After something of a struggle a couple days ago, I was finally able to find a rental car in Paris and convince the system to let me pay for it with an American credit card. Hertz won the bid, if only because we figured their good customer service would survive the hop across the Atlantic. (I’m happy to report that it did.) What did not survive the trip are features like “unlimited mileage,” but no matter.

Every overseas trip I take, I try to schedule at least one driving day. I enjoy seeing how differently things are done, from signage and exit ramp design to the sorts of junk food available in the highway gas station/rest stops. France did not disappoint. I had chocolate crepes and espresso at one, and a decent sandwich and fruit at another. And lots of Orangina. (Aside to the folks at Orangina: stick to the original, orange flavor, and skip the “Red,” “Indien,” and all the other crappy flavors. Also, please please please stop the ad campaign with the “sexy” deer-woman-thing sitting on a giant ice cube, wearing a bikini, and sipping an Orangina through a very long straw. What hell is that supposed to mean?)

Exposition flyerDeciding where to drive is often the toughest part. Sometimes it’s a lucky encounter with a New York Times article (Noto Peninsula in Japan one year or Ben Nevis in Scotland another). This time, it was Google Alerts and my alert that looks for news about the Lane Motor Museum. Turns out that the Lane had commissioned a Leyat propeller car reproduction, and they got mentioned in a French article a few weeks ago on the topic of a Leyat exposition (a small, short museum installation of sorts) in Meursault. The week of the expo was the week of our trip, and Meursault was an easy, three hour drive from Paris.

What I hadn’t realized until literally the day I got to Meursault was that Jeff Lane would be there to operate the controls of the Hélice reproduction to show visitors how it ran on the chateau grounds. I got a personal tour of the vehicle and much of Leyat’s history from Claude Gueniffey, who formed Les Amis d’Hélice (Friends of the Propeller Car) and organized the exposition. I also got to chat with Jeff for a bit, and Claude invited me to stay for a piano concert by a woman who had learned to play from Leyat himself. Leyat had created a unique musical notation system, and this former student of his is likely the only remaining person on earth who really understands it and still uses it. There was a lecture explaining it, but again my French listening skills are barely up to par for a reading of Petit Nicholas, never mind a musical/technical discussion.

Chateau de Citeaux a Meursault

The drive home was uneventful, which is pretty amazing — with limited reliance on the GPS/maps in my phone, I managed to navigate all the way back to the Hertz lot without making a single wrong turn. Turns out the signage for Orly is pretty good.

Outside Meursault

Another 45 minutes by train and I was back at the hotel by about 10:30pm, time enough to get dinner at Chez Janou, which had been strongly recommended by our friend Suzy, who’d spend a month in Paris a couple years ago. Chez Janou was well worth it. If they accept reservations, by all means get some. We were lucky to get a table for two, even at 11pm.