Accidents – Those things that only happen to other people – hopefully. But if you do come across one be aware that there is a legal duty to “assist persons in danger” so theoretically you could be prosecuted if you don’t stop and help.

Accotements Non-Stabilisés (Unstable Verges) – Like it says, don’t stray off the black stuff.

Alcohol – They make it very easy to get hold of alcohol, and very hard if you drive with some inside you. The permissible limit is much lower than UK, random tests are common and if caught you can be arrested on the spot, your licence taken away and your vehicle impounded (see Justice). Enough said.

Autoroutes – Mostly as boring as UK motorways but at least a bit quieter and quicker. Most are Toll, except close to Paris and other large cities where they form part of the ring road network. Direction signs to autoroutes normally indicate whether it’s a toll (péage) one, and similarly show when you are entering a toll zone (Section a Péage).

Bicycles – A national sport, so cycles are treated more tolerantly by other road users than in the UK. Allow 1.5 metres clearance (1 metre in town) when overtaking. At weekends large groups of “cyclotouristes”, (un)suitably clad in full team lycra, take over the roads, keeping up a fair old pace. For major races the roads are closed – for the Tour de France in July they are barriered off, and you could wait for several hours while the whole circus passes through. In mountain regions the passes may be closed for days, and even when opened again will be full of German campervans and drunken Danes.

Bison Futé – Real-time information on road conditions throughout France (in English) – http://www.bison-fute.equipement.gouv.fr/diri/Accueil.do?langue=en.

Bis-Routes – Alternative routes using secondary D-roads intended for holiday traffic. Useful for making reasonable progress with better scenery, often include a few entertaining stretches. Look out for yellow and green “Bis” direction signs.

Breathaliser – It is compulsory to carry one, but the fine for not doing so is not currently being enforced – Gallic logic?

Camping Equipment – Size matters (the smaller the better), so e.g. an air bed is more compact (and comfortable) than a foam roll, a sports chammy is smaller than a towel and can be packed away wet, etc. See Luggage.

Camp Sites – Plentiful but, apart from a few holiday areas, most only open for the peak holiday period. Those that are open earlier and later cater mainly for a steady stream of caravanning or campervanning Dutch pensioners. Municipal sites are good value and have adequate facilities if you’re in transit; private ones are more geared to a longer stay. In July and August sites in popular areas (including near Channel ports) can get busy so book ahead if possible. Info and bookings via http://www.campingfrance.com/index.jsp?lg=uk. Pick sites in easy walking distance of town/village centre, or with on-site bar-restaurant, so you don’t have to get kitted up to go out for a meal (and you can have a drink with it – see Alcohol) and to fetch the compulsory baguette and croissants for breakfast; some sites may have a baker who delivers in the morning. Anywhere near water can suffer from biting insects early in the season. Many sites are on soft sandy soil so don’t forget a decent “puck” to put under the stand. You’d think this would make it easy to push the tent pegs into the ground, but the sand is usually only about 5 cm deep before you hit the rocks beneath. Unfortunately, in these economically difficult times, sites in or near industrial towns may have a significant population of what the French term “SDFs” (sans domicile fixe – no fixed abode) i.e. homeless people, sometimes in casual jobs who may work (and come and go) at unsocial hours, as well as giving the site an uneasy ambience.

Chambres d’Hote – Bed, breakfast and evening meal, but don’t be late (see Eating).

Chaussée Deformée (Bumpy Road Surface) – A rare sight nowadays, and often no worse that your average UK road.

Code de la Route – Several non-government concerns, e.g. Michelin, publish an illustrated book with this title. Sort-of equivalent to our own Highway Code, but with added test questions, so more a primer for people taking the theory test. Copies available in hypermarkets or newsagents/booksellers e.g. Maison de la Presse, but at 15€ a throw and upwards they make ours look something of a bargain.

Corner-Cutting – A bad French habit, which they aren’t about to abandon just because some Brit biker is riding for a view (or because there’s a solid line down the middle of the road, for that matter). Remember SSV, and be prepared to give up some of that view on blind right-handers in case something suddenly looms into view on “your” bit of road.

