Jeff Steiner's Americans in France.
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DrivingAbout Driving in France

Watch a video of a drive on a French national road, the N6. It was taken between Macon and Fleurville going north.

If you decide to drive in France, just remember one thing: more than likely you will get to where you are going in one piece. From my vantage point, that is as a passenger most times, I find the French to be crazy drivers. They have these little cars that they drive at great speeds, over 70 mph, on roads built for a horse and carriage or just a horse! They tailgate at 80 mph and brake at the last moment.

On the bright side, all French cars must past an arduous inspection every two years and that means that you don't find many clunkers on the road, but you can find a quaint French car last made in 1991 on the road sometimes, a deux chevaux, a Volkswagen bug-type car that has no get up and can't go over 50 mps.

All joking aside, during my time in France, I have not seen, let alone been in, any accidents, and if you think about it, if all French drivers are crazy then they aren't crazy, they are normal! Or, it all might be in my head, because someone else is driving; therefore, I don't have control. Speeds at which I feel unsafe if my wife drives, I feel fine, if I am driving.

Most French cars are small by Americans standards and can be hard to sit in for long periods of time if you are tall or wide. But most rental cars that I have been in are minivan types that have enough space for four people. One thing about renting a car in France: rent one that runs on diesel; you will save lots of money on fuel.

Once you are on the road, you will find driving in France to be very much like driving in the States, except the speeds. The French, being on the metric system, post all speed limits in kilometers per hour(kph). One kilometer is .6 of a mile. Therefore, if you are going 100 kph, in miles per hour you are going 60 mph. Also as the roads tend to be smaller than in the United States.

Now you are on the road, really driving in France, feeling proud of yourself, because, it is really something to drive in another country. But how do you get to where you want to go? By getting lost, of course! I have driven with French, Americans, Brits, and all sorts of other people, and just about every time we got lost, if we had never been to where we were going before. Cities can be the worst; it seems you always get in front of someone who will not let you go a kilometer under the speed limit without honking. The streets change names every block, and the signs that tell what street you are on almost can't be found until you realize that street signs aren't, most times, on posts but on buildings!

My recommendation about driving in Paris is don't! Walk, or take the best subway system in the world. Now, in the countryside, please drive, because if you don't, you will not see the true France, the France of little villages unchanged, they seem, from the middle ages.

But getting around can be hard as roads are small and road signs only show the direction from one town to another, not as in the States where the signs generally indicate the direction you're traveling i.e. north, south, east or west. Know all the towns between where you start and where you want to finish.

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