January 28, 2014

Attention, j'arrive!!!

I speak Italian, I eat Italian but most of all I DRIVE Italian. This has come in very handy many a times. French drivers take one look at my huge stationwagon with a foreign number plate. While driving they challenge you by eye contact and at this point I KNOW that they are thinking: "Ha, a women driver!". THAT gets the beast in me is aroused.... I love to drive. And given that we live down the road of the Arc de Triomphe I have the pleasure of driving round the Place de l'Etoile nearly every day, Paris' largest road junction.

Now, this is even a challenge for me. So the first time I ventured around it in my car I took a deep breath, pumped up the volume on my Energy radio station and shouted "Yiheaaaaaaaa!" My kids took one look at me and I knew they were thinking: "Mummy's lost it! She has gone into overdrive. Too many French made her go crazy." I could see their worried faces but at the same time they could not hide the excitement in their eyes. This was going to be a ride they would not forget.

And guess what? It worked. Driving fast enough (but not too fast), aggressively pushing forward (in a way you can only manage if you know your car's dimensions down to the centimeter) and keeping a VERY cautious eye to the right, to the left, in front AND behind, the tactic works to perfection. I steered straight into the center of the roundabout hugging the Arc de Triomph (avoiding the tourist buses which drive at 2 miles and hour) and went round twice. The kids were having a ball in the back.

The tricky bit is getting back out and onto one of the twelve straight avenues including the Champs-Élysées. Luckily French drivers stick indubitably to the rule of right-hand drivers have straight-away which helps avoiding accidents.

Place de l'Etoile at night

There is an urban myth that motor insurance companies will not cover driving around the Étoile, which is not strictly true. Insurance companies generally cover motor accidents only on the Étoile under a knock-for-knock agreement, whereby each insurance company will pay for losses by its own policyholder, provided that the other party's insurance company agrees to do the same for the other policyholder.

So, next time you go around a round-about, shout "Yihaaaa" and think of me navigating around the Place de l'Etoile.

View from the top of Arc de Triomphe 
down Champs Elysées

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