Crit Air Vignette – This air quality certificate is a vignette issued to show a vehicle’s compliance with European emission standards and is required for some of its cities. To find out the latest requirements and buy one for €3.62 if needed visit https://www.certificat-air.gouv.fr/en/

Currency – A sore point at the moment, and not likely to get much better in the near future, so it’s even more important to find the best possible deal. Get a few Euros “float” from the Post Office before you go, but for best rates go to a cash point in France using a cash card issued by e.g. Nationwide. Some credit cards, including those from Nationwide and Halifax Clarity, also give the spot market rate but charge a cash withdrawal fee, and also charge interest from the day of withdrawal. Most other cards take an “exchange fee” of around 2%, which may still be better value than bureaux de change in the UK or on a ferry. Pay for as much as possible (petrol, hotels, meals etc.) with a credit card (Carte Bleu or CB)to minimise the need to obtain cash. Inform your card issuer(s) of where and when you are going to avoid the possibility of the card being refused. Failing all that, at current exchange rates you could always sell your bike for a profit at the end of your holiday and hitch-hike home.

Customs Checks – Quite common on roads near land borders, but possible almost anywhere. Unlikely to be an issue when you’re on a bike, unless you bought a lot of cigs or whisky in Andorra.

Département – Equivalent to a county in UK, but with greater autonomy in certain respects. Often referred to by its number, e.g. 62 is the Pas de Calais – see a road map for the full list.

Direction Signs – Generally clear and consistent. On autoroutes signs show distances to the final destination(s) and one or two intermediate major towns/cities; separate signs also show the places served by, and the distance to, the next exit. As a rule, on N-roads signs will show a major destination (which may be quite a long way away) and the next town, plus intermediate towns if appropriate. Signs on other roads usually only show the next couple of places, with sometimes a longer-distance destination, so navigation using D-roads generally requires more detailed route planning.

Documents – I.D. (passport), driving licence, V5 and insurance certificate (and probably MoT – there is currently no equivalent for bikes in France but you may need it if you stray further afield) must be carried at all times. Also carry EHIC (European Health Identity Card – at least valid until 31st December 2020) and travel insurance document (see Health). Take backup photocopies packed separately, and/or scan documents and post to an accessible site. I also carry scanned copies on a memory stick. See also Other Paperwork.

D-Roads (Routes Départementales) – Where the fun starts (possibly). Sort-of equivalent to UK B-roads, but cover a much wider range, from stretches of almost motorway standard, through fast and open to extremely twisty or just one damn village after another. When planning a route using D-roads check on a reasonable-scale map if you want to make decent progress. D-road numbers are often not shown on direction signs, only on Km posts on the verge. Note that a D-road’s number usually changes when it crosses from one département to the next; surface quality often changes abruptly too. See also Bis-Routes.

 

Eating – That’s one of the main reasons you came to France, right? But it’s just as easy to get mediocre food in France as anywhere else – try to eat where the locals do. Menus translated into English rarely bear any resemblance to what finally arrives on your plate – better to get the French version and use a phrase book. Set menus are always better value than a la carte. Most of France strictly observes standard mealtimes – 12:30 for lunch and 19:30 for dinner – arrive much later and you risk being turned away.

Emergency Phone Numbers – The French have traditionally had separate numbers for fire, police, non-emergency ambulance etc. but to keep it simple the standard European emergency number, 112, will get you through to the Pompiers (fire brigade and first response team).

Emergency Kit – Contrary to what ferry companies would have you believe when trying to sell you an overpriced “continental touring kit”, it is not compulsory to carry a warning triangle, first aid kit or spare bulbs on a bike, but carrying (not wearing) a hi-vis bib has been compulsory since 1st Jan 2016. Nonertheless, it is good practice for at least one member of the party to be suitably prepared – see Tools and Spares.

Eurotunnel – The quickest, but not the cheapest, option. Ride on, stay with the bike, ride off, simple. Take a stout rubber band to tie the front brake lever back to prevent the bike shifting due to the movement of the train. Disadvantage is you don’t get a chance to have a rest and a meal or a coffee like you do on a ferry.

