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Scared to death driving in France with 85 year old

My 85 year young husband just had a heart stent put in 2 weeks ago and the doctor said he can go wherever he wants. We are going to the South Of France, right on the border of Menton, a casual beach town. He is insistent he can drive but I am nervous to say the least. We have done the coast line many years ago so the only places we would want to see would be the interior small villages. We have parking with our accommodations, but we speak no French. We we will be there 10 days and want to know if driving is difficult and hard to navigate. Has anyone used a driver to get to any of the small villages and if so, would yu be willing to share his name? Love you all for your help.

Posted by
11973 posts

Your concerns are based on personal knowledge of your husband I can't know or guess. If you're concerned, it's probably best to consider other options. Buses may be the only option. They are an experience in themselves but limit your ability to see more than one place in a day because of limited connections.

Posted by
8293 posts

Have you done research on which companies will actually rent to an 85 year-old? Some companies have upper-age limits.

Posted by
4717 posts

Having just come back from the South of France and having driven in and around Nice, Monaco, Menton and over the border in Italy I will say that the navigation is easy, particularly with a sat nav (except Monaco) but French and Italian drivers there are awful. Some of the worst driving I've experienced, very ignorant, arrogant and dangerous. Very little indication, lots of erratic lane changing, very dangerous speeding up behind and tailgating and lots of impatient headlight flashing, horn honking and gesticulation.

I'm far from a nervous driver, I think nothing of landing in the US, picking up a car and getting straight on the freeway or driving at high speeds on the autobahn in Germany or through the winding mountain roads in Spain but driving in Southern France was quite stressful and anger inducing. I would strongly advise your husband not to drive, it will do his blood pressure no good!

Posted by
8505 posts

Like Norma, I have some doubts that a 85-year old will be able to rent a car.

You say you want to go into the back country. It's twisty-turny two-lane roads, even the largest. There are interesting towns and stunning painted churches, and I've seen tour buses back there, so you could look for an organized tour from Menton. If you go on your own, it's not far to places like Gorbio, the road along the Valley de la Roya is straighter and flatter to get to Breuil-sur-Roya once you get to the Valley, but it's pretty twisty up to Sospel. The road crosses between France and Italy several times.

As for driving along the coast, there are really three roads, the highest "corniche" being the easiest, but you have to get up there. The coastal road is a traffic jam, the middle corniche is narrow and twisty and full of traffic. There's also the autoroute which is pretty easy to get to from Menton, about 10-minutes up the mountains, but once on it, it's all toll bridges and tunnels until you get closer to Nice.

We drive there when we have to but don't enjoy it, though we both have French driver's licenses. We leave the driving to brother and sister-in-law who live there.

Posted by
4 posts

I can't thank you all for the information. I think we may look for a tour group.

Posted by
8293 posts

In that case, you might want to look into Senior Discovery .Tours. As the name indicates, their tours are designed for seniors and you may find s suitable one for you and your husband.

Posted by
6725 posts

We spent two weeks on the coast of France in Roquebrune Cap Martin above Menton last fall. The driving was completely terrifying. The roads are winding and often because people park along them, they are essentially one lane. It is really exciting to come into a turn that is essentially one lane and find a small bus coming the other way or even a car. It is very difficult driving. We ended up mostly using the buses and not going to some places we had hoped to visit because the driving was such a challenge.

Posted by
511 posts

The traffic in these summer months is very high and August is filled with Italians, who tend to drive much crazier than the French. And Menton, being on the boarder, has a higher percentage. The coastal routes can be very windy but the inland roads and highways are as easy as any in the US. However, they tend to be poorly lit at night and the signs can be difficult to spot. It would be very challenging and I don't think I'd recommend it -- especially in some of the coast routes and places like Monaco.

You may be able to hire a private driver for a day or two to take you into the mountains Otherwise, the bus and train system is inexpensive if you are still OK with walking. Some of the towns, like Menton, are hilly. There are also set tours you can take, as mentioned above. Departing from Nice there is the Train de Merveilles, which stops in hilltop villages near the Italian border.

Posted by
7205 posts

It scares me to death to ride with my father who is only 78 years old. I wouldn't want to ride with him in France or in the USA or anywhere!

Posted by
776 posts

"He is insistent he can drive"

What about considering the dangers he with age reduced reaction times, driving a strange car on roads he doesn't know might present to others?

Posted by
8889 posts

Theresa, Bets mentioned that the roads which run parallel to the coast are called "corniche". This is a French word and it means a road that runs along the side of a hill overlooking the sea ("Une corniche est une route qui longe un flanc de montagne au bord de la mer, typique de la Côte d'Azur").
See photo here:

If you are not comfortable with a driver, I would not like to be a passenger on that road, however scenic it was.

Also, as Norma said, it may be difficult for an 85 year old to find a company that would rent him a car.