Freeway Free in France: Grappling with Griselda (the GPS Lady)
We have a French road map courtesy of AAA. Three out of four of us have the same road map. If you want to get to point A, the map is useful for finding out some waypoints along the way, since signposts in the French countryside mostly point just to the next town, not to the next major town. The road numbers on the map almost never match any of the road numbers you actually see on the road signs, so that’s no help.
On the map, toll roads are blue with red borders, divided highways are yellow with red borders, “Principal roads” are red, “main roads” are yellow, and there are some grey roads. There are large areas which seem to have no roads, but that is not the case.
We have a GPS which came with our car. We had some interesting trips in the first few days, because it seemed to have been preset to avoid toll roads and major highways at all costs. We saw a lot of red roads (they have striping, shoulders, left turn lanes, and lots of roundabouts) and yellow roads (center striping, no left turn lanes, fewer roundabouts, no shoulders, and grey roads (no striping, no shoulders, stop signs, just room for two midsize cards to get past each other) and a fair set of the invisible roads, which are basically one-lane roads bordered by very solid stone walls where you just have to pray there is no one coming around the next curve.
By the time we had wrestled with Griselda the GPS lady for a few days, we were ready to take matters into our own hands and get on the toll road in order to get to Peche Merle, the prehistoric cave where the only English language tour was going to depart at 10. We ignored Griselda and set off for A20, the toll road. Bad move. Little did we know that in this case Griselda was right: the toll road took us way out of our way and we narrowly made it to our destination on time (helped by DB’s having mistakenly (she says) told us 10 when our actual tour was at 10:30). We found that W’s smart phone, though not connected to the Internet, could be set using the hotel Wifi and subsequently gave us excellent access to Google Maps, so we had a cross check. On our return, we found that what had taken us an hour and a half using our “common sense” was reduced to under an hour using Griselda ‘s and Google’s byroads.
The next morning we set off again, this time feeling confident in Griselda’s advice, but common sense began to worry when she insisted on taking us northeast when the old-technology map showed we needed to be going almost due west. We stopped and checked. Turned out Griselda operates by names of towns, not tourist attractions, and “Lascaux” per Griselda was a little town halfway to Tours. We reprogrammed her for the TOWN closest to the Cave de Lascaux where we wanted to go, and off we went, threading our way through tiny lanes that looked more like sidewalks, twisting through villages almost too small to have names, until we finally regained the yellow road which led to our goal. We were so delighted to regain center striping!
For the rest of our trip, we made use of Griselda, Google, AND the paper map. Of course, once we were alert to the foibles of each, we had no discord between them.