May 1st – Smooth Sailing out of Paris


We have an annual ritual of picking up a leased Peugeot at Peugeot Sodexa. Concerned about the May 1st holiday, we picked up our Peugeot Sodexa yesterday at their main offices which are located in the outskirts of Paris, just beyond the Arch de Triomphe at La Defense.
fountain-at-la-defense.jpg
Photo by Chris Card Fuller ©2007

Most first-time visitors will want to pick up their leased car at the airport, but if you want to save a few Euros, there’s not much reason to bother with a car while you’re staying in Paris.

If you do decide to pick up your car at Peugeot Sodexa headquarters, be forewarned, La Defense is a labyrinth of construction projects and it’s wise to follow directions carefully when it comes to getting to the agency. You can either take a taxi (remember you will be charged a higher fare the minute you cross from Paris adjoining township.

If you choose to take the Metro to La Defense, take the Metro to the last stop: La Defense (not Esplanade de la Defense) which is the second to last stop. Peugeot Sodexa will have given you a handy map (which you should have at your fingertips). The map lists the bus numbers that leave from La Defense’s main bus terminal (you reach the bus terminals by walking through the huge shopping complex and following the signs toward the Bus signs and the appropriate numbers for your stop) Call Peugeot Sodexa first to get explicit directions to save yourself time wandering around. The good thing about being outside of Paris is that the price of a beer and a sandwich plummets. We stopped off at a little PMU hotel/bar/cafe adjacent to Peugeot Sodexa where a very polite server prepared two huge sandwiches for us. The price for a sandwich with drink included (in our case a 25 cl beer on tap) was 4 Euros 50.
Within the Paris city limits, you’re lucky to get a cup of tea for that price.

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In many cafes and brasseries, you order beer and wine by the centiliters:
A glass of wine would be equal to about 14 cl.
A small beer is 25 cl.
A pint or large beer would be 50 cl. In touristy areas like Montparnasse, a pint can cost you 8 Euros. If you order house wine, order a pichet or a carafe rather than a glass of wine. A pichet is good for about 2 glasses of wine, and a carafe is usually right for two people.

Water can be a touchy subject. Cafe owners really don’t like it much when you order water and nothing else to drink. If that’s the case, you’re expected to order either l’eau plat’ ou ‘gazeuse’ bubby water. You can ask for a half bottle. If you’re ordering a full lunch or dinner and ask for a carafe d’eau, servers are more likely to bring you a carafe of water at no charge. By asking for a ‘carafe d’eau’ it’s employed that you’re asking for plain tap water.

Getting back to your leased car – you’ll have app 1/4 of a tank which is plenty to get you to a gas/petrol station. Remember that ‘sans plomb’ means unleaded and it’s always a green label. The other usual options are diesel and sometimes you’ll see ‘super’ which used to be unleaded – but this is less common. Just remember that the green label is good for unleaded gas if you can’t remember ‘sans plomb’.

Now you’re ready to head out of town. You will also note that your license plate is red and everyone else’s is white which announces to the entire world that you are from out of town, you probably don’t know where you’re going and if you have plenty of luggage in your car, that you are a good target. Not to worry, but just be cautious and don’t leave your luggage in your car for any longer than necessary. If you stop for lunch enroute, take your most valuable possessions with you i.e. passport, cash, jewelry, etc.

If this is your first time driving in Paris, May 1st (if it’s earlly in the morning, is a nice time to drive around the city, especially the peripherique which at 8 am was deserted.) The 1st day of May has turned out to be as warm and pleasant as the last two weeks of April with only one major downpour in Paris the night before last. The weather forecasters have not had an easy time of it the last few weeks – this Spring has been anything but predictable.