On the Road AgainOctober 7, 2019 in France ⋅ ☁️ 16 °C
Driving in a foreign country can always be a rather stressful activity. Not only do you have the challenge of driving a completely unfamilar vehicle, but you also have the steering wheel on the wrong side of the car and a wrong side of the road to drive on. When you combine this with the challenge of navigating out of a big city, it is not a job for the faint hearted.
At least we knew that the rental car agency was not far from our hotel in Nantes. Or at least it wouldn't have been if we had taken the correct route. We had awoken to the unwelcome sound of steady rain and this was still falling as we headed out the hotel door in search of the Alamo car rental company. With a name like that, I half expected Davy Crocket to be waiting for us with the car keys.
Although we had Google's navigator to assist us, for some reason the navigation seemed to desert us at the critical time, only to reawaken in time to remind us that we had taken a much longer route than necessary. We even managed to include a couple of flights of stairs and a bridge crossing, just for good measure.
We were probably not a pleasant sight when we arrived at the rental car office. The rain had saturated our bags and made us look like drowned rats. At least they were expecting us and they actually seemed to think that we would be pleased when they informed us that they had replaced our selected car with another of about twice the size. There was a good reason why we had chosen the compact Peugeot. When you are driving through medieval villages with narrow cobblestoned steets, the last thing you need is a giant SUV. But that is exactly what we were given.
I had never even heard of a Peugeot 3008, let alone know how to drive one. All I could see was that it was huge. Genuinely huge. I immediately had awful premonitions of trying to park it in tiny parking lots and trying to squeeze it down streets that were designed for small horses. On a more positive note, it was supplied complete with a fancy GPS navigational system, which was just as well. Although we had taken our faithful TomTom GPS with us, when we went to turn it on we discovered that the last person we had loaned it to had somehow switched it to Spanish and we couldn't figure out how to return it to English.
I sat in the driver's seat in the driveway of the rental car depot for what seemed like an eternity, before I finally mustered the courage to enter the motoring maelstrom of Nantes' peak hour traffic. The first few km were the worst, but gradually I discovered what each control did. The car even had some sort of undercar cameras which showed what the car was currently driving over. That was a first.
Before long we were hurtling down the tollway at 135 kph. The rain was still pouring down, but I had found the windscreen wiper switch, so it wasn't too much of a problem. I still haven't discovered how to turn on the adaptive cruise control.
Our destination for today was the moderate sized city of Rochefort. We safely arrived there around 3 pm and found that the city looked like it had been having a hard time of things. The shops were invariably run down, as were just about all the other buildings in the town. It was a far cry from the magnificent buildings we had seen in St Malo.
The most amazing attraction we discovered in the city was a full size reconstruction of a sailing ship. We thought it was just some sort of museum piece, but it was actually intended as a playground for children. In case the thought of having your child swinging through the rigging about 10 m above the deck was enough to scare you, the sign did clearly warn that "it was only for children 6 years or older". I guess they do care about safety after all.
We had booked an apartment for the night and were relieved when we were able to find a parking spot right outside the front door. A visit to the supermarket and boulangerie gave us all the ingredients we needed for a delicious dinner. We were even able to take advantage of the washing machine to catch up on our laundry.
Tomorrow we continue our drive another 340 km to the Dordogne Region.Read more