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Thursday, February 16, 2012

...driving in Paris and related things

You never really know a place until you live there.  Everything looks pretty and fun while you are on vacation, but until you spend some time there, you don't get the feel of how things work.

We have just passed our one year mark here in Paris and I can tell you now that driving here SUCKS.  There are so many levels of sucking, I will be unable to cover them all here, so I will hit the highlights...

I think I have already touched on the fact that Parisians live in their own "bubble".  They don't acknowledge you unless they have to.  They don't move if they are in your way.  Unfortunately, this bubble applies to their car and they think that this bubble means that they can stop, swerve or generally change lanes as they wish with no consequences.

You can be driving down the road and then BLAM you see headlights coming your way.  Now don't panic, they will move, but at this moment in time their lane is either blocked by a delivery vehicle or bus or maybe they just like the look of yours better.  They will see you and move but you have to beware...because their lane may now be occupied by other drivers and they have to work their car back in to the appropriate lane.

Speaking of lanes..... they are narrow and most times do not have the painted lane markers so whose side is whose is up for debate.  Thank goodness we chose a narrow car.    There are also times when the road is so narrow that it is splint; meaning that if no one is coming your way, you quickly motor down the road and get back on your side as the road widens again. There is also the phenomena on residential roads where people park on one side of the road with no regard that two cars are supposed to fit.  So again, you look to see if anybody is coming and if not scoot down the road until it widens again and hope no else has the same idea coming the other direction!

And if the roads weren't narrow enough, the motorcycles have their own set of rules here.  It seems they are allowed to make their own lane by driving in the middle between two rows of cars.  They sometimes are so close to the cars on either side, they have to travel very slowly so they can "weave" their rearview mirrors in-between the cars they are passing rearview mirrors.  (Click on picture for larger view)
See the dog on the back?
See the motorcycle making his own lane?

Yep, that's my rearview mirror,  They are that close!

Because of all this "close" driving, you frequently see this...

Kinda hard to see what's behind you now
No more mirror

Nothing a little Duct tape won't fix!

People get their mirrors knocked off all the time and don't seem fazed by it.  I've seen it happen!  They get out of their car, look at the mirror, kinda nod and then drive away....... c'est la vie.

I could go on and on and I haven't even addressed parking yet.  When parallel parking, just picture bumper cars at a slower speed bumping the car in front and the car behind until their car successfully fits between two others......  we call it "French parking".  

We are also trying to get our official French drivers license except we have run into some hellish French version of the DMV who has requested we get documentation to prove our licenses from the U.S. are really real!?!?  Even though we already have certified, notified letters from the U.S. Embassy here, they would not process our paperwork.  So we are waiting for proof from the U.S. that yes, indeed our licenses are real and we didn't make 'em at home.

You never know 'til you live there........

1 comment:

  1. Just wanted to leave a note that I was getting a lot of good chuckles out of your blog. Like you, my wife and I are North Carolinians (Greensboro) and we lived in France for 7 years, where we struggled and ran our own business and lived in a permanent state of frantic depression until we escaped in a hot air balloon back to NC in 2009. The drivers and attitudes were the same where we were (The Loire-Atlantique) but you're living in an English language mecca by comparison - We had no American food section at the grocery store, for instance. I can well remember the giddy delirium we experienced when they put the first KFC in Nantes, which we could get to via a 45 minute drive.