Late last week I met with an old university friend who, with his partner, owns a house in a tiny village, Verteuil-sur-Charente, about four hours south west of Paris. They are generously making their home available to me for ‘mates rates’ while I am in France and I am staying in the House in Verteuil for the last 10 days of my trip (yes, be jealous).
Along with a beautifully presented booklet full lots of useful information about the house, the village, and things to see in the area, he gave me a GPS device with the house and points of interest already programmed, for me to use while I am staying there. It was like Christmas, my birthday and wedding anniversary all rolled into one neat little black package.
Without exception, every person I have spoken to about driving in France has a tale to tell; of bewildering roundabouts, odd road rules that may or may not apply, stress inducing parking, impatient French drivers, phenomenally narrow village streets, and of course, getting lost.
I have a pretty good sense of direction, but in an unfamiliar country where I don’t speak the language, and driving solo on the other side of the road, the potential for navigational disaster is quite likely. And when this has occurred in my driving experiences in my home country, I have not distinguished myself by a cool headed and rational approach to problem solving and resolution. It has been more wild eyed hysteria and weepy tantrums. On one notable occasion I ended up totally lost in the Sunshine Coast hinterland on my way to a speaking engagement, eventually getting to a place where there was mobile reception and calling my husband to come get me because I was so bamboozled and unhinged. Most definitely not a shining hour, and while I could laugh about it soon afterwards, the scars are remain and they are real. The very next weekend he bought me my first GPS navigation device.
So having this little bit of technological magic with me while on the roads in France feels like a lifeline, and I am sure it will be well used. Now all I need to do is make sure I have the other essentials for driving à la française – a high viz waistcoat, a breathalyser kit, a hazard warning triangle, and most importantly, a spare set of bulbs.