My year of motoring tourism didn’t begin auspiciously. Early on the morning of New Year’s Eve, in downtown Dieppe, I looked out of the window of our rented apartment with its magnificent view of the Église Saint-Jacques, painted by the likes of Pissarro and Sickert, and noticed that our car had disappeared.
What followed over the next three hours was a journey of discovery – of the government offices and gendarmeries of the historic maritime town (on foot, in the rain), by which process I was eventually informed that my car was now residing in a secure pound on an industrial estate some five kilometres out of town.
I tried to get a taxi there. Eventually I found a rank by the harbour with three cabs, but they were driverless. I rang the number on one of them. A bored-sounding man answered and explained that the drivers would be in one of the surrounding cafes having a glass of wine. It was 10 a.m.
Finally a well-refreshed cabbie emerged and drove me to the pound for €15, and a man with a credit card machine relieved me of a further €125. It transpired that I had parked in a spot which for six days a week was free and legal. But on the seventh day, it was not. A small market meant parking was suspended on Saturday mornings – never mind that said market consisted of just three modest stalls, none anywhere near the place I’d parked.
I was seething over my lost morning and lost €140, but mentally, er, parked this fury so that I could enjoy the remainder of our long weekend in Normandy.