Heading Out of Paris
Day 4 Saturday 25th September 2010
Collect Rental at Montparnasse, drive Southeast to Macon, Stay at Novotel.
Chatter – he says
Day 4 started early as we had to pick up a rental car and drive down towards Annecy, a town in France on a lake near the Swiss border. After another home made breakfast, we headed to Gard Montpanasse to collect the car. Within the station, we found the sign to the rental cars. We followed it carefully, then at the great hall, all rental car signs disappeared. We asked several people, then finally a young guy manning a Swatch stand gave us detailed directions that included going up 3 stories, negotiating to the far side of the station (several football fields wide) beyond line 24, walking to the far end of platform 24, (several more football fields long) climbing to a fourth level, then following the recommenced signage to the car hire counters. Only the French would leave directions out of the most complex part of wayfinding signage.
This fourth level was at street level. After all paper work was done, instead of the car being brought up to daylight, we were directed down to the basement 4 floors below us, where we were told we would be met – which we weren’t. We found the person’s office eventually, he gave us a key, and said go over in that direction, use the remote key lock and your car will identify itself. This worked, and I could not help wondering why we weren’t given a tour of the car to make sure we could drive it. Such an expensive item, and all trust! Our car proved to be a small manual Renault. The basement where it was parked was very dark. It was hard to work out how to open the boot, read the gearstick and other essentials, so we decided to drive up to street level and sort things out. After trial and error, we got the car going in the right direction, tried to consciously manoeuvre to the right side, and get into the light. We parked in a taxi stand, mounted the GPS (named Paul – but should have been called Kim or Mary after 2 Radio NZ broadcasters, as it always butts in whenever males are talking) which we had programmed the previous day to take us out of Paris, and got underway.
I take my hat off to saloon racing car drivers who switch from left to right hand drive from week to week. They don’t have the luxury of the time I had to deselect the driver’s door handle when changing gear, or deselecting the wipers when using their blinkers. (Paris roads are a racetrack, so there is some similarity there with said drivers) even on a Saturday morning.
Paul worked a treat. We had no trouble following directions and getting out of Paris into the open countryside. Despite the GPS, there was no room for complacency when driving. It takes constant concentration to drive a RHS manual car after a lifetime of driving on the left. Compounding this, I was getting a cold, which 10days later would still be with me.
It was a delight driving southeast through the French countryside. Paris was behind us and its bogey was fading. About 100km short of where we wanted to be that evening, exhaustion set in. As we passed through the nondescript city of Macon, we decided to find accommodation and rest. Not much accommodation was available, because something was on in town– not sure what – but we did find a room in the Novotel – a building that looked as though it was purchased in a Soviet auction of the Kremlin. It did the job. Before going to bed, I checked emails through the wi-fi (pronounced wee-fee). Somehow the connection stuffed up my email settings, and my settings for entourage (Microsoft outlook equivalent for the Apple Mac) were changed so that I can now only download emails, not upload them. (I use webmail now for sending). Jenny searched on the internet and found some accommodation for us at our next stop – Annecy, and booked it.
My cold set in that night just for an added bit of a challenge.
Chatter – She Says
Stuffed with more home made croissants and jam filled pastries, we said goodbye to Michelene, and managed to leave on time for Montparnasse station as she was occupied explaining the exhausting routine of a running a French B&B to a new set of Australian guests. The Australians had explained to us earlier that the strike we had encountered on our first day was because the workers of France were at odds with the govt. that wanted to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62yrs. For the average French person, who already works a 35hr week , this was being seen as an extremely harsh request!
As “He says“ has explained, despite French efficiency, we managed to pick up our hire car (an ugly little Renault that we have called ‘Victor’ as it has VC on the number plate) and drove it out off the car park into the middle of a very busy Parisienne street. Quickly Kevin pulled it over to the side off the street and a little rattled we “reconfigured” (GPS language). We then turned on Paul, our GPS, and once his calm authoritative voice rang out, telling us to “turn around, drive 150 metres and take the second exit at the roundabout” we felt more confident and set of on our journey out of Paris. As we drove along obeying Paul’s instructions to the tee, Kevin stopped opening his car door every time he went to change gears, and I started to lose that sense of anxiety that I had not felt since I had been going out in a car with Nick and Claire when they were learning to drive. It did take me a long time to stop saying nervously “stay on the right” every time we negotiated an intersection, which must have been a little annoying for Kevin.