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France's Traffic Jam from Hell

sunny 70 °F

This next entry is written in a slightly different style - more stream-of-consciousness thoughts jotted down on my phone as our car crawled thru France in the midst of the worst traffic jam I’ve ever been in. To set the scene, this day was to be my first experience with the organized ride share website called BlaBlaCar.com. Started in France, it is an ingenious and very European website that is essentially CouchSurfing, but for car rides. People post routes that they will be driving, when they will leave, and post how much money they’d like for gas from point A to point B (or C or D) and you can reserve a seat. The idea just makes too much sense to me for it not to be a good thing - people are out there wanting to go from A to B, and there are others driving these routes with extra seats and a desire to save money (and maybe the environment). On this day, I started out by grabbing a ride share from Lyon to Grenoble in France (only about an hour drive), where I met up with Emilie, my beautiful French engineer CS host in Paris, and her friend Noemie, along with 2 other ride share guests. Emilie, Noemie and I were driving down to the northeastern coast of Spain and dropping off our 2 guests, Jean Claude and Roxy, on the French coast near the border. The drive was supposed to take about 6 hours, including dropping off our passengers.

Here I sit in a car in the middle of France, listening to the pleasant french dialogue rolling around the car like a ball being passed around circle of children, I pleasantly gaze out the window and watch the countryside whip by. Occasionally Jean Claude's phone would ring with "moves like jagger"and I wondered why someone would become attached to a song in a language they didn't speak. Then I remembered Gangnum Style.

We are about 3 hours into the drive and have been stuck in an awful traffic jam for 30 minutes. Though our progress has slowed to a crawl, the feeling is not too miserable. On a bus, everyone would be miserable and complaining, but in this shared car we all knew we were in it together and determined to make to best of it.

Reminiscent of the line to get into Bonnaroo, we were soon out of the car walking alongside of it, and easily outpacing traffice. Remembering the 8 hour line we waited in to get in at Bonnaroo, I really would have liked a beer as we walked and sat on the side of the highway in the bright sunshine.

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As the hours stretch on (coming up on 4 hours since we hit traffic), our patience thins and what was once a fun an interesting adventure with no friends has slowly turned into a painful, tedious game. 30 minutes ago, all of the highway traffic was completely diverted off onto an exit leading to small, regional roads. The landscape has changed from monotonous highway to small streets and occasional towns. The towns provided welcome distraction, but our pace remains at a crawl. Small, poor towns in Europe seem to hold onto some charm from the old world. The buildings appear the same as they were a few hundred years ago... because they probably are. Old buildings like this exist throughout Europe, but outside of the larger cities, they have received less upkeep and LOOK older. It is very easy to imagine the scenes virtually unchanged from the 1600s… though now the houses have satellite dishes atop them.

After a brief nap I saw the sun setting in the distance and with a heavy heart I accepted that there would be no picturesque beach sunset tonight for me.

As darkness falls, Emilie goes to the back during one of our frequent standstills and retrieves a bottle of wine she had brought. There is applause when she returns with an enthusiasm impressive for people who had been in a car together for 9 hours at this point. Turning up the radio, we have a small dance party while passing around the wine and for a few songs we forget that we are still stuck in traffic instead of relaxing at a beach.

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15 minutes after we finished the wine and the dance party, we made it to another highway and began driving in earnest for the first time in at least 6 hours. Things were looking up and we might even make it to the beach before it was light out in the morning.

Around 1130 we dropped off Roxy, the first of our ride sharers. Her father was waiting with a car at a convenient roundabout just off the highway, making the dropoff extremely easy for us. I still marvel at how nice, efficient, and friendly this ride share thing is.

The original plan had been camping on the beach in Spain tonight, but by the time we dropped off Jean Claude after driving more than 11 hours we were still more than an hour and a half from our original destination. Thankfully, instead of having to push on into the early morning, Jean Claude invites us into the home of him, his wife, and his 3 girls. We have a very comfortable night’s sleep in his extra rooms in his beautiful home with a view of the Mediterranean. Our epic struggle is over and hopefully tomorrow gives us a smooth drive to beaches and sun.

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View from Jean Claude's. You can see the moon reflecting in the Mediterranean

Posted by danza 13:38 Archived in France Tagged traffic french ride_share french_girls

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