I jumped in the car when I realized my TVA (VAT) return was due and sped off to the Tax office in Narbonne. What I’d forgotten was that it was the day the Tour de France was in town and the whole local population was heading in the same direction.
An hour later after what should have been a journey of 20 mins I decided it was best to dump the car and walk. A good move as it turned out, as all the roads in the City Centre were blocked off and much impatience and general intolerance was in the air.
I arrived at the Tax office 10 mins before closing for lunch and the place was deserted – unheard of on deadline day for Tax payments. The guy at the “accueil”, normally man of few words and even less sense of humour was positively chirpy. He checked the form, corrected a mistake without treating me like a moron, and offered to take it to the correct dept. I wish I’d taken a photo as it probably won’t happen like that on the next visit.
By the time I left, Narbonne was at a standstill. I joined the throng, weather was fabulous, the team coaches arrived and the riders emerged. After each one had been individually introduced to the waiting crowds it was down to the start-line in front of Les Halles, the indoor market. I watched the départ and then waited a full 20 minutes whilst all the support vehicles, team buses, police, medics and a huge caravan of Press and TV went past.
A normal round trip of 60 mins had taken approx 5 hours, yet it’s not often that a rather routine chore combines with one of the world’s greatest sporting events. Paying tax has never been so much fun and the cerise on the gateau was that the stage was won in Nimes 4 hours later by the Brit – Mark Cavendish.
I must leave it to the last minute next time……..
13 Aug 2008 Matthew Stubbs