Monday, November 8, 2010

Roundabouts - Sablet

One of the first things I am asked by friends who are planning to visit France for the first time is what is it like to drive in France.

They have usually heard scary stories about the French driver's reputation for driving fast, driving close behind other cars, passing cars on blind curves and honking the horn if you hesitate or impede their forward progress in any way.

I have not found it terribly different or hard to drive in France although for some reason I have been honked at many times. I read French just fine so I understand the various traffic signs. There are also cute symbols on most signs to help non-French readers understand the message the sign is intended to convey.

The biggest challenges for me was figuring out how to buy gas when the tank was empty and how to navigate around all of the rond-points - roundabouts you find in France.

For those of you who don't know, a roundabout is a type of circular roadway where cars must travel in one counterclockwise direction around a center island where roads or streets intersect.

Drivers entering the roundabout must usually yield the right of way or give way to drivers already in the roundabout. Roundabouts are very popular with French traffic engineers. It is estimated that one-half the world's roundabouts are in France (30,000 in 2008).

I would estimate that 80% of the times I have been honked and yelled at by French drivers has occurred when I was entering a roundabout or while I was navigating my way around a rond-point - roundabout.

Besides being safer than traditional intersections, there are several other advantages for roundabouts; if you are unsure of which road to exit out of the roundabout, you can simply keep going around until you figure it out. I have been known to go around 3 or 4 times till I figured out where to go.

In addition, you can make u-turns in roundabouts within the normal flow of traffic, which is often not possible at other types of intersections. If you find that you are headed in the wrong direction, be patient, you will get to a roundabout before too long and you can safely do a u-turn and get yourself going in the proper direction. I have done this many times.

The best thing about roundabouts in Provence is that many are beautifully designed or some type of art form and reflect something important about the town or village where they are located. There are many pretty roundabouts in the Vaucluse Department of Provence where we live.

For the next few weeks, I am going to post pictures of different roundabouts in the Vaucluse. The first is the roundabout at the entrance to Sablet, where we live. You can see the sign for Sablet behind the roundabout.

The same roundabout with Sablet and the Dentelles de Montmirail in the background.

Check back to see other roundabouts in the Vaucluse. I will post these between my usual posts about our dining experiences, visits to interesting places and reflections on life in Provence.


  1. I don't do much driving around France, but I do like it when a roundabout has something pretty to look at in the center.

  2. After living in Dublin for six years, I can handle roundabouts no problem... it's the scary kamikaze drivers that freak me out!

  3. Hi! Thanks for your comments on my blog.
    I must say, I was terrified to drive in France at first, but it soon became a necessity, so I learned quick.

  4. Croquecamille - I wouldn't do too much driving in Paris if I lived there that is for sure.

    Sara Louise - My wife thinks I become a crazy kamikaze driver when I get on the road in Provence, but I disagree.

    Megan - I guess you learn to do difficult things or you missed out.

  5. I've also learned that the roundabout's are a more efficient means of energy saving. Imagine the cost savings a roundabout provides as opposed to a typical four-way lighted intersection! Nice post, can't wait to see the house in Sablet someday.

  6. Greg - Thanks for checking in on my blog. I appreciate it very much. I am sure there would be huge savings in energy and reduction in air pollution if you didn't have all of those cars idling at a traditional 4-way intersection. I can't wait for you to come visit us in Sablet.