Thursday, February 22

Travel Advice for Road Trips

April 2006

I am just going to cut right to it. This is the best piece of road travel advice ever to be given. Ready now? Okay, here it is: The best tip for road travel in France (or anywhere in the world for that matter): DO NOT LOCK THE KEYS IN THE RENTAL CAR! It's just that simple. Do not under any circumstances make this mistake. Really. Just DON'T DO IT. Especially do not do this if you are in a rural area on EASTER SUNDAY where there are not likely to be garages open or assistance available until the following Tuesday morning, as Monday will be “second Easter day” and the shops and businesses will not be open. If you are going to have this particular adventure, it may make it easier if you speak the language of your host country, as that makes asking for help and explaining your predicament much easier. However, if you don’t have this skill, then charades and over-exaggerated facial expressions can help to get your point across.

Are you ready for the story?
(Admittedly, the lead in is funnier than the actual story, but nonetheless I will now share the details.)

It was Sunday afternoon and we were bound for the province of Normandy to see the D-day beaches. As is common for a family traveling with children we made a stop to eat. The stop was of course at a McDonald's, because as is also expected for a family with children (who seem to be hungry ALL THE TIME) this is the easiest, fastest, cheapest way to eat on a road trip. And it also gives great space for the toddler of said family to run around and make some noise. This so-called ‘Normandy Beach day’ was day four of our trip and we had covered miles and miles of France. The kids generally are fabulous travelers, even on very long road trips, but they were hitting the end of their rope with each other. To remedy the bickering situation in the back seat, Don decided to move Andrew’s car seat to the center of the bench allowing Ian and Emma to sit on either side. Thus eliminating the “you’re touching me” conversations which had become habitual the last 100 kilometers or so. Don went to the car, adjusted the car seat and returned to the restaurant. He had a very odd look on his face as he approached. I queried if everything was set. He raised his hand in front of his face in that “talk to the hand” kind of wave and said
“I’ve just locked the keys in the car”




So, what do you do in the middle of rural France on a holiday weekend when you have locked the single set of keys into your rental car? You rely on the kindness of strangers. Over the course of the next few hours and with the untiring effort of a young McDonald’s (French) fry cook, we were able to find a local garage that could come and unlock the car. This was no small effort, believe me. Yet, when the truck arrived, it wasn't all that big an effort for them to jimmy the lock and open the door. En Voila! Our keys! We dipped deeply into our pockets to pay the fee and then we were back on the road again. And remarkably, NO ONE was fighting. Believe it or not, we were already laughing about it, determined not to let it ruin the day or the adventure.
Just before we left Leiden for that journey, I received an email from a friend saying:

Hope you have a fabulous time in bonjour land!! Happy Easter to you too. Wow, someday you'll get to say "remember that Easter that we spent in France?"
And I say, Yeah. We will never forget our Easter in France.

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