Much has been written on Insiders about avoiding driving in places like Paris, London or Rome. The last time I was in Rome, when I wasn't walking about the city or using Rome's metro/regional train system, I was being chauffeured in a hired car by my brother-in-law, who handled it effortlessly. So much so in fact, that I thought to myself, "I could totally do this."
That was in 2012. Presently, I am in Paris with my Mom. Our current stay is at the Courtyard Boulogne-Billancourt (great little place; I'll write more on it later) just outside of Boulevard Périphérique. I rented a car just to take us to the Loire Valley for the day, but since the rental agency was closed on weekends, I ended up having the car for 3 days, thus opening up some opportunities which I'll expand on later. Well, you probably know where this is leading... After a couple of days of driving in France and in the Paris suburbs, I got brave, and this evening on our way back from Chateau Fontainebleau (and because I have to turn the car back in tomorrow morning), I said to my Mom, "How 'bout a loop around the ole Luxor obelisk at Place de la Concorde and a cruise down the most beautiful avenue in the world?" Her response was, "Need I even reply?" Before I knew it, we were doing laps around Place de la Concorde and l'Arc de Triomphe And laughing our heads off. Who hoo! So then we decided well, how about Place de la République and Place Bastille and then the next thing you know, we were circling around la Madeleine and Garnier Opera House (where I paid silent homage to jerrycoin as we drove by Café de la Paix.) Back down the Champs-Élysées, then left on rue Marbeuf and we found ourselves at our favorite Paris casual Italian dining spot. I parked the car in underground parking, and we finally got to relax and enjoy a well earned meal while discussing the day's activities and my triumph over the roads and streets of both Paris and France at large.
I felt like a real champ! (Okay, what I really felt like was one little - ahem, first word starts with 'B', second word starts with 'A' and no, I'm not referring to British Airways, .)
So well the point is, I learned that for me anyway, it's no big deal, and in fact I really feel like I know Paris even better than ever and the increase in knowledge of the city grew exponentially in a very brief amount of time because of it. I am quite comfortable and even confident driving in Paris it turns out.
What about others? Have you driven in Paris, Rome or London, or any other big foreign cities where the driving is what we would consider to be an "exercise in terror?" Please tell us about it. I'd love to read some stories. Don't be shy, dish it up Insiders!
I know, I know without the photo, it never happened... These aren't great (it turns out that Champs-Élysées cobblestones make for a vibratious ride, and yes I just invented a new word, I think - vibratious. ), but they're what weve got.
Great post pluto77! I have to admit I would not feel comfortable with driving around in France. Glad it worked out for you. Sounds like you and your Mom are having a good time.
Wow, you are very brave! My general rule of thumb is I do not drive in places that require me to break out my aggressive NYC driving skills. Nothing relaxing about that I did drive a lot in Japan but I do not think that counts because I lived their for 5 years and (for the most part) they are not bad drivers.
Japan counts, don't sell yourself short! Yes, the Japanese are generally good drivers, but their right-of-way laws/culture/etiquette is the exact opposite of ours (to say nothing of opposite side driving). It can be a real brain drain! It's kind of interesting in France; yes the French and especially Parisien drivers drive aggressively, but there is a certain finesse involved in my observation... It's almost like a symphony, everyone playing their part and while there is some occasional horns, for the most part it seems like everyone takes it in stride. At the same time, I liken it to an obstacle course (interestingly, the words for obstacle course in French are parcours du combattant!)
Okay, I can't lie, it was stressful, but a total adrenaline rush. I - loved it! And the freedom that comes with it (except of course when you're stuck in Paris traffic.) Still, I will do it again!
Wonderful post, and I must confess, you have way more "Gut's" than I do! Would no longer consider driving anywhere in Europe, but glad it all worked out for your Mother and you. What a wonderful time, that had to be! Here are a few photo's of some of the wonderful sights you saw:
Pluto, have a wonderful trip, and thank-you for reminding me of the wonderful memories!
Good on you,
I have driven in France too, mind you not Paris but Toulouse. BTW I used the google maps on iPhone to find all my places, totally awesome although they butcher the French address names. You just enter your destination and off you go following the prompts.
At least in France its left hand drive. I've driven in Sydney, right hand drive, your OK when your in the flow of traffic, its getting into and out of parking lots that I always took the wrong lane!!!
Don't forget the Toll highways in France, its good to have some Euro coins handy, its makes getting through the Toll gate faster.
Jerry! Your post is sight for blind eyes! I cannot express how much I have truly missed the pre Europe trip discussions that we have enjoyed In the past. Your advice is always so invaluable and spot on, your trip reports so enjoyable! It had most definitely crossed my mind as I prepared for this trip over the past couple of months, and even now as we prepare to ascend upon County Hall (oh boy, look out realm, we'll soon be on our way) - yes, my mother and I, aka a modern day Lavern and Shirley or Lucy and Ethel, ha! and we do have some stories to tell, like how our GPS lady finally gave up on us in France after too many reroutes - she told us to drive back to the rental agency and turn in the car, she had had entirely enough and informed us that she was heading to the bar! (There were times I wanted to join her!)
Seriously, so good to hear from you!
Haven't driven in France, but I did hire a car in England. The narrow streets with cars parked on both sides (2 wheels on the curb) were the most harrowing. Caught my passenger side mirror at least once (BTW, toothpaste is great for removing small scuff marks and preventing any damage charges upon return ). I thought shifting gears (manual transmission) with my left hand would be challenging, but I took to like like a duck to water.
I did not attempt to drive in London, except near Heathrow. I'm not sure I'd be up for that. I did drive in Sydney when I visited, but usually in large cities, I stick to public transit.
Glad to hear the stories as they happen. Can't wait to hear about London.
Brian, opposite side driving, especially cold turkey is brave and bold. And I know what you mean about the side mirrors. I have a story about that (from Italy) somewhere on here... I noticed on my newer rental car this time that when the ignition was turned off, the mirrors folded in. A smart design. (And I could've used the toothpaste trick this time. Good to know!)
Atta Girl.....so glad you took the plunge and rented the car. Lovely pictures and yes looks like you and Mom are having another memorable trip together as always. Keep the pictures and reports coming along as you are able, and thanks much for bringing jerrycoin out of the moth balls!!!
"The worm has turned"!
I am now growing "Wings"! I should get over being a "Mothman soon"!
Miss so many of you, and ironically, have stayed at a lot of Marriott's this year so far!
Guess I will have to get over my "Mushroom mentality"! Kept in the dark, fed you know what!
Only once have we dared to travel via auto in Paris, and this was just before Christmas. It's much easier to use trains/subway, etc.
I'd say the same for other large cities, such as London, Rome and Amsterdam, Brussels, New York City. In these cities, if I need a rental car for travel outside, I hire the car in the city and drive out, rather than in from the airport, which I find less confusing and time consuming. However, I have no problem driving in U.S. cities such as Atlanta, Seattle, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Dallas, Boston, etc.