Tag Archives: Driving in Europe

Driving me round the bend

Thinking about a self drive holiday?  Maybe somewhere overseas.  Mmmm – you might want to think about that a little more before you commit.

Now I know some people are quite happy with getting on a plane and flying into the Great Unknown, picking up a car rental and heading out into the Tarmac Universe.  These people have my utmost admiration.  They are fearless warriors.  They deal with toll roads and signs in Cyrillic script with equanimity.

I have had clients who have done that “idyllic” trip to Tuscany travelling in a beautiful convertible luxury vehicle while popping in to visit unique wineries and rustic restaurants. There was nearly a divorce along the way.  You see the only problem was the navigation.  Maps can be interpreted in different ways depending on which way up you are holding it and how good your Italian is.  Sometimes your spouse (who is doing the easy part – driving) doesn’t quite understand the challenges of the navigator.

Shut up Dear – I am concentrating on the map

Even if you can read the road signs sometimes the rules of the road are quite different and even though Canadians are getting used to roundabouts the ones found in the UK can be baffling.


There is no doubt however that depending on where you want to visit sometimes the convenience and independence of having a car trumps even the threat of divorce and nervous breakdown.  Many of the little villages of Ireland, Cornwall or Portugal could only be discovered in your own vehicle and there is something really special about finding that spectacular spot where you can park and eat your Cornish Pasty or fish and chips.










Picking up a car at a major international airport in a strange country is something you might want to avoid.  You will find yourself suddenly plunged onto a motorway along with 18 wheel trucks driven by maniacs.  Exit signs flash by while your wife tries to read the map the car rental company kindly gave which bears no resemblance to anything around.  The windows start steaming up because everyone is getting agitated.  You have no idea how the controls on the dash work and this is all beginning to feel like the punishment you deserve for all the bad things you have ever done in your life.

What did we do before GPS

I can’t think?   We used maps ….. and had arguments.  Here’s a riddle.  What would you rather be?  The Driver or the Navigator?  Depends where you are I suppose.  Take Ireland…. now there’s a good one.  Lots of ring roads which most Canadians dislike.  You have to have been in the situation to understand how frustrating it is when you are going around the ring road for the third time and your soul mate (who is driving) is shouting “Which bloody exit?”.

Of course it is not made any easier by the fact that you opted to go with a stick shift car.  Yes I know why – it is much cheaper.  I agree.  But if you are driving in Britain or Ireland remember that everything is on the wrong side – the gear stick, the indicators, the solid white line.  This doesn’t make driving in a strange place any easier and if you do burn out the clutch (which is pretty much guaranteed) then it will come back to haunt you in your back pocket.

That’s why a GPS system in an automatic car is the ideal choice for a self-drive vacation.  The soothing tone of the lady in the GPS will calm down any concerns over getting lost.  She never gets flustered.  When you take a wrong turn she just sighs silently and then re-jigs her position calmly advising you to take the next exit and then do a u-turn.  Maybe us women/navigators can take a lesson from that.  But then the lady in the GPS is always right and her feelings are never hurt.