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Wednesday, 6 June 2012

What Did You Do in the Diamond Jubilee, Daddy?

French motorways are a World Heritage Site for traffic cones. The smallest piece of road maintenance spawns at least a kilometer of them. Fortunately, the roads are underused - because overpriced - so most of the time the cones cause little inconvenience.

Overpriced and overstaffed. French motorway maintenance is the world's largest grass cutting organisation. If you think the English are obsessed with mowing the lawn, try driving along a French autoroute.

I look at this way: the expensive tolls are the price of travelling First Class into Germany. If I am feeling mean, I take the lorry route via Belgium but there is a severe risk of delay when you get to the Brussels Ring. And in terms of maintenance, Belgian roads are the bottom end: expect a bumpy ride.

And so into Germany. I had thought of making a visit to the Queen's ancestral homes - Saxe, Coburg, Gotha: a niche market for a coach tour, perhaps? - but instead I headed south to Lake Constance, the Bodensee.

I quite like German motorways. Once you have mastered the art of keeping your eye on the rear mirror for the cars approaching from behind at 200 kmph - I limit myself now to 160 kmph; age and wisdom - they are pleasant. Though massive roadworks are a permanent feature (it's called Building Infrastructure)the roads are so far mercifully free of looming overhead electronic signs nannying you on your way.

My cheap (Ibis) hotel in Konstanz was well located for walking beside the lake. On a wet day, I took the train down to Zurich, a city I like. I was struck by how sturdy and big are the Swiss trains, some of them double-deckers, and also how smooth the ride. I guess this is track maintenance.

No one checked my Passport as I entered France, Germany or Switzerland (which though not a member of the EU has signed up to the Open Borders Schengen Agreement). Back at Calais, of course, I was screened for re-entry into the UK but fortunately it wasn't my turn to be put through the rigmarole of Where Have You Been? How Long? What were you doing? Do you go there often? Is this your Car? What is the Registration number? Yes, all those questions get asked when it's your turn to be fingered as a Brit who has had the temerity to leave the country.

1 comment:

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