Thursday, May 20, 2010

Motor Rambling II

While feeling much more comfortable about 'mirror' driving, I still have lingering doubts about cultural differences here in France. First, it seems totally inappropriate to leave space on between your car and the one in front for another car to pass you and then fit nicely into the merry procession along the King's Highway. The much preferred approach in Jolly Old France is to maintain a 3mm distance between your car and the one in front, waiting till there is the merest winkle of space in the on-coming traffic and the put the lives of every living soul within 50 km by whipping around you and running up the bum of the next car along. It can be quite frightening, until you realise that everyone (except 'one') is doing it.

The other really frightening thing is the bad habit that French drivers have of screaming up to a corner of a secondary road in front of one (ie me) and slamming on their brakes WITHOUT LOOKING! Get it? You are driving along the highway at the speed limit, or a bit faster, and a car suddenly appears on your right on a minor road at full tilt on a collision course for you AND IS NOT LOOKING! Of course they are always going to ram on their brakes. They know that, BUT 'ONE' DOESN'T! 'One' is momentarily petrified. One fears imminent DEATH! But the moment passes and one lives to tell the tale (in this blog).

Where the French really excel with their driving is coping with tiny spaces on the roads. Sudden decisions to effect a U-turn are treated with tolerance and understanding that would not be accepted anywhere else on the planet. Parking is another wonder of precision driving. Imagine parking so close to the side of a house that you have to pull your external rear view mirrors in on both sides (you know the way they bend in) before you park so that you can get your car hard up against the wall to leave a way for traffic to get past. The streets here are titchy! Still, with a great deal of supportive directions from Jude and Nada, Ken and I can effect the parking of our cars so that people can access their front doors and other motorists can get past. But it is not easy. Hats off to the French, who make these manipulations perfectly on a twice-daily basis!

Today we motored (just Jude and I) to Andorra. It isn't special, other than the fact that it is a separate Principality, charges no tax (so stuff is cheap, including diesel and clothing), consists of one shopping street, and is situated high, high to the sky in the mountains and the people speak Spanish/Catalan.

On the way home we saw a hedgehog trying to cross the highway. I didn't like his/her chances of survival ...


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