When I first moved to the South of France I decided that I would need a car.I’d never driven in the area or on the right hand side of the road come to that but I couldn’t see how I’d get around without one. Of course, I quickly found out that the area has a super efficient bus service but ho hum.
Anyway, I was told to buy a small car just to start off with; I’d had big, fast sports cars in the UK. So I went from a 5 litre, 480bhp, V8 to a little red Fiat 500. Don’t get me wrong, it was really cute but not quite what I was used to. As I’d never driven on the ‘wrong’ side of the road before my brother arranged for a contact of his to take me out in my new car; he’s a chauffeur and ended up becoming my best friend (but that’s another story).
After about 20 minutes I was in a cold sweat, I had a headache and I feared that my hands would have to be surgically removed from the steering wheel, I was gripping it so tightly. Unfortunately, things were about to get a whole lot worse as we’d reached the outskirts of Monaco. It suddenly seemed as though cars were coming from every direction and hundreds of scooters had appeared out of nowhere. My co-pilot was marvelously calming and very patient but I was starting to get a bit panicky (to say the least) so he suggested that we park up for a little while. I agreed that this was a great idea and he directed me to one of Monaco’s underground car parks – OH MY GOD!!!! I am firmly of the opinion that all ,bar one, of these carparks were built by crazy people who hate cars and/or drivers and have no spatial awareness whatsoever. The entrance was tiny and the car park itself was an ‘escargot’ design which meant that it went down in spirals, which seemed to me to get smaller and smaller. To make matters worse, there are high kerbs to both sides so, unless your positioning is spot on……………crunch!! That sickening sound of car body work against concrete – the first day of owning my new car and I’d wrecked it. I pulled into the first space I came to (well I just sort of abandoned the car) and did the only thing I could think of – I burst into tears.
I subsequently discovered the most excellent bus service that ran every 20 minutes between my village and the centre of Monaco and didn’t use the car for another 3 months.
It is often said that either extreme pain or extreme pleasure will drive us to do things we didn’t think possible. In my case it was the thought of standing on a bus (it was the height of the tourist season) for 30 minutes in temperatures of 30 degrees+. One day I just decided that I couldn’t take it any more and so retrieved my little car from its parking space. I got lost,twice, I was a bit panicky but, most importantly, I did it and I’ve never looked back. I can now find my way around Monaco, I’ve driven to Italy (which, admittedly is only 30 minutes away) and I can even park without too many problems, now I’ve bought a car with parking sensors :O) ………….