Falling Rocks – The danger is not so much of a rock falling on your head (though it has happened), more of finding a pile of large, razor-sharp lumps lying across the road, waiting to shred your tyres or worse.

Ferries – Old hands will probably prefer to strap their own bike down but newbies may want guidance – some companies are more helpful than others – P&O now says it’s your responsibility. When tying down in the usual way with a single ratchet strap, put the bike on the sidestand (never the centre stand) and put your weight on the seat to load the springs as you ratchet it down. Not all the straps provided have a pad to stop it digging into the seat, so be prepared to use something like a folded-up pair of jeans (protected by a plastic bag) for this purpose.

Filtering – Although filtering is officially a no-no, (except for a few areas where it is under review), French drivers actually expect bikes to filter and overtake at every opportunity, and many will helpfully move over even in the most inappropriate places. So if you just want to go with the flow make your intentions clear by staying well back. See also Roundabouts.

Gendarmes – See Police

Gloves – It has recently become compulsory for riders and passengers to wear CE-marked gloves. However, any proper bike gloves should be OK, unless a gendarme is having a really bad day.

Gravel – The French are even worse than UK roadmenders at not sweeping up excess gravel after resurfacing. They also have a bad habit of scattering loose gravel onto roads where the tar is in danger of melting in the summer. Usually there will be warning signs but it can’t be guaranteed, nor is it easy to tell when the danger has passed.

 

Hazard Warning Lights – Should be used when there’s a sudden reduction of speed ahead.

Headlamps – Motorcycles must use dipped headlights which should be adjusted if necessary so as not to dazzle oncoming traffic – stick-on beam adjusters are normally unnecessary so long as you can adjust by other means. The law also says the dipped beam should illuminate the road at least 30 metres ahead. In practice there shouldn’t be a problem.

Health – The EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) will allow you to get emergency treatment at any hospital or clinic affiliated to the French national health scheme – at other clinics you may have to pay and claim back later. With Brexit it is valid until at least 31st December 2020. You will probably also get a bill for the extra treatment cost over and above the official minimum, plus other things like an ambulance if required, hence it’s wise to take out top-up travel insurance that will cover these extras. Be sure the policy covers motorcycling as most insurers consider it a “hazardous activity” and load the premium.

Helmet Reflectors – 4 reflectors of a certain minimum size, placed front, rear and either side of the helmet, are compulsory. However, I’ve done a lot of miles in France without, and never had a problem. Cheaply available on ebay etc.

Hi-vis Riding Gear – It was proposed a while ago to make this compulsory, but for the time being at least it has been dropped.

Hotels – Budget chains (Formula 1, Premiere Classe, Ibis Budget, B&B etc.) are usually cheapest but do not have restaurants (though there may be one in the vicinity) and parking is often not secure. Hotels affiliated to Logis de France (www.logisdefrance.com) are often not much more expensive and many serve top quality food. Many small family-run hotels close for at least one day per week, especially out of season.

 

Indicators – Used sparingly and don’t necessarily mean what Brits might think they do, so best to ignore and play safe. The exception to this rule is on dual carriageways/autoroutes, where the left-hand indicator is kept on angrily throughout a passing manoeuvre, particularly when pushing hard behind someone else in the overtaking lane.

Insurance – Your UK insurance will, as a minimum, give basic third-party cover for the EU – possibly fine for a quick day trip to Calais but not enough for a decent touring holiday. Check your policy gives adequate cover, for the necessary length of time, and inform the company/broker of the dates when you’ll be away. Make sure you have the emergency number to ring (NOT a UK 08….number).

 

Justice – The French legal system is very different from ours. They have only recently adopted the principle of innocent until proven guilty, which is nice, but can still be a bit trigger-happy in locking up anyone suspected of a serious offence, including those relating to road traffic. Make sure your travel insurance includes legal cover.

