It seems to be an unfortunate habit of ours to get some kind of traffic infringement fine on our epic European jaunts, away from the familiarity of our home in Argenton sur Creuse, central France.
Last year it was a speeding fine in Lyon – we had to wait for the nasty notice to arrive in the mail for that one – but when turning into a shopping centre in Benicarlo Spain last week, unwelcome flashing lights appeared behind us. Apparently we made an illegal turn, however neither of us saw any “no right turn” sign.
While Tony calmly talked to one of the two motorcycle police (Guardia Civil), showing them his passport, Australian drivers licence and international driving permit (you must have all those with you when driving in Europe – as well as a safety triangle and reflective vest in case of breakdowns, and apparently soon in France you will also need a breathalyzer kit onboard!), I madly rummaged in the glovebox for the car registration (carte grise) and current insurance papers, holding my breath that there would be no problem with his international permit which is issued in Australia for one year but officially recognised for up to 3 years according to the Vienna Convention.
That thought quickly flew from my mind when, approaching the men, Tony told me it would be a 100 euro fine. What???!!! I did not withhold my dismay and hightailed it back to the car to cool down.
I waited for what seemed like forever until Tony finally returned to the car, asking for 40 euros in cash… somehow the 100 euro fine (which would have been a 200 euros if we had been Spanish) had been further reduced because we didn’t disrupt traffic. Phew.
It seemed a bit weird to pay in cash, but apparently that’s how its done for foreigners in Spain.
The experience momentarily took the wind out of our sails – but back at our resort in Peñíscola, we walked across the road for a refreshing swim in the Mediterranean which quickly restored us to happy holiday mode.