Can you teach an old dog to stick shift?

Mar 24th, 2002, 04:56 AM
Posts: n/a
Can you teach an old dog to stick shift?

Really, how intimidating are the roads in France? I'll be sharing the driving and agreed to go with the cheaper manual but I haven't driven one in years and years. I decided to take some lessons before going, which pretty much cancels out the savings on the car, but at least I'll have a new skill when it's over. If we survive, that is. Is it a piece of cake, as some have said, or do you agree, as others do, that I'm out of my mind?
Mar 24th, 2002, 05:47 AM
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The roads in France are no more intimidating than the roads in N. America. The drivers are fast so keep to the right lane, out of their way, if you are determined to "meander". Take a good, detailed map with you, or a Michelin atlas. A road map of the whole of France will not do. We use a Michelin "Tourist & Motoring Atlas" and the scale is 1 cm = 2 km. It's rather a big thing but we tear out the pages we will need and put them back in the atlas after we get home.

Oh, and good for you to learn to drive a manual again. It's so much more fun.
Mar 24th, 2002, 06:07 AM
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Thanks so much, Norma. If I conquer the stick shift, I can cross it off my "100 Things to Do Before I Die" list!
Mar 24th, 2002, 06:46 AM
Brian Kilgore
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The first piece of good news: you are not in England, so at least you'll be on, from your perspective, the right side of the road.

That will allow you to concentrate on shifting, not on avoiding crashing.

Try to drive for the first couple of days on fairly flat roads. It'll take you a little while to get the hang of starting and stopping on hills, so save the French Alps for the second half of your trip.

Don't forget to use the parking brake when you are parked, since manual transmission cars can roll away more easily with just a nudge to the gear shift.

You'll have to limit your coffee drinking while driving, but, in France, it's more fun to stop at a cafe anyway.

And, since you've driven a manual transmission before, you're relarn easily.

My friend Tim, who was 69 at the time, reported a successful return to manual transmissions on an Italian trip last year. You'll be just as successful, I bet.

Mar 24th, 2002, 06:47 AM
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My family just got back from France and we drove through the countryside. We also opted for the manual bec I have read that even if you reserved for an automatic, there are so few of them you might still end up with a stick. My husband who has not driven a manual for the last 20 years found that it was just like riding a bike, we had stops and go's when we picked up the car but after a few minutes, it was smooth sailing from then. He got a little bit confused when we got back bec he wanted to shift gears and his left foot was looking for a clutch. It depends upon where you are going. We trained from Paris to Caen and picked up our car there. We opted for a full size car and we got a Volvo S80, which is what I drive here, only mine is automatic. We then drove around Caen and vicited the DDay memorials, then Bayeaux, Mont St Michel, then on to Loire Valley. The highways are pretty much like what we have here but be careful driving through the villages bec they can be small and winding, it made my 2 sons in the backseat sick. In the small towns, you cannot be a timid driver, don't be aggressive though. It was so much fun driving the countryside than the highways. Oh and another thing, they have roundabouts there instead of four way stops, so make sure you know the name of the next town you are headed to or you will get lost. I was my husband's navigator and I give him a heads up of the next town we were headed so he knows to look for the signs when we get to the roundabouts. What really helped was the Michelin map I purchased at Barnes and Noble, then I went to their and printed out the maps of the particular cities we were staying i.e Caen, Bayeaux, Mont St Michel and Tours. It was really a great help. We returned our car at Tours and took the TGV back to Paris. The children enjoyed the train ride and my husband did not have to deal with the crazy Parisian traffic. By the way, do get the cdw insurance for the piece of your mind. One less thing you have to worry about. If you have any more questions feel free to e-mail me. Have a fantastic trip. Rene
Mar 24th, 2002, 07:15 AM
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Hi Meander,

The roads in France are not really intimidating at all. Countryside driving is fairly straight forward.

The challenge is more along the lines of adapting to signage, roundabouts, narrow city/town/village streets etc.

Planning your routes and having a good navigator/spotter is is the key to success. And unlike the U.S., European drivers follow the rules - slower traffic to the right, use the left for overtaking (passing) only.

Our experience was that the speed differential between the fastest and slowest traffic was quite wide, making traffic awareness the key to a safe drive.

Another technique that worked for us was, when in a city or town; park the car and walk or use public transportation for getting around. Not that the driving was so much more difficult (excluding Paris), but finding a parking space can be a chore.

For piece of mind, you may want to make sure the car you rent has enough luggage space to hold and conceal your luggage. And as a final thought the cars we have rented in Europe require that you 'pull up' on the ring of the shift lever to allow the gear shift to be put in reverse. (Knowing this helps get you out of the rental lot without looking like an idiot).

Have a great time.

Mar 24th, 2002, 11:36 AM
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Thank you, thank you all! What a great help! It's like having my very own support group--Shiftless Anonymous, maybe?
Mar 24th, 2002, 12:40 PM
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Make sure that you are told the gear sequence before you leave the rental desk. Including REVERSE!!

When on a trip with my family 30 yrs ago,we flew between countries and so rented a different type of car in each country. Each had a different way to get into reverse, and my father seemed to forget in each country to find out how.

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