Here in France, there are hardly any streetlights to move traffic. If there are, they are in the busiest intersections in the middle of the cities and you can barely see them. More often than not, your passenger sees the light first and screams “RED LIGHT!” at the top of their lungs and grabs the dashboard so they don’t get a Renault lion stamped into their forehead. The reason the passenger sees the light first is because they are usually positioned on a small pole on the right-hand side of the street and they are about the size of a 1/2 gallon of orange juice. And, if you have a passenger in your car, usually their head will block the entire thing.
So, instead of traffic lights, the French love the roundabouts. I’m not sure about anywhere else in Europe as I have yet to go driving around (I sort of suspect this is the case everywhere), but I was really terrified of these roundabouts at first. Now, I have come to embrace them and actually think they are a super good idea! Don’t get me wrong, there are some places that could really use stoplights. There are some roundabouts that are so small and there are like 6 different exits, sometimes they get all clogged up and no one moves for a minute or two. But, the big ones – the really big 0nes – like the ones in Sofia Antipolis (a business eco-park that has a ton of businesses and parks scattered around) move so smoothly that I think they are the best thing ever. It’s cool, too, because you just kinda move into a spot when you can, and you rarely ever wait more than 3 or 4 cars long.
The double-lane roundabouts are a bit more scary though because you usually have someone in your blind spot and when you need to veer off to an exit, you have to be really sure that the other person is going to veer off too, or at least turn on your signal so they know and they slow down for you.
When I first came to France, in March, I was terrified of the driving! We went to Toulouse first and the streets are very very narrow and the signage is terrible. We couldn’t figure out what the white arrow signs meant. They are kindof angled in a strange way, you aren’t really sure if you are supposed to turn immediately or wait, or what.
But, the good thing about roundabouts is that if you didn’t get a chance to read all of the signs or you aren’t sure about the direction you need to go, you can just keep going around and around! And, no one will think you are a dummy because everyone is exiting and entering all over the place. You could probably go around and around for like 10 minutes and no one would even notice! Believe me, I’ve gone around and around once or twice trying to get my bearings.
Although driving in Cannes and the outlying cities is way easier than in the center of Toulouse, it is getting so much easier, as it usually does the longer you stay somewhere.
I rarely need my GPS anymore, but I know it will come in handy when we drive to new and exotic places. But, I am getting more comfortable in our new surroundings and it feels really good. I love driving Brannan to and from school because there are several different ways to go – all of them twisty and turny and full of roundabouts – but they are lined with trees and sometimes we will even see some minature horses or estates filled with cherry trees ripe for the picking!
Speaking of cherries – yesterday Byron and the kids went on a little walk down the street and came back with a couple of handfuls of ruby-red cherries bursting with juice. Brannan bit into one and of course immediately hit the pit, but he had dark red cherry juice running down his chin!
We have a fig tree in the back yard, too. It isn’t fully mature yet, but there are about 10 figs already growing on it. Hopefully next year we will get more. Our neighbor directly behind us (who we had tea with on Saturday) has a huge cherry tree, two apple trees and a mature fig tree too, so I asked if we could grab some fruits once they are ready.
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. I need to finish the laundry. I’m going to power through it today. The off-peak hours for electricity are from 12:30pm to 2pm and midnight to 7:30am. That really doesn’t give me much time to laundry! The dishwashing is awesome because there is a timer on the machine, but I really can’t wake up Byron to ask him to switch out the laundry at 2am!