Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Monday, March 16, 2009

Holland, will you marry me?

This country is great! So polite, organized and orderly - it appeals to my Scandinavian side to no end.

Driving here has been a pure pleasure - it's almost like driving back in MN. There's no honking, no tail-gating, no being-cut-off every two minutes. People drive the speed limit and use their turn signals. Just take a look at the following picture. This would never work in France - no one would ever obey the red "don't drive in this lane" X, unless access to it was literally blocked off. But yet in Holland, I drove for miles and miles without ever seeing anybody in it.
Compare that to the near-heart attack I had while driving in Paris Sunday night, and I am in love. First of all, I lugged my suitcase all the way over the Gare de Lyon, only to discover that the car I had rented had been vandalized the night before and no longer had any doors or wheels. Which posed just a *slight* problem considering I had over 350km to do. But the gentleman at the counter informed me that there was a similar car available at the Gare de Lyon, ie. the station that was all the way across town (but yet just a ten minute bus ride from where I live). My query of "You couldn't have called earlier today to have let me know that?" was met with a Gallic shrug. Same thing for "Isn't there anyone who could bring it over here?" Bah, madame, vous savez, on est dimanche. (Look lady, it's a Sunday). So I sighed and lugged my suitcase back up the non-working escalator and made my way towards the metro. To another non-working escalator (the second out of six that I would encounter on my way to the Gare de Lyon).

I changed at Chatelet (more non-working escalators) and finally made it to the Gare de Lyon. Only to discover that there were about a million different exits, and not a single one of them had a sign pointing towards rental cars. I wandered around for a bit aimlessly, hoping to find either an SNCF employee or some signage. I found neither, so I busted out the blackberry and googled their address.

I finally found the Europcar agency, but only after lugging my suitcase up two more non-working escalators and across the street. By this time, I was tired, hungry and running almost an hour late. Luckily the car was really there AND in one piece, so I grabbed the keys and headed out the door. Only to realize that I was now leaving from the SE of Paris instead of the North as planned. So much for my quick hop straight out of Paris and onto the freeway plan.

As I started panicking about the extra Paris driving I was about to do, I told myself "Calm down, Kathryn said it was easy to get out of Paris from the Gare de Lyon, remember?".

Side note - Kathryn, I'm definitely not saying you're a liar but I think it may look 'easy' as long as you're not the one driving!!! LOL

I finally made it out and on to the périphérique, when all of the sudden my GPS told me to 'bear left'. I thought to myself - "Which left biyatch, there are three of them??" I decided to go for the second and my heart dropped as I heard good ol' Roberta say "Recalculating route". Sh*t. Nice try but no cigar. And as a result, I found myself once again in a Parisian neighborhood and once again panicking. I'm telling you, these people are ruthless! I come from a town of 100 - it took me ages before I would even drive in Minneapolis. But I finally made my way back on to the périphérique, calming myself down all the way by thinking about the high-blood pressure medication bill I was going to send to The Company. That, and about how it would all make just one more story for my book some day.

But seriously. The car stupid troubles and the extra mileage added an extra 1 1/2 hours to my already 3 3 1/2hr drive. I ended up arriving at my hotel in Antwerp at 11:30pm. Yuck. All's I could think as I fell into bed was "Good Lord, I am never going to do this again".

Until I realized that in just a few days, I would have to return the damn car to the Gare de Lyon.




Blogger Sally said...

Wow! Sounds stressful ... but glad you made it there in one piece and are enjoying Holland! :-)

March 16, 2009 at 10:55 PM  
Blogger Juli said...

I am so glad you like it!

March 16, 2009 at 11:16 PM  
OpenID Patoo said...

Since you were saving the company money by driving in the first place, couldn't you have taken a taxi to get the car on the other side of town? Seems like a lot of work on someone else's dime!

March 16, 2009 at 11:52 PM  
Blogger Ksam said...

I actually thought about asking Europcar to pay for one for me, but I wasn't up for the fight considering what time it was. It didn't ever cross my mind to charge it to The Company though. I guess I'm not really a taxi kind of girl - I can probably count one on hand the number of times I've taken a taxi in my life (and they're probably all within the last year!)

March 17, 2009 at 12:05 AM  
OpenID Patoo said...

I think work trip + luggage + too many stairs = a taxi next time!

March 17, 2009 at 12:23 AM  
Blogger Crystal said...

wow what a trooper...i would have melted into a nervous, puddle of tears. I suppose if you can drive in Paris, you can drive anywhere right? I never even managed to psych myself to drive in Lille...the funny thing is, back home I loved driving but over here it scares the sh*t out of me...I know I'M a good driver, it's just all the other drivers aren't...

March 17, 2009 at 8:59 AM  
Blogger misschris said...

You're so brave Sam! I've only driven a teensy bit in Paris and I was sweating bullets.

March 17, 2009 at 10:24 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Good job, Sam!
Paris traffic makes my brain melt. I'm taking the kids to Paris next month- by TRAIN! The car stays home!!

March 17, 2009 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger jonnifer said...

I am cracking up at your comparison of how French people would have handled the X lane. Ha!

March 17, 2009 at 4:11 PM  
Blogger Ksam said...

Jennifer - on the way home tonight, I actually saw a car pass the rest of us in the X lane. Just as I was thinking to myself "Huh, guess I was wrong", I saw it had French plates. And then I just about died laughing.

March 17, 2009 at 8:41 PM  
Blogger Mrs C said...

What was the first station again? Gard du Nord?

I don't mind driving in Paris myself. Though I'm not a fan of CDG Etoile... :-)

March 25, 2009 at 4:26 PM  

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