|Autoroute designation sign|
If you're an American who wants to live overseas, oh, wait, before I forget, I'm marking today, the 30th of January, 2013, as the day I saw someone actually pick up after their dog. Had I been able to competently express myself, I might have said, "Madame, I am moved by your civic pride, public spirit and sense of self-sacrifice! You, and you alone, have disregarded the indifference and selfishness of your peers by putting your community and country first. You are a hero of France and I salute you!" Or, "It's about fuckin' time."
So, where was I? Oh, right, living overseas. Anyway, if you're determined to leave North America behind, as I see it you have two options - either live where they speak the same language or where they drive on the same side of the road. If you pick the latter it leaves you one less thing to worry about as you're trying to figure out what the hell the road signs says.
One of the things you notice when travelling the highways of France, especially the Autoroute, is the almost complete absence of huge billboards like those that festoon the American Interstates. There are a few to be found in and around cities and villages and those direct you mainly to one of the large local grocery chains or gas stations. You'll also find some advertising new cars but out on the open road there are none. So if our annual Christmas trip from St. Petersburg, Fl., to Lafayette, La., had instead been from Bordeaux to Rouen, like the trip we just made, who knows how we'd have ever learned where to find a lawyer or which local bistro was the home of the throw'd roll. On the plus side, we wouldn't have seen 20 feet tall fetuses or have had to worry about whether or not we were right with God.
Much of the Autoroute system consists of toll roads run by private companies. The tolls are schockingly high but at least it keeps the traffic down. Driving from Rouen to Bordeaux entirely by Autoroute, which includes roughly 350 miles of toll roads, sets you back €62.20 or $83.70 at 1€ = $1.35. This is about the same as the entire length of the Pennsylvania Turnpike where you'd fork over a comparatively paltry $39.15. So unless we're in a hurry, and why would we be, we stay off the Autoroute. Which is a good thing since any car we'll be able to afford is going to have a hard time getting up to highway speed anyway.
So far, we haven't really needed a car and have been getting by without one, another good thing since the fiasco of renting an apartment cleaned us out. But I need some time anyway to figure out what I'll be willing to settle for, which, given the price of anything decent and the current exchange rate, is going be limited to something that will hold only a small suitcase and no more than a dozen clowns.
|Cynthia took this in Caen a few years ago. Yellow signs are temporary and we never did figure it out.|
Photo © 2013 Cynthia Hinson
Editor's note: This post was originally going to be twice as long but I decided I've been getting too long winded at the expense of posting less often. So I hope nobody minds if I make these things shorter but post more often. And thanks for reading.