Expat Living and Real EstateHilda StearnLiving in Provence

The long road well travelled

Hilda Stearn entertains us with her story about how a made-in-Italy, Spanish-registered car from London meets Provence’s paperasse.

French Flag #Provence #French #Flag @PerfProvence

I like to do things right and having brought a Spanish-registered left-hand drive car from London to Provence. Yes, I know what were we thinking? It made sense at the time! It seemed logical to register it locally. How hard could it be? If you are sitting comfortably, I will tell you: bloomin’ hard!

Naturally, we did our homework and set off to the Sous-préfecture in Carpentras one sunny spring morning thinking that it would be quite straightforward! How very wrong we were, we needed a letter from Fiat (Italy) to confirm that our 2006-built vehicle was made after 2000.

Yes, you read this statement correctly!

Hilda Stearn French Car #French #Provence #Car

A visit to the local Fiat dealer confirmed this to be necessary and ‘désole’ but they could not issue the essential paperwork. We returned back to the UK and drafted a letter enclosing a cheque (E160), which was duly despatched to Italy. Our next visit in the summer saw us returning to the Sous-préfecture only to be told that now we needed a Certificat du Contrôle Technique (MOT). The lady behind the desk, whom we had met on our last visit seemed totally at ease with the fact that she did not mention this before.

Luckily our neighbours helped us arrange the rendez-vous in Carpentras for a couple of days later. The car passed and off we went back to our soon-to-be second home chez la préfecture. It was the afternoon, and we suspected that the office would be closed for lunch, so we went home and returned around 3.30pm. Being August, the office did indeed close for lunch and would not open again until after breakfast the following day! We duly returned and were informed that we needed another document from the Centre Des Finance Publiques.

Off we went in search of this illusive office. According to the Satnav, it was located in the middle of the car park used for the Friday market in Carpentras. Eventually, it was located in a nondescript road just below the car park. It was closed as it kept the same hours as the Sous-préfecture. To this day I do not really understand the purpose of this document. However, our visit was memorable for reasons I will share in a moment! Back to the Sous-préfecture and yes, you guessed it, closed but only just! By now my husband and I were becoming quite stoic. It was not our plan to spend our holiday traipsing back and forth to the Sous-préfecture, however, needs must!

The day before our planned return to the UK saw us at the Sous-préfecture, and we were optimistic: now surely we had all the paperwork?

Yes, we did!

The excitement was palpable as we watched the (now familiar) lady type in our details. Having queued with our ticket, we were directed to the seating area a few metres from her desk. There was a booth with a glass frontage. Clearly a Very Important Person sat behind it.

After a few minutes, we were called forward and solemnly asked to check the document she had printed off. We did this three times as the lady (in the open plan part of the office) managed to muddle our dates and towns of birth without batting an eyelid! When the VIP printed off the correct document, she maintained her serious demeanour by pointing out that this temporary Carte Grise would be replaced by the official one sometime within the next four weeks.

The sting in the tail was her insistence that someone would have to be at the house to receive it otherwise we would need to go through the whole process again. I recall adopting a fixed smile and calmly stating that this would be fine whilst more or less grabbing the document and telling my husband that we were leaving now!

That evening we went to dinner with some French friends, and I recounted our adventure so far. “Absurdité,” said Tancrède “you can authorise someone to collect the document from the Post Office. There is a form.” There is always a form in France! So, on our final day I trooped up to the Post Office, arranged for our neighbour to be empowered to collect the document whilst my husband sorted out our new shiny number plate.

Why was our visit to the Centre Des Finances Publiques so memorable?

Hilda Stearn French Car #French #Provence #Car

I like to check before our departure day that we have all our tickets, and this was when a missing passport was revealed. I always try to mentally retrace my steps, and we concluded that it must be at the Centre Des Finance Publiques! Remember it was only open in the morning in August, so we were cutting it fine! The next day when we asked at the desk the receptionist went off and had a look and came back ‘désole’ but no passport! It just so happened that the person we dealt with the last time happened to come out of her office, and she confirmed that the passport was there! Now call me ungrateful however she had the address and phone number for Caromb yet simply put the passport in the desk drawer! To be fair though my husband was a bit upset as this meant that he could now travel back to the UK rather than wait until the prized Carte Grise arrived!

At one point, we did feel that perhaps being British was the reason for the apparent run-around. However, it was gratifying when a French man arrived during one of our visits to the Sous-préfecture armed with a large folder, and the lady behind the desk dismissed his plea to issue a replacement Carte Grise.

Everyone has to follow the rules in France! The poor man looked crushed probably because he knew that it would be costly. I wondered if he had a Fiat?

Image Credits: The two car photos were provided by Hilda Stearn


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Hilda Stearn

Hilda is a co-founder of a Kent-based business development consultancy Ministry for Growth and manages the Thames Valley office. Working with a diverse range of clients from start-ups to established businesses provides a truly varied working week. She is passionate about supporting ambitious companies to be successful and is recognized for her collaborative approach. Hilda is renowned locally for her skill in bringing potential business partners together. She is currently a volunteer business adviser for Young Enterprise and participating in this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Week by mentoring a new business based in Buckinghamshire.

Hilda is fortunate to be able to balance work with regular trips to Provence where she continues to find new hidden gems that she readily shares with friends and her followers on Twitter.

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