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Was driving in France a problem for you if you don't speak French?

Was driving in France a problem for you if you don't speak French?

Nov 14th, 2007, 01:43 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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oh, I think they can do just fine -- as long as they are good drivers and pretty competent. But you never know about some people (like above). I've had people ask me a lot of questions that baffled me also (including tourists where I live).

It probably wasn't the Centre, but the Ville. That isn't a common word for a city in the US that I can think of. It is common to add it onto the end of some other words for a city name, but I don't think some folks can make those kind of linguistic connections (and probably never even thought of the ending -ville at the end of city names as meaning anything) -- like Rockville which is a town not too far from me.
Christina is online now  
Nov 14th, 2007, 01:59 PM
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Hello Iwan, possibly because your brother lives in California something like ville would click with him..as you know California has so many nonEnglish town and city names..although in Spanish not French.

I think the answer lies with your brother..is he comfortable driving in France? When we went to Italy for the first time (the 1970's) for two months we had reserved a rental car. Even friends here in N California that spoke Italian thought we were crazy. My husband who loved to drive did just fine, even in the large cities such as Milan, Rome, Florence and Naples. He did not speak Italian but three years of Latin helped. But a lot of people I know wouldn't have considered it and still won't even though they know some Italian. So I think the bottom line is how your brother feels about driving in France.
LoveItaly is offline  
Nov 14th, 2007, 02:22 PM
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Michel_Paris nailed it. First, you must get good LOCAL maps, (i.e., the yellow Michelin maps), plus a road map for France generally (the red Michelin map). Second, have a good navigator (either a GPS or co-pilot). Third, there are very few highway signs to "I-101 North." Instead, it will say, "Avignon" or "lyons." You will have to study the maps in advance to know the cities close by, even though you do not plan to stop at them, so that you can recognize the general direction you want to go. Fourth, don't sweat it: some of the best times are when you get lost!
zorrosf is offline  
Nov 14th, 2007, 04:15 PM
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Okay you wiseguys: If driving in France is so simple, please provide me -- instantaneously -- with translations AND explanations for the following VERY common signs:

1. Sauf riverains
2. Un train peut en cacher un autre
3. Stationnement interdit sur les deux bords
4. Attention: fauchage
5. Le paiement s'effectue uniquement par carte bancaire
tedgale is offline  
Nov 14th, 2007, 05:19 PM
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I drove for 12 days in France (Burgundy and Provence) and found the roads were generally in excellent condition and they were very well marked.

Our little VW diesel did an excellent job on the highways (easily cruising at about 140kph). It's only issue was the acceleration was horrible. Crossing a major road was a bit of an adventure.

Only real issue we had was that some of the autoroute toll booths refused to take our credit card. At one, the person manning the other booth actually got out and let us thru manually (without having to pay).

In general, I wouldn't worry at all.
astein12 is offline  
Nov 14th, 2007, 08:11 PM
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Ok tedgale, here I go (remember I only took one year of French and I only know present and future tense. When I wanted to indicate past tense, I used present, waved my hands and said, "hier". (and they usually understood!)

1. Sauf riverains = no rvs?
Seems to me it was something like that (the only sign I actually recall even seeing)

2. Un train peut en cacher un autre
One train is catching up with the other one?
One train needs...something else. Hopefully not a conductor.

3. Stationnement interdit sur les deux bords
a. Stationary (vehicles?) are not permitted on these two lines
OR b. don't cross the double line?

4. Attention: fauchage
Watch out! (for what, I have no idea. not a cow, I know that's vache).

5. Le paiement s'effectue uniquement par carte bancaire
This unique and effective pavement accepts credit cards.
No, must be something like you can only pay with an (effective) credit card. In a toll booth?

Ha! Now you know why I only point. My husband does the actual driving (and reacting).

FYI: We will be driving this year only in Spain. You're safe.

Iwan2go is offline  
Nov 14th, 2007, 08:48 PM
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Un train peut en cacher un autre

Something about one train may be hiding (or blocking?) another. So maybe there are two tracks?

Stationnement interdit sur les deux bords

Parking is prohibited on the two borders. Meaning, I'm guessing, that there's no parking on the shoulder? Something like that. Don't park!
cheryllj is offline  
Nov 14th, 2007, 08:51 PM
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1. Sauf riverains - (Access prohibited) except residents

2. Un train peut en cacher un autre - one train may hide another (if there's a train standing on the tracks, beware of another that you can't see coming down another track)

3. Stationnement interdit sur les deux bords - no parking on the sides

4. Attention: fauchage - watch out for mowers

5. Le paiement s'effectue uniquement par carte bancaire - payment can be made only with a bank card
Robespierre is offline  
Nov 14th, 2007, 09:28 PM
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Well, that was no fun. I missed the one I thought I had and got the last one. sort of.
Iwan2go is offline  
Nov 14th, 2007, 09:52 PM
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No worries, Iwan2go:

The signs follow international standards, so a no passing sign looks the same in France as in Italy, Norway...

