Memoir Monday: How NOT to rent a car in France

April 11, 2011

It's time for a Memoir Monday!  This one is entitled:

How (not) to rent a car in France. In 6 easy steps.

When I was 19, I spent a semester in France. The university I attended was just about 2 hours west of Paris, so at one point, my best friend and I decided that it would be a good idea to rent a car and drive to Paris.

Step 1: You must be 25 to rent a car in Paris. If you are not 25, play dumb until the last minute when the rental car guy asks for your driver’s license/passport/international ID card. At that point it’s too late and he already went through the paperwork hassle. Bring a friend who’s 25 and SWEAR that friend will be doing all the driving.

Step 2: Be prepared to look very uncool. You will not be driving incognito, my friend.

Step 3: Learn to drive a stick shift. It is preferable if you learn to drive a stick shift before you rent the car. It is also preferable if you have more stick-shift driving experience than twenty minutes in your friend’s dad’s 1957 Chevy with a 3-in-the-tree stick shift that stalls out halfway across town.

Step 4: Learn to drive in a roundabout.  It helps if you've completed Step 3 first.  If you don't know, wing it.  Pretend you are a master of the roundabout. Don’t be all scared like “I’ve never driven in a roundabout or anywhere in the continent of Europe or hell, I’ve never driven a stick shift.” Instead be like, “Haha roundabout, take that! Those other cars will move, I'm almost sure of it.”

Step 5: If you get lost, at night time, and you pull into someone’s driveway to turn around, and then you back out, make sure there is no oncoming traffic in case your clever manipulation of the stick shift results in the car stalling out crossways in the middle of the road while your passengers stare in horror at a set of oncoming headlights… (don’t worry, we got it started again in the nick of time)

Step 6: Book a hotel room in advance. Otherwise you may end up at a little hovel next to the "nude dancing girls" venue because it's the only one that still has rooms available.

And a bonus:

When you return the car to the rental place a few days later, intact and unscratched, make sure to go home and say your prayers.