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Need Reassurance

Old May 9th, 2005, 12:57 PM
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Need Reassurance

I just found out one week before my trip beginning 5/11, that's in two days (to Paris, ending in Rome for 26 days) that one of my travel companions cannot go. Here is a rough itinerary:

-2 nights Paris, reserved hotel
Pick up rental car in Paris then...
-5 nights unreserved to explore Bruges, Belgium and parts of Germany
-1 night Hallstatt, Austria reserved
-1 night between Hallstatt & Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland unreserved
-2 nights Lauterbrunnen reserved
Return rental car in Geneva, Switzerland
Fly to Nice, France
Remaining almost 2 weeks training through Italy ending with 3 nights in Rome

Here's where I need reassurance, it is my 47 year old female self and 2 19 year old girls (my daughter and her friend). I've never been to Europe, can't wait...but if I knew my friend (who is my age-ish) wasn't going I probably would have taken trains instead of renting a car. I grew up driving in Chicago and have driven many highways in America, we are staying away from the big European cities, and I know that driving without understanding the language and the style of driving will present challenges that I was more than willing to tackle with another driver and two other alert passengers. My daughter will take the seat of navigator, so I think we will be covered there, and I expect to get lost a few times!! It will be part of the adventure. I'm just wondering if driving will be so much of a challenge that we'll wish we cancelled the car to take trains instead, yet there really isn't enough time at this point to plan to switch gears, not to mention possibly cancel some reserved spots that may be less reachable by train travel. Reassuring comments welcomed!
terri58blue is offline  
Old May 9th, 2005, 01:15 PM
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You are going to have a WONDERFUL adventure! This will be an experience you and your daughter will never forget. You're teaching her such an important lesson about going out and doing and not just sitting around wishing you were doing.

The great thing about having two girls is that when they want to do something you don't want to (shop, shop, shop) you can let them go off on their own while you read, journal, relax in a cafe..... The girls will learn to be independent. This is going to be so great!

Have a fabulous trip and come back to tell us all about it.

(How was that? )
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Old May 9th, 2005, 01:19 PM
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I actually find driving in parts of Europe easier then here. The signs are usually very good.

My only concern is the Paris part. Where are you picking up the car? I picked mine up at CDG and it was fine, but I am not sure I want to drive in Paris itself.

My other suggestion is to park on the outskirts of towns and walk or take taxis in. I find it easier to park and walk around to find the hotel etc. rather then blindly drive in.

Also make sure you have insurance. I use my Diners Club which used to provide excellent coverage. (The changes they are currently making are probably going to change my thoughts there!) I did bust a headlight once and I paid nothing.
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Old May 9th, 2005, 01:36 PM
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One very important thing: in most european countries (certainly in France and Italy) the left lane of highways is for fast traffic, the right lane for slow traffic. So if you go slowly stay on the rightmost side, and use the lefmost lane only to pass.

Couple more things:
on highways in France and Italy the speed is maybe 10-15 mph higher than in the US and driving style much more aggressive.
Unfortunately in Italy there are many, many a***les that stay on the left lane going way above the speed limit and will flash headlights at you expecting you to move out of the way. also for this reason stay out of left lane except for passing. All the above is for multilane toll highways.
Traffic in Paris and Rome is pretty crazy, use your rear mirror.
And, of course you know you can't turn on red.

Didn't mean to scare you but to give helpful tips from experience. I'm Italian and I've driven extensively in Italy, France, US. My suggestions are also motivated by watchingthe my american girlfriend driving in Italy.

you'll be fine, don't worry!
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Old May 9th, 2005, 03:27 PM
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Thanks Grasshopper for your encouraging remarks. CarolA I debated the rental pick up location and received some advice on my chosen pick-up location of Gare du Nord since it is fairly close to the A1. I could change it back to CDG, but thought the hassle of taking transportation back to CDG and dealing with the airport outweighed the risk of driving for a short distance inside Paris city limits. I could be wrong here. My pickup date/time is Saturday at 1:00p.m. Maybe all Parisians will be napping or at home for the weekend? Just kidding. So I'll continue to think about that one and change it tomorrow to a CDG pickup if I have a panic attack! And thanks to Matt and the rest for your helpful hints and tips. Thankfully, I won't be driving in Italy at all. You've all been very helpful!
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Old May 9th, 2005, 03:50 PM
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Have a terrific trip! You have some beautiful destinations before you.
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Old May 9th, 2005, 04:17 PM
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Sounds like a great trip! I would like to pick up on one of Matt's comments about certain Italian drivers. The driver who picked us up at the airport was one of them. We hit speeds in excess of 170 km/h on a 100 km/h road and the headlights were flashed a lot. Also in Italy watch out for pedestrians. They have the right to cross in front of you in places marked only by stripes of (often heavily worn) white paint on the road. It's pretty hairy for the pedestrians too!
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Old May 9th, 2005, 04:24 PM
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Matt: "In most european countries...the left lane of highways is for fast traffic, the right lane for slow traffic. "

In that respect, these highways exactly resemble the highways of North America.

