Driving in France

We rarely argue, but one thing that can set us off is driving. I get travel sick and can’t navigate from a map when moving. He’s not a good passenger. The invention of the Sat Nag has, to a certain degree, helped – but when we picked up the hire car at Nice airport I drove, as the Sat Nag refused to work.

So there I was, driving on the wrong side of the road, my feet operating the pedals (which are of course in the same order as they are at home) while my arms were trying to remember that the gear stick is on the right, the opposite side to what I am used to, whilst trying not to make my darling husband too nervous as he issued directions to me, often three times, with increasing volume, sometimes confusing his left and right. You can imagine, therefore that, after an early start (5 am) and little food (I couldn’t face the BA in-flight breakfast and the almond croissant at Heathrow terminal 5 seemed a very long time ago) I was starting to become a little tense. The roads are narrow in Southern France, after you leave Nice and start going uphill into the mountains, and driving on the wrong side of the road in a car to which I was unaccustomed (did I mention it was a Megane convertible, with an overly small boot, especially with the roof off?) made me feel I was right out in the middle of the road, while Cycloman kept telling me that I was about to hit the kerb, or go off the side of the mountain. After an inadvertent  wrong turn in a village somewhere en route to our destination I lost the plot and parked and insisted on lunch.

That was when the holiday really started.

In a small cafe in the middle of the town I ordered a beer and  Nice Salad ( :) ). The chaps all ordered a Steak Hache. (You should have seen the boys faces when they realised, after enjoying the wonderful taste, that they had just eaten horse.)

We arrived in our beautiful temporary mountain home eventually, after not stopping at a super market and stocking up, realising that there was very little room in the boot even for the luggage and no room in the back seat after fitting in two large teenagers. We did that later, just Cyclo and me, getting terribly lost in Grasse, looking for a supermarket, after which I told him I wouldn’t drive again, ever.

We were staying a small village near the top of the Loup River, and the next day after a long night on a new bed with one square pillow each (stuffed into our UK rectangular pillow cases), woken by day light at 4:30 am, everything was wonderful because we were on holiday. I went down to make tea I found this little house guest in the kitchen.

Here Scout illustrates the walk we took on our first full day

It was steep and beautiful and full of wonderful flora and fauna. That first day it was cloudy (bright, white cloud) and warm, which was good as we accustomed ourselves to the novelty of not needing a jumper after the Summer, so far, in UK 2012.

Author: Sarah

No time to lose. No, time to lose. Make time to stand and stare.... Did you see that?

23 thoughts on “Driving in France”

  1. Looks as if you had a good holiday, kitchen visitors apart. Great pictures, too.

  2. Driving on the wrong side can be hazardous (irrespective of which it is). During my biz career I regularly changed sides (call me Italian if you must) and once ended a good pub lunch in Blighty by driving my sister and b-in-law onto the wrong carriageway! Scary!

  3. I did a lot of driving on the right in Europe and the States both for work and pleasure. I found that it was fairly easy most of the time except when driving a British right hand drive car on the right. That is really confusing.

  4. Before now, when taking our own car over, I have found the transition back to UK driving harder than this time.

  5. Phew, Pseu. When I saw the title I thought this was going to be a golf blog. Glad to find out that it wasn’t.
    Phew, Pseu again. Don’t know if I fancy that narrow road wrong side of the road driving malarkey. It doesn’t sound nice.

    Super collection of bug photos.

  6. That’s a good question.
    I’m trying to get this wrong way driving right. If I were the passenger, depending on what way round the mountain we’re going, I’d be either rubbing my elbow into the wall or hanging over the precipice. Driving would be a bit stressful if a truck loomed toward me…

    I think I’ll cycle. I’ve never worn a red polka dot jersey before but as King of the Mountains tradition would make me do so.

  7. One golden rule, with the proviso that you are driving the correct handed steering wheel for the country. you, the driver must be next to the central line, (real or imaginary). If you are next to the verge/hedge there is something horribly wrong!

