** I wrote this post originally in September. Though the dates mentioned in the post below were awhile back, the parking through the Christmas holidays has been maddening. Such is life near 2 malls. But we have survived and hoping this will ease up during these dead winter months 🙂
So, I thought I’d write a quick post about the one other thing besides the language that has definitely presented a challenge with city life. And that would be the parking situation.
When we lived in our temporary apartment, it was easy to just pull up, find a spot and park. Of course there is no free parking here in Clermont. But if I’m being honest, going out to feed the meter was not on our list of absolutes in those first few weeks and so, not surprisingly, by the time we moved to our permanent apartment here in the middle of the city, we had earned 4 parking tickets. The parking tickets are funny here- it is a very generic green piece of paper that basically says- you have been sanctioned for some type of parking offense and you can expect to receive a parking ticket in the mail some time in the near future.
So, basically we were spoiled those first few weeks, honestly, we probably should have been given 30 parking tickets… but we weren’t prepared for the ordeal that the daily parking space hunt has been for us. In the long run, the plan is to walk most everywhere here in the city and save the car for drives further out or weekend travelling; sometimes Chuck will drive the car to work because there is a free place to park at Michelin for employees. But for the last several weeks with the boys out of school, we were driving all over the place- swimming lessons, the trampoline park, the big grocery store, friend’s houses, etc etc.
After a few more tickets, we decided to ask around and investigate how to find another solution. It just hasn’t been practical to go out and feed the meter every 3 hours (because this is the maximum amount of time you can pay for at once). So, a few weeks ago, Chuck went to the parking office and was able to get a weekly pass that you can buy where you basically put money on it and then use it to pay a daily rate. A few stipulations- you must park in a small parking zone which is in close proximity to where you live, and the most obvious- you still need to be able to find a parking spot. Therein lies the challenge. What we have done most of the time is park in the parking garage underneath the main square near our house known as Vercengetorix, where we have always been able to find a spot, but it costs around $17 a day. So, not an ideal plan.
As August has come to an end and people have come home from their vacations, students have returned to university, the city has become much more crowded and it has become near impossible to find a parking spot near where we live. It is not unusual to drive around 20 or 30 minutes before you throw in the towel and head back to Vercingetorix.
Chuck had been hoping to go by the parking office down underneath in Vercengetorix to purchase a monthly pass (which again does not guarantee you a spot, only a reduced parking rate), but things at work have been so crazy that he just hasn’t been able to go by. Every day that goes by, it gets more painful to stick our gold debit card into machine and eat another $20 or $30 (the less we drive, the more we pay). So this morning, when walking home from taking the boys to school, I decided that I was going to dig deep and find some courage to go in and muscle through communicating what I needed to say, (knowing by now that the chances the parking attendant would speak any English) but, if it meant that I left with a parking pass or at least information about how to get one, I was determined to do it.
The man could not have been nicer, I think he even felt sorry for me. And though he did not allow me the option to have the monthly payment drawn from our bank account which will mean I have to go monthly to pay the 91euros and renew the pass (they are funny about bank stuff over here- no credit cards, rarely a bank draw) , I left with my pass and was so thrilled I honestly wanted to click my heels as I headed back up into daylight and into the square to walk back home. I couldn’t wait to tell Chuck. FINALLY!
I honestly couldn’t wait to cruise on down into that garage and leave our car for days, and even more exciting, the thought that I would no longer have to drive circles around these streets looking for parking was even better.
Chuck came home for lunch, and, with this new information, he decided to leave the car parked in front of our building with hazards on, which means very very temporarily. After lunch, I walked down, got in the car, and, sure enough as I came around the corner, the parking sign in front of Vercingetorix (our new lot!!) read “Complet” (Full). Seriously. In the 6 weeks we have lived here and walked by that sign a million times daily, I have never ever seen it Complet. ugh!
And so, off I went, driving all around again for 20 minutes until I was able to find a lot about a 15 minute walk from the house, I took it. I pulled into the lot, did my 150-point turn to fit into the microscopic parking space and walked over to the meter, knowing that it would only give me 3 hours. This meant I’d have to walk back over here to put money in it before walking 25 minutes in the other direction to get the boys.
As I headed back home, I finally passed Vercingetorix, and I’m not sure why, but I glanced back to see the sign and sure enough, “Ouvert” (open). Ugh.