Subject: Re: First Trip to Europe Planning! (Long)
Hi Jennie, Your plans reminded me of our first trip to France in '94. We planned it so that we stayed 4 days in Paris, and then took off to the northwest (Versailles, Mount St. Michel, etc.). We arranged not to have a car until the 4th day, since I said that I didn't want to drive in Paris.

What happened was that we miscalculated the 4th day when we made our car reservation (via Autoeurope, at home). Unsuspectingly we show up at the car rental place a day earlier than they expected us. In Europe, it seems, they only have the exact number of cars they need for the day, no more, no less. They found a rental location that had one to spare on the day we needed it, however. It was only a ten minute walk from the original rental place, so off we went.

We get there, and get the car. Two things are now different than the original plan. 1- The new location is one block from the traffic circle around the Arc de Triomphe. 2- because of the delay, it is now rush hour. You guessed it. Within one minute of renting the car, we're injected (the only way to put it) into the merry-go-round of traffic that goes around the Arc. We manage to exit the orbit at the correct street, and make our way down to Les Halles, where our former hotel is, and our luggage.

We approach the hotel from the far side of the street, and need to make a u-turn to get into the driveway. I make the first half of the u-turn, and need to back up just a bit to finish the turn (the street was kind of narrow). I try to put it into reverse, but if the stick shift could talk, it would have said, non, merci. While my wife was frantically reading the car's owner's manual, I managed to find a safety ring on the stick shift that needed to be pulled up to allow the tranmission into reverse, and continue, laughing all the way.

You are absolutely right to be flexible, because so many things can happen. 99% of them are funny if you have the right attitude.

One thing to be prepared for: You may very well fall hopelessly in love with European travel. We did from our first trip. Each time we go, it becomes just a tiny bit harder to come home.

Have a great time, and if you want, I'll tell you a funny story about being taken to a French police station.

-steve in Chino Hills, California, where it's been sunny & warm