Time for another tale about our life in France. When we moved to France we kept our British driving licences as we were allowed to drive using those and the thought of more bureaucracy in trying to change them to French ones wasn't something we were keen to confront!
In France you have to carry your driving licence with you at all times when you are driving as if you are stopped for any reason you must produce it there and then so when I discovered that I had lost (as in mislaid not been disqualified) mine I knew that I would have to do something fast as I couldn't risk driving without one. Not too dificult you might think? Well to start off with I e-mailed the DVLA (driver and vehicle licencing agency for those of you who are not familiar with this term) asking if they could provide me with another one.
No - came back the answer since I was no longer resident in UK! With hindsight I could have had it sent to my sister-in-law's or somewhere but being the honest soul I am I had by then told them that I lived in France. They did however furnish me with a paper confirming that I was the holder of a UK licence and listing what groups of vehicles I was qualified to drive, how long I had held the licence etc.
Next stop a trip to the gendarmerie to ask if I could exchange the paper for a French licence. No came the reply. To do that would need the old British licence which of course I didn't have!
After numerous calls to the British embassies in both Paris and Bordeaux - our nearest Embassy - and more visits to the gendarmerie in the end it was decided that the only way I would be able to get a French licence, since a UK one was out of the question, was to go to the Hotel de Police in Limoges and tell them that my UK licence had been stolen! This I did although I felt dreadful and kept saying "Je ne comprends pas" to all their questions as lying doesn't come easily to me.
Armed with the required paper from the Hotel de Police I was now able to go to the Prefecture to apply for a French licence.
The lady behind the desk gave me a paper listing all the items I should bring along and we duly returned with them only to have her tick off numbers 1, 2 and 3 and then to tell me I needed a photocopy of my passport - number 4. She sent me to La Poste (post office) across the road to get the photocopy done although why she couldn't have done it for me I don't know as I'm sure there was a photocopier in the Prefecture somewhere and indeed my French friend told me had I been a French person this is what would have happened. Racism she called it!
When I returned with the photocopy she ticked off 4, 5 and then stopped at 6 saying I needed a photocopy of that document too and another trip across the road more coins in the slot were called for! Why she couldn't have checked all the boxes before sending me off to photocopy any of them I don't know but that seems to be the French way. By now I was getting somewhat stressed and annoyed about the whole affair and the photo which I then had to get taken to go on my new licence shows this!!
Eventually I handed over my 30 euros and was given a temporary paper till the actual licence arrived. I could drive again!
My driving licence duly arrived and according to it I was licenced to drive everything except a motorcycle. I could drive a bus, heavy goods vehicle a bus with a trailer..... how mad is that! So should you ever find yourself without a driving licence perhaps because you failed the test or have been disqualified or something all you need to do to get another is to go and reside in France and claim your original one was stolen and they will happily provide you with a French one! Mind you on second thoughts maybe not as the bureaucracy involved in becoming a French resident might put you off that idea!
Now that we are back in the UK I am given to understand that the French licence will be acceptable for up to 3 years and before then we will need to do the procedure in reverse! At least I will be able to speak the language this time!