19 Apr 2010

Knock, Knock… Who’s There? A Two Part Tale

Knock Knock, Paris, Provence, French Essence, Vicki Archer

We have been reminiscing about our time spent in France in 1995. We had taken our three young children and travelled to Europe for six months from Australia, where we were then living. This is well before we had any thoughts of living in France permanently but on reflection this is probably the moment when my love affair with Provence started. We had rented a house in the hills behind St Tropez for three months, the children were being schooled in French and I was happily soaking up every moment of this blissful time… Until…

There was a loud banging on the front door very early the morning before our return to Australia. Reflecting on the monumental pack-up ahead, I hoped the resident gardiens, (house managers) Monsieur and Madame Robert, would deal with the intrusion. The knocking continued, growing more and more insistent. When I opened the door I was surprised to find three uniformed policemen and one civilian lined up before me. Stern expressions mouthed the prerequisite pleasantries and the plain-clothed person introduced himself as an Inspector of Police from Marseille. Flipping open his photo identity, he pushed the door with one hand and flashed the plastic with the other. As his trench coat disappeared through the door I could not help but think of Inspector Clouseau and his bumbling investigativeskills. This Inspector was no Peter Sellers and this was no joke. His team wasted no time and promptly moved in.

The gendarmes were respectfully quiet, as the Inspector demanded my passport and those of the children. In the same breath he advised me to remain silent to avoid any future misunderstanding. Silent; I was mute, dumbstruck would be a better description. Everything would then be dealt with in a calm and orderly manner. There was no need for panic. Panic; I was in a grand state of panic. I had never been in trouble before – my worst crime was a parking ticket – and here I am in a foreign country in the throws of being arrested. My husband was inconveniently absent so this mess was mine alone.  All this was discharged in record-breaking French of which I understood very little.

The French gardiens, my only link to the truth, were noticeably absent and nowhere to be found. I attempted to suggest there had been some kind of grave error, explaining I was an Australian on holiday with my three children. The Inspector understood a little English, but dismissed my excuses. He requested the immediate presence of the gardiens and suggested we all assemble in the kitchen. One gendarme searched for them, while the other two accompanied me to wake the children and collect our passports.

Monsieur and Madame Robert, now drawn out of hiding, refused to say a word in my defence. The Inspector questioned them repeatedly, but they would not budge. Over and over they shook their heads and pleaded a lack of knowledge. Frustrated by their attitude and completely baffled by their silence, I had no choice but to surrender our passports. The Inspector studied them one by one, page by page and concluded they were fraudulent. I demanded that he verify our documents through official channels – surely one phone call to his superiors could clarify this silliness?


Although I knew without doubt that we were innocent of any wrong doing (perhaps shop a little too hard at the antique fairs and brocantes…but as far as I knew there was no crime in that) the presence of so many police made me feel guilty.

He most strongly suggested that if I would not be prepared to cooperate fully we would be taken to Marseille police headquarters. I had no qualms about cooperating, but what was I cooperating about?  He questioned me at length. Why was I at this house? How long had I been there? What were the names of the owners? I had no answers. I repeated my account that we were Australians, we had rented the house through an international agency and that I had no dealings with the owners. I knew nothing of them or their whereabouts.

He was not convinced that I was telling the truth and my cross examination continued…

Read Part II of The Tale


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Vicki, you mentioned you first rented a house in the hills behind St T. I have just spent 6 weeks in the area and would live to know where you were
living? Idle curiosity.

Laura @ 52 FLEA

Wait! You can't go! I can't wait to hear the rest of the story….That's not fair! I will be sure to tune in the next part!
:) Laura
P.S. You're a good story teller!


Vicki, Wonderful story a lot of drama, I love your writing……

I have a new post and interview up I think you will enjoy!

Art by Karena


Gosh, what a story. I'm wondering what in the world they thought you did. I had a gendarme show up at out door once but it was over a speeding ticket-a year later I was laboring getting my French driver's license as he strongly advised it.


Quick – we need Part 2!!!

There is a little surprise waiting for you over at my blog (in the form of a sunshine award) – thanks for brightening my days, and providing a constant source of distraction, oh boy, I am guilty of reading your blog and then letting my mind daydream about Paris and France and all things French for a good half day – as you can imagine, my boss doesn't like you very much! he, he



My heart is pounding — if this is a true recount of what happened — how frigthening and surreal it all was. Certainly an unwelcome ordeal in a foreign country alone with the children and they kept your passports.

For me it would have been my worse nightmare



Oh my goodness – I sit here with baited breath.
My friends are just about to embark on a 3 month journey to France. perhaps this is the journey of a lifetime. I must caution them though! x


Oh, part two pleeeezzzeee!!!!!

However much you know you're not guilty, they just make you feel worse! Having been stopped by French customs in the middle of France…I know a tiny bit of that feeling.

Debra George

Oh no…..I'm the kind of person who will stay up all hours with a book and totally spoil the enjoyment by finishing it way to quick. I have no patience and now I'm totally intrigued…… I'm sure I'll be checking non stop for part deux!


I hate suspense! I can't even read the end to make sure it all turned out all right!!!!! I sincerely hope part 2 is tomorrow!


Hi Vicki
I read this last night via my subscription and just couldn't wait for the rest… please… I'm enthralled… need part II…. How frightening this must have been… in a foreign country.. and having to surrender your passports.. that I think that would have me over the edge!!! Looking forward to Part II… xx Julie

Nik from Brisbane, Australia

Oh Vicki, how could you, this is cruel making us wait!!

I have so many thoughts going thru my mind as to what happens next, I'm supposed to be working!!!

I am holding my breath x


Oh Vicki,
You are most certainly a writer….leaving us with this cliff-hanger !!
I really thought that it would come to it's natural conclusion but no !!
I can't wait for part deux !
Don't keep us in suspense for too long, will you ?
Oh, and thanks so much for your lovely comment over at mine. XXXX


I love love love your header! Makes me want to curl up with a book and relax! Thank you for the kind comments on my prom post honey. I really appreciate you stopping by! Kori xoxo

La Petite Gallery

What a fasinating adventure.
Mystery and suspense how exciting.
Wonder if they caught him. So
you say that France owns the house. I wonder if it will go up for Auction, and what price it will fetch. This was a wonderful story.


Swan - Now Living in France

Can’t wait for Part II and will there be a Part III and IV ? Things like this don’t happen in Paris, or so I am told, so it must be something to do with the docks of Marseille!, Dodgy place.


Vicki, I have almost pushed my pinkie through the glass on my iPhone trying to get the underlined to transfer me to the next episode but of course, to no avail! You can’t do this! I was living every moment with you and the grand panic resonated as I recalled a similar incident in Rome. Mine had a happy ending and obviously yours has too as you now live there . Oh, I can’t wait for Part2 . When????


I do apologise… I checked the link… it wasn’t working properly… Sorry… Now all fixed… :)


at least it didn’t keep you away from coming back and live in that beautiful place, Vicky.

Coco chick

La Maison Rouge 10 Boulevarde de la Bastille is an exciting contemporary art gallery.
Established by a private foundation, an example of one persons generosity.Art that is challenging.worth a visit.


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