First up…. Happy 80th birthday to my Grandad, back home in Australia! Hope you’ve been well and truly spoiled, and that you’re feeling healthy and happy. I miss you!! You don’t look a day over 50. x
And now for a recap of my very eventful week in Bonnieux…
It started on Monday 3 October… The day I drove a left side drive car for the very first time, on the right side of the road for the very first time, and got a flat tyre for the very first time. All in a remote part of France where no one speaks any English. What a day!!
I picked up a hire car in Avignon on Monday morning, and started very cautiously to make my way to Bonnieux. Not gonna lie, I was crazy nervous. It wasn’t until I saw a sign for Bonnieux and took the exit that I started to feel a little more confident… Big mistake. Less than 1km after the exit, and only 5km from Bonnieux, I got a little friendly with the curb, hitting it ever so slightly with the front tyre, and heard an almighty pop. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. I pulled over. There was no saving this tyre.
Straight on the phone to Budget Car Hire (an English speaking phone service, thank god), I explained that I was stranded with a flat tyre 5km from Bonnieux. They asked me to check if there was a spare in the boot… Nope, none. They asked me where exactly I was… Nope, no idea. I looked around for a landmark, but couldn’t see anything other than a hotel that looked like it had been abandoned 5 years ago. A road maintenance van pulled up a little ways down the street, so I ran over… “Excusez-moi, Parlez vous anglais?” Nope! I handed my phone over to the man anyway, and he started speaking in rapid fire French to the woman on the end of the line… So she knew exactly where I was, at least!
She said she would send a mechanic, and that it would be a one hour wait. Fine! Great! The mechanic will come with a spare tyre, change it, and I’ll be on my way… Nope.
One hour later, a tow truck arrived. “Bonjour! Parlez vous anglais?” Nope. He started to winch the car onto the back of the truck. “Pneu crevé!” (Flat tyre, thanks google translator), I tried to explain… Surely this didn’t require a tow truck! “Oui,” he replied. “Garage,” he said, in a thick French accent. So I guess he wasn’t going to be changing the tyre.
I hopped into the truck, managed a “Comment allez-vous?” to which he replied, “ça va,” and we drove in silence through the French countryside to a garage in the nearby town of Apt.
At the garage I was greeted by four French mechanics. “Bonjour! Parlez vous anglais?” Nope. I pointed to the tyre and stepped back, waiting for them to do their thing so I could be on my way. Nope. After a lot of umming and ahhing, we established that they didn’t have a spare tyre and that there was no way they could change the flat today. “Maybe tomorrow,” was the only part that was spoken in English.
Back on the phone to Budget, I explained my predicament and they said they would try to find me a new car, and send a cab to bring me back to Avignon. Huge inconvenience, I thought, but a better option than being stranded in a strange French town where nobody spoke any English. They told me they would call me back as soon as they had secured another car.
Meanwhile, the clock struck midday and I was kicked out the garage, which was locked up while the mechanics went for their two hour lunch break. I was on the curb again.
One hour passed, and still no word from Budget. I called them again. They couldn’t find me a car. They said they could send a taxi to take me to Bonnieux while they tried to locate either a spare tyre or a new car. But the taxi drivers were also on their two hour lunch break, so it would be a while… Defeated, I told them not to bother with the taxi, and resorted to calling my client Mitch, who was on standby in case I needed rescuing.
Fifteen minutes later, and I was saved by Mitch’s brother Will and his girlfriend Kat!! What. A. Relief.
I was taken in by Annabel, Mitch and their amazing family and friends at the incredible villa where they were celebrating their “wedding week”! I managed to forget all about my car woes for the night, enjoying a wonderful meal, French wine, and a few rounds of table tennis. It was 1am by the time I got back to my own apartment in Bonnieux.
The next morning I was straight back on the phone to Budget. They hadn’t been able to find a spare tyre (seriously?!?!) but they had been able to secure me another car. It would just mean I’d have to travel back to Avignon in a taxi to collect it. Fine. Sure. Whatever. They booked the taxi. I wasn’t holding my breath waiting for it to find me in the tiny little village of Bonnieux. But lo and behold, only 15 minutes late, a taxi pulled up to take me back to Avignon.
150 euros later (covered by insurance, thank god) I was in Avignon ready to collect my new car. The GPS system was broken, and there was no spare tyre in the boot of this one either, but after unsuccessfully trying to argue my case for a discount, I cut my losses, gave up, and drove at 30km/h back to Bonnieux. (With a quick stop at the garage in Apt to collect my coat that I had left on the back seat of the original car.)
All’s well that ends well, I guess!
Aside from the car drama, I’ve had the most incredible week. Annabel & Mitch’s wedding was a dream, and I’ve had to pinch myself many, many times, strolling through the village of Bonnieux, and driving along the narrow French countryside roads.
I will definitely be coming back to the south of France. Next time with a driving buddy to share the driving load.
Tomorrow I fly to Berlin!!