From horseless carriage to carless pairage
We had a rental car for the first couple of weeks that we were in France figuring that it would be handy to pick up our initial supply of groceries, a couple of small portable tables, and to stock the liquor cabinet (for guests, of course!) with all of those heavy bottles that we would not want to hand carry on the bus or by walking. Now that we don’t have a car for the first time in 28 years or so we are solely (pun intended) on foot.
According to AAA, in the US it costs $8698 to operate a car annually. Considering that gasoline here is about four times the cost it is in America, I’d say that by walking most places and using public transit for distant journeys we can cover all of our housing and other living expenses with that yearly savings. So we’ve said “buh-bye” to our own car but can say “bla-bla” to a shared ride service if we want to. Started by a Frenchman, Bla Bla Car now covers 22 countries matching up riders with drivers. For example, if we wanted to get from Carcassonne to Nice we could look online to see if someone was driving that route when we wanted to go, book it and pay for it on the website, and then enjoy an inexpensive ride. The company name comes from member profiles who indicate how much they like to talk; one “bla” says that you’ll enjoy the scenery while up to three “blas” means that the kilometers will fly by as you chat away. Guess where each of us would fall.
I found this funny. Bill told me that when he went to the train station to turn in the rental car, the agent was already helping someone else, in French of course. When that customer left and Bill approached the desk, the agent greeted him with “Hello, may I help you?” in English. Darn, caught out again. Looks like we need to work on our European disguises some more. To console himself, he stopped to buy a baguette on the 20-minute walk back home from the station. Merci!