…well, not really. Although, considering it was midnight my time…maybe I did?
If I ever was afraid of driving in a foreign country in which roads are constructed and run normally (coughcoughIrelandcoughEnglandcough), driving in Sicily cured me.
Just not a big deal.
And such not a big deal that it didn’t even occur to me until the night before we left for France that, “Oh, hey, maybe I’d better educate myself on French road signs and such.”
Our flight arrived at CDG at – yes – 7 freakin’ AM in the morning.
(I learned something. A flight that early is bad, bad, bad. Because what that means is that you – and two children – are trying to get some sleep starting at about 6 pm your time. But we made it. But next time – leave later, self.)
I have a car for these first three weeks, so that was the first thing to do. Get car. No problem there, but there was a problem once I exited the rental area to find my way blocked by two middle-aged Englishwoman who had stopped their car just a few feet past the mechanical arm, making it impossible for me to proceed once I’d inserted my ticket.
I really don’t know what they were doing. They were quite flustered. One was standing outside the car, and the other was approahing from the direction of the garage, waving a ticket. They said some things, they managed to move their care the foot or two I needed to make it past them before the arm slammed down on the back of my vehicle, and the best I can figure is that they had decided they couldn’t drive this particular car, and they were trying to figure out how to get a different one.
It was an interesting start to Driving In France.
We were headed to the Parthenay area, and it was going to be about a 4-hour drive. The first part took me in a ring around Paris – at rush hour – with lots of construction.
But you know what?
That was all right with me.
The boys fell promptly asleep, the traffic was super-slow, stop and go, and it gave me plenty of time to figure out those French road signs and habits at my leisure. It actually turned out for the best.
And so far, a week into it? No problem. I really don’t understand why people freak out about driving in other countries and issue such dire warnings.
All you need to understand here (in addition to the signs) is
1) The roundabout, and how it works
2) What the ultimate destination of the road you want is, because that’s how it’s signed
3) How to pay tolls, if you go on toll roads (which are very expensive. They are privately owned, so you pay far more than you do on US toll roads – but you can also go faster. So, there’s that.)
The main thing you read about regarding driving in France is this thing called Priorité à Droite. That? How it’s highlighted on every “Driving in France” website as a feature that will probably get you killed or arrested if you forget about it? Howyou will be arrested and deported if you don’t observe it? ….and it happens ALL THE TIME!
I’ve driven over a thousand kilometers in France over the past week, in villages, small towns, medium towns and around a major city, and not encountered this once – every encounter with a person turning right into my lane? They’ve had a yield or stop sign. I really don’t get this…but I’m still watching for it! If you want to turn right…I’m ready to yield!
Oh, and thank goodness I have a diesel car. I love this diesel car. We are going to be like those guys in the Passat commercial, except we will be spewing out French on the few times we have to stop. Although, I was a bit confused and concerned because although I had seen “diesel” on gas station signs along the road, when it came time for me to actually fuel up, I couldn’t fine any. I saw signs listing all kinds of gas, but none “diesel.” So I finally pulled up to the pay booth in one Hyper U station and said, “Avez-vous diesel?” The girl said, as if she were talking to an idiot, which she was, “Le gazole.” I had seen that, and suspected it was diesel, but not wanting to blow up my rental car, didn’t want to get it until I was sure. “Ah…diesel et gazole, le meme chose?” “Oui.”
So, the driving is good so far. I probably should explain that I don’t mind driving. I do think it’s an aspect of my introversion. I’ve driven 11 hours both ways to take my daughter back and forth to college four times over the past few months (she went to summer school), and I haven’t minded. I don’t even play the radio when I drive. I just watch and think.
And watching and thinking in a foreign country is even more interesting than doing so on I-85 every six weeks, it seems. I enjoy it. I enjoyed watching the landscape change as I drove from the Puy du Fou area down here to Montignac the other day – traveling from country marked by fields of corn and sunflowers to rolling, then steep craggy hills and vineyards. It’s interesting.
Although I had to laugh when a Frenchman at the first B & B at which we stayed listened to my account of our arrival and commented, “You are obviously American . Only an American could get off a transatlantic plane, drive four hours, and think it was nothing. Frenchmen take three days to drive 200 kilometers from Paris to the coast.”