Taxi Ride, Provence Style

For the record, I try to avoid taxi rides here in Provence. Reason numero uno, the drivers in this region of France are absolutely crazy and reason numero dos, the TAXI drivers in this region of France are absolutely crazier than the drivers in this region of France. Now all you guys who live in Provence know exactly what I’m talking about. The drivers here go WAY to fast, ride up on your butt and stay there (as if there is somewhere they’re gonna go in traffic!), lane change constantly going at light speed and pass on blind spots. I’m sure they do other “interdit” maneuvers, but those are at the top of my most well known list.

Well, yesterday I had to do something that I’m not really fond of (actually two things). Go to Marseille during morning traffic hours AND take a taxi there. I had an appointment in the morning and was warned that a parking space would never be found close to the building and that the public parking structure was a bit far from my appointment. So instead of me driving to Marseille in my car and stressing out about it, I took a taxi ride and stressed out about it.

When the taxi arrived, I was at least smart enough to get in the back seat instead of the front seat.  I knew that the drive was going to be a bit scary but I had no idea it was going to be an E-ticket ride! At 8am in the morning, with some light traffic on the first auto route we took, the taxi driver was seriously barreling down the high way faster than the legal limit and making swift lane changes without signaling. I couldn’t even look straight ahead because each time I tried I would just see an ocean of cars in front of me with their break lights on and my taxi driver not slowing down but doing a quick lane changes instead! Right away I figured I would just play games on my cell phone so I could avoid looking out the front window (that didn’t last too long, I got a bit carsick). Then I moved on to looking out the side window and sort of up at the sky. That seemed to help.

Before arriving to the interchange, I started to experience a great deal of speeding up and slamming on the breaks syndrome. For some odd reason all the drivers here just love to accelerate when up a head of them they have no where they can possible go and then just suddenly break at the very last moment only when they absolutely have to, thus giving everyone in their car a bunch of mini whip-lashes throughout the duration of the trip.

Things got a bit better when we transitioned onto the second auto route towards Marseille. That’s because the cars all came to a slow roll and there was pretty much heavy traffic.  About five minutes after being on this highway we came upon an accident. On the right-hand shoulder, a car had gone about half way over the railing (its back tires were actually hugging the railing and keeping it from falling all the way over on the other side) and there was a woman lying on the highway shoulder off to the side of the car! I’ve seen after-math accidents before, but never have I seen a person just lying on the side of the road! It was quite shocking to see and she appeared not to be moving. The paramedics hadn’t arrived yet and there were three other people standing next her. After we very slowly passed the scene of the accident, I looked over at the driver of the taxi and we both raised our eyebrows at each other in a bit of a shocked look. I felt like saying to him, “See, that’s why you shouldn’t drive like a freakin’ idiot!”

The rest of the way to Marseille was still heavy traffic and so we just rolled along with the taxi driver sending text messages to his buddies the whole way and constantly looking back and forth between his phone and the road. Hmmmm, I think that might be “interdit” here, as well. He did have to slam on his breaks a couple of times to avoid his own small fender bender. Did he already forget the accident we just saw cuz I didn’t?!

Once off the auto route and in Marseille, he still drove like a crazy person. We were weaving in and out of the lanes for regular cars and then the lanes for buses. There were even times when our lane was blocked by another car who had stopped and put their hazard lights on and the taxi driver would speed up to be able to cut into oncoming traffic to go around them even if there was barely any time or space to do so before the oncoming car was upon us!  At those few times I know I shut my eyes tight (a small scream might have even escaped my lips)!

I did manage to get to my destination before my appointment time, but I was a bit twitchy after the ride to say the least.  As I left the taxi, the driver gave me his card and said to call him when I was finished and he would pick me up. Oookay????? Well, what’s it gonna hurt to give him call? It’s not like there would be a chance I’d get another taxi driver who would drive slower. With my luck it would probably be the complete opposite and my ride home would be worse!

After my appointment I called the taxi driver and he was there in about 15 minutes (big surprise given the speed of his driving).

I strapped in and was ready for the ride which happened to be much faster than my morning ride given that the traffic was all but gone and we were now leaving Marseille. Again I just looked out the side window the whole way. This time around he was able to get up to pretty high speeds and weave in and out of traffic with more ease. I was really quite scared the whole way home more so than the ride to Marseille. A few times when we were in what some would consider the fast land on the auto route (every lane could have been called the fast lane with this guy) he would come upon a car that was “in his way” and he wasn’t able to change lanes cuz there was a car already there, so he would get so close to the car in front of him that the bumpers of the cars were practically touching!!! Then he would break, speed up, break and speed up, until the car in front of him would speed up and go into the next lane to move out of the way!  This happened on several occasions going home.  What happened to respecting a two car length space between cars!?? This sort of driving is so dangerous that I can’t believe anyone would even consider doing it, yet there my driver was all cool and calm about it.

I felt like I was on Space Mountain and I should put my hands up and scream!

Thankfully, I made it back to my home base all safe and sound. Once there, as I was paying the cab fee, the driver asked me when I was leaving to go to the airport cuz he would drive me there. I gave him a big smile and told him that I lived here so no other taxi ride was necessary! Then he told me to please keep his business card in case I ever needed a ride anywhere or if I had friends who needed a ride.

Even though he was super sweet, I’m not sure I would subject my friends to a crazy taxi ride. The friends I have I would like to keep!

I would caution any of you who are faint at heart to maybe forget about the taxi rides in Provence. For those of you who have the predisposition to get your heart racing just for the fun of it, a taxi ride in Provence on the auto route would be right up your alley. Go for it, but you might look like this when you exit the cab!


About backyardprovence

I was finally able to realized my dream of living in France when I moved here in 2010. I love to read,I love history and road trips. I want to be doing anything outside in the fresh air. I want to have an entire room devoted to a personal library.

Posted on February 17, 2012, in French Daily and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Hey riding with your taxi driver to Marseille can not be any worse than riding with my cousin the cardiologist from the suburbs of Montpellier to the Tarn. Speeding, slamming on breaks and passing on blind corners are all routine during one of those trips.

  2. Hmmm. Tried to post to this last night but guess it didn’t take. Recreating as closely as I can remember:

    Oh, the nostalgia this awakens for the adrenalin-rush rides in France with taxi drivers, airport shuttle drivers, bus drivers, young French women. Um. This may just be French drivers. Although there was a Munich taxi. . . it was a Mercedes, which I would have thought would inspire more caution. The topper is the Tijuana taxi driver who even travels down sidewalks. I think they have a mission in life to scare American tourists and I’ve made it my mission to show no fear and egg them on. I call this “getting in my Tijuana taxi-driver frame of mind.”

    So have faith, show no fear and enjoy the ride.

    • Well, Lee, it sounds like you have some pretty decent experiences in taxis, too. If I do happen to take a taxi again here, I will do my best to take your advise. That and wear my T-shirt that says, “Get it, sit down, shut up and hold on”!

  3. You take me back to a small group tour I was on some years ago, based in Bonnieux. We just needed a mini bus so it wasn’t too big but while everyone else fought over who’d “get” to sit in front, we raced to the back — it was just big enough that from the back you couldn’t see what was happening in traffic and I liked it that way! I think the only place I’ve been with worse traffic was Naples….

    • Hey Yogaleigh, you definitely did well to sit in the back! That was a very good choice. Not seeing what is happening is a big plus. Can’t worry so much that way! I’ve never been to Naples so I haven’t seen the traffic, but Rome was horrendous!

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