Into my second year of living in France with French citizenship obtained thanks to my mother, life seemed almost complete. Comfortably settled within a luminous period apartment, both the cat and I take the horizontal position frequently as the sun throws it’s rays our way.
The only thing missing was having the means to really explore the region.
I needed wheels! – Ideally 4 not just 2!
I’d long since sold my van and traded in my 4 wheeled home for two, though somehow that element of true freedom could not be obtained by my bike nor public transport.
The hunt was on again, how difficult could it be? The ideal car should be just around the corner as I knew exactly what I wanted, a sporty little French cabriolet.
Well it was, but silly me, somehow I didn’t see the opportunity staring me in the face. I should have scribbled a note that day – ‘offer to buy’ Please call…
After months of searching the ads locally, then regionally I decided I’d revert to my previous experience of looking abroad, specifically Germany. You see I had bought my van through a German website, the experience had been far from unpleasant or daunting. I failed to account for the fact that previously I had the enlisted the help of a Austrian friend at the time who was more than willing to hold my hand through the whole process mostly with the language barrier.
This time I had decided to go it alone, and why not? Although I don’t speak more than ten words of German I knew Google translate coupled with a wide grin might be all I need.
Sometimes I really do bank on a little help from the Universe so on impulse I bought a one way ticket from Barcelona to Munich for 30€. I managed to find a 15€ Bla bla journey to the airport and as luck has it I get a 6 bed hostel for 20€\night and I’m the only guest. Sweet!
I don’t even consider the possibility that I may not find a car, I have two full days, more than enough time.
Then I don’t, I’m told the Gov’t offices close at midday on a Friday. There’s no way I can afford to stay till the following Monday nor can I afford the plane ticket back, well it was really more out of principal than affordability. I’m a stubborn cow, I hate admitting defeat.
I sped up my search, covering miles of used car lots, wasting little time but retracing my steps to be sure I’d not missed anything. At the end of the first day, feeling almost defeated I happened upon a large lot with numerous high end cars, and this was where I found her.
A sporty little French convertible with 4 seats and less than a 100,000 km on the clock, in other words exactly what I was looking for, ok not exactly, it wasn’t purple! After taking it for a quick spin, using all my skills as a seasoned sports car driver, I sat down to discuss the details with the salesman.
Of course this was the moment where things became difficult. The price was not unreasonable but considering there were no manuals or service history alarm bells were starting to go off. I decided to tell the salesman I’d sleep on it.
It came down to trust, who in their right mind would trust a car salesman? No offence to any who may be reading this, but I was torn. I was contemplating coughing up almost 3000€ to someone who only wanted cash, but was happy to offer me a pointless warranty!
I refused to let my fears get the better of me, so I went with my gut instinct and I handed over the cash, though that in itself was a feat. I’d only brought some cash as a deposit which meant I had to max out my daily withdrawals to make up the difference. The term ‘skin of my teeth’ comes to mind.
With the help of a paid intermediary, I managed to transfer the ownership and get insurance to drive the car safely into France, again I was cutting things close, it was well past midday on Friday, but my intermediary had obvious contacts within the gov’t offices.
Time to be a tourist in Munich.
I was on the road bright and early the next morning, after 15 hours of driving I rolled into Narbonne at 3am. Standing in front of the toll barrier was a policeman, as he gestured me forward there was only one thought racing through my head; fuck the car is stolen!
But no, he waved me on through. With a sigh of relief I glanced at the odometer 999,990 arriving in front of my flat it’s 100,000!
I consider this to be a good omen.
The French paperwork was almost complete then Covid and confinement hits France, all gov’t offices close up shop. I’m unable to register or drive my car for 3 months. Where was the justice in that?