Vineyards,Traffic Circles and Driving Day 6 & 7

When I was studying at Oklahoma State University my adviser, Jules Ewig, suggested to everyone in the English department that we should take a 3000 level course in wine tasting. I remember that it met Wednesday evenings for two hours and the class included the text, lecture and actually practice tasting wine. It is a class I probably remember less than I think I do, but I credit it with my belief that Rieslings are known to be sometimes sweet white wines from Germany. This is partially true as there are many, many Rieslings from the Alsace region in France.

Vineyards and vineyards as far as the eye can see!

There are miles and miles and miles of vineyards outside of Colmar, along with dozens of quaint little medievalesque villages full of wine tasting cellars and bus parking lots for tourists. The picture above really does not convey that there is nothing but vineyards for acres and acres — no interruption aside from the villages and the roads.

We were so glad that we rented a car because there was so much to see in the countryside and it would have be inaccessible to us on foot. This did require learning more about how to drive in France.

The country side around Colmar is interlaced with a few narrow roadways that connect the villages. These roadways intersect at numerous round-a-bouts. Do you know anything about round-a-bouts, or what is otherwise know as traffic circles?

Google Maps navigation will say, “Take the 3rd exit and stay on B81”. The thing is that in a traffic circle there are multiple exits. In the figure below you can see an example of a traffic circle layout from near Tours.

Sometimes these traffic circles have more than one lane so there can be multiple cars circling at once. However, in the countryside the traffic circles are small and there are usually just a few cars coming in at a time. I find them quite restful as I don’t have to stop for long if at all when driving from place to place.

The thing that still gets me both in the city and in the country side is that French road signs have large white pointy signs with the names of places on them, usually pointing in the direction of the place. The names of the streets or the road number are relegated to a very small little sign at the top or the bottom of the pole.

Again, in the example to the right of this text, can you see the name of the road?

The name of the road is at the very bottom of all of the signs and it is Rue Theodore Le Hars.

Google would announce that I should turn right in 300 meters onto Rue de Charles GRAD. For the first few days in the car I was completely oblivious as to which road I was turning onto aside from trying to guess which road I should take based on very unpracticed attempts at converting meters in my head.

The other thing that is worth mentioning is the stop lights. They are generally placed on single poles and I have not yet see one suspended over the street. This was not immediately unusual to me except that I found when I stopped at the white line on the road way I could not see the stop light placed on the pole.

French Traffic Light

What you should notice is that there are the usual Red, Yellow, Green lights on the traffic light, but there is also a smaller series of lights at the bottom of the pole. These are usually visible to your immediate right when you are stopped at the stop light. So I noticed that when I was stopped at the light I had to look over at this smaller set of lights to know when it was green.

The stop lights don’t want you to be surprised when it is about to turn green. So shortly before the change from red to green a yellow arrow will flash about 3–5 times in warning. So I was ready to release the clutch and zip through the intersection.

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