    Another, try renting an automatic.

    Unfortunately most people rush off planes, leap into cars and vroom off, tired as you say. The best thing you can do for yourself is stop for lunch and unwind or take a room for the night, it does wonders.

    I make it a standard policy never to jump into a hire car after a transatlantic flight, it is just too much especially from the West Coast. Always catch public transport to my destination and go straight to bed.

    I do think people push themselves a little too hard and give themselves insufficient time for acclimatisation. Personally I travel very badly so make a point of taking it all a bit more slowly.
    I always used to drive my own car in europe, so much easier to take stuff with you. The pillows are always dreadful, I used to take my own! (even to hotels) Plus you know your own car and can concentrate more on the road.

    Even after driving all ways since 76 I still, if abstracted, walk to the wrong side of the car for the driving position! I never get it wrong when driving, just finding the right seat!!

    Interesting bugs!

  8. Great pictures, Pseu and thank you for sharing. As regards cars, we brought our (RHD) Range Rover with us from the UK and bought a (LHD) runabout here in Portugal. No problem, as long as you remember which car you are driving and in which country.

    A Zangada navigated unerringly all the to way here from Blighty,but had to turn the map unside down to reflect the fact that we were travelling south. Does that make any sense to anything but a female mind?

    Driving down through Spain in the RR with me on the ‘wrong’ side, it was up to her to pay the tolls on the motorways. I somehow managed to convince her that “Gracias, penis” was colloquial Spanish for “Thanks, cock”. She smiled sweetly as she practised her new-found Spanish on the poor bloke in the tollbooth whilst I made a tyre shredding getaway – not an easy task in a 4×4, even a V8 one – with my sides splitting with laughter.


  9. Christina, I found the judging of position a little difficult at first, but quite quickly settled to it… but the nervous passenger….any hoo the flight was only a couple of hours 🙂

    OZ you are a one!

  10. Oz. turning the map is a topographers trick, very useful for locating yourself when there are no human landmarks, line up all the hills and triangulate!
    I suggest she did it instinctively.

    ‘No problem, as long as you remember which car you are driving and in which country.’
    Trouble is they don’t!! Especially when tired.

  11. When serving in BAOR, I used to drive a LHD vehicle in my day job, and my RHD duty-free Sierra XR 4×4 in my own time.

  12. I was always foxed by the French ‘rule of the right’. Allegedly anybody exiting from a minor road onto a main drag could do it without looking because they had the right of way. Weird. And why? Similarly at roundabouts vehicles entering them had priority. The opposite of the British rule. Or did I just not understand the French, as so often?

  13. Lovely post, Nym. I have the same problems with er nervous passengers, but I can navigate and not feel sick. The only thing I don’t like as a passenger driving in France in a RHD is having to check it’s safe to overtake.

    I turn maps upside down too, but only when we are lost!

  14. Ara, I’m not a good map reader at the best of times, so turning the map to the direction of travel always makes perfect sense to me – but only when stationary…. this travel nausea is a pain, though it isn’t as bad as it used to be, for me. About the only advantage to my ageing process that I can think of just now!

  15. It’s called ‘orienting the map,’ ladies. Map reading 101, OZ – think of being in the middle of a field, somewhere, in rolling country, with a wet map and the broken stub of a pencil, (the high-tech Army days coming back, see,) Compass and map. orient the map to the ground and keep it there so you can run and read the map at the same time – if you’re going South, you want South in front of you so you can read the ground with the map as you run, (and keep an eye open for hostiles, manage your weapons, send situation reports, command your team…) East, West, ditto…

  16. 🙂 I do wonder why you weren/t using a GPS navigator…

    PS, personally, I would’ve had me bonce sticking out of the top of a Chieftain Mk II, but, same thing..

  17. The Sat Nag disc had been dislodged and once that had been rectified a day or two after we arrived, we were able to use that, so not all was lost!

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