Sunday, 29 September 2013

Driving in France

Hilarious, challenging, stressful but when you get you're head around it, actually pretty good.

And an amazing improvement on England.  Basically because there's far fewer trucks. The roads are just as narrow, everyone drives on the wrong side, including me most of the time but there's far less congestion and it's all pretty smooth.

Bicycles. It seems they own the roads and can do whatever they want with complete impunity. Everyone slows down and patiently waits for a chance to go past.  They ride 2 or 3 abreast, taking up whole lanes and no body cares. Amazing, but I suppose understandable when you consider how popular it is here.  In UK the bicycles take their life in their hands and are just crazy, here they are a protected species.

Motorways. Three points to make here.
1st no one travels in the left (inside) lane. They all sit in the outside lane, move over to overtake, and then back again. It makes things really easy and there's never any angst.
2nd, they tailgate like you wouldn't believe.  Seriously! If I wasn't warned I'd freak out, but it's very normal apparently.

And 3rd, the speed limit is 130 in the dry and 110 in the wet, and the road is narrower than our lovely Hume Highway.  Ive had numerous arguments over the years about the stupidity of holding everyone at 110 in Oz. This place proves it and I rest my case.
But seriously, it's incredible to see a train of half a dozen or so cars, belting along at 130kph, nose to tail with only half a meter or so between them.  Snaking out to overtake, then back in again. All holding station and speed.  We could learn so much from them.
I don't know if they're actually better drivers, they just all follow the same conventions and it works. It really does.

Roundabouts.  Weird. Well, the same as at home really, but everything goes the wrong way and it's so hard to get used to. You have to look the wrong way! I nearly took out a nice Merc the other day in the middle of Caen, simply cause I looked the wrong way.  Good thing he was alert cause I wasn't.
The other thing is more often then not there's more then the normal number of entry roads, in any possible variation of angles.  And the GPS doesn't recognize  motorway exits as one of them.  Counting and early preparation is a must.

Navigation. Thank god for our GPS. We'd be lost without it. Literally. We hear "recalculating" an awful lot.

Driving on the right.  All good, most of the time, but there's been a couple of moments and I'm so thankful to have Janelle to remind me.  I cant imagine what the on-coming cars think.

And I've left the best till last...

Crazy one way streets in crazy little fishing villages where any semblance of a logical road layout disappeared centuries ago.
Watch the video.  Nuff said.

Hire Cars. We've swapped the Renault Megane for a Ford Focus.  I want to drive a car, not a brick. Both were manual/diesel, seems most everything is here. The Focus has this awesome party trick. If you stop in neutral and take your feet off the throttle and clutch, the engine cuts out, then restarts as soon as you touch the throttle.  It takes some getting used to.

Anyway, we've been here almost a week, traveled over 700 kms on all kinds of roads and I haven't hurt anyone or marked the car (touch wood) so between Janelle as my extra set of eyes and chief road sign interpreter, we must be doing something right. She hasn't got her head around actually driving here yet, but her day is coming. Watch this space.

The awesome Mont St Michel!

Did anyone notice that I missed a day. I hope not.

Ok, this was a big one.

The building of Mont St Michel was commenced over 1000 years ago, and has undergone numerous restorations since. There's part Roman, part Gothic, part medieval, and part French Revolution.

Out of all the clips I took, I've put together 2 vids.

The first is just random stuff as we climbed up higher and higher, the second are bits and pieces of the guided tour we went on, including the entire intro.  There was no point filming the tour itself, too much and too crazy, but these clips will give you an idea.

And a bunch of random pics in no particular order.
This first lot are pics of the gallery photos on site.

And these are the shots I took along the way. Don't let perspective fool you. This camera has an amazing zoom.


We were left in awe of the engineering, the effort and the amazing scope of it all.
However, tips for young players. Be prepared for large bus groups all traveling together and blocking the roads. And Americans who know everything. Seriously. I even overheard one conversation about seeing England just across the bay.  Don't these people ever look at a map?