We set our alarm for 7am on the Wednesday of our week’s holiday. The next day was a bank holiday so we had only two working days left to get this thing sorted before we had to go home.
A building in Rue de la Préfecture in Tours.
Tours is about an hour north of Le Grand-Pressigny and we were slightly concerned about arriving in the city centre at rush-hour. We needn’t have worried – our trusty tom-tom took us straight to the same parking spot as the previous day without any hold-ups at all. If only it were that easy in the UK.
At 9.20 am we paid three euros for two hours’ parking and again marched to the public entrance at the back of the building. We walked along Rue de la Préfecture and passed a very inviting establishment on the way, with a lovely smell of coffee wafting under our noses as we hurried by. We had not had breakfast yet and were tempted to nip in – but common sense prevailed.
We passed the number plate shop and arrived at the entrance of the Préfecture to find half a dozen very glum and anxious looking people outside having a cigarette break. Nick and I glanced at each other – a sort of “oh dear” glance, half knowing what to expect when we got inside.
Sure enough, the waiting hall was heaving with people. Right at the top of the stairs was a ticket machine. It would have taken me several minutes to suss out what to do next but Nick, with his experience of queuing in foreign embassies for visas and suchlike, knew instantly that the sooner you took a ticket, the better.
We looked around us and most of the seats were taken with more glum and bored faces. People were called to a window as their ticket number came up. The numbers being called were about 90 ahead of ours – groan.
Then we found we were actually standing in a queue. As the queue shuffled forwards we saw that we were heading towards a window where you could hand over your dossier for checking and at the window was a very jolly lady, all smiles and animated helpfulness. Brilliant !!
The overhead screen announced which number was next and which window to go to – the turnover was very slow, but our queue was moving forwards quite steadily. However, the screen also pointed out at regular intervals that one in five applications failed for incorrect documentation. We somehow knew that would be us. For one thing, you seemed to need an envelope, presumably a stamped-addressed envelope so the documents could be posted back perhaps. Everyone else seemed to have one. This was something that had never occurred to us. If only the notice on the door of the Sous-Préfecture in Loches had said “only from 8.30-12.30 and don’t forget your envelope”.
After 30 minutes we got to the window and explained our needs in our best French to the very smiley and helpful lady. She indicated which bits of the application form I should fill in and said the only item of paperwork I was short of was a customs form – a Quitus Fiscal. We asked her where we got this from and she simply shrugged and said in Loches. She also gave us the address to where we could post the whole lot back to save us yet another trip to Tours.
We thanked her and left, emerging into the beautiful bright sunshine and headed back to the car. Back to Loches it was then, although goodness knows whereabouts in Loches we were meant to go to get a Quitus Fiscal.
This time the wafts of coffee were too much to resist. We had a lovely breakfast of coffee and croissants which possibly tasted even better because we were flushed with success – no carte grise yet but at least we knew we were only needing one piece of paperwork – a step forwards for sure.
By the way, as we left the building after our half an hour queue, the next number being called was still 80 people in front of ours. I wonder if they missed us?
Alex and Nicole have asked me to mention that they still have some availability in their lovely gites at Les Limornières in Le Grand-Pressigny for July. They are offering a reduced rate for anyone who would like a last-minute booking. So if you were thinking about spending some time in this beautiful area of France but weren’t sure – now’s your chance to treat yourself to a short break at bargain rates.