Kit – If you’re planning to go somewhere a bit warmer, a tricky one. Even if the UK is in the grip of a heat wave when you leave, you can be sure it will be back to normal by the time you get home, and northern France can be just as inhospitable as England. But standard UK kit will be uncomfortably warm in the 30°+ you’ll be hoping to find down south. You won’t have the space to pack a second, lightweight, suit while leaving enough room for the bulkier items in your luggage when you change, so the best compromise may be a ventilated touring suit or leathers (or a mixture) together with a waterproof oversuit, plenty of layers and the essential spare pair of gloves – do make certain there’s somewhere to put everything when you take it off or switch from one outfit to another. Black absorbs the sun’s heat, so choose a lighter colour if you’re buying kit specially for this sort of trip. A lightweight neck tube will stop insects from buzzing down your front. Of course the locals ride around happily in T-shirts and flip-flops, and no doubt the hospitals are expert at treating gravel rash, but you wouldn’t want to put them to the test, would you?

Luggage – No point in covering this in depth here, you may well already have some for your bike and if not you’ll have a good idea of what’s suitable. So just a few comments. Firstly, do a thorough “shake-down” run with all your intended luggage, suitably packed, well before you set off. This should not only sort out any issues with the luggage itself and make sure you (and your passenger) can live with it, but also show up any handling problems that might arise when the bike’s fully laden. Secondly, respect load limits stated by the manufacturers of both the bike and the luggage. Thirdly, stuff you need “en route” must be readily accessible. Finally, pack everything in plastic bags or waterproof liners, even if you have hard luggage.

Millau Viaduct – Famous toll bridge carrying the A75 autoroute over the valley of the Tarn, bypassing the eponymous town. A magnificent structure, best appreciated from below. A layby with a good view has been built on the old road as it drops down into Millau from the south. Further north on the A75, but equally impressive considering its epoch, is Eiffel’s Viaduc de Garabit carrying the railway over the River Truyere – excellent view from the Garabit service area on the A75, accessible from either direction.

Mobile Phones – As in the UK, use of a hands-free mobile is permitted but a hand-held mobile is not. In recent years the law has changed to outlaw any in- or on-ear devices (headphones or ear buds) except for those built-in to the helmet. This applies also in Spain, where even earplugs are, I’m told, illegal. As in the UK, the law is widely flouted – it’s common to come round a bend on a twisty mountain road to be confronted with someone attempting to steer one-handed while concentrating on telling the wife what to cook for dinner. For now we are still able to use our present calling plans at standard rates.

Number Plates – The French system of vehicle registration changed from a local to a national one in 2009. Up to that date the last two digits on the number plate indicated the vehicle’s home département, which could be useful for gauging likely driving styles – cars on their home turf may be driven much more aggressively than when they’re away. Parisians are notorious for this, excelling at carving through the capital’s traffic but holding everyone up on twisty mountain passes. There was an outcry in the provinces when the national scheme was announced, along the lines of “How are we going to tell who are the plonkers from Paris if they don’t have a ‘75’ plate?” The new-style plates, which now stay with the vehicle throughout its life, do normally have an indication of where they were issued, but it’s much harder to read and may not be relevant to the current owner. Also the plates will have been issued the first time the vehicle changed hands after 2009, so are no indication of the age of the vehicle.

Number plates can also be useful to spot other nationalities, the following being a somewhat biased guide to what to expect:

  • Andorran – Total nutters, wrong side of the road, crazy overtakes, the whole works – give as wide a berth as possible
  • Austrian – We used to rule the Hapsburg Empire, you know, so don’t mess with us!
  • Belgian – Oops, we’ve taken our camping car up this narrow mountain road and now we can’t turn round and go back
  • British – Timid unless driving a big 4×4, in which case “Get outta my way, Johnny Foreigner!” (said in a Jeremy Clarkson voice).
  • Danish – Bringing home the bacon – carefully
  • Dutch – The caravan shtopsh ush sheeing the long queue behind ush, sho we’ll jusht pretend it’sh not there
  • German – Fast but usually disciplined – the least-worst drivers in Europe?
  • Italian – Not as loony as their reputation would suggest, at least once they’re away from home territory
  • Polish – You should know by now
  • Portuguese – Is anybody actually in control of that car?
  • Spanish – Similar to Italian
  • Swedish – My headlights are on and I’m going quite fast enough, thankyou
  • Swiss – Opposite of Italians – so repressed at home they go bonkers once they’re let out, nearly as bad as Andorrans

