The port city of Le Havre is a masterpiece of vague navigation aids. Roundabouts point to places that people really don’t want to go to, especially the British tourists who drive tiredly off the ferry, yawning after a rolling night on the English Channel. Long stretches of road also exist without a roundabout, so if you take the wrong turn you’ll have to drive for kilometres (and get even more lost) before you find your way out again. For those without a satnav in their car, or those unwilling to use their smartphone data to navigate, it’s a rude introduction to la belle France.
One of the architects of this bewildering and frustrating road system was a man we shall call Armand. Armand was a misanthrope. In fact, he was the misanthrope’s misanthrope, an utter bastard who made it his life’s work to create misery for others. He fitted perfectly into the French public service.
There was nothing Armand liked better than to drive around his town and the local environs, including Honfleur and the magnificent Pont de Normandie. He knew his way around every street without even having to glance at the masterpieces of misdirection he’d created, and he’d drive with the window down, Gauloise in his mouth, smiling at each sign of frustration from motorists. Each wail of horror from a car with GB plates which was going around a roundabout for the third time. Each angry scream of air brakes from articulated lorry drivers who suddenly realised that the port sign they thought was the one they wanted, wasn’t. It was all music to Armand’s ears. Continue reading