On Day One, when we landed in Nice, I ventured out to the local (French) electronics store and bought a Garmin GPS. All the blogs had suggested that it was worthwhile for driving in Europe and a few people with experience in these matters suggested that we would be mad not to.
In short, both were understating the strength of need! We have driven a little on previous trips (GPS was not such a ubiquitous accessory at that stage) and continue to marvel at the thought of finding our way without the help of technology.
I guess it is achievable but I suspect navigating only using road maps would add 30 mins to the average half hour trip and days to any outing of substance.
Ironically, we have found that the greatest need for the GPS exists on the Autostrade and on the very small country roads. The fact that we need a GPS on the country roads is easy enough to understand, and the need on the Autostrade is directly linked to the Italians’ love of an overpass – finding the right exit ramp and then the right exit ramp off the exit ramp is challenging!
In the set-up we decided that it seemed more appropriate to use British English and we were allocated a female voice with a very British Public School Ma’am accent. It was quickly decided that ‘she’ needed a name and Karen seemed appropriate (with apologies to all the British Karens out there).
Karen issues instructions in a firm voice that brokers no dissent and if the instructions are misunderstood or (heaven forbid) ignored, then she becomes terrifyingly stern. Fortunately for Karen, with the notable exception of instructing us to take the 5th exit off a roundabout with only 4 exits, her strike rate is nearing that of The Don’s.
The phrases “recalculating” and “approaching destination on right” (the first heard far more regularly than the second…) have entered T’s vernacular. You can imagine the mutterings from the driver’s seat when on the third or fourth “recalculating” as we tried to find one of the local supermarkets, T pipes up from the back and asks “Dad, why is Karen always recalculating? Are we lost?”…
It hasn’t taken long for Karen to become one of the family. Like any sibling she is lauded (“Karen, you are a GENIUS” – T again when she found the supermarket that he was sure we would never find) and shunned (“Dad, you can turn Karen off now, we know the way from here”) in equal parts. But that, it seems, is the lot of a sibling in our family!
Finally, our first ‘Counting to Dieci Travel Tip’…
Travel Tip #1: If you are considering doing any driving in Italy, arrange to get hold of a GPS and make him/her part of your family.