I have definitely slowed the pace of my blogging. It is not that I don’t have anything new to write about. Quite the contrary, our travels continue to be quite rich in new experiences and adventures. Now, in fact, many things that I can write about have piled up. So I will start with our experience with leasing a new car in France.
Renault and Peugot have long term buy/lease programs where you pay upfront and get a brand new car, full insurance, and roadside assistance for up to 6 months. This was the cheapest option for us and turns out to cost about $20 a day
all inclusive. That is so much cheaper than what you could rent a car for here in Europe and includes the insurance, etc. We went with Renault because their website was the easiest to use and their service was fantastic. It usually takes 30+ days to get the paperwork and order completed, but, we did it in 10 days and they had the car ready on time at the delivery site just outside of Paris. The car is called a Kangoo (Can go) although, that is probably debatable.
When I told my Swedish friend Per on Skype that we have a Renault Kangoo, he made a comment that he hoped we got the diesel version because a Kangoo gas engine would barely make it over a hill. Well, the diesel Kangoo is still quite a weak engine, but it can make the 130 Km speed limit on the toll freeways, and well, not driving fast allows us to take in the sights better. We really got this car for its relatively large luggage space in the back, which we fill up with our bags and supplies when moving bases. The boys are bummed that there are no back seat windows. Both back seat doors are sliding doors, like on minivans. This is kind of strange for such a small car. I would never buy one of these cars, but it is new, the cabin is spacious and comfortable, and gas mileage is excellent. It will do us fine for the next few months.
What happens when you put gasoline in a diesel engine?: So, we pick up the car without hassle and start out for Normandy. A few kilometers from the gas station, the engine stops working. I can write about this now. 60 kilometers outside of Paris, only one hour or so of driving the brand new car we leased, I pull into a gas station at a highway rest stop. I am realizing that really I don’t remember my ‘gas station french’, although I may never have actually learned the vocabulary. Mauritania, where I learned my French, pretty much does not have gas stations.
I was already flustered because my American credit cards was not working in the machine and I had to go talk with the attendant, which again had me flustered because this was day 3 in France and I was realizing that my French is pretty poor. So I put gasoline in my diesel engine. Car dies on a busy highway. I had a pretty good
meltdown because I knew what a colossally stupid thing I had done and I didn’t know how easy/hard it would be to fix this. We were in a dead car on a busy highway at 3 in the afternoon. To compound matters, we had not yet bought a French cellphone simm card. Our UK simm card had like a dollar-fifty left on it. Not much when you are calling for service assistance and they ask you to hold as you wait for the English speaking person to get on the line. Another American credit card problem – we could not use our credit card to top up the simm card by phone, we could only do this at a store. Gigi had to plead with the Orange service person to give us ‘emergency credit’ of 3 dollars…twice. This finally allowed us to complete our communications with the assistance service. One great thing about the Renault lease program is EVERYTHING is insured. They even have printed on the instructions ‘when wrong gas put in the car.’ The guy on the phone even acknowledged that this was a common reason for breakdown. The boys just played on their iPads in the back seat. Gigi was frazzled. I was fried. One hour wait, 45 min tow ride with little talking, an hour at the service station draining the gas from the engine…and voila! We were back on the road again. Both Gigi and I feared that we were going to be stuck the night in whatever minor village the service station was located in. We couldn’t communicate, we just were just groping our way along. In the end, the roadside assistance was very good, and the service station people very nice. And the solution to the problem was not nearly as bad as I had feared. We made it to our Normandy beach hotel about 4 hours behind schedule, and we collapsed into the beds upon arrival.