So there we were, waiting in a garage somewhere in deepest France for a taxi to take to a hotel. I hadn't the foggiest idea where we were. Although I knew pretty well where we had broken down, we had been taken several miles once we left the motorway. I had been sitting alongside the driver in the transporter but failed to notice the names on any signposts we passed. Mrs S was still in the front passenger seat of the car on the back of the transporter having declined the offer to sit in the cab with us as she really could not have climbed up there.
It was at about 5.30 local time that our breakdown insurers agreed that to provide a taxi for the remaining 200 or so miles of our journey really was not on and they would source a taxi and a local hotel. I took the suitcase from the boot of the car, along with the shopping bag of food (milk, bread, butter, croissants, soup, coffee etc - the basics for our stay at our French house), another shopping bag containing a couple of books, my medication, gloves and - don't laugh - an alarm clock. Lugging all that lot, together with the Old Bat's handbag and a small grip containing my wallet and our passports, I felt like the archetypal bag lady.
We waited. And waited some more.
The garage closed at 6.00pm but the proprietor hung around with us, not wishing to turn us out into the street. Eventually, at about 7.00, he told us that he was due to go to a dinner for local garage owners (at least, that was what I understood him to say) and suggested he call for a taxi for us as all attempts to contact our insurers had met with a message, "We are experiencing unusually high numbers of calls". I agreed to the suggestion and it was just a short while later that a taxi arrived.
I understood we were being taken to a hotel at Bernay, some 9 kilometers (almost 6 miles) distant but we kept passing signposts indicating Bernay to the left. My phone rang while we were being driven by the mad French taxi driver who insisted on keeping one hand on the gear lever and just one on the steering wheel while driving about three feet from the back of the large lorry in front. Our insurers told me they had been trying without success to get through to me and that they had arranged a hotel. Too bad, I told them. We had already made other arrangements.
It seemed much further than 6 miles before we turned into the drive of what looked like a very smart hotel, the Hotel Acropole. The taxi driver threw case and bags out of the boot, accepted my offer of 40 euros for the 35 euro fare and gave me a receipt. Fortunately, the hotel had a room, and on the ground floor at that, and we were soon ensconced once more in reasonable comfort and able to freshen up.
The hotel itself had no dining room but there was a smart-looking restaurant on the same plot, just a few yards across the car park. We were welcomed very warmly by a couple of waitresses. We ate very well and the service was excellent: efficient, friendly, but not too obsequious or informal.
We had eaten well and the bed seemed comfortable. It was a bit of an inconvenience, to say the least, that the car had broken down but we looked forward to picking up a hire car the next day and continuing our journey. Little did we know.