Saturday, April 21, 2007

Getting Oriented

The first thing that became apparent upon setting wheels in France was how similar the freeway system, Autoroute System, is to the US interstate system. Not for the obvious reason of driving on the right or for the increased utility in the use of a left hand drive vehicle, it is much more than this. The ramp designs, signage, road markings and so on are all remarkably easy to follow and, in general, drivers pay heed and obey the rules. A fabulous contrast to England, with it’s thicket of signs, flashing lights, painted roadways and forest of TV cameras much of which seems to be simply ignored by many drivers. The difference in calm and orderly behavior was immediate and very welcome.

While it may have taken some draconian methods to achieve this state of affairs, it certainly appears to be effective. As an example, a defective running light is cause for apprehension and an on the spot fine. Best also to carry a set of spare lamps for, although this will not avoid the fine, it will stop your car from being immediately impounded until it is “repaired”. Again, get caught exceeding the speed limit by 25 MPH and your driver’s license is canceled instantly. If it happens that no other driver is along for the ride, better plan to take public transport home since your vehicle will otherwise be impounded. Beep your horn for any reason other than a genuine safety issue and you risk an on the spot fine. My fervent wish is that dogs fouling footpaths will make it to the list of banished offenses sometime soon for this is a truly horrible blot on an otherwise pleasant landscape. In every town that we visited you could make book on encountering one or more piles of dog feces within 100 yards of stepping out of a vehicle – an incomprehensible situation against a backdrop of civic pride, renovation and well kept townships.

Calais is in the northern most part of France and the countryside is largely arable with grain, rape seed and similar crops with occasional small herds of white colored cattle. Spring is in its late stages and the exceptionally warm and sunny weather lent everything a post card like appearance. The French seem to be much into trees with many miles of otherwise bland secondary roads given the appearance of lush avenues by the flanking rows of trees. Numerous castles, churches and other large and ancient buildings in various states of repair, pepper the landscape and these are strenuously protected by law. We stopped briefly in the village of Miramail and took a few snaps.


Unknown said...

When do we get a blog on the wonderfull vineyards of France and what happens there. sounds like a wonderfull trip

Vicki and Don said...

What happened to the "pooper scooper"? Haven't the French heard of them yet? From looking at your looks beautiful! Hope you are both having a wonderful time! Truly enjoy reading about your adventures! :-)