II felt an entry was necessary because I have reached the 2 week milestone in my adventure and and achieved an admirable feat:
My friends, I have successfully driven a stick shift all by myself.
Hold your applause as I fill you in with the details of my glorious accomplishment. So yesterday I woke up determined to do something interesting and daring. I got dressed and ready, grabbed the car keys to my little red car, and hopped inside. I took deep breaths to calm myself. It was just a car, after all. I know how to drive. I've been doing it for 3 years now. I'd be just fine..
. As long as I avoided looking at the spiderweb stretched out between the outside of my window and my mirror. I became uneasy thinking that any moment, the ugly grey spider that took shelter in my left mirror would crawl out and give me a panic attack before chuckling slyly to itself and retiring to its hiding spot. I tried to banish the thought out of my mind and concentrate on the goal at hand. I chewed over the directions that Cyril had given me at least 10 times to get to Quimper. And finally, I fastened my seatbelt, started the engine, and backed out of the driveway.
So far, so good.
I decided to take the quick route Cyril had shown me. Unfortunately for me, I guess I hadn't been paying as good of attention as i thought I was. I reached the first fork in the road and tried to recall whether I should veer left, or stay to the right. I chose left, and continued driving. The fields I were passing be seemed vaguely familiar I thought to myself. But as I continued to press on, I realized I had made my first mistake. I chose the wrong road and it was a tad too late to turn around. So I continued until I reached a road with a sign the pointed to Quimper. Relieved, I followed the directions and after a few more minutes of driving, I found the highway.
Driving on the highway was easy enough
. I switched to 5th gear and relaxed a bit. I checked my speed. I was driving the exact speed limit so needless to say, I was being passed over and over. That didn't bother me. The French are crazy maniac drivers. I am the sane defensive driver. Soon I saw the exit sign pointing to Quimper that Cyril had shown me to take. I decelerated slightly and then tried to remember where the mall was. I really wanted to go to Géant so that I could eat at Quick (the French version of McDonalds, but supposedly better). However, I couldn't remember how to get there. I saw a sign pointing to Carrefour, the other mall, so I followed it and arrived at Carrefour. Feeling quite proud of myself, I searched for a parking spot close to the entrance and creeped through the parking lot. I was in 1st gear so I was moving around 1 mph as to avoid rear ending cars around me. When I tried to gently accelerate after being stopped, I guess I didn't accelerate enough because the engine gurgled, and shut off completely. Somehow, I wasn't bothered. I simply revved it up again, and proceeded as usual within the blink of an eye. I parked perfectly and shut off the engine. I did a happy dance in the car and got out with a silly grin on my face. Marching proudly through the mall, I received many stares. I didn't care. They had no clue what I had just accomplished. In the best of moods, I decided to loiter a bit before going into the grocery store. I picked up a few souvenirs and a bottle of banana rum (9 euros!) for the heck of it. At the register I wondered how my first alcohol purchase would turn out
. Would I be asked for my ID and scrutinized? Would I be rejected and sent away in shame like so many underaged teens in the US? Nope. She rang me up without so much as a glance at my face and I paid for my items and put my ID that I had taken out in preparation away. I marched out of the mall feeling quite gutsy and decided to try and find Quick so I could get a quick lunch (tee hee). Pulling out of the mall, I had no idea where to turn so I picked a direction at random and hoped for the best.
I ended up going probably in the opposite direction of where I needed to be and this is where I began to stress out. I couldn't find any signs that looked familiar and I was just taking various exits and hoping for the best. I ended up in downtown Quimper where Cyril had shown me Quimper's beautiful cathedral and Angélique's place of employment. In retrospect, my crazy detour would have been an excellent time for a tour of Quimper if I could actually look out the window to admire the sights. But when you're lost, there is no time for sightseeing. In fact, there is no time for anything. I turned off the radio so that I could see better and at some point, I decided to turn around. After leaving downtown, I ended up going in the wrong direction two other times before I finally got to a large roundabout where I saw a sign pointing to Pont l'Abbé, the direction in which I needed to be going
. At the entrance of the roundabout I panicked. There were SO many cars entering the roundabout at once and as my luck would have it, I was at the front of the entrance AND on an incline. I became increasingly nervous as more and more cars pulled up behind me. They didn't honk or anything, but I felt their impatient eyes on my back. I decided to stop being a wimp and revved the engine to enter the roundabout. The engine roared, but I felt a sinking feeling in my gut as a realized I was not advancing forward. In fact, I was rolling backward
. My heart raced and I grabbed my emergency brake by reflex. The car immediately behind me shot me a death stare in my rearview mirror. My heart was racing at the accident that could have potentially happened and I began sweating profusely. I still had yet to enter the roundabout. After assuring that my path was clear (for a few seconds anyway), I pushed the gas with the brake still on while letting up on the clutch. After assuring that I would probably not roll backward again, I released the parking break. My car lurched forward, and after what had seemed like an eternity, I entered the roundabout. You can be sure at this point I had given up any hope of finding Quick and just decided to head home. I exited the roundabout at Pont l'Abbé and eventually found my way back on the expressway and eventually back home in sleepy little Tréméoc.
So yes, I'd still say that my first driving attempt was largely successful. I did not hit any cars or people, break any traffic laws, and I made it to and from Quimper unscathed. On Wednesday I'm going to SuperU so I can make dinner for Angélique and Cyril (and myself). As for today? I'm still recuperating from yesterday.
Love always and gros bisous.