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A Funny Thing Happened In French Today

I’ve been putting off picking up my free pass to Pont du Gard for years now. Anyone who can prove they live in the Gard can get one. 

My friend and neighbor, Rich, said I’d murmured about it long enough. He was going to accompany me to the Mairie and translate so I could get the pass. He was going to ask for one for himself and Paula, too.

After I made a trip to the Citroen dealer to order a part for my broken passenger window  –another French translation nightmare — I was ready to go to the Mairie with an application in hand that I had filled out a year ago.

At the Mairie Rich walked right up to the “lady in charge” in the secretary’s office. He was quickly served with the same paper I had already filled in. No questions asked. Meanwhile the second “lady in charge” -Estelle- started fumbling with the form I had given her. She promptly crumbled it up and threw it in the nearby trashcan. Then she asked for my “carte grise” (car registration.)

How she knew that I could not produce the carte grise is a mystery to me. The only copy I had was a photocopy tucked away in the glove compartment of my car in the underground parking lot (gide). Trying to ask Rich was impossible. He was dead set on getting his own paperwork submitted — without a carte grise might I add.

Nothing I could say in sign language would satisfy Estelle. I waved and said “avoir” and headed (in the heat) for the car in the parking gide.  

When I returned to Estelle, she was starting out the door to have a smoke. Kindly she turned around and went back behind the desk to “deal” with me. When I handed her the photocopy of the carte grise she asked for the original. My hands went up in the air to demonstrate “up in smoke.” That seemed to satisfy her for the moment. Until she asked for … as I could figure out … the police report.

Police report!?

Ah! Then it clicked. Estelle thought my car was stolen!

Not able to hide my amusement, I laughed loudly and said “no, no, no!”  Then I did what I should have done in the first place, I pulled out my iPhone and went directly to Google Translate. Telling Google I just wanted a pass to Pont du Gard, I handed the phone to Estelle. She belly-laughed, too, when she read the translation. (Well, as much of a “belly-laugh” as the French do.)

With that, she bent over and picked the crumpled paper out of the trash, smoothed it out, stamped it, then handed it back to me. Deed done.

Estelle joined me as I walked out of the Mairie, almost arm-in-arm. On our way, she said something that I took to mean “let’s meet for coffee so you can learn French and I can learn to speak English.” After agreeing and exchanging our email addresses, we parted. Friends.

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12 replies »

    • Carole, thank you for putting words into my mouth. I have struggled with learning the French language — mostly because I’m having too much fun living the “French life” to study. Nevertheless, this experience continues to be life-changing. It is friends like you who travel, and/or understand the need to travel, that help me enjoy writing the blog and sharing the history and my impressions. I particularly love to hear back from readers who have stories to tell, too. Life isn’t all about Charlotte, NC is it? Nor the U.S… it’s France and Europe and Asia and … it’s about getting to experience as much of the world as possible.

  1. Haring just bought a house in France, your description of your visit to the mairie made me smile! We went along today to get permission to paint the outside of our house. We were told that we aren’t allowed to paint it white (as we had hoped) and given a pile of forms to complete and submit; so French. Luckily, we aren’t in a hurry as it will take at least a month for the permission to come through…. I imagine it must be difficult if you are learning French but I’m so glad you made another new friend!

    • You’re so right. Each day is a new adventure. If you can’t laugh about your mistakes, it would never be as much fun! Thanks for following, Cheryl. Love your blog, too!

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