Arrival in France

You need to understand that we hadn’t slept since Thursday night.  We boarded the Icelandair flight at 2:30PM EDT Friday June 1 at JFK Airport in New York City.  Jamaica NY to be precise.  We landed in Iceland for a plane change.  It was almost midnight local time Saturday.  The sun was still up.  We boarded the next plane and headed southeast towards Paris.  The sun just sort of rotated in the sky, from the west to the east, without ever “setting.”  A whole night with no darkness; a little disorienting, ya think????

So at 6:30AM Paris time Saturday June 2, the intrepid travelers arrive at Charles DeGaulle Airport just outside Paris, France.  After what seemed like many kilometers of stairs and moving walkways, we collected our baggage and stood in the parking garage in front of the Peugeot 5008 SW assigned to us by the rental car company.  The gearshift had markings “R, A, M.”  There was a starter button.  On the dash was a lever with a “P.”  There were buttons and levers all over, most unmarked.  An examination of the glove box and various other nooks and crannies in the interior provided no assistance in the form of a manual or quick-start card.

After about 45 minutes playing with various buttons and levers, Google Maps printout in hand and hoping the address of our farmhouse destination in the Loire Valley was actually entered into the navigation package, we set out from the garage.  Almost immediately a major flaw in our preparations revealed itself.  Months had been spent perusing websites about the area, rules and regs from the US State Department and Icelandair to make certain we complied with the current paranoia that is air travel and did not act like the ugly American tourists of  cinema and literature, but we had not acquainted ourselves with French TRAFFIC SIGNS!!!!!  We knew “a droit” is “right” and “a gauche” is “left” but speed limits?? route signs??  traffic control warnings??  NO CLUE.  So sleep deprived, unprepared, ignorant of the signage, we set off for the 300-plus kilometer drive southwest to Monts-sur Guesnes and the farmhouse we had rented for the week……….

We knew we needed to access a road called Périphérique Sud then Route A-10.  Never saw a sign for the first road but we were able to muddle along and get on A-10.  The turn-by-turn directions we had printed were useless without recognizable street name signs.  Thankfully the nav worked except the volume was so low that it was necessary for everyone in the vehicle to silence themselves whenever “she” spoke to augment the directions on the screen—-mostly pearls of wisdom like “At the round-about, take the second exit.”  (It took two days to figure out the volume control.)


Also annoying was the distinct hesitation when starting from a full stop.  It took an email exchange with a state-side friend to alert me to the possibility the Peugeot might be a diesel—-it was!!!  But so quiet and comfortable compared to American perceptions of diesel power—noisy, smoky, the fuel more expensive than plain old gasoline…….But not in France where gaszole averaged about .20euros per liter less than petrol.  And once I understood that “M” meant “manual” mode, the sluggishness at the low end could be managed with the shifter levers on either side of the steering wheel.


So about four and a half hours after arrival in Paris, after a journey of around 334 kilometers, tolls in excess of 25euros (about $1.25 to the euro), exhausted and famished, we arrived at Monts-sur-Guesnes and the farmhouse that would be our home for the next week.  

One thought on “Arrival in France

  1. Hope you keep writing. Enjoying reading of your adventures. My sister drove a rented VW Passat when we were in England. It would cut out when we came to a stop, but started up right away when she stepped on the accelerator. It used very little gas. I hope you saved on the gas as those tolls were so high.

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