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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sunday: Rest day and last full day in France plus driving tips

Road signs are small.  The road number is at the top D2 taking you to  Vence and Nice.
 No plans today other than pack and bring lunch up to Coursegoules and say our farewells to Nola and Randy.  The morning started off with thunder, lightning and a little rain.  It didn’t last long.  MA began sorting and arranging clothes between summery France and the frosty Baltic ports.  SAS allows two checked bags as long as they weigh less than 50 lbs each. We carry a small baggage hand scale just for times such as these.
Last night I prepared potatoes with sautéed onions and garlic and yellow squash with sautéed onions all in preparation for our lunch. We also brought sausages and shish-kabobs to grill. 

Before we left for Coursegoules, we walked into Vence to say goodbye to Yves, the waiter and Cecile at the Hotel Diana, two friends we made here from last year.  A trip to the Boulangerie to pick up two baguettes and newspaper for Nola and one last coffee at Henri’s and it was walk back up the hill and head out for Coursegoules.

For the last two weeks I’ve experienced firsthand what it’s like to drive here and I thought I would share some thoughts and observations.
If     1.  If you plan to drive anywhere in France or any other European country, bring a GPS with you.  Make sure you get a European SD card.  I bought mine for Europe for $65 on E-Bay.
2        2. Rent a diesel car.  It will come with a standard transmission but there is substantial savings in fuel cost between gasoline and diesel (the French call it gasoil).

You can see the chain link that keeps the big rocks off the highway.
3.      3. French roads are asphalt and in great shape.  I never saw a pothole.  What I would change are the super narrow lanes on mountain roads that at times do not accommodate simultaneous traffic from both directions. But drivers are generally considerate and we work it out. On the positive side they have done a great job of fencing the rock walls to prevent loose boulders from falling.

The road makes a sharp 180 at the intersection.
             4. Driving in a foreign country takes TOTAL concentration.  The roads are narrow and there is no room for mistakes.  You either have a car coming at you, solid wall of rock on your right or a several hundred foot drop-off on the other side.  You are constantly shifting between 2nd and 3rd gears and on really steep grades or sharp turns into 1st.

A bicyclist on the left means watch out for more.
This guy peddling uphill had the entire inbound traffic stopped until he cleared them.
This guy zoomed right around me not caring if another car was coming.
5.    5.  France and the rest of Europe are “bicycle friendly”.  Bicycles are everywhere so expect to meet them on the road.  They will be on the right hand side of the road so it’s just like passing a car.   If you are driving slower than cars behind you the protocol is (when safe) to turn on your right signal and slow down to let them pass.  That tells the driver behind you to go ahead and pass.

There are emergency phones along the highway.

The sign says it all.
6.     6. Road signs are self explanatory, except of course when they have information you need but it’s in French.

7.    7. Toll roads are usually designated “Peage”. I took that to mean “you pay”. Have plenty of Euro coins and get in the line with the sign showing a basket with coins going in it.  Otherwise you’ll be in the wrong line, the one that requires a card.  An attendant will have to come out and take your money.  We did this once but the cars behind us never honked or got mad.  They probably figured we were foreigners who get in the wrong line occasionally.

8.      8.  Motorcycles and motor scooters are as numerous as cars, especially in big cities.  They like to drive between cars that are stopped at red lights and they will come right alongside of you.  Just expect it.  Go with the flow.

You have to know where you're going.  The GPS will tell you which exit to take.
9.      9. The French love traffic circles.  Vehicles already in the circle have the right of way.  Entering a traffic circle you must yield.  There are almost no red lights.

1     10. While we didn’t see all that many red lights, there are plenty of traffic cameras.  Watch your speed on the Auto-route, designated A-8.

In the village of Coursegoules

An intersection of 5 streets.  At the stop sign the cars on the left have right of way.

At narrow streets the traffic is one way controlled by who has right of way.  The  other guy has it.

One lane bridges are also controlled by right of way signs.

When leaving a village, you see the name with a red line through it.
 We are all packed and ready to go.  Our next destination is Copenhagen, Denmark where the Emerald Princess takes over the transportation skills.  Au voir! Thanks for tuning in!

1 comment:

  1. Today I play catch-up on reading and commenting on your great blog updates. Sorry about the confusion I've been experiencing on the blog but it's not the only reason I've gotten behind - just don't know where the time is going these days. Please keep the updates coming.

    Glad you and MA had another great time in France. Love the driving tips - afraid I won't be using them anytime soon. At least they are simple and must be working find.

    Looking forward to teh next series of travel update.

    HAVE A GOD BLESSED DAY - dave b.


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