Driving Miss Clio
The Renault Clio is a fine little car, similar in size and amenities to the Toyota Yaris, a little larger than the VW Polo. It suited our needs well. There was plenty of room for our luggage when traveling between hotels, and lots of back-seat space for coats, hats, umbrellas and other stuff we carried every day.
We drove Clio a total of 4300 kilometers (2670 miles) in five weeks, mostly two-lane and smaller roads. We checked the mileage on only one tank of diesel but for that tank, she got 4.8L per 100K. That figures out to a bit over 45mpg.
Our trip would have been nearly impossible with the Garmin (the portable GPS that we borrowed from Bill). This is a sample 10-mile square from our Michelin road map:
The roads we used (because Penelope seemed to prefer them) were often tiny, lacking a center line, just wide enough for two cars. You need to know where your right wheels are, so when there's an oncoming car you can safely get that reassuring tickerty-tickerty noise of the tall grass hitting the side mirror. Even so, there's always that moment of panic when you think maybe this time the two driver's-side mirrors are going to slap together with a spray of glass and plastic. But no, it never happened.
We didn't put a scratch on Clio, and there were only a couple of scares, and we only got honked at once. Some of the credit for that record goes to David's (usually) alert and conservative driving. But a lot of credit has to be given to the French drivers, who are universally alert, polite, and generous. Only a few times did we see aggressive driving and that was almost always by somebody in a german-made car. Go figure.
Especially in cities and towns, the French use lots and lots of roundabouts. We love roundabouts! Why? Because they eliminate left turns! With a roundabout, you never have to stop and wait and make a left in front of oncoming cars. You just slide into the roundabout, go around until your exit comes up, and exit. Nothing but right turns, ever. So easy; so safe.
The only driving-related problem was parking: where to put the car safely and legally in order to take a picture, get a snack, or for the night, was often a stressful issue. It got so our routine joke was, on seeing any parking lot with spaces, "Quick, let's park!"
Along the Breton coast we saw a lot of rental camping vehicles and these beasts are every bit as large as the rental RVs on American roads. But in France the roads are a lot smaller and the parking a lot scarcer. We would never, ever take a camping vehicle into France. Much better to have a small car and use hotels or hostels.