car tuning

20 Aug 2007

Driving in France

Time to report in my sojourn across the channel. Last year we flew down to France and hired a car. At the time this seemed the most cost effective option with a flight costing as much as fuel but the cost of hire car was a lot more than we had anticipated due to the "optional" extras like fuel, collision damage waver and additional driver. The car they gave us was a new Peugeot 205 Diesel and apart from the steering wheel and pedals being on the wrong side of the car it drove like a dog. On the twisty country roads it was hesitant and stogy and seemed to have had its suspension modeled on a supermarket trolley.

This year we decided to bite the bullet and drive down, a somewhat scary prospect considering the sheer distance we needed to cover and the fact that we couldn't understand half of the road signs. Thankfully the ferry journey was very simple, with no airport style security and check in lounges to fight our way through.

Despite my initial apprehension I must say that driving in France was a bit of a pleasure. The motorway system is very well maintained and intuitive and there are good service facilities with opportunities for toilet, sleep and a good cup of coffee every few miles. I prepared a small sticker to remind me to drive on the right which is only really needed in town areas when pulling out onto main roads and this also includes the statutory speed limits for each type of road (including conversions from KM to Mph as the KM measurements are not very visible in most road conditions). There were signs up apologising for poor road surface on roads which were better than out most well maintained surfaces. Fuel economy was also better, perhaps it was the lack of congestion, the sheer distance we travelled or just the fact that the car did not have to fight with bumps and poor surfaces. Our car typically returns around 37 mpg and for a distance of over 500 miles it hovered at 42.2mpg and considering we were doing 130 most of the way this was excellent (kph not mph!)

When you get off the motorways and into the towns you see rural decay everywhere. Buildings appear to be neglected and whole towns deserted, that is until the siesta time finishes and people start arriving in their droves. Road manners were also impeccable and only a couple of drivers cut us up - something that happens every few minutes back in good old blighty. There are also an unusually high amount of old cars - real classics but with little attention or care lavished on them. (I'd be surprised if there is a French word for Restoration!) Perhaps this is due to the lack of rain and rust or perhaps the French do not place a high priority on buying new cars.

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