Friday, January 13, 2012

Road Warrior

With S heading back to the Netherlands, I needed to bite the bullet and start driving in France. S had been doing all the driving for the past week, but it was my turn. We usually never drive when on vacation in different places – we like to rely on planes, trains, subways, taxis and mostly walking. But that won’t work here in the French suburbs living a normal life, so it was time for me to step up. I’m a bit of a back-seat driver, so I had been paying lots of attention to everything around me so it wasn’t totally unknown. My first trips were just to school and back – a pretty easy drive. The key differences that I have to constantly remind myself of are that there is no turn on a red light, and that cars on the right have the right-of-way – even when you are in the middle of a roundabout! Sometimes you have to stop in the middle of the roundabout to let the cars on the right enter. (There are exceptions to his of course, I’m slowly learning) Drivers here love to tailgate, pile up next to each other when waiting to turn – it reminds me how people don’t like to queue  - same thing with cars. I’m constantly hearing in my head “thees ees a race, I hope I ween” when driving as you have to be pretty aggressive to survive.

The cars here are very small for the most part. Which is a necessity as the parking spots are tiny, some of the streets are very narrow, and you have to squeeze yourself around other vehicles! 
This is a tiny street we drive down to get to our house

Our rental car is a Renault Clio with 4 doors and a hatchback. We have to find a car to buy, and I want to make sure it is another small one. Problem is trying to find one to buy with our limited French skills. I would like a used one that isn’t too old and in pretty good condition so I don’t have to worry about it breaking down. The gas mileage the cars get is incredible – which is good with the price of gas here (about 1.50 euros per liter = 6.8 euros per gallon = $8.70 per gallon).
 Notice how narrow our driveway is - rocks on one side, shrubs on the other.

Getting around in France REQUIRES a good GPS – and I mean a good one. One that gives you all the details on the roundabouts, freeway exits, etc. I would be lost without the one in our car. This week we are letting Ken from Australia guide us around – we like to change up the accent (& guide) often. Being an American, I am a true idiot when it comes to the metric system, but it sure feels fun when I’m driving 110 on the expressway! Never mind that that’s kilometers per hour, let me have my fun…

It’s also fun trying to learn all the street signs – some of them are easy to understand (why does a Stop sign in France say “Stop”?), while others are more difficult.
This doesn't mean no Ouilly le Vicomte - it means you are leaving the village of Ouilly le Vicomte
What does this one mean?

I’m looking forward to showing off my aggressive, tight-squeeze driving skills when the first visitor comes. Hopefully I've learned what all the signs mean by then!


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