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.
Labels: Driving in France