Contact Us, Travel Information, Driving Tips, Speed Camera’s Etc.

DSC_0128Someone will want a picture of the web designer, so here you go.  That’s me taking a nap on the street after a long day in Chateauneuf du Pape.

About the Author  100% of the information contained in this website is guaranteed to be my opinion.  Je suis un Americain.  I live part time in France and the rest in the US.  I am part owner in a home near Uzes, France.  Uzes is about 30 minutes west of Avignon.  My family and I have travelled within France and Europe extensively over the last 25 years. This website is just for fun, so I hope visitors will enjoy it.  It is an ongoing project.  Pictures and information will be continously added as it occurs to me.  I can be contacted by email at:  rhdmgman@hotmail.com   All of the pictures with the exception very few were taken by myself and my lovely wife.  I own the rights to all photographs and digital data contained in this website.  I will allow others to use the pictures for their own personal pleasure only.

Restaurants and Eating Out  Since food is a very personal item, I will not recommend restaurants in France.  Eating out in Provence like all of France is very expensive.  In addition, most Americans will not like true French cooking.  There are many good restaurants in France, ask at your hotel desk for the favorites in the area.  Locals only dine out occasionally.  Cooking yourself will save you a lot of money over going out.

Driving in France  Driving is fun in France.  Driving is also safe in France due to two factors.  The cars are in good shape and the drivers are skilled.  The speed limit on the Péage (pronounced pay-ahge) (toll road) is 130kph or 83mph.  The Péage is expensive in tolls, but you can really save time using it.  Also on the Péage are several gas stations and restaurants.  Gas or Petrol is expensive in France.  It runs about $7.00 a gallon, so you have nothing to complain about in the USA.  The cars, however, are much more fuel efficient.  Gazol in France is the same as Diesel here in the states.  Diesel is a lot cheaper to buy in France than Gasoline at the present.  This is because the taxes on Diesel are lower.  This will change in 2016 as the French government has decided to equal up the taxes on Diesel and gasoline.  Most rental cars in France run on Diesel, but this will change over time as the price of fuel equalizes. The French drive like they are on a race course.  But there is a good note here.  Unlike people in the USA, the French actually know how to drive.  They drive in the right lane except to pass.  The cars will immediately move back over once they pass.  No hanging out in the left lane slowing traffic in France.  They are very skillful behind the wheel, so there is nothing to worry about while driving in France. Cars in France must be checked for mechanical condition every two years.  They have to pass the requirements, or they cannot be on the road.  Therefore, most cars are newer models in good shape.

Speed Camera’s  The  Péage is nice and fast, but there are many speed camera’s installed in area’s where the police have deemed dangerous.  If you pay attention, you can pick them up.  Many are located in this odd looking structure that crosses the entire road.  It has these black squares on it.  If you are going more than 5km over the speed limit, you will be photographed.  I was surprised in 2013, when I got home in the US, to have a letter from the French Government telling that I owed 76 Euros for my speeding on the A-41 From Geneva back to Avignon.  If you are going really fast, your license plate number will be shown on an electronic sign 1/4 mile beyond the speed camera.  There are also speed camera’s on many other local roads.  They have a sign warning you about the camera’s, and then the camera’s.  They don’t stop you in France unless you are going 50+ over the limit.  If not, they send the ticket to your address from the Rental Company.  If you ever plan to travel to the EU again, you had better pay the ticket.  They will have notice at the passport entry that you are wanted by the police.

speed camers speed-camera-geneva-border
Speed Camera on  Péage Speed Camera

Black Saturday  The first Saturday (Samdi) of August (Aout) is Black Saturday.  It is the day that the entire French population goes on vacation.  Every toll road, and others as well are completely jammed with cars.  A one hour ride will take you three hours on Black Saturday.  Stay at home or walk from your hotel on that day.  Next day, Sunday, all is back to normal.

Driving Permit  Officially, you do not need an International Drivers License to drive in France, but it is a good idea to have one if you don’t speak the language.  The reason is that the permit is translated into several languages, so the cop will be able to read it.  The cop may not be able to understand your foreign drivers license.  This is true especially if you are driving a motorcycle or another type of vehicle where your home license has an endorsement.  So, unless you are fluent in French, get the permit.  They are available at any AAA office.  An International Drivers License is required in Italy.

Seat Belt Law- Wear Them  You, and everyone in the car, are required to wear a seatbelt while the vehicle is moving, or on a public street.  They have seatbelt patrols in most of the cities and towns.  They have them at tight intersections where only one car can get by at a time.  If someone is not wearing a belt, they pull you to the side. The seatbelt is only the beginning if this happens.  The cops will ask for your license, insurance, rental car agreement, passport, breathalyzer kit etc.  They fully check you out taking you through the entire drill, delaying you 30 minutes at best.  And, you will always get a ticket.  There are usually 6-8 cops at each of these.