Other Paperwork – Books, maps etc. are generally pricier than in the UK, and if you want guide books in English you probably need to get them before you go anyway. A one-sheet 1:1 000 000 map of France is handy for long-distance route planning but not much use locally, and a full 1:200 000 road atlas is a bit too bulky on a bike – the IGN or Michelin 1:200 000 sheet maps of individual regions are a good compromise. Depending on your choice of accommodation you may need campsite or hotel information, either from the web or as booklets. Local tourist information offices are a useful source of (usually free) leaflets, often available in English. Finally, take a copy of the owner’s handbook for your bike, in case you need to change or adjust anything, and for the alarm if it has one.

Overtaking – see Filtering

Petrol – As in the UK, least expensive at supermarkets, rip-off on autoroutes. Plenty of 24/7 self-service card-payment stations – most can now accept UK credit/debit cards, though there’s no way of telling until you put your card in the slot. Generally most supermarket fuel stations will have a choice of 95 or 98 octane, the latter being only a little more expensive. 95-E10 (10% ethanol) is becoming common, and at some pumps has replaced ordinary 95, so check if your bike will be happy with this stuff. Apart from service areas on autoroutes and a few other major trunk routes assume manned opening hours will be 09:00-12:00 and 14:00-18:00 Monday-Saturday, with only a few private garages open on Sundays. Travelling any distance on Sunday away from the autoroute network, or towns with supermarkets large enough to have 24/7 pumps, can be a bit of a lottery.

Poids Lourds (HGVs) – Often subject to deviations to avoid town centres etc. Ignore such signs.

Police – There are three separate police organisations – the military gendarmerie and the civilian police nationale together enforce traffic laws, while the police municipale look after things like parking. Gendarmes’ vehicles are dark blue, while police cars are white or light blue with a “Police” stripe on the side. Police motorcyclists always travel in pairs.

Priorité à Droite (priority to traffic from the right) – Still the default rule at junctions that aren’t otherwise marked. Slow down and give a wide berth to any junction or entrance on the right-hand side that doesn’t have an obvious stop or give-way line, in case someone (usually an older person who has been driving since the liberation) shoots out. See X Sign and Yellow Diamond Sign.

 

Queues – Contrary to rumour, French queues are usually fairly orderly. But as can happen anywhere, the locals may try to get one over the visitors, whether French or foreign.

Radar – Fixed cameras may be forward or backward facing, are sometimes preceded by a large and very obvious sign or a display of your speed, and often have a reminder of the limit in force as well, so really no excuses for getting caught by one of these, even if the camera box or post itself is not always easy to spot. Mobile speed traps used to be mostly found just outside the local café in the middle of villages on main roads, but now crop up almost anywhere – happy hunting grounds are typically the edge of a village, a three-lane stretch with plenty of pent-up overtaking and of course autoroutes, often using what looks like a broken-down estate car half-hidden up a slip road. On the autoroute you may not know you’ve been nicked until you’re pulled over at the next toll booth. On-the-spot fines are the rule for foreigners. Being flashed by oncoming traffic usually means a mobile speed trap ahead. Your SatNav is not allowed to have camera warnings in France – most software adheres to this.

Rappel – Thought by some to be the most common place name in France, actually just means “reminder”.

Recovery – May be included with your insurance (e.g. Carole Nash), and if the bike is new it might come with full recovery including continental use – check the details. Otherwise shop around for the best deal for the features you need.

Région – Just what it sounds like, a group of Départements, also with considerable autonomy (France is a big place).

