Our Family’s (2nd) Year in the South of France
Kids and Castles - Our year with kids in the South of France

Driving in France

When we first got to France, JM did all the driving. It was an extra cost to get another driver on the rental car, and I wanted a chance to review my “road French” before I got behind the wheel.  But we bought a car and now I’m a Provence driver.

My first driving trip was to take the rental car back to Valence. JM drove the rental car with the girls and I followed in our recently purchased car.  (Not a “new” car, it’s a very old car that we bought cheap and will sell cheap when we leave.)

Every new experience is a bit of an adventure, and this one started with the simple task of buying gas. Should be easy, right? But for some reason the pump refused both of my US credit cards and my new french “blue card” multiple times before magically accepting the blue card. The trick was to put the card in and leave it, enter the PIN, wait the correct amount of time, take the card out, and then start pumping gas.  It must be done in EXACTLY that order or the pump scolds you in a wide variety of languages. Not sure if the inappropriate words I muttered while entering the PIN were required, but now that I have a system that works I’m going to do exactly the same thing every time.

So fully fueled, we headed to the autoroute. It’s a toll road so I followed JM as he took a ticket an went through the gate. Then I took my ticket, the arm lifted, I started to drive through, and the arm came crashing down on the hood of the car. JM is waiting on the other side, the light is green but I can’t get through, the machine won’t give me another ticket, and the guy behind me is starting to honk (not useful, sir!). I was about to start sweating (o.k. sobbing) when a lady in an orange vest came and talked to me in french. I did my best to communicate “C’est ferme! Je ne sais pas pourquoi.” which didn’t really do anything except convince the woman that talking to me wasn’t useful, but she gave the arm a big tug and I was through.

One thing that is very cool about France – the speed traps are listed in Google maps driving directions:

So now I’m a driver.  But I have a confession to make.  The shortest route to school is through our village. But the street through the village is very narrow with stone houses or rock walls on either side, a sharp turn, and lots of dogs. I’m nervous about the etiquette and practical reality of meeting another car. So I drive the girls to school the long way around to avoid it. But I’d rather blog about that then have JM tell everyone about the time that I ruined our car by dropping two wheels off the side of a narrow road with a deep concrete ditch.

Maybe with time I’ll get more confident and even start to drive like the insane French who pass each other at crazy speeds with big trucks coming straight at them, but for now we leave for school 10 minutes early when Mama drives.

5 Responses to “Driving in France”

  1. Maha says:

    Not that you probably care, but did the arm damage the car? Love that google lists speed traps. Why can’t they do that here??? And you know, going the long way is okay. I do it quite frequently, get lost and learn new things! You’ll get the hang of the short way soon enough. Happy (and safe) driving to you!

  2. Diane H. says:

    Hi Maha. The car survived without any damage. Those big foam wrappers apparently work well.

  3. vered says:

    Driving in a new place is always a little scary (I’m sure it is for men too, but they’ll never admit it of course).

  4. […] Luckily the soldiers were moving back and forth, so JM managed to talk to one of the them.  They were taking some kind of test. I guess tank drivers in France have to know how to navigate through tiny village streets (unlike me). […]

  5. […] stopped to get gas after dropping off the girls at school, which is always a bit of an adventure at our unmanned, 24-hour gas station with pumps that don’t like any of my credit cards.  […]