were understanding and sympathetic when we explained the French government’s failure to provide them. We had no problems in Paris, but were told by waiters and owners that in the rest of the country we would probably be turned away; the gendarmes would often come into places and check for Les Passes, with heavy fines being levied on the establishments which served those sans passe.

Our first destination outside of Paris was the achingly lovely commune of Ambois, in the Loire valley. As soon as we arrived, we went to la pharmacie, because in France, pharmacists were the ones issuing les passes sanitaires. We never tried in Paris because there were long lines. The pharmacy in Ambois was much less crowded.

Behind the counter were two very attractive, serious looking women in crisp white lab coats, one in her twenties, the other somewhat more mature. Luckily my friend Alan speaks quite decent French. He explained our situation. Les pharmaciens frowned and asked for our IDs and vaccination cards. They went to their computers and went to work.

A lot of typing, head shaking and re-typing later…we had our passes sanitaires. Or at least, we had three of them. For some reason my wife’s application was getting rejected. After some investigation, it turned out that we were on some official list somewhere in France, and a couple of her dates had been swapped. This was, with more effort, fixable, and in due course, Gina had her passe as well.

For the rest of the trip, we were usually asked for them. Had it not been for our two lovely pharmacists….

Vive Les Beaux Pharmaciennes!

Profile photo of Dave Ventre Dave Ventre
A hyper-annuated wannabee scientist with a lovely wife and a mountain biking problem.

Tags: pharmacist france COVID
Characterizations: , funny, well written


  1. Marian says:

    Felicitations, Dave, and a great story. I always found the French people helpful and interesting. But then, I speak enough French to manage adequately. Glad you enjoyed your trip with your passes sanitaires.

  2. Suzy says:

    Great story, Dave, and it sounds like those wonderful pharmacists in Ambois saved the day for you. Now that is great customer service!

    I am not very knowledgeable in French (others may know better), but I do think that your title needs to be revised to reflect that these pharmacists were female. “Las” rather then “Les,” “Belles” rather than “Beaux,” and I bet the feminine noun is “Pharmaciennes” with a double n and an e at the end.

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    How wonderful that those two pharmacists in Amboise were so helpful! My London-based children came in to Newton in June, 2021 and were able to get their second Pfizer shot (obviously my son is a US citizen, but his partner’s mother is too, so Anna has dual citizenship and a US passport). Though neither has US insurance, my neighborhood pharmacy gave them both their boosters when the UK, in order to get as many people their first shot, was doing it 3 MONTHS apart, instead of 3 weeks apart.

    I’m glad your story turned out so well. That is great customer service.

  4. Thanx Dave for a customer service story with a happy ending! Sounds like you and your friends had a wonderful trip!

  5. Risa Nye says:

    Glad this story ended well and you got the results you wanted. Could’ve been a real bother!

  6. John Shutkin says:

    Toutes nos felicitations!

    And I’ve always found that the French were discourteous to Americans only in direct proportion to Americans being obnoxious to the French. Touche!

  7. Laurie Levy says:

    Nice when someone actually provides the customer service you need. Glad you were able to squeeze this trip in between rounds of Covid restrictions.

    • Dave Ventre says:

      I deal with a LOT of vendors for work. The good ones are like gold in terms of time and effort saved.

      I also have found that privately held, especially family-owned, businesses are usually a cut above. At home we recently bought new appliances. The store had a sign over the service counter that read “The answer to any reasonable request is ‘yes.'” They were superb; I will never buy appliances anywhere else.

  8. Susan Bennet says:

    I coincidentally just left off reading a book about Christian Dior’s admirable sister to read your story, Dave. Your pharmaciennes seem cut from the same noble cloth of French womanhood. Your reference to Les Gendarmes chiled me a little bit, but hopefully all of this authoritarianism overreach will recede like a bad migraine. Happy you had a great trip.

  9. Khati Hendry says:

    Glad to know everything worked out, traveling during the plague. We were in Paris in May of 2022, and the Passe Sanitaire had just been lifted–so we lucked out. But had been reading up on the process of getting one and were ready just in case. More challenging was trying to get the transportation pass for the week–had to go to a local gare and sort that out, but ultimately people helped us through as well. Your advice about making your best effort to others resulting in better responses was bang on. And sounds like you even avoided COVID. Yay.

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