24 May 2010

Route Barrée

This is the most hated sign on the roads in France. I suppose ‘bouchon’ or ‘travaux’on the motorways are almost as hated, but unlike the UK where motorway roadworks usually mean huge delays or slow speed contra-flows, in France a ‘bouchon’ or blockage on the motorway usually means a short delay with the traffic continuing to move whilst ‘travaux’ is reserved for motorway digging which is invariably done overnight and causes few problems. Route Barrée (road blocked), on the other hand can mean huge disruption, especially, if like me, you ignore the sign and carry on hoping for the best.

We have a Route Barrée on the road leading up to our house at the moment. Thoughtfully, the electricity company sent us a letter in February saying there would be ‘works’ on Chemin de St Arnoux from April through to August which, I have to say, sent a bit of a shiver down my spine – 5 months! What on earth (pun) were they planning to do? I suppose it said it in the letter but my understanding of business letters is still at an elementary stage – all I noted was that it was on our road, sorry chemin, and that it would take 5 months.

A few weeks later whilst taking the kids down to the school bus stop, I noticed the JCBs, huge piles of long red, plastic pipes and guys having their breakfast in their cabs before starting work.

The next morning, driving down to the bus stop, there it was, ‘Route Barrée’ which means that somewhere along the road, it will be completely blocked . Luckily we were only about 100 yards from the main road where the bus stop is so the kids hopped out and ran down the hill.

The next morning, in my usual soporific state (it is 7.20am after all !), the ‘route barrée’ was halfway along the road and there was no alternative but to turn round and head the other way. Luckily, Chemin de St Arnoux is a loop and so there are two ways down to the main road but as it’s about 3 miles long, if you hit the barriers almost at the end of the loop, it’s quite a trek to get to the other end, and quite stressful (for the kids, not me) if you’re rushing to get a bus.

Eventually however, you remember that the road is blocked and automatically head the other way but sometimes, usually always with me, you take a chance and head for the road works hoping that , (a) the workers are having a coffee, (b) they are having a chat and the JCBs are at the side of the road, or (c) they are having their 2 hour lunch hour and have left a space to get through.

The worst bit was last week when the road works were right below our house. It meant that to get to the village, we had to turn right (as opposed to left), drive 1.5 miles to the main road and then drive another 3 miles to get to the normal exit onto the R2210. Similarly, when coming back to the house, you have no idea where the JCBs are so take a chance and find that they are blocking your route, literally 10 metres from our drive.

It’s then that I become French and just sit there looking daggers at the workers, making all sorts of hand gesticulations and pointing to my drive.

To their credit, the workers usually relent. The JCB moves to the side, the lorry taking all the earth away has to move to the next passing space and the workers jump out of the way as I speed past and wave and smile.

And just in case you were wondering what all the work is for, it’s to install a high tension electric cable – whatever that is!

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