Sunday, May 25, 2014

France 2014: Onward to Bargemon

The most direct route from Lyon to Bargemon includes using toll roads and is supposed to take 3 hours and 55 minutes to go 423km.  The "scenic" route, taking the back roads, increases the time to almost 6 hours to go a shorter distance of 386km. When you take the toll roads, the GPS tells you something like "Drive for 90km", and then is blissfully silent for the next hour until the next step needs to be announced.  When you take the back roads, the GPS pipes up about every two minutes to advise you that you can drive for about 900 meters, and then you need to take an exit at the next roundabout.  It is an unending barrage of instructions that need to be paid attention to.

We had decided we didn't want to take the toll roads, both to save some money and to have a more scenic drive.  It was quite stressful though to have to interpret a new turn or roundabout every few minutes.  On one such occasion, we missed the turn and accidentally entered the toll zone.  This brought on a new set of issues when we tried to use our Canadian credit card, which was not accepted.  The lane that we chose was credit card only so we could not pay cash either and there were cars lined up behind us so we could not back up.  Eventually (after what felt like forever), an attendant came out, took pity on us and accepted our cash to process manually.  We have since learned not to try to use our credit card on the tolls, and to pick the lane with the green check-mark, which takes all payment methods (not the blue rectangle that means credit/debit only, or the orange T for those cars that have toll transponder).  But once we entered the toll, it was fast, peaceful driving on a straight stretch of highway for long periods of time.  We concluded in retrospect that this is worth it if you are going distances longer than a couple of hours.

We have found that in a roundabout, if you are not sure which is the correct exit to take, the best thing to do is to go around a few times (like the Griswalds in European Vacation) so that you can check out the signs on the exits again.  Making a snap decision guess and taking the wrong spike can sometimes lead to a very time consuming detour.   Sometimes it is difficult to tell whether some road is the "first exit" or merely a laneway into someone's driveway.  And often the signage on the exit indicated by the GPS has no resemblance to what the GPS sounded like it said verbally.

Several times the route that the GPS picked for us was blocked by temporary construction.  In this case, we had to turn the voice off, ignore the GPS and drive far enough away so that it would pick us a new route.  Otherwise, it continually tried to make us go back to what it thought was the best route, not realizing that the road was closed.

 As we approached closer to Bargemon, which is situated on a hill, the roads started to get more and more steep, windy and narrow, with barely enough room for two cars to pass each other.  We gave silent thanks to the fact that we stood firm on our request for a smaller car from the rental agency and refused their offer for an "upgrade". Sometimes the turns were so sharp that you do not see the vehicle approaching from the other direction until it is right upon you.  Already a nervous passenger under the best situations, I find these roads quite harrowing.  At one point I glanced at the GPS and realized that although it felt like Rich was driving at break-neck speeds for the given road conditions, he was actually driving only about 50-70% of the allowed speed limit!  Either the GPS is wrong, or these French drivers are really skilled and a bit crazy.  If we drove at the speed limit, I think we would lose control.   I made sure not to tell Rich about the speed limit, since I thought he was going fast enough as it was.

The scenery was definitely beautiful on the drive, when I was brave enough to look at it.  Thanks to my intrepid husband's excellent driving, we arrived safely in Bargemon.

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