Monday, September 22, 2008

Notes on Driving in France

Driving in France is different than driving in America. Or, maybe I should say, navigating is different. I’m accustomed to going by the map; we take Highway X to Highway Y, exit at Offramp Z, turn left on Alpha Street, turn right on Beta Street, and go to 123 Beta Street. Here, it just doesn’t work like that. The streets can go in any direction, and they change names without warning. I’d initially tried to drive according to my American instincts, and it was driving me nuts.

The way you navigate in France is by signs. You figure out what is the next major town or landmark in roughly the direction you want to go, and follow the signs on the street. As you approach that intermediate destination, you look for the signs which route you to the next destination. It reminds me of packet routing through the Internet. It sounds crazy, but it works. The signs will route you through all of the twisty-turny streets, along the one-way streets, and keep you going in the right direction. If you make a wrong turn, you either double back to the last sign, or you drive ahead until you see another sign.
I’m not sure if this method would work quite so well in a large city, but it’s been very effective here in the countryside. We’ve been having a marvellous time, and haven’t had (much) trouble finding what we need to find. It’s rather liberating; I have the confidence now that we could take off driving wherever we want across France.

GPS is just a crutch. We don’t need no stinking navigation system!

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