Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Perdu: I've lost ....

Word of the week: Perdu - "I've lost" - as in "J'ai perdu mon passport" ...

Just got back from a week's holiday in our French gite and I've had lots of opportunity to learn and practice a new brand new French word, Perdu. I was able to practice this word at the bank, at the British consulate, at the local gendarmerie, at the bank (again), at a different local gendarmerie, at the cafeteria, to our friends in Brittany, etc, etc!

We were over for half-term week last week and took a P&O ferries crossing via Dover/Calais (mainly because I had some Thomas Cook travel points to use up and so we only paid £8 for the return trip to/from France!)

Anyway, on the drive down we stopped off en-route at a hypermarket just outside Rouen for lunch and I paid for the meal with a cheque from our French bank account. As usual I had my UK passport with me in case I needed id to accompany the cheque (there's no concept of cheque guarantee cards in France but increasingly shops are asking to see your pièce d'identité to verify that I've not stolen the cheque book. I've found that a UK passport seems to work just as well and so I tend to carry it with me when using the cheque book).

As it was warm in the restaurant I took my jumper off (containing my cheque book and passport), and then of course left it behind afterwards on the floor.

We only realised the loss a couple of hours later on (and 150 miles further down the autoroute) and so decided that it was too far to go back for it. With luck it'd still be at the cafeteria and we could call back in on the way home a week later.

The next day being Sunday I couldn't do much about it, and the following day was a French holiday so it wasn't until the following Tuesday that I was able to go into La Poste (who we bank with) to tell them that I'd lost the cheque book. By then of course I'd realised that maybe loosing both the cheque book and my passport together might not be such a great thing and of course I was potentially liable to any cheques that had been fraudulently written in the meantime.

So armed with my English/French dictionary and having looked up the word for 'loss' (Perdu) I went in to the branch in nearby La Cheze and explained to the very helpful (but completely non-English speaking) lady that I'd lost my cheque book (carnet d'chèque) and my passport in Rouen. Lots of confusion because she kept on thinking I'd lost my debit card as well (which fortunately I hadn't) and that I had lost all my cheque books for the account (in fact I'd only lost one and still had one with me), but we got there in the end and I was given the appropriate déclaration de mise en opposition des formules de chèque, de virement et de cartes liées au CCP to complete.

This was where things started to go downhill even further as she asked me for details of what cheques and ordre de virement ('authority to debit your bank account' slips) I had with me, which I had written out from the previous cheque book, and which I had lost. I was OK on the first question as I had the one remaining cheque book with me, but I'd no idea what cheques I had written out and what cheques I had lost in the book. Had to resort to J'ne sais pas ("I don't know") quite a lot.

Finally she wanted to see my identity card or passport that I was proof that I was who I said I was in making the declaration.

More explanation that I'd perdue'd that in Rouen as well.

Oh dear, she was not happy with that and I was instructed to go and inform the gendarmerie of my loss, and then later on that afternoon she phoned me up to again tell me to visit the Gendarmerie.

So next day I went along to the police station, showed them the declaration from La Poste, explained what had happened and that I needed to make a declaration of loss to them.

The gendarmerie considered the problem, consulted with his boss, and then decided that I didn't need to make a declaration of loss of the cheque book and that as it wasn't a French passport then I didn't need to declare the loss to them; they were only interested in lost French identity cards.

Back home at the Gite I thought I'd better phone the British consulate to tell them of the passport loss and so eventually managed to call them after getting the number from my travel insurance company.

So I listened to the 'on hold' music at the Paris consulate for 20 minutes or so whilst they considered my problem, firstly advising I should come to the consulate in Paris (to which I said no I couldn't), then suggesting I went to Nantes, Rennes or St Malo to get a temporary replacement (which I said I could do), before they finally decided that I didn't need any proof of identity to get back into the UK and that "as long as the ferry company were happy" they were happy for me to travel without a passport.
I think this was just passing the buck but I was somewhat surprised at their lack of concern over the loss of my passport, never once did they take any details of who I was or the lost passport, so if it'd fallen into the wrong hands anything could have happened to it.

Decided that phoning P&O wasn't really worth the additional hassle and if the passport hadn't been handed in in Rouen then I would worry about the problem when I reached the ferry port.

Next day another phone call from the nice lady at La Poste asking about my declaration d'Perdu at the Gendarmerie. I explained that they refused to take it and after lots of backwards and forwards discussion we eventually concluded that I had to go back to the Gendarmerie which I duly did (but went to a different Gendarmerie this time). They again didn't want to know and so I got the gendarme to phone the La Poste branch so they could sort out what I had to do between themselves as I wasn't getting anywhere with my broken French explanations.

And reluctantly the gendarme took my declaration d'perdu, we filled in a form together (most of which I didn't know, like my passport number, date and place of issue, etc), but at least it all got filled in and I took the form back to La Poste, the lady was happy with it and I'd finally got to the end of the process of reporting the loss.

Of course a couple of days later we called back in the cafeteria in Rouen, explained the whole problem again, and they went into the back office and came out with my jumper, passport and cheque book - hurrah !

Decided not to mention the passport loss to the customs officer at Calais as it would doubtless confuse the situation even further.

All I have to do now is to tell La Poste that I have actually regained my passport and cheque book and hopefully everything will be OK.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home