Today We Went to France

Today we drove to Evian, on the southern shore of Lake Geneva! We were so excited – to be in France, to see Evian. Found a parking spot immediately, then realized we had no Euro for the parking meter! I never even thought of it. I had US Dollars, Swiss Francs and UK Pounds in my wallet, but my Euro notes and coins were in a ziplock bag, in a suitcase, back at the chalet. Duh!!!

It was raining anyway. We looked for a cash machine, looked for free parking, drove around town, it started to pour – so we drove back to Switzerland.

Today we exchanged our aftershave drenched car for a different one. When we picked up the car in Geneva we smelled strong fragrance with an undercurrent of smoke. I think someone smoked in the car (and maybe they were not supposed to – it has no ashtray), then dumped a bottle of aftershave on the front seat to cover it up. We have never had to return a rental car because of the smell! I had a hard time explaining this on the phone to the Europcar person, so I got AutoEurope to call them and tell them we had to get a new car.

We drove the car from Geneva to Leysin last Wednesday, 1.5 hours, and hated the smell. We are both sensitive to the chemicals in fragrances and felt a bit sick the next day. We drove it again on Friday, but just across town to a hiking area. Friday evening I called AutoEurope and they said I had to deal with the local Europcar office. I called them and they said they had no automatic cars, but would call when they had one. They called on Saturday to say they had none, but maybe next week.

On Sunday we drove to Gstaad, 30 minutes, and both had sore throats and headaches and could taste the chemicals – ugh. So I called AutoEurope, told them that the car was not driveable and we had to get something else, even if it was a manual.

So, this morning we drove the stinky VW Passat to Montreux, and exchanged it for a Audi Quattro station wagon, manual drive. Great fun pulling out of the parking area (the Europcar office is in the Palace Hotel), with the car parked on a hill and the first thing Steve had to do was reverse uphill. But, he used to drive a manual, so got used to it all quickly. They may still find an automatic for us, but if they don’t, this puts an end to my short driving career here.

We were so happy to have a car we could be in, that we did a driving day. First to Evian, then to Villars sur Ollen, a ski town the next hill over from Leysin. That took up the whole afternoon.

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Pauline Kenny

Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen are US expats living in Dorset. We moved to the UK in 2010. Read about our move. If you would like to talk about travel, please join us on the Slow Europe Travel Forums.

2 thoughts on “Today We Went to France”

  1. We have only had one automatic car when traveling, we now have a manuel at home too, it is amazing now quickly you get used to driving them, like riding a bike!

  2. Hi Cherie! Cherie and I learned to drive together when we were teenagers – but on an automatic! I have driven a manual, but I hate the whole using the handbrake when stopping on a hill thing. And there are lots of hills here! Steve is totally back into driving the standard shift – and I guess I will have to relearn it!

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