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LETTERS ANNEX

Driving in Europe

May 09, 1999

As a follow-up to the discussion about driving in Europe, we would like to add our experience.

In three months in 1997, we covered every part of Italy and put 8,000 miles on our vehicle. Despite many warnings that we shouldn't drive in Italy, we decided it would allow us much more freedom than taking trains. As it turns out, it was a safe, wonderful experience.

The Italian engineers have developed a sophisticated highway system that in many ways rivals our own. There is no mountain they haven't cut a tunnel through or a valley they haven't put a bridge across. Drivers were always courteous, except the rare Mercedes doing over 140 mph that wanted to get by us.

We heard about the big cities being a nightmare, especially Naples, but once you understand that Neapolitans do not heed stop signs or red lights and you flow with the traffic, it really wasn't a problem. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. But when in Rome, we seldom drove because it was no more fun than navigating in Manhattan at rush hour.

We never were in an accident or a close call and got not one dent on our new car.

KENNETH HOFFER

Santa Monica

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To prolong the discussion of driving in France: In September and October of 1997, my husband and I rented a car. We then spent several weeks meandering, first toward coastal La Rochelle and back, then to the Dordogne and Perigord, after which we picked up the main freeway to Paris. Driving was delightful, even for us at almost 70 years old. Traffic was not any heavier than we are used to in the U.S. Even the freeway was a delight, well-marked, with regular comfort-stop complexes: gasoline, restaurant, convenience store. In fact, I would rather drive French freeways than those in California.

However, one worm in the apple was trying to return the car in Paris. We had no trouble at all entering Paris from the south and drove easily to our hotel. The nightmare was trying to return the car after dropping off our luggage. It was a numbing experience in rush-hour traffic in the heart of Paris. Next time, we will choose a drop-off point near the end of a Metro line and let it take us into the city.

MARY KNOWLES

Los Angeles

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In response to the person who said they'd never drive in Europe: I've driven in England, France, Germany, Switzerland and even Italy (that one can be interesting). The roads are excellent. The driving is easy with a good map. Keep to the right on the highways, and you will have no problem. Keep in mind the toll roads can get expensive.

We've even driven in Paris, but don't bother if you can help it for the mere reason that there is very little parking and the paid parking is expensive.

If you have trouble driving in big cities in the U.S., don't bother in the big cities in Europe. The advantage, however, is you will actually see more as you can stop anywhere you want any time you want.

DEVRA STONE

Lake Forest

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