Roundabouts – Unless otherwise signed, rules here are basically as UK, i.e. give way to traffic already on the roundabout. Frequently a sign on the approach stating “Vous n’avez pas la priorité”, and/or a cancelled Yellow Triangle, supplements the standard “Cédez le Passage” (Give Way) sign on the actual junction. But despite a good quarter-century of practice, many French drivers still haven’t quite got the hang of roundabouts. On a two-lane entry it is common to find the outer (left-hand) lane empty, which can be a good opportunity but be prepared for a vehicle intending to turn left actually entering in the right-hand lane and tiptoeing all the way round the outside. Sometimes the left-hand lane may actually be closed off on the approach and exit, either by hatching or a physical barrier. Indicators, if used at all, are as often as not misleading, the favourite being to indicate left when actually intending to go straight on. Mini-roundabouts are starting to make an appearance – be prepared for traffic to go either way around these.

Safety Wear – A helmet to EC standards is compulsory, and now EC-approved gloves are too; other gear is not, at least not yet (though you do need to carry a hi-vis bib to wear in emergency).

Secours (Help in Emergency) – e.g. “Au secours!” = “Help!”, Poste de Secours = First Aid Post.

Security – Down to common sense, and no different from what you’d do in the UK. The French as a whole are pretty law-abiding but there’s always a criminal element on the lookout for easy pickings. Alarms are only useful if you’re close to the bike, e.g. at motorway service areas. Take a decent lock and chain if you’re planning on leaving the bike in city centres to do some sightseeing, otherwise a good cable is easier to carry. Also consider how secure your luggage is in these circumstances. If using hotels, try to avoid having to park on the street – vandalism can be just as much a problem as theft. Keep essential documents and keys, including spare ones, on your person at all times. Campsites are usually no problem – just chain the bike to the nearest tree or lamp post (and tell the dog-walkers to steer clear).

Service Areas (Aires de Repos) – On autoroutes full service areas (i.e. with Petrol and at least a coffee shop) are spaced every 50 Km or so, with one or two simple rest areas (w.c. and picnic tables) in between. Signs indicate the facilities available. There should be at least one tap for drinking water.

Shopping – A few food shops (bakers, butchers, small convenience stores) are open on Sunday mornings; most others, including the big hypermarkets, are closed (except in the run-up to Christmas). Some shops also close on Mondays, either all day or just the morning. Only larger stores, and some city-centre shops, stay open over lunchtime.

Speed Limits – Very simple rules – unless otherwise posted by a red-circle sign it is:

  • 50 in towns and villages (starts and ends as you pass town/village name sign)
  • 80 on single carriageways (recently dropped from 90)
  • 110 on dual carriageways (100 in the wet)
  • 130 on motorways (110 in the wet) – interpretations of the meaning of “Wet” vary considerably.

Posted 70 limits are common on the edges of major towns and through hamlets on through-routes. Some town/village centres have 30 zones (with or without other traffic calming measures).

Limits may be qualified and only apply to specific types of vehicle, e.g. over a certain weight, caravans, even bikes (“Motos” – these most often where crosswinds are a problem), so check whether a limit applies to you or not.

The end of a posted limit, particularly 30 zones and temporary limits for roadworks, is not always signed as such. What we in the UK know as a NSL sign (black diagonal line on white circle) just means “end of” in France, e.g. at the end of road works with 30 limit in town it means revert to 50, NOT NSL.

Leeway allowed over the limit is less than UK – 5 Km/hr or 5%. A vehicle exceeding the limit by more than 50 Km/hr may be confiscated.

See also Radar

Tolls – Apply on major bridges and most autoroutes. A pain for bikers (and solo drivers of r.h.d. cars). Best way to pay is by credit card, acceptable even for small amounts, though Maestro is NOT accepted. Increasingly exit tolls are unmanned so you may have to pay (at the car rate) by card.

