I'm writing this as we drive south, starting two days ago, from Zeebrugge (where we retrieved our car) to Herault...It's been amusing to say the least, and frightening to say more.
The first thing I noticed was the cost of filling up the tank: In California it costs just over $3 per gallon, which would come to around 65 centimes (.65 euros) per liter...I think you all must be used to paying a bit more here. The tank went quickly and as of tonight I only made it as far as Alencon and have already refilled.
The heavy rains are quite a treat for us, since it hasn't rained in California for about three years. When I say it hasn't rained, I mean my home -- San Francisco -- had two days of light rain in the past two years. The land is parched and the authorities are recommending that people who live in the giant suburb called Los Angeles STOP watering their lawns. Good idea.
Driving in the rain was difficult for me, and I tend to slow down to 110 km/hr to make sure I don't crash into the lumbering trucks by crossing the lanes, which are definitely narrower than in California.
But the biggest irritation is the TAILGATERS! WTF ?! They seem really impatient and come so close I can barely see their headlights. I've turned on my emergency lights a couple of times to get them to back off...but they just flash me, even when I cannot pull out of the way because there is traffic in the next lane. This leaves very little room for error. I felt righteous flashing my hazard lights because I suspect tailgating is a serious problem in France: I saw a public service billboard along the road that said something like: "Leave a little room", showing a cartoon tape measure.
At any rate, it's quite the novelty being able to speed along at 90 miles per hour, which would be a big ticket in the U.S.
The highway fares are expensive too! I think I've paid around 30 euros so far. In the US, we call them freeways...because they are "free". They've been talking about building more paid highways in the US now that traffic is getting a bit thick. I really admire the money that is put into public mass transit here, because in the US the county and regional organizations are incapable of cooperating enough to offer effective non-car transport...and the cost is sky high at this late age. So we shall probably always be a nation of freeways.
If anyone knows how to spot those speed trap cameras, please let me know. I'm trying to make it to Le Caylar before Sunday and I might need to get moving. I'm thinking I should drive at least as fast as the quickest cars that have passed me -- they are scooting along at around 140 km/hr! One solution: wake up earlier. We are still suffering jet lag after flying into the country a few days ago.
More later...and if you must tailgate, make sure it's a party!