Driving in Southern France: The 3 P's
My faithful steed "Juke Nisan" and I have parts ways in Nice. She was a good travel companion; we only had a few minor differences of opinion, mostly on what gear to shift into... and I thank her for her patience.
I am also thankful for what she taught me about driving in Europe, especially in southern France; it is different from North America in 3 major ways: Passing, Patience & Parking.
The Expressways in Europe are wonderful, they are 4 lanes, (and often 6 lanes), and join most large and medium sized cities. They are also fast, with a maximum speed of 130 KPH.... but you need calculus to navigate them safely and effectively. Other than stay in the speed limit, they basically have only 2 rules:
1) Trucks maximum speed is 90 KPH.
2) Stay in the right most lane unless the car/truck in front of you is going too slow, then pass in the left lane, but go back to the right most lane when it is clear.
The calculus part is that you have to know what is happening all around you; you may be doing 120 and want to pass a truck ahead of you, but there may also be a car may be a car in the left lane behind you doing 140... so do you have enough time to pass the truck before he/she sits on your tail flashing their lights? Yes my friends highschool calculus has finally become useful!
In city centres, the streets reflect their history. They were built for horses and pedestrians, with an occasional cart to clog them up. To say the least, they are narrow, and of course that also means that they are one way as well... So how do you get from point A, to your hotel on the other side of town?... Why GPS of course... without GPS to manage the route, this would be an impossible task even for Stephen Hawking.
But even with this wonderful invention, you must undertake the journey with patience because there could be pedestrians on either side of the very narrow street, or quite often occupying the centre... be Zen and have patience...
This I find is the most difficult part of the European driving experience. Not only are the parking spaces a LOT smaller (even if you have a small car), you have a whole new signage to contend with. When you see cars parked on the side of the street, you wonder how they got in there... with maybe a foot or two between each car. No, I didn't try my parallel parking abilities, I decided to go to the parking lot. Here you have a machine where you buy your parking ticket and put it in your window. You will find these parking lots in town squares, or on tree lined verges. But if you think you are now safely ensconced for an overnight stay, ... better read the cryptic signs... In the morning you may find a local farmers market where your car used to be... and your car? Towed to some pound for wayward cars.