Except that many people here are lousy drivers who do not respect the following immutable rule:

The left lane is for passing, PERIOD.
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Old May 9th, 2005, 04:27 PM
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Stick with your plan to leave from the Gare du Nord. Also suggest using www.mappy.com for any route planning. Have a great trip!
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Old May 9th, 2005, 04:32 PM
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I just want to give you encouragement for your trip. Things never go quite like you plan them when traveling... you just got a jump start on it!

Maybe that will be your good luck charm for a smooth ride the rest of the way.


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Old May 9th, 2005, 07:23 PM
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Good point Suze - the bad news is I have to see Europe without my friend...the good news is...I'm going to Europe in less than 2 days...the bad news is I'm leaving my sweet husband and 15 year old son...the good news is...I'm going to Europe! Thanks again everyone for your support. I love this site - will try to give a trip report sometime after my return.
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Old May 9th, 2005, 10:28 PM
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Hello terri58blue, please listen to me on this. It is not uncommon to start feeling some anxiety regarding the unknown, a new country, money, language difficulty worries plus seperation remorse as you leave loved ones at home.

Whether other travellers admist it or not most people shortly before they leave on a trip have these feelings, one way or another. And yours is componded by the fact that your friend has backed out at the last moment.

I understand completely what you are going through, honest.

Now, may I offer some positive thoughts? You and two wonderful 19 year old women are traveling together to Europe. Lucky you!!! They will add so much zest and fun to your trip. Traveling with that age opens up a whole new world, honest. They get one out of their rut.

You have your travel plans. You are going to beautiful areas in Europe for 26 days. You will have the most fantastic time. It will be a trip that the three of you will always remember.

No doubt you are a bit tired and overwhelmed getting this trip together. And then the sudden notice that your friend could not join you no doubt deflated you. Are you prepared at this point? All documents put together, with photocopies in case any original gets lost? Bank (ATM cards), credit card companies etc. notified that you will be in Europe for the dates you have planned so no freeeze put on your accounts. Clothes etc. planned for what you will pack?

Imagine all of this has been taken care of.

Soooo, please try to get some decent sleep during these next days. And eat properly. And know this. Your trip will be wonderful. It will be something you and your dear daughter and her friend will look back on forever with fond memories. All will be wonderful. And your husband and your son will have some great "male bonding" while you are in Europe. Won't that be nice for the two of them.

Try to relax these next few days. Have a beautiful trip. And please let us know all about your trip after you return home and get settled in. Peace!

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Old May 10th, 2005, 02:58 AM
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Hi blue,

Have a great visit.

>My daughter will take the seat of navigator...<

She should start reviewing her maps now. Nothing is quite so frustrating to a driver as a navigator who says, "We should have turned back there...I think".

Before you leave the rental agency parking lot - know how to put the car in reverse, know how to open the gas cap, know how to raise the hood.

Don't let your tank go below 1/2 full - especially on Saturday.

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Old May 10th, 2005, 10:42 AM
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Thank you LoveItaly for your most encouraging words. I cannot tell you how much they have helped me. I wondered if you were a counselor? The logistics are in order and I am now ready to go with all the great encouragement and practical advice from all of you on this site. Thanks ira about the car/gas advice, I may not have thought about some of that. Thanks and great travels and blessings to everyone...I'm off to the airport midday tomorrow!!
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Old May 10th, 2005, 02:50 PM
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Hello terri58blue, how nice to see that you are now feeling better. No, not a counselor except as a mother, grandmother, stepmother etc.LOL. Just know that these feeling we all experience from time to time get us overwhelmed and then we start questioning our own abilities. Sure has happened to me a number of times, I assure you. But in the end everything always turns out just fine.

And leave it to dear Ira to give you some very good advice regarding the rental car. I never even thought of that.

Do have a beautiful trip. I know you will. Take good care and enjoy every moment!
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Old May 10th, 2005, 03:10 PM
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Having had experience driving and getting lost in France, Italy, and Spain, I would like to suggest that you buy good road maps and review them before you go. Something we found helpful was to review the traffic signs and common words we would encounter such as stop, merge, speed limit etc. We had a bit of a confusing time in France until we stopped and purchased a BIG English/French dictionary. It was much better when we knew what the signs meant. Watch the round abouts, they can be confusing. You will have a wonderful time with your girls. I am leaving in less than two months for Benelux with my 17 year old son. It will be quite an adventure as I am sure your trip will be also.
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Old May 11th, 2005, 02:45 AM
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Probably too late, but it would have been nice to rent a car navigation system. They're cheap and will save you hours of searching.

Otehr than that, the Swiss, especially near the Italian borders sometimes behave like mad drivers on the freeway. Italians can be just as bad, but they usually drive the smaller, less intimidating cars. Stay away from the big cities and you'll do just fine!

Ow yeah, when visiting Belgium... traffic on the ring around Antwerpen is a big mess this summer (reconstruction works... sigh!).
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