car tuning

21 Aug 2007

French roadtrip update 2

Driving along in France you suddenly realise that the conventions of driving no longer apply. In England when you meet another car coming along a narrow track one of you stops and pulls over to give way. In France the cars just drive along the grass verge or up the embankment without even slowing. When this first happens it is a little disconcerting but after a while you find it quite liberating to be able to just drive on the verge or up the bank. I'm sure that this approach to driving really wrecks your suspension and if you needed to do an emergency stop on the road with half your wheels on a low grip surface you will not be able take evasive action.

The roads also have unusual rules which leave you never quite being sure if you have priority over other cars, and unless you are happy playing a game of car based Russian roulette you tend to become rather adept at emergency stops. I think all drivers visiting other countries will start off driving rather cautiously. You then encounter drivers of slow vehicles and delivery vans which have some psychic power that enables them to overtake you on blind bends!
Sign posts are pretty good and somewhat informative when you develop a basic grasp of the language with most number referring to some kind of speed limit. The speed limits are not too dissimilar to what we have over here in good old Enland, it just takes a little while to convert them from KM to Miles. I'm still struggling to come to terms with driving on the right side of the road but this seems to be the preferred modus oparandi for most of the world. One day I'm sure that we will just move over to the continental style of driving on the right and this will ensure that we get cars which are fully compatible with the rest of Europe without having to change them or get them converted and messing around with headlight.

We encountered an emergency vehicle which was following us up hill. It looked like some kind of fire engine and I'd swear the thing was powered by a 1.0 diesel engine. You look in your mirror and see the flashing lights and start reducing your speed, then you look again and see that despite your slowing up it is still in the distance. Still not being quite sure what is going on we decide to pull over and wait for the emergency vehicle to lumber past. This seemed to take quite an age and eventually we were able to slowly follow it. Next time I think we will wait and see if the hing has enough power to keep up with us before deciding to move over.

The European commission does appear to be standardising road signs and regulation across Europe which makes the transfer to continental driving a lot easier to adapt to. One thing we don't get in good old England is the breath taking scenery and the exhilaration that one wrong move in the bends will result in the car plummeting down a 2 mile drop from sheer rock face. When you get the hang of the bends and learn not to look down the sheer drop you start to enjoy the roads and actually start driving at a pace which even the locals are unable to keep up with.

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