On the Road to Nowhere

“Are you looking at the map, which way do we turn here?”  MB is talking to me while driving as I search both the map and the road for a sign.

“I’m looking,” I wail, “but I’m telling you I can’t even figure out what road we are on!”

MB sighs and pulls over and I can tell he is blaming this confusion solely on the fact that I have…meh…not a great sense of direction (seriously, it is a miracle I can make it out of walk-in closets).  

“Let me see,” he says, relieving me of the map and scanning the page.

I wait as he looks at the map, then looks up at the road, then down at the map, then up at the road, over and over again.

“You look like a bird eating bird seed,” I say.  I’m so helpful.

“Quoi,” he says with irritation in his voice.  I realize he has not heard my statement at all…he is “in the map.*”

He steps out of the car and walks toward the intersection, searching for a street sign, looking on sides of abandoned sheds.  Finally he spots something and I see him throw his hands up in frustration before returning to the car.

“(French expletive),” he says, shutting the car door. “I mean, this is ridiculous.”

I shrug and smile at him smugly serenely.  Mwahahahahaha!  Now who has no sense of direction, huh?!  (yeah, that would still be me.)

“I mean, how can both directions be correct,” he says angrily as he points to the only apparent sign.

I burst out laughing as I look at the signage: TOUTES DIRECTIONS = all directions.  Beneath these words are arrows, one pointing to the left and one pointing to the right.  It might as well say: make something up.

“ARGH!!!!”  MB gives a shout of irritation and I have to force away a smile.  (Sometimes it is really funny to me when MB gets angry because he is usually so calm.  Does this make me a bad person?  …possibly.)

After a few minutes of debating with himself and looking further down the map MB decides to just pick a direction and hope for the best…I mean, it’s not like it would be the first time.


You remember the movie Labyrinth?  If not, I would be happy to give you a one woman show BECAUSE IT IS AWESEOME (David FREAKIN Bowie).  Anyway, I digress…do you remember this scene – go to about the 2min mark:

That pretty much sums up what it is like to drive around on back roads through France (minus the hot androgynous fairy king).  On the highways it is no problem, even the smaller national highways are great and well-signed but once you get off the beaten path, you are on your own.  Street signs may or may not exist and the indicated directions often have an “all roads lead to Rome” style.  Even for MB it can be a struggle.

“OH please, she is just being silly, I mean, doesn’t she know everyone has GPS these days.” 

HA!  I scoff at your GPS…and so does France.  Do you remember that episode of “The Office” when Michael drives into a lake because the GPS tells him to?  Yeah, well, that scenario happened to us in Provence (incidentally, we chose not to drive into the large tree indicated).

“Yeah, but I’ll still have my IPhone, I can pull up maps or call someone.”

No you can’t, France will take away your cell phone reception too.  When you are traveling through the countryside, cell phone reception is spotty, to say the least.  Basically, consider back roads as a personal challenge issued to you from France.

FRANCE:  HA!  You want to go on a nice weekend road trip?  That is fine but don’t think it will come easy – you have to work for it!

ME:  But France, WHHHHHHY?!

FRANCE:  Don’t question me – I am France, I am full of enigmas!

That is pretty much how the challenge is issued.

So, when that moment arrives and your GPS tells you to drive into someone’s barn, dust off those wilderness skills (Girl Scouts 4 EVA), pull out one of those old-fashioned paper things with directions on it and figure out from the placement of the sun which way is North…

…or stop and ask for directions – the answer can’t be nearly as confusing as trying to figure it out yourself.


*In the Map!  Remember this from “Friends?”

16 thoughts on “On the Road to Nowhere

  1. I could have written this post a few years ago, it’s so true. I just love the sign that says “Toutes directions”. Sooo informative. I have solved the endless arguments by presenting my dear husband with a map BEFORE we leave so he can check where we are going. Then I put the address in the GPS. If the GPS (or my husband) is wrong, it’s no longer my problem! He can contradict the GPS (a woman’s voice) all he wants, I do not feel concerned. When the GPS can’t find the address, I whip out my iPhone (when you can get the network) and guide him. He used to scoff in the beginning but has now realised that it is more accurate than the GPS. Good luck!


