03 August 2008

Heavy traffic

Little blue flowers on stalks near Saint-Aignan
All pictures taken on 02 August 2008
And a close-up

Yesterday was the biggest drive day of the summer season in France. It was the day of the great mid-summer chassé-croisé on the highways. There's no good translation in English for that expression.

Chassé-croisé on a thistle
Click the pictures to enlarge them.

The image in this particular chassé-croisé is of cars chasing each other south and crossing paths with all the cars chasing each other north — in other words, heavy traffic in both directions. All the people who took their vacations down south in July, the juillétistes, were on their way back to their homes in the north. And all those who take vacations in August, the aoûtiens, had packed up their cars and hit the roads, headed south.

It was a surprise to see a field of poppies so late in summer.
This is at Les Laurendières, just down the hill
from La Renaudière where we live.

The result was something like 700 km or 400 miles of traffic jams on the roads, at one point. As always, the worst bottleneck in the country was the autoroute in the Rhône Valley where it passes through Lyon and continues south into Provence. For people headed to prime vacation destinations like the Drôme, the Luberon, the Gorges de l'Archèche, the Côte d'Azur, and the Camargue, it was very slow going.

Bales of hay in August are not a surprise.

The going was also slow on the autoroute that runs south out of the Paris area to Orléans, Tours, Poitiers, and Bordeaux. The back-up just north of Orléans was many miles long, according to radio reports. Drivers were advised to head west to Le Mans instead of going south toward Orléans, and then to turn south toward Tours from there. But that route got clogged too.

Yellowish-white flowers on vines.

The best advice the autoroute officials gave was for people to stay off the roads altogether. Few listened, but we did. We didn't start the car yesterday. We each had a good walk, between rainshowers. On est passés entre les gouttes, as they say. Callie too. We were none the worse for wear.


  1. It seems to me the blue flower could be a "phacélie à feuilles de tanaisie (Phacelia tanacetifolia)" in the same family as borage [bourrache].
    The white flower is a wild clematis [clématite sauvage ou clématite des haies].

  2. Struth......... (talking about traffic, that is).

    Susan's family have a penchance for arriving on poor traffic days; her parents arrived on the last day of the May holidays in Paris and I had to drive up to meet them, and her sister arrives on the last day of the August holidays.

    I refused, this time, to drive to Paris, but insisted they catch the train to Poitiers.

    I didnt know about this weekend. If I had, I am sure someone would have fashioned an arrival for this date.

    They do it to torment me, you know..........

  3. Simon, I sympathize. But don't take it personally. You just have to tell people arriving from overseas that it is a 10-hour, €150 drive up to Roissy and back (counting tolls, parking, and fuel). And that's on the best day. It can take many more hours.

    And then the people you have been kind enough to go fetch just sleep in the car as you drive back and keep asking you: "Are we there yet?" No, trains were invented to prevent such suffering on the part of drivers.

  4. Merci, CHM, I'll have to take your word for it! My blog is becoming a version of an old game show: Name That Plant!

  5. Nice old game, good to keep Alzheimer away.
    I am almost sure now that the lovely blue flower is a Viper's Bugloss (Blueweed) Echium vulgare, [Vipérine in French].

  6. Yes, a good game. I'll keep taking pictures of the plants and flowers I see out on my walks. Hope you are doing well.

  7. C-H - your second guess is correct.
    Ken - 'struth' = contraction of 'God's truth', a very common Australian exclamation.


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