The French have a way of taking English words and making them sound French: they pronounce “Wi-Fi” like “we-fee,” for example. Americans have a way of doing the same with French words, too.

This is the end of a very long day, our first day in France. I knew we had a long drive ahead, and hoped we would get out by 10 this morning and arrive by 6 p.m. It’s 11:24 p.m., and we are just getting settled. The bar in the hotel is closed, and they only have two cans of beer in the mini-bar, but I am making do.

I had my first run-in with the police in a foreign country today, and my first collision. That adds texture to the blog, at least. Dawn and I were getting off the autobahn on our way to Ludwigsburg, to get our rental car this morning, and I rear-ended a guy at a traffic light. No one got hurt, and I dented his bumper just a bit, but he said we should call the police, so we did.

I didn’t have proof of ownership for the vehicle with me, but did have the insurance and my international driver’s license. I called our police friend Eberhard at his office and talked it through with him, before the police came. He said it should be okay, and it was. In fact, the two cops (a guy and a woman) were both very friendly. They started with hearing the guy who had been hit tell his story, then they turned to me and said, “what’s your version?” I said I bumped him, and it’s my fault. They both laughed.

Luckily we had our passports, because they wanted to see both mine and Dawn’s. I had four passports on me, which they found funny, but I explained it was my family’s.

They finished by saying, “normally we would give you a fine of 35 euros for this, but this time we only say, ‘pay attention'” (the male cop waved his finger with mock-authority as he said this). Our insurance companies will take it from here.

About an hour later I got in another accident, this time with the rental car (a VW Caddy mini-van). I thought I had it in reverse as I was attempting to back up my mom’s narrow, cobblestone street, but it was in first gear, and I hit her car, which was parked in the driveway. I got a scratch on the rental van that may or may not be detected by the rental car company. We debated owning up to it when we return the car, but I think we will not mention it. Now my mom’s car is dented in the front and has a good scratch on the back. I am lucky she is COOL.

As we transacted with the guy at the rental car company, who spoke really good English but made occasional slip-ups, he asked if we were sure we wanted to pay the additional 160 euros for the second driver to have permission to drive the rental. We said no actually, and he said “I think you make a very wise dinner.” And earlier when I was saying goodbye to the cops, I meant to say “entschuldigung” (sorry) to them both, but said “umleitung” (detour) instead. That is ironic since we spent the first two hours of our long, laborious day going through umleitungs and small villages in the German countryside trying to get to the damned motorway, slave to the GPS I mocked in yesterday’s post.

The problem is that when you encounter a detour, the GPS wants to navigate you back to the site of the problem, rather than performing a workaround. So then you have to ignore the GPS as it starts nervously barking directions and instead, fend for yourself – which we did without a paper map since we thought the GPS would suffice. We only brought maps for France. And then you get so pissed off you don’t want to be sensible and stop at a gas station to buy a map, as mother-in-law and mother are suggesting from the second row of the mini-van.

We had a nice sunset though, and the girls were really good. And then the full moon came out from behind the clouds, and we enjoyed all this with some Nick Drake and then some Claude Debussy. Tired and giddy, we made it past Lyon but then hit the French version of a detour (Déviation), and had to actually pay attention in the roundabouts, following the small yellow signs pointing the way around the construction work, back to Chasse-Sur-Rhone.

So I have a lot to be thankful for now, at the end of this long day. Tomorrow should be better, as we only have four hours of driving forecast, and we’re headed south, toward the Mediterranean.

Categories: Travelogue 2009

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