    1. Haha – yes, good to venture into the French wilderness with every possible device and tool. 🙂 We don’t have GPS (ours was with a rental car) or IPhones anyway (yes, we live in the dark ages) so we just work with the map but it always ends up being a bit of a guessing game…although certainly easier in France than Italy. Mamma mia! 🙂


  2. Your lack of direction is inherited! So sorry you picked that gene up while swimming in the gene pool! Both Peg and I have the same problem! I plan to steal your line about the walk-in closets! Love you north, south, east and west!
    Aunt Pat


    1. AH HA! So now I know who to blame! 🙂 Xav laughs about it all the time – I basically never know where I am. And steal away – I love that line, been using it for a while now. Love you!


  3. But what do you do when it is night and the sun cannot tell you where to go?!? This happened to me about a month ago, when going over the border from Geneva into France. I swear that my GPS decided to hate me immediately. We drove around in circles for about 20 minutes before we finally got in touch with my friends who we were trying to visit and they gave us directions, which involved going back almost to the French border. Which is to say, I got a serious laugh out of this post. Nailed it, as always.


    1. HA – yes, once the sun is down you must wait it out until full night time so that you can navigate by the stars. lol. It really does get ridiculous sometimes – the GPS just makes me laugh here in general. Thanks for reading and glad you enjoyed! 🙂


  4. Oh, you actually saw a two-pointer “toutes directions” sign? I love those! (not so much when I’m actually trying to get somewhere and don’t know how, but still, they’re so absurd they become wonderful)
    I was thinking of you – if I remember right, it was you who wanted to watch the French version of American Idol, la Nouvelle Star? It’s on every Thursday night on D8 and you can watch it online, too, at http://www.d8.tv/d8-divertissement/pid6523-ms-nouvelle-star.html . My daughter and I are watching, my husband hates it… One of the worst part for me is how they often butcher the English lyrics, but this year they have two guys who can actually pronounce English. 🙂


    1. OH yes – I am a big fan of the “both directions” signs. Like, what does that even MEAN???? Too funny!

      Ehrmergerd! So excited to see this – will definitely be checking out the link. I will enjoy it hardily for a) the fun of French Idol and b) the fun of torturing my husband. hehe…thanks!! 🙂


  5. I agree, this is perfect as always! GPS is noooot the way to go in France. No way, no day. But wait, when were you in Provence???? It better not have been recently our I am going to go all redhead on you! 😉


  6. 1. I love the movie, Labrynth
    2. I love that scene
    3. I’m pretty sure my French GPS just likes to f*ck with me for giggles


    1. YUSS! Another Labyrinth lover! I swear, I really do think I would recite the whole thing. Love it. Haha – yeah, we don’t even have a GPS here…not sure what the point would be. 🙂


  7. Sounds like we can mount a three-woman production of LABYRINTH as I have the whole movie memorized. (I’ll even take one for the team and be Hoggle and all the weird Muppets like the Worm and the door knockers.)

    While co-piloting with my best friend in southern France pre-smart phones, we came upon these signs and were totally mystified. Since I was the French-speaking one, it was my responsibility to navigate but I didn’t know what the hell to do when we were looking for Orange and the options were “Paris” or “All other directions” with the two arrows. I’ve never asked the French how they manage but it could just be that they don’t care since, wherever they are, they’ll up in France and therefore near a good restaurant.


    1. HA! The Worm: “Did somebody say hello?” “No, I said “ello” but that’s close enough.” Love it.

      I’m so glad that I’m not the only one who finds these signs baffling – it just makes no sense to me. Le sigh…I guess that is what my French husband is for – I can just laugh at his frustration and stay out of it!


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