The White Renault  Everywhere in France you will encounter the white Renault.  Small cheap car that a lot of French citizens drive.  Some of them go real slow, and some go real fast.  The old ladies like them, but drive them like demons.

Rental Cars  Set up your rental before you take your trip.  Rental cars are Tres Cher (very expensive) if you just walk into a rental agency.  Most of the time, your personal vehicle insurance company will cover both the Collision Damage Waiver and Theft protection.  Make sure you check with them first.  Also, most of the credit card companies also cover these, but they only cover what your personal auto insurance company will not cover.  Again, make sure you check first.  It is important to note that if you accept any of the addtional coverage at the rental car counter, your credit card company and insurance company will not cover anything.  Including any deductable. American Express has a program where they will cover up to $100,000.00 in collision damage/theft protection.  You have to have an American Express card, pay for the rental car with your card, and sign up for the program before your trip.  It takes about 2 weeks to get cleared on the program.  This is the best one out there.  I had to use it when I accidentally ran over a curb.  It costs between $17 and $25 for each car rental, based on the state you live in.  The $25 covers a 30 day rental period, and kicks in when the rental car company puts the damage hold on your card when you get your car.  Follow the link below to sign up for the program. https://www295.americanexpress.com/premium/car-rental-insurance-coverage/home.do

I recommend Auto Europe for your rental car needs.  Book them online at http://www.autoeurope.com/  They are reasonable, especially compared to what you would pay if you just walked into the agency in France.  The downside is that you have to pay for your car when you reserve it.  Also, you will have to pay the $25 twice if you have the American Express plan.  Reason is it triggers when you pay the rental car company.  You pay when you pay Auto Europe, and again when you pick up your car.  You can pay Auto Europe with a Visa, and then give the Amex card at the car counter.  That works too.  Now if you use Auto Europe just before you leave for the trip, you will not be charged as the period the American Express plan covers is 30 days.

Cell Phones in France  Many US based cell phones do not work well in France.  The ones that work are pretty expensive.  It is cheaper if you notify your carrier ahead of time, and tell them the dates of your stay in France.  They put a temporary program on your phone for your travel dates.  My Samsung Galaxy IV works well in France.  I-Phones also work well.  I have not seen drivers in France talking on the cell phone while driving.  It must be against the law.  Also, there is an absence of the Borg Implant, or bluetooth.  If you are on vacation, leave your cell phone at home.  After all you are on vacation.

Electrical Fixtures in France   Everything electrical in France runs on 220V.  You will need an adapter just to plug in your computer, or any other appliance.  If your appliance only runs on 110V, like in the US, you will also need a converter.  The converter drops the voltage from 220V down to 110V.  Make sure you take a couple of the adapters with you.  They can be purchased from any travel store, and most luggage stores have them as well.

General Temperatures in Southern France  Summer in Provence is quite warm.  Temperatures range from 80-88 in June, July 90-95, and August high 90′s.  So bring shorts, cool shirts and sandals.  Men generally do not wear baseball caps in France.  You will see one once in a while, but it is not the norm.  If you want to stick out like an American, by all means wear your baseball cap.  If you want to blend in, leave it at home.

Dress and Clothing in France  This has really changed over the last 15 years.  The French, both Men and Women dressed, well French.  Olive Green clothes, fashionable and well dressed.  It has become much more casual, especially in summer months.  The French generally dress just like Americans (sans baseball cap).  So you should fit in fine with your normal stuff.  Even your white tennis shoes are the norm now.  But most wear sandals in the summer.

Airports in the Provence Area  There are several airports in the Provence area.  I like Marseille airport, but others may suit you better.  Here are some links about the local airports from a friends website. Nice     http://www.niceairport.net/ Avignon    http://www.avignon-airport.com/ Nimes   http://www.nimesairport.com/ Marseille   http://www.mp2airport.com/  We use Marseille exclusively.

Long Stay Visa’s  You can only stay 90 days out of an 180 day period in France or any other EU country.  No more than 90 days.  They count them at passport check.  If you stay 91 days, you could be banned from European travel for life.  Make no mistake here.  Now if you want to stay for longer than 90 days, you must get a “Long Stay Visa”.  You must apply for this before you leave for France at the French Consulate in the USA.  You will have to show that you have sufficient funds to last for the period you wish to stay.  You can stay up to one year.  You will also need proof of health insurance that works in France.  This can take up to 3 months to get, so plan ahead.