I love to travel. I look forward to every trip we plan. Usually, we have a packed schedule, as we try to see and do as much as possible in the time we are abroad. This usually means coordinating transportation to each day’s activities, so I don’t have to drive in a foreign country. Yes, I used to have a phobia of driving in a foreign country. The stress of navigating in a country that I didn’t speak the language was something I always tried to avoid. This was before our recent trip to France. On this adventure, we needed to rent a car to get to all of our activities, and I am so happy we did. It allowed us to find the perfect freedom in the French Pyrenees.
Driving in France
Driving in Europe can be a bit of a shock for American drivers, but I found France to be one of the easier countries to get around. French drive on the right-hand side of the road and general navigation is very similar. Once we left the arrival city of Toulouse, you leave all traffic behind. The Pyrenees is just rolling countrysides, villages and towns, and majestic mountains that seem to go on forever.
Setting the Scene
When we first stepped foot in Auto Europe to rent a car, my fear was that I’d have little chance of finding a car that my 6’5″ self could fit comfortably, or worse that the car would be just too different than anything I have driven. I was blown away by the cars they had for us. We ended up with a beautiful Toyota C-HR hybrid with plenty of room. Once I was sure this whisper quiet car was actually running (I actually put my ear to the dash a couple of times to check), I set the on-board GPS navigation to our bed and breakfast destination and we were off. The car was fully loaded, and really great pick up for a hybrid.
Now once you reach the Pyrenees mountain range, you’ll instantly feel like you are in one of those luxury driving commercials. Yes, you will be driving on hairpin turns and going on switchback-like roads that appear to have been designed by a professional alpine skier. The car handled them so well, that you quickly got used to them. Being confident in the car, made enjoying the amazing scenery all the more enjoyable.
Things to keep in mind
- Roads (especially in small villages) tend to be very narrow so relax and be aware
- Parking is a free-for-all. It is legal to cross into on coming traffic to park facing the wrong way. Don’t get used to that or coming back to the US will be rough
- The Pyrenees, like mountain ranges in the US, sometimes mess with GPS navigations. We had our phones out for backup navigation if there were brief issues
So yes the car was great, but what about this “perfect freedom” I mentioned. Well, I can sum it up by saying for all those moments in-between. In-between going here or there to do whatever activity we had planned, we were able to have this amazing freedom. We love to take pictures. Tour buses, taxis, or hired cars are great, but you can’t tell a bus full of people we’d like to stop so we can take a picture. We also love to explore. It was great to just take that little detour to the cute town or epic mountain ridge. No one to get angry that we turn the car around, so Cathy can get a shot of a very photogenic sheep.
With not relying on rides to destinations, we were able to see so much more of the Pyrenees than we could have hoped and even explore beyond. As pretty and fun as the ski town of Lucheon was to explore, it was less than an hour from the border of Spain. Cathy heard of a fantastic tapas restaurant in Spain, so we plugged in the name to GPS and we were on an unplanned tapas hunt! It is at this point that I am so glad that our hybrid got ridiculous miles per gallon because we ended up driving much further than we planned. That is all part of the adventure and the fun…also we did find the restaurant and it was sooooo worth it.
What We Learned
So we learned that the perfect freedom in the French Pyrenees can be found when you are not reliant on others. Being able to rent a car and go where ever we wanted added a whole new dimension to our wanderlust experience. The Pyrenees are a destination not to be missed, and you can perfect freedom we had by getting over your fears and apprehensions like me and hit that open road. It is your adventure, so roll down your windows and RoarLoud!
Share your stories of driving in another country in the comments, we love chatting travel!
Looking for a Car Rentals in Toulouse: http://www.autoeurope.com/go/car-rental-toulouse/
Ready for a road trip, check out France Road Trip Planner: http://www.autoeurope.com/go/road-trip-planner/france/
Thank you to Auto Europe for our rental in the French Pyrenees. As always our opinions are honest and our own.
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