Mary, Mary, quite contrary

We’ve never had a car with GPS. No big deal. We can read maps. You know…old school.

Well this trip, our brand new Peugeot came with GPS. The nice young man at the airport programmed it to get us to our hotel in Chartres, so with maps in hand (because we’ve heard the same stories as everyone else, of people following their GPS and ending up in some very weird places), we were off.

And it worked! And it worked again when we left Chartres to go exploring at a castle and return to our hotel, and again as we left Chartres but stopped en route to visit Maison Picassiette.

Okay, so this was awesome! We were in love. We named her Mary. She sounded a bit British when she spoke, although her pronunciation of French names was atrocious. (And I’ve named the Peugeot ‘PeterPaul’, although I haven’t told Wayne yet.)

We began relaxing, not stressing about where to turn, and when. We discussed how lovely it was and good heavens, did we really need to bring these maps with us? Why we can just put them away, stop fighting with the folding and refolding in this small car.

And on top of that, you could choose specific destinations and she’d find them for you: gas stations, tourist attractions, rest stops. Our favourite category was Wineries.

Motorway driving in Europe is a joy. Yes, you pay tolls on certain sections, but for the clean, smooth roads and rolling along at 130 km (or maybe a little more), it is so worth it. European drivers all seem to get along. They get out of the fast lane for the car behind without getting all ragey and immature, and they anticipate lane changes other cars or lorries need and help choreograph the moves so everyone just keeps moving.

So adding GPS to all this enjoyable driving was a treat. We put the maps away, I began drafting my next blog as we rolled along…’All Hail Mary…Queen of the Road’. And as long as the red arrow (us) was following the blue line (Mary’s route for us), we were good.

There were the odd little glitches, like Mary’s 3rd turn off the roundabout was really the 2nd, and sometimes the roadwork Mary seemed to know about did not appear while other times there it was holding us up and she hadn’t had a clue.

And there have been times when she seems to be leading us on a bit of a tour of some of France’s narrowest and most obscure lanes. But she always got us there. So we trusted her.

And then?…a little reality check. Mary failed us. We knew we’d programmed in the right address for our gite in Cotignac. And the vrbo ad said it was in a charming village. But there we were, all the way through the charming village, out of the charming village, and had climbed all the way up and reached the sign with the charming village’s name with a big red line through it, and there was Mary saying ‘Turn right. You have reached your final destination.’

There was a right turn and we made it, but the street name wasn’t right and neither was the number on the only house we saw. Normally this would have been a minor setback, but we’d put all our faith in Mary and this just wasn’t like her. We checked our app for the correct address, reprogrammed Mary, and got the same result. Well for heaven’s sakes! (We were a little bit gobsmacked.)

We turned back down the hill, parked the car near a bakery in the village, and started walking. Nobody knew the street we wanted, and we knew our gite host had gone to work so it was do or die. We wandered and asked and climbed a hill or two, and finally found our way. The lockbox defied us momentarily, but we made it! Now we just had to go back to the car for our luggage and groceries, and as there was no parking at the gite, walk back up the little hill and get ourselves sorted so we could relax again.

The bigger question is now: can Mary be trusted again? Does she really know everything? Who tells her all this stuff anyways? And why is her French so bad?

Our maps are back in the car, as is our new fold-out magnifying glass so we can read them. And that disclaimer screen that comes up just before each newly-programmed destination instructions? The one that says basically ‘do your own map analysis cuz this Mary broad can be a bit of a loose cannon’, well now that we’ve actually read it everything makes more sense.

We still love Mary. She hasn’t – literally – steered us wrong since. But we’ve got her number now. And our maps. And if she keeps doing her best, so will we.

On the road again…with Mary (and PeterPaul)

Linda & Wayne

PS. Here’s a few photos from the road.

You don’t see classic cars like this much around Europe. How nice they were carrying her, not making her drive.
White cows. They seem to be everywhere. Charolais beef. Native to eastern France. Best breed in the world for beef production. Very flavourful and tender. Actually AOC rated here, so only eats local grasses and herbs, no antibiotics or hormones, and calves must not be separated from their moms till they’re weaned. (Maybe we should have ratings like this for humans.)
A tree on a road on a dull day. But what’s with the balls in the tree? Bird condos! That’s it. But we looked more closely at the next one we saw. Ivy. Climbing tree trunks, hanging down in clumps, and strangling unsuspecting trees, just like back home.