Driving in Europe: things to watch out for
There has been a pattern of crazy driving stories while in Europe, and there are more to come, so I thought I would discuss the differences between driving in Canada and in Europe.
My current posts are about Nafplio, but we are actually in France now, so I just wanted to add a quick update on our trip. Before we left Canada we had a plane ticket booked to Greece, and a house sit lined up in France, so we spent a few weeks in Greece experiencing the crazy driving Athens, and the Greek countryside had to offer. We took a flight from Athens to Rome for around $84 for the whole family, and then took the train from Rome to Genoa, Genoa to Nice, and on from Nice to our house sit in Carcassonne. The train travel offered a welcome escape from European driving. The couple who own the home and cats we are caring for were lovely individuals who treated us very well before they left for their trip, and even left us prepared dinners in the freezer! They also had a car available for us to use. A Brittish car. In France. Stick shift. Meaning right side driving on a right sided road with a left handed stick shift.
So without further delay, here are some of the things that really stand out to me when it comes to European driving.
NARROW CITY STREETS
We joined up with a local hiking group yesterday, and we were following the guide to the hiking location. The guide pulled his car over and one of the passengers driving with him got out to come and talk to us. The guide had forgotten his map and had to drive home to get it, but we were told not to follow. We were told the road was so narrow that even a small vehicle needed to fold its side mirrors in in order to fit!
A lot of European towns and cities, particularly in this area were built before cars, and so the houses can be quite close together, sometimes even leaning in towards each other so that only a sliver of sunlight is let through. There was one alley in a medieval town near Carcassonne that Nate couldn’t even walk through because his shoulders were too broad!
NARROW COUNTRY ROADS
The country roads are often only a single lane, but cars drive in both directions on them. The locals do not slow down, and Nate, who has been doing most of the driving, often just pulls over to let them pass, saying “Whoa Hilda!” to the old lady behind the wheel. Even when there is a double lane there is only just enough room for two vehicles, and steep ditches on either side.
NARROW PARKING LOTS
Every time we have had to park the car in Carcassonne (except for the one time where there happened to be a double parking spot free) we have had to get Felix out before parking or we would be unable to open the door wide enough, and I have had to push the mirrors in and direct Nate into the spot. One time there was only a centimetre or two between us and the other car. It is not surprising that dents in side doors are a common feature on most vehicles.
I think it is a product of the terrain mostly, but in Greece there were some interesting corners, and in Carcassonne even more so. When you see a caution wiggly road sign in the countryside outside of Carcassonne, slow down! There will be some serious zigs and zags ahead, and there is likely to be a local zipping up the other side.
HABITS OF OTHER DRIVERS
There’s a rule in France that is called “A la droite”. The road sign looks like a caution sign with an X through it, and it means that anyone coming from your right has right of way.
In Greece the locals drove like there was no speed limit, in France it is a little more tame then that, but it’s not like locals drive with caution. Nate slows down, and sometimes pulls right over to make way for other drivers, but we have yet to see a local do the same!