a note on driving in the South of France

Have you ever been chased by Bond villain henchmen?

The ones on motorcycles I mean, that come out of nowhere? Have you driven on roads like that? Very thin with seemingly ambiguous signs and symbols, roads that tighten up to barely as wide as your tiny Renault where suddenly you’re face to face with Michael Buble’s touring bus?

This is driving, as it happens in the South of France.

Seriously, the roads are something interesting. Roundabouts everywhere, all sort of offshoots and directions, loops and meanderings. A high speed limit that most people don’t pay any attention to. Everyone tailgates, like, all the time. Was that your turn? A free parking space? A place that probably has really good bread?

Gone. Désolé.

Too bad. And good luck getting back to it, because the road follows some old horse track around the hill and through the wheat field, and doesn’t come back this way.

Motorcycles Everywhere. At least down here near Marseilles. The kind that are exempt from traffic laws, swarm like bees, and leave you standing still when you’re going 90kph.

My rearview mirror, driving outside Aix-en-Provence


I am not complaining. I am mostly amazed. Tho I am also a bit stressed out.

It seems like every time I drive, every place we go, it’s a test of nerves, a feat. It’s like being amped up on RedBull from the moment you turn the car on, til you turn it off. At least this has been my short experience, so far.

Kim teases me, says I need to be a little more aggressive, give it right back to the local drivers.

There’s something to be said for the overlay of stress that comes from being in a foreign country, the kind that soaks into the basic stuff you do and adds to the cognitive load. I’m not sure slipping into Angry Driver mode will help that. I’m usually the calm guy behind the wheel.

When we were renting at the Marseilles airport, the nice lady asked if we would like GPS for some fee-per-day. We thought about it for half a second, and politely declined. As if we hadn’t said a word, the lady continued “Okay, I’ll just put that on free of charge then.”

I thought she was being nice. Friendly to the visiting Americans. This might in fact be true, but she was also saving her countrymen a serious amount of headaches. Kim and I don’t have roaming data on this trip ( not yet, anyway ) and without GPS with my driving, we would have been in a ditch, or out in some scenic rolling wheat field within 10 minutes.

Oh well. Soon we’ll turn in the rental and give back the GPS. We’ll take the TGV up north to Paris, then Eurostar to London. We’ll be up there for a while…  maybe the driving there is different?




3 thoughts on “a note on driving in the South of France

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