Car Trouble in France

I don’t normally write about cars but my trusty 20 year old estate car finally gave up the fight last week and I found myself stuck on the side of the road going nowhere when I should have been en route to a packed day of viewings and appointments.

Always a stressful occurrence, I was expecting a similar experience to the last time I broke down which happened to be on the A303 in England. That time, I had a baby in the back but I also had AA breakdown rescue insurance so I telephoned the emergency number and was told that I would be a priority and a rescue vehicle would be with me as soon as possible.

As soon as possible turned out to be three hours later, when a man and a van finally turned up. He fiddled under the bonnet for half an hour before telling me he couldn’t fix the problem and would have to call a tow truck. That was another hour and a half arriving and by the time we finally got home, both me and baby were stressed, hungry and fed up as well as no nearer to having fixed the problem of a broken-down car.

So when I called the break-down number which comes as part of the French car insurance (the number is always fixed to the inside of the windscreen), I was expecting to spend most of the rest of the day waiting for help to arrive. As luck would have it, I had managed to break down just yards away from a café so, having made my call, I decided to wait for the rescue van in the warm over a coffee, where I then planned to start telephoning around to cancel all my viewings and appointments. However, I had barely got to the bottom of my espresso before the waiter pointed out that there was a breakdown truck outside the door and sure enough, he was looking for me (having made the assumption presumably that I would obviously be waiting for him in the nearest café!) I showed him the car which he immediately hoisted by winch onto the back of his lorry and then asked me to which garage he should deliver us both.

Ten minutes later me and car were on the forecourt of our local ‘garagiste’. I simply signed a form and the breakdown service was complete. At which point, Patrice, the garage owner, suggested that I take his car for the day so that I could go to work and he would take a look at mine before I came back that evening.

So I whizzed off and managed to make all my pre-arranged viewings and appointments and what could have been a stressful and frustratingly wasted day turned into a very positive experience. There are many things that the Brits and French do differently but, when it comes to breakdown rescue and helpful mechanics, the French win hands down – in my limited experience anyway.

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