Je suis arrivée!


Finally, after months of waiting and 10 great days in London, I made my way to Bordeaux.

It still seemed rather unreal, but I had to get my head into the right space as I had some immediate real life issues to worry about, like getting my rental car from the airport and driving to Château Carbonneau, the B&B I was booked into until I could move into my new home in Saussignac. I was hoping everything would go smoothly since I’d already paid for the car, but it was not to be.

EuropeCar needed a security deposit in case I crashed the car. I handed over my CashPassport, the debit card with all my euros sitting on it, only to be told that they couldn’t possibly accept it as it didn’t have my name on it (the Bergerac branch accepted it last year). I then gave them my BNZ credit card, only to have the transaction declined. This may have been for security reasons as I hadn’t informed the bank I was going to Europe, but when I logged on through my phone I could see the transaction showing. This was of no interest to the EuropeCar’s customer service people. They just shrugged their shoulders in Gallic fashion and told me “That’s not our problem. Our machine shows it declined, so you need to talk to your bank”. My ANZ debit card doesn’t have my name on it either, so it was just as well I’d opened an account with ASB a couple of weeks before. It was my last resort and luckily it worked, because moving to the French countryside without a car is pas de possible!

My second challenge was with the car itself. Although I’ve never had an issue driving on either side of the road (legally), I wanted a small car (suited to the small country roads) and an automatic (uncommon and expensive in France) so I had less things to worry about. However, the VW Golf I’d ordered had turned into a zippy Mercedes that I didn’t know how to work. The gear shift was were the indicators should have been, the indicators and windscreen wipers shared the same stick, and what I thought was a touch screen GPS, was actually operated by a dial between the front seats. I only discovered this after I went back and asked for a driving lesson.  I eventually made in one piece to Château Carbonneau, which is in the Bordeaux countryside and about 25 minutes from Saussignac.

The owners of the property I am buying had invited me for dinner that evening and I couldn’t wait to finally have a look at the place first hand. Nick and Chrystelle also invited a couple of their friends, Mike and Lee, who live across the road. It was great to meet them because they’re hilarious, and Mike (who is fluent in French) has subsequently been my saviour a number of times.

I moved into Chateau de Saussignac on Friday, 7th April, collected the keys that had been left with Mike and Lee, then spent all day racing around buying basic things for the house.

Mike and Lee invited me over for a welcome drink that night. I was exhausted but it was a very entertaining evening getting to know the neighbours over several glasses of rosé. But as I discovered the next morning, it’s not wise to over indulge in Saussignac, particularly when one of your bedroom windows faces the church and its bell tower approximately 100 metres away. The bells chime on the hour and half hour from 8am to 10pm every day except from Good Friday to 10am on Easter Sunday. However, I felt like I’d had a successful initiation into the village and had made friends on my first day.

Nina RichardsComment