Tag Archives: driving

Tour de France

21 Oct

I’ve just got back from a week’s holiday in France. I don’t think I have ever been on holiday to another country by car so this was a bit different because we drove 1’000 kilometers to Bordeaux. The main reason was because we wanted to bring back some wine and that isn’t possible when you fly. It also gave us the opportunity to stop off in a few places on the way back.

Here is a bit of what we did while we were away:

Bordeaux

I went to Bordeaux last year and one of the conditions of going back there was that I could go back to eat crab at Le Crab Marteau. Dinner is basically a huge crab served with potatoes and sauces. Delicious! The couple on the table next to us were also British but she obviously hadn’t come face-to-face with a crab before eating it and actually hid the crab under a napkin so that she didn’t have to look at it!

We went to the Dune du Pilat, the biggest sand dunes in Europe. This was an incredible place to go to. The sand dunes are huge and great fun to climb up. It did start to rain a bit while we were up at the top and I can imagine getting caught up there in the rain wouldn’t be a great idea.

We visited Le Cité du Vin which I hadn’t been to before. It’s a museum about the history of wine and has lots of interactive exhibits and information about the importance of wine in French culture. A free wine tasting was also included in the price.

We also visited Musée du Vin which had exhibits about the history of wine in Bordeaux and information about how bottles are corked and how wine barrels are made. There was also a tasting at the end and we were able to learn more about how the wines in the Bordeaux area differ in taste.

St Emillion

We stopped at this small village for a day. I found the whole place fascinating. We took a tour of the underground church and learn so much about the origin of the place and who Saint Emillion was. Of course, the village only really exists today because of the wine industry and it isn’t uncommon to see buses full of tourists arriving each hour before rushing onto the next place. I might write another blog about St Emillion in the near future because I enjoyed it so much.

Lyon

We only had a bit of time in Lyon. It was a shame because there are lots of things to see here. Our time in Lyon was mainly to break up the journey on the way back. However, we did get to see the Roman ruins and to the Basilica at Fourviére which is spectacular. You never need to worry about going hungry in Lyon as there are restaurants on literally every corner. Once again the weather was kind to us and we could enjoy a long walk along the side of the river.

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Burgundy

We spent two nights staying at a chateaux in Burgundy. It was a great location to be based to visit some other towns. The village of Beaune was only a 20 minute drive and we visited Hotel-Dieu, a Medieval hosptial that was sent up help the sick and dying by a wealthy couple and was in use until the 1980s to look after the elderly. The ticket for this museum was also valid for entry into the Musée du Vin, which was another museum about wine.

We also had some time to visit a mustard factory. The Edmund Fallot museum still uses traditional methods to make their mustard and the tour was interesting. We could also taste some of the various mustards (curry mustard anyone?) that they produce and we got a few free samples to take home with us.

Staying with the mustard theme, we drove the next day to Dijon. By this time, we had seen enough wine degustations and mustard shops! They have a owl trail that you can follow around the city and see the main sights. So, we did that before heading to a wine expo that we had been invited to by the owner of the chateaux that we had been staying. All of the sellers at the wine fair were small, independent people and it was interesting to see how many different wines were produced in the region that we had been staying in.

All in all, a very successful trip. I personally learnt a lot about wine and mustard. It was nice to have a small break from reality and to be able to try some new wines and foods along the way.

Driving on the wrong side of the road

4 Dec

After a four year hiatus, I have taken up driving again. I say driving but I actually mean crawling along at a snail’s pace while wondering why the gear stick is not near my left hand and someone tells me to get on the right side of the road.

For me, driving on the right hand side of the road will always be unnatural. I learnt how to drive in England (admittedly after far too many lessons) so to me the left hand side will away be the right side of the road.

It has begun to get easier, although I have had some hairy moments. I went out for a night time drive straight after work a few weeks ago and it terrified me. The road and the surroundings look so different at night and it certainly doesn’t help when you are not familiar with the road and an exhaust examiner gets right up behind you and completely blinds you with his headlines in your rear-view mirror. In case you are wondering, yes it was a BMW driver.

The rules and regulations, like everything in Switzerland, are numerous. The signs on the road are different to home. For example, when an advisory speed limit is no longech-vorschriftssignal-ende_der_hochstgeschwindigkeit_50_generell-1-svgr valid, the number is just crossed out like the one here. It leaves me wondering what is the speed limit then? Why don’t they just have a sign with a new speed limit so it is clear what the limit is. Part of the reason must be because you are heavily fined in Switzerland if you are over the speed limit and if you are over the limit by a certain percentage, you automatically lose your license. There are no speed awareness courses or points to be put on the license here.

Also different is how you enter the motorway or the autobahn. In England, when you want to exit the slip road you can pull into the main carriageway if there are no vehicles obstructing you. In Switzerland, even if there are no vehicles in the next lane, you must wait until the solid white line separating the slip road from the main carriageway turns into a dotted line. If the police catch you doing this you have to pay an on-the-spot fine of 6o CHF. Who makes up these rules? Although I believe this is also the case in Hong Kong and, I would imagine other places around the world.

If you leave your license at home and are stopped by the police, you will have to pay a fine because you need to have all relevant documentation on you.

Today I drove to the airport and watched some of the airplanes land and then drove back home. All in all, I was a lot more confident and I am hoping that, after a few more sessions out on the road, I will be okay to drive alone and not cause a hazard to other road users. However, part of me still thinks that it was always feel like taking a bath with my wellies on. We will see….