Someone commented that all we seem to be doing is eating and walking in the rain. That isn’t entirely true, we also have done a lot of driving in the rain. And today that held true again as we set out from Mont Saint Michel to drive to Amboise in the Loire Valley. It is a 4 hour 15 minute drive – or at least it is the way we went. The GPS was trying to direct us (constantly) off the main roads (who knows why) but we have learnt from our previous mistakes and we ignored it and followed the road signs instead. Remarkably the road signs work quite well.
The drive was pretty uneventful except that we could not find any shops open. Who would have thought that the whole of France closes on a Sunday. Since when were they a Christian nation? No supermarkets open at all (and believe me we tried a number today). Even stores which advertised ‘Open 24 hours’ (or whatever that is in French) were closed on Sunday. That meant the only place to get food on route was at a Services which aren’t really known for their quality. We managed to buy some sandwiches which could have been flown in from Cape Town a week ago the bread was so stale.
Up until now I have not written much about French roads and driving. I have a number of thoughts on the matter:
- I am a really good driver even if seated on the left hand side of the car and driving on the right. So far I have not stalled the car once (even when under pressure). I have not been flustered by the constant hooting on the first day (just put that right behind me). And when the GPS leads me down ridiculously small roads I simply reverse back down the hill and back onto the proper main road rather. I have so far only been tempted once or twice to go left around a traffic circle (see point 8 below). And I only once started driving on the left hand side but quickly corrected myself when faced with a car heading in my direction. And no one has hooted at me since the day we arrived.
- I am really courteous. I continually go to open the door for Helen to get into the passenger side. For some reason she finds this funny. I might stop soon because she is always laughing at me when I do it. What is it with women?
- 1 & 2 didn’t really relate to French roads or drivers directly but I thought they were worthy of being in 1 & 2 spots anyway.
- French drivers are really aggressive and will never let you in even if you beg. They look straight ahead and close any small gap between themselves and the car in front of them.
- Most cars have some dents or scratches in the front, back or sides. No doubt that is the only way to get into traffic. Push you way in even if it means bumping another car.
- French love French cars. At least 50% of the cars on the road are Peugeot; Citroen or Renault.
- They have a decent speed limit on the motorways – 130 km/h. And cleverly that reduces to 110 km/h when it is raining. And everyone sticks to it. The French only use speed limits that have a odd starting number (i.e. drop the zero). 50 km/h in town; 70 km/h on a rural single lane road running through farms/villages etc. I have never seen a 60 km/h or an 80 km/h.
- They love traffic circles. Even more than the British. Must have been through 1000 already.Even the motorways have traffic circles.
- The road numbering system is a mystery. It seems most ‘A’ roads are motorways but we have driven on some that were single lane. Then you get B, C, D and N roads. These are followed by a 1, 2 or 3 digit number. But that gives you no indication of the road size at all. We have driven today on D775 which was a motorway and then on D3 which was a single lane country type road. And we have done it vice versa as well. I reckon they just arbitrarily assign letters and numbers to roads as they feel led.
- They are very disciplined drivers. They overtake in the left hand lane and then immediately pull back into the right lane again. Imagine if everyone did that in SA (fantasy I know).
We are now in Amboise in the Loire Valley staying at Hotel Le Vince Loire Valley (http://www.vinciloirevalley.com). It is an adequate hotel just outside the town centre. We are only here for 1 night. The rooms are quite small but we all managed to fit in to watch a DVD this evening (French television isn’t my thing). We did go into the town (which is quite nice) for dinner and we walked around before and after dinner including walking along the Loire river. The valley is very pretty. We haven’t really gotten much feel for the whole Valley and tomorrow we will drive a little more of it as we are quite close to our next stop before we hit Paris.
It is now 10:35pm and we sitting in our room with the window open. The sun has finally set but the last 6 or so hours have been rain free and it has been a really pleasant evening. We even sat outside to eat. If it stays like this then I might even be able to wear a pair of shorts tomorrow!
(Sorry about the lack of pictures today!)