Monday, June 6, 2011

New Car or how driving in Paris makes you want a better car.

This post has been a long time coming and I am sorry for the delay.  My general rule is to post every other day (unless we are on vacation).  However, I have let myself and you my regular reader down.  Sorry about that. So, what has kept me so busy as of late?

In a word, the classifieds.

No, I am not looking for a new husband.  Everyone knows I met my dearly beloved online.  Yup, classifieds baby.  Honestly, how else would I have him?  Although, I am sure that neither of us ever thought meeting for a glass of wine would result in this lil sweetie pie:

I am so glad it did:)

Anyway, so, this post was going to be about something else, and that post is waiting to be written.  But, it is still without resolve.  Before AND after is so much more satisfying.  And that topic will be toys!  My philosophy on toys, things I am learning about modern toys and ways to yes, incredibly, manage toys.  But that is part one as to why the classifieds consumed me.  I am/was on the look-out for some organizing furniture.
   More on that later.... especially since it was sort-of put on hold for a different kind of classifieds search.  A new car!

The current car we, a hem, Hicham has been driving is about 20 years old.  This is fine for both of us.  We are frugal as hell, okay, you might even call us cheap - especially when it comes to cars.  Our car does not identify us, we don't keep it tidy, we don't care if it gets scratched, and well basically it is pile of shit and that suits us fine.  It has been a tool to get us from point A to point B.  Except for one thing, I have serious panic attacks in said car.  Why?  Because it is loud, not sound proof and JUST DOESN'T FEEL SAFE!  This car in the states would be fine because our lanes are bigger and cars tend not to tail gate as they do here.   And don't get me started on the nerve-racking roundabouts found in Paris.  OMG.  The round-about concept is smooth and easy in the states, though rare, they do work well.  In Paris it is damn free for all.  Hicham has tried to explain to me "how they work".  But since not everyone seems to agree with him, they are really scary.  Here is a visual comparison:

US roundabout
French roundabout

So you can see what I mean.  When you are IN the roundabout trying to get out, there are cars coming at you from all directions.  And, yes, yes, yes, I know this does not even start to compare with places in Asia or even, Greece.  I know, but hey, it still is hectic and with our car I am just sure that one of these we WILL be one of the many cars we see smashed up on the side of the road.

Also because the lanes are smaller, the cars seem to barely miss brushing up against each other by a few millimeters on a regular basis.  Add to all that, hundreds of motorcyles and scooters zooming in between lanes of traffic and you have the recipe for disaster.  Luckily, Hicham is a very good driver and so that is comforting - but only about 50% really.  It is the other driver : stressed-out, late, fast cars who honk their horn the same time the light turns green, who almost plow into the ipod stairing pedestrians, and the cell phone talkers who literally are not paying any attention to what they are doing that make being a passenger in an old, shitty car frightening.  Especially since our car is NOT sound proof at all, you feel like you are on a race track sometimes.

So, we decided that this summer we wanted to go on more road trips and with friends coming to visit from the states, that means we will need more space and also for me to shut the fuck up as a backseat driver, we bought a new car yesterday.  Well, of course I don't mean new as in 2011 - but a new to us car.  But I don't mean a car either, I mean, a mini-van type thing.

The Scenic
I was sure I wanted to get the popular, ubiquitous "Scenic" mini-van.  It is everywhere.  It appears to be the ultimate in the family vehicle - kind of like the Dodge Caravan was in the 80's.  Hicham read all the reviews and agreed between that or that Picasso mini-van would likely be the car for us.  So, on Friday night we spend the entire night looking at classifieds, reading reviews, watching youtube videos, etc.  We had an appointment to look at some shelving for toys on Saturday morning, so our car quest got briefly interrupted.  We resumed after lunch on Saturday.  Went to a used car lot, saw the Scenic (both versions regular and grand) and were NOT impressed.  What a complete joke.  It looks super spacious from the outside, but that is all an illusion.  The three seats in the back would sit 3 nine-year-olds comfortably.  The front seats were almost as narrow.  Unreal.

We decided then to more seriously consider the VW Touran boxy mini-van.  A sensible but, expensive machine to be sure.  German engineering, reliable, no joke vehicle.  We called a guy selling one near our apt.  It was a great car, except it wasn't really.  The seats were like sitting on bus benches.  The turbo made a bizarre almost grinding sound.  Because of the seats, each turn around a corner, you found yourself holding on for dear life.  Yes, it would have been a long-lasting car and certainly safer in the roundabouts, but still no dice.

boys asleep in US minivan
I was like, where the hell are the family mini-vans in France?  My American readers know what I am talking about.

 They just don't seem to exist here.  There was one such vehicle Hicham said, but they stopped making it about 10 years ago.  It was called an "Evasion".

Now, there is something called the "Espace".  It looked promising for a minute.  But it had the same backseat issue.  Three small seats all lined up in the back.  It is also a very large car, terrible gas mileage.
Can you see those ridiculous back seats?  The ESPACE.

We finally looked into a car that was recommended to us by our friend Remi.  It is called a Zafira, by Opel.  It first, it just looked a bit too large for us.  But it turns out, it is the same size as the Picasso and the Scenic.  It is much cheaper too - less people drive it. Not sure why.  Because wow oh wow - is it ever fabulous.  We made an appointment to see the car on Sunday afternoon.  Basically, I knew within 5 minutes that we were looking at our new car.  You know how sometimes, you just get that peaceful, easy feeling ... yeah, it happened. The seats are a bit firm, but they are designed with some support on each side.  The back seats are technically THREE but the middle one is smaller and when folded down makes a really cool arm rest.  It can haul furniture and all of our camping equipment.  It handles very well, gets decent gas mileage and was owned by some extremely responsible people.

I was like, this is it, let's get it.  But that is really, really not the French way.  In fact, "Alright, let's do this thing" were my exact words.  But Non, non, non.  This was another example of culture clash, even though it was the perfect car, checked all the boxes, fit our budget, had all the records, ran well, hell Hicham and the guy drove it around for a damn HOUR while Sabine and I waited with his wife at a park.  It was me against three, they all wanted to "reflechir" (reflect) more before taking action.   They had even agreed on a price and the procedure of how to transfer the car to us, everyone but me agreed to reflect for one night before taking the plunge.  Things just are slower in France and even when you are sure, non, it is better to think longer about it.

These pics are not pics of OUR car, because we won't get it until Friday evening and then roadtrip!  But here is what it looks like.  Opel Zafira:

I mean, right?

Not gonna be fun to park in Paris though.

So, we are delighted.  I see many a long roadtrips to castles and quant cobble stone villages in our future.


Anonymous said...

omg. I'm so glad you have a new car!!!! now drive to Philly and let's go an adventure! :D hugs!

oliviadog said...

Hey girl, probably better if you just come and visit your beloved Paris instead - then we can roadtrip it the hell outta here. K?