London -- The Cotswolds -- Paris
May 15-29, 2005
Watch out! It's one of those crazy American drivers
Car hire:  We were given a Ford Mondeo, an intermediate-sized automatic.  They offered us an upgrade to a car with a navigation system, at a discount, for a mere 40 GBP additional per day.  We politely declined.  As it was, four day's rental including a quarter tank of gas (my stupidity for returning it not completely full) was $600.  An additional 160 GBP would have been a wee bit dear.  I'm sure they all got a good laugh watching us American ladies take turns practicing our driving in the parking lot.
I wondered for a long time if I would be able to handle driving on the other side of the road.  The anticipation was more troublesome than the actual doing.  There is a tendency to drive too far to the left, and the hardest part, really, was staying far enough on the right.  I'm just glad the directional blinkers were in the same position as at home or I would have been turning on the windshield wipers all the time.  I did manage to turn on the rear windshield wipers, but never figured out how to turn them off -- so we had intermittent rear wipers going for four days, rain or shine.  Just one of those things.

Shirley gave it a try on our second day out.  She did just fine -- I was the one with the problem.  I just wasn't a very good passenger.  She got to drive a  whole two miles.  Fortunately, she is an excellent navigator.

The next morning Shirley wasn't feeling well and I went for a scenic drive on my own.  As interesting as it is to drive on the highway, it is even more interesting to drive on the small lanes.  The entire two hours I was out and about it was on roads that were one lane in two directions -- see the photograph below if you think I'm exaggerating.  Not a problem when no one is around, but terrifying when facing a truck or a bus.

We did not see any signs indicating north, south, east, or west.  Through the small villages there are signs pointing in the direction of nearby towns.  As long as you have an idea of what towns are between where you are and where you want to go, getting there is relatively simple.

Someone on the bulletin board made a suggestion to remember, "Little left, big right."  I must have repeated that to myself a hundred times, and it did help.

After driving 350 miles we returned the car without incident.  A miracle.  I was stressed before heading overseas, and did a lot of research on how to best cover the vehicle for liaibility.  I added "Preferred" service to my American Express account.  For $19.95 per rental they offer extended coverage.  But, in the end, I charged the car to my UA VISA card.  I'm very glad we did not have to find out if the coverage worked.

     Photograph by Shirley