Monday, January 24, 2005

Lost in Nice

Today was a fun day.

Let me preface this with the comment that I don't have a good memory for street names in an unfamiliar language. If I were writing about driving in Melbourne or Sydney or Dallas or New York I'd remember the names but unfortunately I don't remember the names of the roads here so you're going to have to put up with vague descriptions.

I'm supposed to be here another week and the people I'm here with were, as of this morning (Saturday) supposed to be flying out at various times between now and Tuesday morning; thus I was supposed to be the last one. The guy who hired the car we used to get from the Hotel to the plant flew out today so I hired a car.

Naturally, on my first day behind the wheel in Europe I wanted to go for a drive. And I'm not afraid of ambition; knowing that Italy is about an hours drive away... well you can guess what the thought sequence was.

So I set off from Nice Airport, where I hired the car. I might be very wrong but I have the idea that if I can get onto the A8 heading east I'll end up in Italy. If not I'll end up in Switzerland. Either way I'll be happy. Sounds like a workable theory :-)

It's probably still a workable theory but it has one fatal flaw. It assumes I can get onto the A8 :-)

I found myself in the centre of Nice. They're doing major road works there at the time of writing and there are many diversions. I'm a lazy driver; if I have no idea where I'm going I'll always go with the easier turns (this means that if I'm driving in a country where they drive on the right I take the right turns; and if I'm in a country where they drive on the correct side of the road I'll turn left :-) )

This led me to the 'mini tunnel' which seems to burrow below parts of central Nice. I saw a sign indicating 'Menton - Monaco' and took the indicated direction. Which led me straight into a carpark! Two cars behind me waiting for me to take the parking ticket; I couldn't back out. 1 Euro later and a drive through a carpark that seems designed on the principle of the library in 'The Name of the Rose' and I'm back on the street.

I see a sign that says 'Nice - Nord' and decide to head toward North Nice. Not an unreasonable assumption - south of Nice is the Mediterranean! It also holds out a promise of the A8. A fun drive - narrow narrow streets (by Australian standards) going up a steep hill. I got to the top of the hill and now there's only one way - down! I'm still following those signs that promise the A8.

A few minutes later and I'm back at approximately sea level; there's a river with very busy roads running down both sides. Once again those signs promising the A8. I'm driving east and I follow the indicated direction and get to a point where there are three choices. I take the middle road; it doesn't lead to the A8. Ok, I can turn around. Drive back toward the sun and turn around, eventually find myself back at the same intersection. This time I take the right road. It doesn't lead to the A8! (You thought when I said right I meant correct :-) ). So I turn around again and drive west. Find myself back at the same intersection; surely, given that there's a prominent sign pointing to the A8 I have to find it this time. No such luck. I took the left road and STILL didn't find the A8. I can see the damn road but can I find a way onto it? Not on your life!

It took you a couple of minutes to read this; it took me maybe 10 minutes to write it; and the doing of it took about 2 hours! So I turned around toward the sun yet again and followed the signs back to Nice Centrale. I got lucky; I found the major highway that goes to 'Cannes - Aix en Provence' and that took me back to St Laurent du Var (that's where my hotel is).

That highway was fun to drive. It's a long way above the ground. Remember I was driving it at 80 KM's/Hr and there's no divider between me and oncoming traffic so most of my attention was on the actual driving; nonetheless I could see that we were driving about 6 stories above the ground.

So, ultimately, I was unable to find the A8. I still had a fun day!

No comments: