Thursday, October 21, 2010

Going with the flow

Ghent, Belgium

The Plan, plan A was to fly to Brussels, Belgium to buy a used car.  I had contacted 3 used car dealers via the internet and had appointments set up to look at 3 different cars.  We would buy a used car and drive it down to France.  Sounds easy, right?

We arrived Monday morning, all 5 of us.  We left from Chicago and the flight was only 7.5 hours.  Despite the projectile vomiting from the 8 year old across the isle from us, the flight was very smooth (thanks to our Ambien).  The dogs did great, no problems at all.  Of course in Chicago we didn't have the EU document for dogs filled out (I didn't even know of it) but the United ticket agents were super nice, friendly and helpful, I know you think I'm kidding, but it's true.  They let us on the flight without these documents and said that we'd have to deal with it if the Belgiun authorities questioned us.  But just like when we moved to France in 08, nobody questioned us, looked at the documents or anything.  Dogs came rolling out in their crates and given to us.  Whew.

We went to look at one car on Monday, from a really nice man named Geert, he actually has friends in St. Antonin where we are moving and we hit it off immediately.  We know we'll see him again.  The car was a Skoda estate (stationwagon).  Tuesday we went to look at another car, a Hyundai mini-van.  We want something that holds 5 people and also can hold our bikes and/or dogs if it's just the two of us.  The cars were expensive, for used cars.  One was a 2001 and the other a 2005.  We were set to move forward with the Skoda and then Bruce went down to the bar to have an espresso.  Bruce told the man working at the bar what we were going to buy the Skoda and the expression on his face said "don't do it man!"  He said Skoda's are not great cars.  He told us to check at the dealers (Citron, Peugeot) to see if they had anything, it would be much better than buying an older used car, they are French so anyone can work on them and they hold their value.  So off we went.  We went to the Peugeot dealership and saw a "directives" car.  That's where employees drive a new car for 4-6 months and then they turn in and sell it. We saw a 207 Peugeot with 8,000 miles on it, it's a 2010 and 6 months old.  2 years still left on the warranty and nothing wrong with it, inside or out.  The price was a bit more than the used cars, but when we thought about it, we knew it was the better choice.  That was Tuesday evening at 7 pm.  We went back on Wednesday and bought the car.  We gave them a downpayment and started the bank transfer from our Credit Agricole account in France.  But it will take 3 days for the transfer to go through and we can't take the car until the money is in the dealerships account, hopefully Friday.

Our new car, 2010Peugeot 207 break

Then there is the problem with plates and registration for the car.  Well not a problem, but a situation.  We were told you could get transfer plates in Belgium that comes with insurance for 2 weeks or so and then you can drive the car into France.  But we find out it's not that easy and it's about 500 euros.  You have to take paperwork down to something similar to the DMV and wait in line for an average of 4 hours, only to find that you don't have everything they require.  And then you still have to go to the Prefecture in France and register the car.  Oh what to do.  We were thinking we would have to take all the paperwork from the dealer and drive to St. Antonin (8 hours) and register the car/get plates and then drive back up to Gent to pick up the car.  But then we found out that France has changed the registration process, you no longer need to go to the Prefecture in your department, you can go to any Prefecture in France.  Yippee....Lille, France is only 50 miles away.  So this morning we were going to get all the paperwork and then drive down the Lille and register the car and get the plates.  Then we'd be all ready and legal with the car.  We were to meet Curt at the Peugeot dealership at 10:30.  Just to be safe we called the Prefecture to find out when they would be closed for lunch, we always end up arriving a places between 12-2 pm only to find them closed for lunch.  What we found out was that they close at 11:00 on Thursdays and are not open in the afternoons, they will open again on Friday at 9 am.  Seriously?  Really?  Are you sure?????  Damn.  So the plan is to drive to Lille tomorrow and take care of things and come back up, hopefully have the funds deposited, pick up the car and head down to France.  Now, that's the plan.  But I think right now we are on Plan C, maybe D.  We are already here 2 more days than we had thought, so who knows what might happen.

We have decided our new motto is "no expectations".  So many things are out of our control.  We are foreigners and are learning the process, so we just need to be flexible and not get all stressed out over little things like buying a car.  So we decided since it was sunny and we had the whole day we'd take the dogs into Ghent for some sight-seeing.  So that's what we did.  We had lunch at soup, you got a huge bowl of soup, 2 rolls and an apple for 4 euros.  We walked through the medieval docks down by the river, did some window shopping, stopped and had some coffee and just enjoyed the day.  We had a great time, got to see this beautiful city (if you have never visited I highly recommend it).  The dogs had fun, we had fun and insteading of stressing out we had a vacation in Ghent.

 city dog "stella"
the goldens and a pug friend at the dog bar

 Castle of the Counts (1180)


Hopefully my next post will be telling you we left on Friday and we made it to St. Antonin in our new car and everything went smooth.  Keep your fingers-crossed, send good vibes, but if we need to wait one more day, we will.  We have our whole lives ahead of us...there's no hurry.  Although if the money doesn't come tomorrow and won't come on a Saturday, we have decided to pack up the rental car and go to Amsterdam!


Anne Norcross said...

Hey, if you need anything while in Lille let me know and I can put you in touch with Michele and Genvieve, and/or Christine and Eric Lasnon. I'm sure they would be happy to help.

Richard said...

I've been thinking about leaving the US. I'm just not sure about all the paperwork.

Heidi said...

Your photos are great, and I LOVE Stella! How cute is she in her olive jacket? I've never been to Belgium, but I hope to get there at some point!

Notre Vie Juteuse said...

Belle- thanks! If we need help I'll you know. Hopefully things will go smooth at the Prefecture and we'll register the car and get our plates. Now we need to have the wire transfer to go through today so we can leave Belgium and head down to St. Ant.

Richard - the paperwork is not a big deal. If you want to leave, I say leave. It's easy to figure out. Makes you learn to relax and "go with the flow", which isn't a bad thing.

Heidi - come to Belgium in the summer. It's a beautiful country and the people are so nice.

Rowena... said...

I'm loving your new adventure already. What's a little setback when you get to hang out someplace new for awhile? Right on you 2, I mean you five. The dogs look like they are having a grand time of it too!

ditdit said...

Just keep going with the flow and you guys will be fine.
You chose a good car :)

Chez Loulou said...

I love your motto. :) (and know that it will keep you sane in the next few months)

Megan said...

It's never easy! Hope it works out...