The late afternoon sun sparkled on the river before us. On the patio of the restaurant, we sipped wine and listened to the crash of the Atlantic surf in the distance while our pup, Carson, inspected the base of a towering palm tree on the grassy green that separated us from the water. It was a moment of pure relaxation. What could possibly go wrong? I’ll tell you what, this:

Parking Ticket-Full Car Shot

The parking ticket was bad enough; we were liable for a fine of up to three hundred Euros, roughly three hundred ninety U.S. dollars. But the boot? Infuriating doesn’t cover the half of it.

It was the Guarda Nacional Republicana (GNR) who had left their calling card. We live in a small town where the military police make “house calls” as it were, to remove the offending contraption they attach to illegally parked cars, and a helpful passerby called the GNR for us. Within minutes my husband was explaining the situation: We’d been driving up and down in town looking for a parking place, and when a lone vehicle backed out of the only spot on a side street, we nabbed it. There was no prohibitive yellow marking on the sidewalk, so we thought we were safe.Parking ticket-Long and Early Shot cropped

Parking Ticket-Keith, Carson, and Two Officers Cropped

Carson eventually got into the mix to plead our case to one officer filling out paperwork, while a second busied himself with another set of documents. And there were plenty of them. Anything you’ve seen in the States for a ticket pales in comparison.

Parking Ticket- Docs

An hour later we’d paid sixty Euros for the ticket, and sixty-four to get the boot removed, which by that time we considered a bargain. Also by that time, the young men, while professional, had become downright friendly, pardner, laughing and smiling as they kept their pens in motion. It was impossible not to like them. Really.

Our transgression? We’d inadvertently left the Honda in a bank of spaces reserved for civil magistrates. Will we make the same mistake again? You be the judge.