Well, first and foremost, I wasn’t planning on doing this road trip at all. I inadvertently ended up with a return ferry ticket for myself and my Mini, and had shelled out too much to cancel/change the details. So, Newhaven – Dieppe was my destination, whether I liked it or not.
I decided to take the opportunity to do another of many firsts since Mr T left me…take a ferry from my fair isle, cross the channel and drive around a country. Since I had some spare time, and a spare ticket for France, it seemed logical.
Except… in theory, yes, why not? Just mosey on down to the south coast of England, starting at 3.30am in order to catch a boat (do we catch boats?) in some torrential rainstorms following a heatwave. (Ok, we’re talking the UK here, so in reality we had some heavy rain after two quite warm and sunny days). Drive through France from Amiens in the north to the French Riviera in the south, via the French Alps (no snow at this time of year but some dodgy hill starts might still be the order of the day at some point),in a car whose steering wheel is on the wrong side, on the wrong side of the road. Without anyone being there to back seat drive for me (sometimes this can be useful), or see around lorries/tractors/blind bends when attempting to turn right. For 3 weeks. By myself. Using another language. Extremely badly. What could possibly go wrong?
Ok. So I’m British. I drive a British car, right hand drive. I drive on the left hand side of the road. However, what happens when I take my car to France as I will be doing in a few weeks? In Europe and various other places they, for some inexplicable reason, have decided to drive on the wrong side of the road. What does a solo traveller do, when trying to overtake that tractor on the French country road? How does one remember to drive on the right when bombing along, listening to “I feel free” at top volume? This will be a continuously updated list of nifty gadgets that I have come across for the solo traveller (or, I guess, any traveller).
Where possible I will include websites of where the products are available. I tend to use websites where possible, as I detest going into actual shops where I might come into contact with people. Never my strong point. I also like to get excited when the postman knocks at the door with yet another parcel of stuff. This is especially thrilling if I’ve ordered lots of stuff and so I don’t know what’s in the actual parcel.
The page will be continuously updated as more nifty gadgets are found…
1. How to overtake those pesky tractors/caravans/lorries bringing tomatoes from Spain to the UK… This is a nifty gadget I found on ebay. It’s produced by an inventive Polish company and is very simple to use. It consists of 2 mirrors which stick to the windscreen on the passenger side. They act as a periscope. One mirror does the job of the imaginary passenger, looking out of the left hand side of the windscreen. This image is then reflected on to another mirror which faces inwards. The solo driver simply looks into this mirror, and hey presto. One can see around the pesky traffic.
2. Remembering which side of the road to drive, and keeping to the speed limit. Those johnny foreigners use kilometres instead of miles. What to do if you don’t know your left from your right, and you’re number dyslexic like myself and unable to convert mileage into km? These handy stickers will help. Simply stick them to your windshield and you need never worry about where the hell you’re going again (well, they won’t stop you getting lost but at least you’ll get lost legally).
3. Bloody toll booths on toll roads. How to pay the money when in the right hand seat and the booth is way over to the left? Avoid doing yourself a mischief with this nifty gadget. https://www.saneftolling.co.uk/articles/enjoying-the-benefits-of-telepeage For a small outlay, a gadget can be stuck in the top of the windscreen which will automatically pick up a laser beamy thingie (never said I knew how the science works). Sanef, the French motorway operator has now extended its Liber-t automatic toll payment service to UK motorists. To use the service all you need to do is register online and they will send you a small electronic transponder (or tag) that you attach to your windscreen just behind the rear-view mirror. As you approach the barriers, a device by the barrier will read your transponder (or tag), securely extract your unique reference and then automatically open the barrier without you having to stop.
You will receive an invoice the following month for your tolls and then around 15 days later they will automatically collect the payment in £ (GBP) from your bank account by direct debit from your UK bank account. Look for the lane with the enormous “t” printed on the road, and “telepeage sans arret” on the signage. Then drive through triumphantly, smirking at the other poor British drivers, fiddling about with Euros, cents and a crick in the neck, trying to reach the little French guy in the booth.