After several years of living in one of the smaller countries in Europe*, and an island to boot, you do tend to forget just how far one can just drive on the old continent. Since Aer Lingus weren’t yet doing direct flights to Toulouse, we decided it would be a good idea to fly to Paris, rent a car, and then drive down. It’s not that far, we’ve done it before, we thought to ourselves. Well, yes, but we have rather gotten out of the habit of those long drives. So it was long, and in the tiny Chevrolet Matiz we had been given by Hertz, it was rather rough. Not only was the car the size of a small yoghurt pot, but it has the same suspension as one and the engine of a small lawn mower. I would love to see Jeremy Clarkson do a review of it, but unfortunately he probably wouldn’t fit inside it, and I don’t think they do convertibles.
Anyhoo, once we were underway, it was time to indulge in one of the forgotten pleasures of the roadtrip: car games. The one we usually play is one I spontaneously invented one day, while bored on yet another long trip: it’s called Buzzard. It involves spotting buzzards. But only when they’re perched on the fence along the side of the road; buzzards in a tree, on the ground or in the air don’t count (these strict rules evolved over the course of many years of Making It Up As I Went So Hubby Would Score Less Points Than Me). This might seem frightfully boring and unlikely to happen, but down in the South West of France, you would be surprised by how common buzzards on fences can be. I think our record score on the one trip was something like 18-12. Of course, if you’re in a country where buzzards are less common, you can adapt it to the local fauna. In fact there is a very similar game mentioned in the most excellent film Eagle vs Shark, where they spot horses…
So on the trip down, I won with a pathetic score of 2-1, in spite of the gloriously sunny weather, the buzzards were being very shy. Or maybe they had somehow found out about our game and had decided to thwart our attempts to pass the time, for we saw quite a few of them in trees and flying around and I was left cursing my stupid rules. As we left the long, relatively straight lines of the A20 motorway and chugged off along the twisting roads of the Lot, we passed many alocal, leaning on their spades or their fence posts, watching us drive past as if we were the first car they had seen since 1965. I’m always torn when we go to see Hubby’s parents, between the loveliness of the countryside and the heartbreaking state of them and their house. It’s so sad when people just let go. But let’s not get bogged down in that.
During our 7 day stay, we clocked up over 2000km in our little yoghurt pot car. We saw a few buzzards, a lot of motorway, friends, family, and a few lovely places. In fact, on our way back up to Paris, a long, 7 hour trip, we took the main roads rather than the tolled motorway for a short stretch, and drove past the Hotel where the Tarte Tatin was invented, and one of the Cheateaux de la Loire! When using the car for needs-only transport, we do tend to forget the niceness of a road trip, long or short, just for the sake of going somewhere new. In fact, after many years of being driven around by my parents, it’s nice to go anywhere without having a massive argument.
Go on, go for a ride. Count the buzzards.
*Of course, I am only referring to proper countries, not the silly little ones like Andorra or Luxembourg.