Useful non-toll autoroutes and major dual carriageways (other than ring roads) include:

  • A16 Boulogne-Calais-Dunkirk-Belgian border
  • N225/A25/A23 Dunkirk-Lille-Valenciennes (for Ardennes region and southern Belgium)
  • A28 Abbeville-Rouen (for the south-west and to skirt around the west of Paris via the A154)
  • A154/N154 South of Rouen-Evreux-Dreux-Chartres (for Orléans or Chateauroux)
  • (Parts of) A77/N7 Fontainbleu-Nevers (for Magny Cours)
  • A20 Vierzon-Chateauroux-Limoges-Brive (but toll thereafter – something to do with Mme Chirac being from Brive)
  • A75 Clermont-Ferrand-Beziers (to pick up Mediterranean coast road) – except toll over Millau Viaduct

Tools and Spares – As an absolute minimum you should be able to deal with a puncture and change a bulb in the headlamp, indicators and stop/tail lamp, so you need a bulb kit, a tyre repair kit and inflator, plus a decent compact torch. Other basics include chain lube, insulating tape, bits of wire and cable ties, spare fuses and a few basic tools, even if only enough to re-adjust levers and mirrors if you’re unfortunate enough to drop the bike. Hand wipes are also a good idea. Beyond this you will probably need to rely on your Recovery service. If travelling in a party it makes sense for these essentials to be shared out. And don’t forget a spare set of keys for ignition/luggage/security lock.

Tunnels – Usually have a lower speed limit (and radar), headlights must be used even in short ones.

 

Urgence (Emergency) – The word to look for when searching for a hospital casualty department etc.

 

V.L. (Véhicules Légers – Light Vehicles) – Used e.g. where a deviation is only suitable for such vehicles (as opposed to Poids Lourds).

Voie Rapide – Literally “Quick Road”, denoted by a blue sign with a symbol of a car. Often, but not always, dual carriageways. “Motorway rules” apply, i.e. no stopping and no slow vehicles, cycles or pedestrians.

Voiture Sans Permis – literally “Car without Licence”. We have our Reliant Robins, the French have these stunted two-seaters (under)powered by a small single-cylinder diesel. The name says it all, really.

Waving – Other bikers (but not teenagers or locals on small bikes or scooters) are acknowledged with a nonchalant horizontal extension of the left hand. Drivers of cars who have moved over to let you through are thanked by a wave of the right leg. It takes a bit of practice to perfect this manoeuvre while accelerating and changing gear.

Waving – Other bikers (but not teenagers or locals on small bikes or scooters) are acknowledged with a nonchalant horizontal extension of the left hand. Drivers of cars who have moved over to let you through are thanked by a wave of the right leg. It takes a bit of practice to perfect this manoeuvre while accelerating and changing gear.

Weather – Detailed forecasts available on http://france.meteofrance.com/?LIEUID=FRANCE.

Wine – Another reason why you came, n’est ce pas? Just don’t expect to find much, if any, “foreign” stuff in the wine department of a provincial French supermarket. The more expensive wines from well-known regions such as Bordeaux, Burgundy or the better-known appellations of the Loire and Rhone are often not much cheaper than your local Sainsbury’s, while the cheaper stuff from those areas can be, shall we say charitably, an acquired taste. If you’re after real value you will probably do better elsewhere – Pic St Loup, St Chinian and Cotes du Roussillon Villages from the Languedoc-Roussillon region are reds which rarely disappoint. Also look out for the supermarket’s own recommendations. In a wine-growing area it’s nice to visit a vineyard or co-operative and taste some of their product, but don’t be surprised to find the same wine somewhat cheaper in the local supermarket.

X Sign – Does NOT (necessarily) mean crossroads, it indicates that Priorité à Droite applies at the junction ahead. This could be any junction with 3 or more ways, so beware! For junctions where you do have priority a different sign is used, which can also apply to 3-, 4- or more way junctions.

 

Yellow Diamond Sign – Indicates that the road you are on has priority. Conversely, if the diamond has a slash through it you no longer have priority; i.e. you may be approaching a major road or a Roundabout, or be about to enter a zone where Priorité à Droite applies.

 

Zip-Merging – Frowned on. At the first sign of traffic backing-up on approach to a lane closure everyone will move out of that lane, while police, if present, will enforce this and lorries will straddle the white line to enforce “le fair-play”. Fortunately bikes seem to be exempt (see Filtering).

 

First published in Slipstream August 2020

Our thanks to Bob Harrison – yes it is his bike…