Road Tripping the A49

I’m sure there are more glamorous roads to take a road trip along and there are definitely more famous ones, but I’m also sure I’m not going to be the first person to trip the A49.

Where? What?

In the UK roads are labelled with the letters M, A and B with a number following the letter. Unless they’re really tiny in which case they may have a name, but they don’t have a label.  Continue reading “Road Tripping the A49”

Learning to drive on the wrong side of the road

A week spent driving on the wrong side of road has led me a long way towards completing this challenge.

A couple of weeks ago I went a long way (literally and metaphorically) to achieving this goal.

I’d been asked by a friend if I’d like to spend half term visiting her new caravan in the South of France. The catch was that I’d share the driving and help move the contents of her old caravan in Normandy to the new one in Serignan Plage. I jumped at the chance. Not only did I get a very cheap holiday and got to see some new places, I also got to work on one of my challenges.

Margaret picked me up at about 1.30am after a busy last day at school on the Friday. Who needs sleep? We spent the night driving down to Portsmouth for the early morning ferry. I took my first turn at driving her car and was pleased to be able to get used to it whilst there wasn’t much traffic about and whilst still driving on this side of the road.

We boarded the ferry and went straight to our cabin to get a few hours sleep. Once we landed 5 or 6 hours later in Caen we had to drive for another hour or two to get to our hotel near the campsite where the old caravan had been. We had time for a look around Granville before going for dinner and getting to bed.

Next morning, after the what must be the world’s nicest croissants and baguette for breakfast we went to the lock-up where her stuff was stored. Once we’d succeeded in the challenge of getting the door unlocked (hitting the lock with a stone eventually worked) it took us a few hours to load up the car and roof-rack.

Then it was a VERY long drive down to the south coast. We took turns in driving and I was surprised by how quickly I got into it. It was a Sunday so was fairly quiet and we were mainly on the motorway, so all I really had to do was point the car in the right direction and drive, but even so. By the time we arrived I was feeling quite happy with myself.

During the week and on my last day when we drove to Spain so I could fly home from Girona airport I had a few more goes at driving and this time experienced traffic lights, roundabouts, traffic jams, and so on. As my last challenge I made sure it was my turn to drive as we drove over the Pyrenees and across the border into Spain.

I haven’t quite decided whether to tick this challenge off as complete yet. I specifically want not just to have a go at driving on the wrong side of the road, but to be able to say I can do it confidently. Although I felt fine driving over the week I was in France, I’m not sure I would be as confident if I suddenly had to do it again in a year’s time. I think I’d need some time to get used to it again. Also, I haven’t driven alone yet, and it’s very different not having a second pair of eyes to look out for potential hazards. So at the moment I’m thinking of leaving this one as an ‘in progess’ rather than considering it completed.

Driving on the wrong side of the road

I’ve got an opportunity to drive on the wrong side of the road.

Many years ago I did a road trip through France, Spain and Portugal with a campervan.* I loved the freedom of being able to go wherever we wanted and the ease of being able to stop and sleep whenever and wherever took our fancy. In recent years I’ve had similar experiences in the UK, first with my car and tent, and now with my van. I really want to be able to expand my trips to the continent but I have no experience of driving on ‘that’ side of the road and the thought of doing it for the first time on my own, without a second pair of eyes, is a little bit scary. I’m not so worried about going straight; it’s going round corners that’ll get me unstuck. I know from cycling experience how easy it is to nonchalantly turn a corner and automatically turn on to the British side of the road. And as for roundabouts … well, the less said about them the better. It took me long enough to learn how to do them here without having to do them back to front.

But sometimes opportunities just present themselves. I’ve said before that having a list makes ideas more concrete and although it doesn’t necessarily mean opportunities appear that wouldn’t have done without the list (that would be weird and new-agey) it does make the opportunities more noticeable and make me more likely to jump at them. Also it means other people may be aware of what I want to do and they may notice opportunities on my behalf.

Just before New Year I was contacted by a former colleague who said she needed someone with a van to drive her and a load of stuff down to her new caravan in France. At first I though ‘no’ because she was asking about the Easter holidays and I already have plans. But the idea had been planted and my mind kept involuntarily mulling it over. Although it didn’t seem too feasible I decided it would be worth looking into to see if I could fit a road trip to the South of France into my plans for my annual visit to Germany.

Too late. She’d already found someone else with a trailer to do the job for her. But she did mention the February half term and would I fancy a trip then? She would be driving herself and so I could tag along, have a few days there and then fly home whilst she remains there a bit longer. This would mean she’d have company for the journey down and the first part of her stay there. I told her I was interested and she’s just got back to me with flight prices (very reasonable) and asked if I’d mind sharing the driving. So if I go I’ll get to have my first driving experiences on the wrong side of the road! (Does she really know what she’s letting herself in for???)

This is much better than Easter too, as I’d been looking for something to do at half term and so far none of the ideas I’d had were working out. So if things go according to plan, it looks like I’ll soon be getting another challenge ticked off my list.

*I couldn’t drive when I did my campervan trip, so that time I was just the passenger.