Road numbering and sign posting is great in France: even the tiniest one-lane country road is numbered, which makes it very easy to stay on scenic byways.

But you cannot say it too often: you need a decent map. Not a "US state map" type of a map of France, or of "Southern France", but one from Michelin for that very specific region. It's much more fun to drive when you can also find the byways on the map...

But even with my 5 yrs of French in high school, and living in a country neighboring France, there have been situations when I had to guess.

The only traffic sign in French that left me speechless when I saw it the first time was in suburban Denver, Colorado: Cul-de-sac.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Nov 14th, 2007, 09:56 PM
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If your choice is to drive and see French countryside or not drive and not see it, I would drive. And the suggestions are good. Learn a few signs in advance. Study your maps so you know the cities and towns along the way to follow signage. And here are a few more. In a roundabout, go around however many times it takes until you figure out which exit you want. At a gas station, if you can't figure out how the pumps or your car works just stand there by your car. Eventually someone will come out of the station, you shrug your shoulders and then they will put the gas in for you. Overall, just use a modest measure of caution, drive defensively, expect that you will do something wrong, hopefully not too dangerous, and enjoy the trip.
laurie_ann is offline  
Nov 14th, 2007, 10:34 PM
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Our only problems were finding our way out of Paris in the direction of the Loire Valley after picking up a car at the train station and returning the rental car to Charles de Gaule airport. We didn't know the rental return is in the airport building/parking structure. We had assumed it would be on the outer edges of the airport with good signage. So here are the tips to make it go better:
1) If starting from Paris, train out to some place like Versailles and pick up the car there.
2) Yes, good detailed maps. You can buy at Barnes and Noble.
3) Usually the back of the DK Eyewitness Guides for that country will display photos of common road signs which should be reviewed in advance.
LeslieC is offline  
Nov 15th, 2007, 03:40 AM
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No one has mentioned the round abouts. These large circles at intersections allow you to go around and around until you are sure which exit you want. The drivers in/on the circle lane have the right away, so you have to kind of sneek in. We were a little shy the first time we encountered them in France, but after getting used to them, we think they are a smooth way to get to your destination. Our town is building one now at our biggest intersection, and it is great except for those who have never encountered one. We drive all over France except in Paris where the drivers are almost as bad as the native Italiens in Rome.
GerryBonj is offline  
Nov 15th, 2007, 03:41 AM
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Incidentally, note that credit cards are normally referred to as "CB" on signs, i.e. carte bancaire or carte bleue.
Although a previous poster hinted that a foreign credit card couldn't be used to pay autoroute tolls, my experience (with an Italian credit card) has been that it is accepted.
furs is offline  
Nov 15th, 2007, 04:01 AM
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As UK visitors we find we can use our credit card to pay for petrol or tolls if there is an attendant who puts it through much as a merchant in a shop would.

However, our cards are not accepted by the pay-at-pump machines common in 24/24 petrol stations.

This can be an issue on Sundays as many regular petrol stations are closed and you're usually restricted to the 24/24 ones that accept credit cards only.

These days we always ensure we've a full tank on Saturday afternoon but once in the past we had to rely on the kindness of a stranger who allowed us to use her credit card and pay her in cash.

On our last trip we did find a few regular petrol stations open on Sunday but most were not.
Kavey is offline  
Dec 25th, 2007, 03:49 PM
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Can you rent a car with GPS? I don't own/need a car here in New York, so I would rather not have to buy a GPS for an upcoming trip to Provence . . .
s_rk is offline  
Dec 25th, 2007, 05:46 PM
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I had no real problem driving in France. The only exception was when I was trying to return the car to the return place at the airport. Usually I can figure that sort of thing out in most languages, but the French for car rental return had me stumped. Finally got a gendarme to lead me to "Voiture du location."

I may not have that completely correct, but it was something similar.

My trip to France was the first time I'd had experience with roundabouts. I had no idea who had the right of way, and I made a few enemies...
Pegontheroad is online now  
Dec 25th, 2007, 06:09 PM
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About 2 years ago I went to Provence and the Riviera, with the exception of a few days I was on my own driving all over the place. I don't speak French ( although my car did) and really had no problems (well no major problems). Found it quite enjoyable. A link to my report which includes a bunch on the driving part.

laartista is offline  
Dec 25th, 2007, 07:34 PM
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I notice that this thread goes way back 6 weeks,, however:
Gardyloo: FUN-NY !!!!

OriginalPoster....shouldn't be a problem IF your brother studies some basic French at home and learns road signs!!! AND some greetings etc. Driving in FRance is fun , and usually rental cars are in good shape. (We , have however, experiences this to not always be true, but we speak a certain amount of French and it helped.(lived 3 years in French speaking W. Africa,,and it pops back into the head even after 25 yrs)

lwan2go: You yourself can be a good testimony to your brother about the ease and fun of driving in France...IF he learns some words and signs.
mari5 is offline  
Dec 25th, 2007, 08:43 PM
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I was amazed that all the motorways seem to lead to the town of Sortie.

which is twinned with the town of Umleitung in Germany.
Michael is offline  

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