Tuesday, February 1, 2011

From one extreme to the other

When we moved here in 2008 for our 1 year sabbatical we had to get a car.  We didn't want to spend a lot of money and a friend (you know who you are) recommended someone here in France who she bought her car from.  We contacted him, told him our budget and he sent over some pictures of cars.  We picked a little 1985 Peugeot station wagon (break as it's called here in France).  We wired him money and he would meet us and have all the necessary documents/paperwork for us to get it registered here in France.  Easy yes?

So we arrived in Paris and rented a car, big enough for the two of us, 2 large bike boxes, 2 dog crates and our luggage and drove over to the Dordogne department to meet our car dealer.  When he drove up in the car we almost fell over.  It looked much much older than in the pictures and the door had been dented (just happened 1 day before).  Our new little Peugeot was a very old man.  When we got in it we noticed that it didn't have headrests (can you say whiplash?), no seat belts in the back, no air conditioning, no radio.  Alas, it's our car, we bought it, so we signed the papers and drove it off to our new home in the Aveyron, well Bruce drove it, I drove the rental car.

 In Albi, we had to park on a hill because our starter went out (bump start)

In Belgium getting from fries from the Frituur!

We named him Claude, because that was the old man's name who had owned it before (it's only owner).  Claude wasn't new and shiny, but he got us where we needed to go.  We could put the seats in the back down and throw our bikes in, or put the dogs in, or carry fire-wood.  He took us to Belgium and all over France.  The problem with Claude was that he stuck out like a sore thumb and we found out in the winter that he only gave us heat when he felt like it.  We had the oldest car in the area, maybe in the Aveyron.  Everyone seemed to have new cars, but who cared.  The Gendarme knew us too.  We were pulled over 3 times.  The first time for no reason, probably because he was old (the car not Bruce).  That was an interesting experience.  The Gendarme checked our paperwork for the car and Bruce's license.  There were 3 police and they drove this big van type of thing, they took Bruce to the van and unfolded the "table" in the van and then they all got in, with Bruce.  30 minutes passed and he was still in there.  One of the guys was looking through this huge book.  Finally after 1 hour Bruce came back to the car, they didn't ticket him for anything, or tell him why they had pulled him over, but they were obsessed with his California drivers license and his International license and thought he had to change it over after being here for 3 months for a French license, but he couldn't find the answer in the big book.  He told Bruce to go to the Prefecture and check.   Then 2 weeks later, driving through Villefrance the same Gendarme saw us and pulled us over, wanting to see if Bruce had indeed checked with the Prefecture to see if his license was good here.  He asked us in French, "did you go to the Prefecture" and Bruce, being the honest guy that he is said "No" and tried to explain that he was sorry and he'll go today.  He did never go.  I got pulled over on my way to the gym (alone, no license, no passport, no identification) because our plates were not from our department.  Nobody told us that when we got into the Averyon we had to change our plates because they were from the Dordogne.  So the police ticketed me and told me to go "right now" to the dealership to get new plates.  I did!  We sold Claude in October 2009 when we returned to the states for 400 euros.  It was sad to let him go, he served us well and as far as I know is still on the road. 

We we returned in October 2010 we knew we wanted another Peugeot, all the mechanics can work on them and they are very reliable.  But we knew we needed a nice new car, for the business and for piece of mind.  We found a 2010 Peugeot 207 (break) for a good price.  And now we have gone from sticking out like a sore thumb with old Claude to being invisible.  Every 4th car you see is a Peugeot and every other car is grey, like ours.  We finally blend in.  We have even tried to get in the wrong car a couple times!  We haven't been pulled over by the cops, we have official plates, valid insurance, etc.

Our new Peugeot 207 sw

no that's not our house in the background

It was fun and an adventure having Claude but it's nice having our new car, she's reliable, has air conditioning, heat and a radio.  We haven't picked a name for her though,  nothing seems to fit,  yet.


Rowena... said...

I went through a bunch of older cars myself (Hawaii is so bad for rust that it was never worth it for me to buy brand new...we lived right across the beach!) so I know that feeling of attachment...especially when you give the car a name! Your new ride is looking spiffy though and it must be a relief to not worry about getting pulled over for "sticking out".

Jim Law said...

We have a bunch of pics of Claude. He is an indelible part of out memories from the month we house-sat for you.

Becky said...

Ooh! Sleek and pretty! :)

Megan said...

Ah, driving in France. When asked whether he went to the Prefecture, he should have said yes, but the line was too long, so he went back another day and they were out of the forms, so he went back a third day and the only employee who deals with such things was on sick leave for an indefinite time. They would have understood that.

Notre Vie Juteuse said...

Megan - we had only been in France for 2 months and that was back in 2008...i don't think Bruce could have said all that! So Mr. Honest said no. But...if this happened again, we'll be all set! Good advice.

La Vie est Belle said...

My grandfather's name was Claud (no e) and his father's name was Claude (with an e). What a great story!