Sunday, July 24, 2005


Want some free pot? Some free hash? How about some free cheese? I think that if you go to Holland right now, you'll be able to just walk into any home or shop and take what you want; the entire population seems to be on the roads of France and Germany, pulling incredibly slow camping trailers behind them.

Yes, I'm back, after driving the Smart from here to Montpellier and back, and, while there, doing more than a little roaming around the mountains and hills and seashore in the neighborhood. I got back about an hour ago, so I'm totally crispy from driving seven to ten hours a day, but I'll have much more detailed observations over the course of the next week. Photos, too, although I'm thinking I might need to get an account with one of those online photo-sharing sites like Flickr.

Driving there and back, I think I saw license plates from every single country in Western Europe except Ireland (doubt Irish vacationers would drive, after all), Portugal (probably too busy managing the mass of tourists headed there) and Liechstenstein (they probably don't take vacations). All of Scandinavia and Finland were represented, but only Lithuania among the Baltics. No Slovaks or Bosnians (but I see their plates in Berlin), and the biggest surprises were Bulgaria (on a truck) and Monaco (several verrrrry expensive cars).

And, sadly, I can no longer say Germans are Europe's worst drivers, bad as they are. The French have them completely beat. Of course, I was a target: on the Autobahn, every jerk with a testosterone problem felt he had to drive the Smart off the road or not let it pass, but on the French highways I was not only a tiny car, but a German. One guy actually attacked me, trying to push me off the road, get me to rear-end him, and several other things, all the while gesticulating and making weird hand signals. It was like he was in a psychotic fury. When he finally got past me and tried the rear-ending trick, I got a good look at his license plate, and was mystifed. In the place where most people have the blue field with the circle of stars for Europe and the letter F for France, he had something that looked like a stylized flaming sword -- and the letter F. Some days later, I saw this device again: it's the logo of the National Front, the fascist party that does so well in parts of France.

Anyway, I've only been back about an hour, and I'm toast. Time to drink a beer -- although I sure brought back enough great wine -- and relax.

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