-Joyful Experience-

  • Driving on Difficult Road and Conditions

    Driving was really challenging. Especially, when you have never done this type of cross border, terrain, environment type of driving before. Well, there is always the first time! =) We drove on mountainous regions, without street lights, wet weather, farm roads, roads with no lanes (italy!). The roads we went on were totally new to us. Since we were so used to left hand driving, having driven in Singapore and United kingdom. Life was a bit tricky when we hit france, but its not that difficult to pick up right hand driving. And France is a great place to 'warm-up' before we hit Italy!! Just have to KEEP RIGHT and watch out for the round abouts!

    Basically, driving on these difficult roads and environment made me aware of my driving and the others driving culture and abilities. First, things first is to really be a safe and responsible driver. I am also trying my best to be one. There will be times when I was late and was going slightly above the speed limits. But this can be dangerous, since certain roads are not lighted with street lamps and sometimes, it may also be raining. Therefore, keeping to speed limits and maintaining appropriate safety distance are key went driving on motorways or autostrades. Most of Europe speed limits are in km/h. Therefore, it will be better if you could convert your garmin navigation system to show your speed limits in that metric as some cars may reflect speeds in Miles per hour.

    My driving skills were really put to test when we were traveling to French Alps. Initially, when planning the traveling route via the google maps, it did not register to me of the conditions of the road. What I basically saw was a smooth straight path to my designated campsite. We were then traveling from paris, so it was a solid six to seven hours of driving with intermittent stops every 3 hours for us to have a meal and the kids to unleash their energy. The challenges really came about when it was at night we have to hit the mountainous roads and route napolean. These roads did not have street lights, they were winding, up and down, small lanes with single carriagways!! woa! I cant predict, how far the next turn is and where is the border of the current turn. I was purely in a very reactive condition. Fortunately, the kids were asleep, and the driver behind me gave me the space and coupled our lights together to negotiate the bends effectively. On seprate occassions, on our way to St Tropez, and Italy via Turin, we also have to negotiatie winding roads.

    I travelled at a speed that I am comfortable with (definitely slower than the required speed limit), kept my shoulders and back relax, kept my eyes on the lanes of the road (because sometimes you may be distracted to watch the beauty of the landscape near french alps, italy and switzerland), looked for barriers/signals, movement lights of the car ahead to understand bends ahead, cleared my foot area/ footwear from any sand, debris or water, kept away the bags that may hinder my movement, wore gloves to keep my hands warm and shades to keep the sun away. By doing so, I had complete control of the car and awareness of the environment. I used the engine breaks and appropriate gears more often than ever for slowing and controlling the vehicle better respectively. Of course for long monotonus drives, i tried to listen to some nice music, not those that put you to sleep. It will be better to bring your own cds, has many times you will not be able to get good signals near the alps.

    This brings me to the next point about driving with sat navigation systems. I am using a Garmin nuvi 215 from ebay at a reasonable price. However, after uploading it with a nuMaps Lifetime update for europe maps it started to respond with some time lag. What happens is that there is a lag of 40-60m from the actual location. Therefore, whenever I approach a planned junction or exit/ entry to a lane, I am very careful not to miss them or that i am taking the correct one by going a bit slow or recognising the road direction/ names that i should be heading to from the map.

    Other instances when my sat nav failed on us were when we were in city centers such as London, Milan, Rome, St tropez and Zurich !! It went really crazy and fickle! well those times, its really better to just follow the road signs and navigate on your own rather than relying on the sat nav system. There was a time when we forced a turn by believing in the sat nav (argueable) in milan and we almost got booked by the Police and landed in the opposite side of traffic!. So its really important to get hold of the hard copy of the map, you will never know when technology fails on you! (thanks to my wife, who was the navigator and I was basically keeping my eyes on the road!).

    There were also times when I could not find the exact location that I am going into in the sat navigation. Inserting latitude/longitude details could be one way but in some instances where there are no such details. I have to find ways to physically plot in a point nearer the destination that I am heading to and subsequently driving around to look for campsites.

    Driving in ITALY, is not that bad, they have a great transportation system!. Really. its a matter of understanding and adapting to. When we first entered the autostrade, we were welcomed by some ferrari, lamborghini and maseratis that whizzed passed us. On the minor roads where there were no lanes, generally we drove on the right and gave space to those who are faster on our left. We were also mindful to not hog the bus lane which was on our right. Whenever you have to turn or take a slip road just signal and get into position. It was really interesting!! =) just finding space for yourself and wherever you want to move to!



Vijay Ramalingam and Grace Chew were born and married in Singapore, and blessed with two lovely kids. We have always enjoyed traveling and have made numerous travels individually and together as a family. After mid-career, we decided to have a change in our professional lives. We wanted to see the world, experience and appreciate different cultures and make new friends across the globe. We wanted to discover new things and share ideas. We then quit our civil service professional career, sold away all our possessions and packed our life in a suitcase. Just then, Vijay has been blessed to do his postgraduate studies in Sheffield, UK. We are now enjoying the changes in our life!. Read more...


Our first euro trip. We started from Sheffield UK and visited London, France, Italy, Switzerland over a 4 week period. Specifically in France, we visited Paris, disneyland Paris, French Alps, St tropez. In Italy, we visted Milan, Rome which includes tour around vatican city and colosseum. We also visted Venice. We then headed towards Switzerland, where we visted the zurich zoo and the glass blowing in Glasi Hergiswill. While still exploring some nice scenic routes, jogging routes, places to relax and eat.

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