Perils of the home straight


Nerves of steel are required to drive this road every day

Whoever dares to question French courageousness needs to drive on my road.

Countless fearless Aixois commuters do it every day of the week. Twice. At speed.

The road is as wide as a catwalk model’s ankle.

Steep ditches line each side of it.

Huge trucks travel at ferocious speeds on it.

Tractors and trailers, graders and even horses and carts can be seen on it.

Yet the only one who is terrified is me – leaning pointlessly toward to the centre of the car where it feels a tiny bit safer.

C’est terrible!” a local told me. “They’re planning to widen it but people drive too fast. Every week in winter you will see one or two cars in a ditch.”

I almost ended up in the ditch in my second week, trying to avoid a head-on collision with a van while maintaining my speed for fear of infuriating the driver behind me. I learned from that.

It’s only a 1km stretch of road – so far one of the stickiest I’ve seen in the region. If I have to slow down or even stop a couple of times, what can people do? Toot their horn? So far it’s only happened once.

Sabbatical Man has taken to jogging along this stretch of road and points out that cars stop behind him to let oncoming traffic through, then continue on their way, without so much as a “still got my bow fingers” gesture his way. They might be fearless but they are not fou (crazy).

This may explain why, on a whim, I decided to walk Medium home from the fruit and vegetable shop 300m from home along this very road the other day.

Bad place to walk children near Aix-en-Provence

Bad place to walk kids near Aix-en-Provence

I realised that it was madness the moment I saw our car turn away into the traffic. It looked like a Sherman tank compared to the tee-shirt and shorts that stood between my eight-year-old and certain death.

It felt like walking on a motorway. If I put Medium behind me, I couldn’t see if he suddenly skipped or hopped into harm’s way. If I put him in front of me it felt like I was using him as a human shield. We walked in the thistles, we sought shelter in driveways, we sprinted short distances between cars. We contemplated trespassing, traversing deep thistle-lined ditches, discussed the pros and cons of crop-crashing. In the end we made a run for it.

The expressions on the drivers’ faces were priceless – the French really do treasure children. What the hell are you DOING  woman, they were eyebrowing at me. Get that child to safety and for God’s sake comb his hair!

“I’m from New Zealand!” I wanted to yell. “Walking on country roads. It’s a thing! We also eat iceblocks and don’t wear shoes even if we can afford them!”

No, never again. There are many utterly beautiful and perfectly safe  places to walk with children around Aix-en-Provence. If you live where I do,  you just have to drive to get to them.


Outstanding place to walk children near Aix-en-Provence

Outstanding place to walk children near Aix-en-Provence

8 thoughts on “Perils of the home straight

    • True! Keep thinking of Matt when I see cyclists in spots like this. We saw a cyclist without helmet flying down the motorway a few days ago. The motorway! Xxxx you fellas coming over this way?

  1. i felt a bit like that walking our dog Elton when we lived on Forest Hill Road Waitakere, roads were originally pathways but stick two lanes being constantly used on them… we used to bike to Ngaere School and ride to Pony Club along State Highway 3.. yikes with all the milk tankers, oil tankers, agricultural contractors as well as “normal” commuters… who are your main road users in your locality?

    • Hi Ruth – most of the users are commuters I think…travelling from the villages north of us down to Aix en Provence. But lots of small trucks, delivery vehicles, tractors and, so far only twice that I have seen, horse and cart. The most terrifying drivers are the local bus drivers who barrel down close to 100kph, well above speed limit – gives me the screaming heeebie-jeebies!

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