05 April 2010

When GoogleMaps is Wrong

We have a three day weekend for the Easter holiday, so I went with two friends for the night to the city of Reims which is about an hour and a half drive from Paris.  We had heard it was a beautiful little city, and really needed a night away, so we grabbed a change of clothes and a baguette and made our way into the French countryside.

We had looked at GoogleMaps to determine it if was worth driving over taking a train.  Luxembourg (the city and country, shown left) looked close, and according to GoogleMaps it was only another hour and a half.  When we got to Reims, we took a tour of a champagne house and learned (en fran├žais) how champagne is made . . . it's actually a fascinating process and the old cave (below) was really neat to explore.  Then, after checking into our hotel, decided there would be enough time after the Easter service on Sunday to explore the rest of the little city, and since (as per GoogleMaps) Luxembourg was only another hour and a half away, we figured we'd pop up there for dinner, see the little city at night (which we had heard was beautiful) and make our way home for an average-hour-bed-time.

It's not a usual whim for us to just drive to another country for dinner, but you see, when we got to the rental car place (which shall go unnamed in this post), the man behind the desk offered us un plan . . . . which in our classes has always been a synonym for une carte (or, in English, a map).  So we accepted.  The cost was another 50-something-euros beyond what we expected . . . when questioned further, we came to understand that he was telling us that since we were coming back on Sunday night (when the office was closed) we weren't going to find an open gas station (which turns out, so long as you have a credit card, you can pump gas even when the station's closed) and so we had to pay the 50-something-euros to avoid the large fee for bringing the car back empty.  The line was getting longer and longer and the men standing in the line were growing more and more impatient with us.  So, after asking twice for clarification, and confirming that we did in fact understand what he was telling us, we agreed.  Problem was, by the time we arrived in Reims, we hadn't even used a quarter of a tank!!  So, off we went to Luxembourg to hopefully use up a little more of the gas we had already paid for.

I checked the atlas and decided (based on my experience driving all over the US) that the thick double lines marked A4 and A31 were the highways and would be the most efficient and fasted way to get there . . . so, Luxembourg via Metz.  But after 2 hours of driving and barely getting half way, I checked the atlas again, and found, what I thought to be local highways, that seemed like a short cut.

As we turned off the major highway, the speed limit dropped significantly, and we began driving through little villages.  What, on the atlas, I was considering to be major thoroughfares, were in fact, COUNTRY ROADS connecting one village to the next!

Another hour through small towns and we finally made it to Luxembourg! (right)  The city was small, quiet and old.  We found a little Italian restaurant and enjoyed a very fabulous authentic meal.  After dinner, we made our way back, this time taking a more direct route which passed through the south-east corner of Belgium.  But more direct or not, speed limits are speed limits and winding country roads are winding country roads.

We managed to get back to our hotel sometime after midnight.

So, just in case you're ever heading to Luxembourg for dinner, give yourself a few extra hours of travel-time!

Left: the cathedral in Reims;       Right: Easter Sunday service in Reims

Statue of Joan of Arc, who was involved in the coronation of Charles VII at Reims.

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