The article was written after spending six weeks in the south of France in 2006.
I knew I was in trouble as soon as the petrol (gas) pump started talking to me. In a strident female voice, the pump demanded my attention. The only problem was that I didn't understand a word it said. The shock of the voice caused my mental processes to freeze. I couldn't get the nozzle of the diesel hose to work. A passing French lady motorist took pity. She looked at me as if I had just landed from another planet, grabbed the hose and with an extravagant display of manual dexterity forced the nozzle into the car's fuel pipe. I smiled and looked stupid.
It was not a good start. My wife and I had arrived at Carcassone airport two days before. We were looking forward to our six-week stay in the Languedoc Roussillon region of southwest France. We had hired a car before we left home. At first, because of our long stay, we wanted to lease a car from one of the main dealers. We wanted an automatic. Our travel agent told us that the leaseback arrangement did not provide automatic cars. Would we consider a rent-a-car supplier who could supply an automatic for much the same price? Of course we would.