We picked up a rental car in Caen, France to continue our
adventure. I ordered it online in
Calgary months ago, agreeing to a Volkswagon Jetta. Checked in and was handed the keys to a sexy 6 speed
Alfa Romeo. Same price? Oui. Oh baby!
Be careful what you wish for…
Fast is great on the autobon or wide open stretches of the
French countryside. In small towns
or villages you never get it out of 3rd. I ordered a ‘standard’ because I’m cheap and it was about a
$125 bucks less. Bad move. I haven’t really driven a stick for
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years and it was tricky getting a feel for it again. France is FULL of traffic circles. Not the wimpy kind like I’m used to in Garrison Woods where
you can slide in an out for weeks without seeing another car. These are busy in
and out spinning wheels with double lane entrances and exits. Gear up, gear down. Stop, start. Look for the exit you want, in French of course, and hope
you don’t cut someone off.
And NEVER, EVER ‘stall’ your vehicle in a traffic
circle! Initially, I didn’t know
what the truck driver was yelling—‘vee uh kohn’!!!
I looked it up – ‘vieux con’. Ouch.
Travel tip: pay for the automatic cheapskate, it will cut
down on the leg cramps.
In Europe, size matters. I ordered what was considered a compact car. Not the smallest available—one notch
up. Again, about the size of
a VW Jetta. The Alfa
Romeo fit the bill and away we go.
Everyone else in France is driving small cars. Teeny little ‘honda fit’ sized wheels. Yaris or smart cars or minis. Why? Because the towns and cities were built for horses! I’ve lost count how many curbs I’ve
hit. The Alfa has sensors in the
front, side and back to ‘beep’ if you’re getting too close to objects. Cool, right? Nope! All day
long ‘beep, beep, beep’!
Small is beautiful.
can’t say it enough. Choose
the smallest possible vehicle you can survive with — and then rent one size
smaller. You can always take the Escalade for a spin on the Deerfoot when you
get back home.