Culture Magazine

Les Chauffards (or Free Spirits) Du Lavandou: an Apology

By Colin Randall @salutsunderland


Just when I had persuaded myself it was a phenomenon induced by living in or visiting Le Lavandou, I find I must eat my words.

The desire to drive the wrong way round car parks, against clearly painted direction signals on the road surface, is merely part of the human condition. So roadhogs of this part of the Var, or - if you prefer - free spirits exercising their republican right to do as they please, accept my heartfelt apology for picking on you.

In a short wait for my daughter at the car park of the Matalan store at the Great Western Retail Park near Southall, I saw half a dozen people do precisely the same thing.

In all cases, west of London as in the south of France, the objective appears to be gain a few seconds' advantage, though this does not always happen.

The example above is the most recent one spotted at Intermarché, which I think of as being in Le Lavandou although it may technically be in Bormes-les-Mimosas. The woman driver, a holidaymaker I'd say from her non-Var registration plate, not only drove the wrong way for more than half the length of the first section of the car park, paying not the slightest attention to cars approaching in the opposite direction; she then proceeded to reverse most of the way, which at least meant she was going the right way, to that cherished location, a parking space (there were many, of course, and she'd have found one a lot quicker by obeying the signs).

That the driver was a woman is not strictly relevant to my observations of this minor example of inconsiderate, even oafish behavior at the wheel.

In my experience, French female drivers are technically able; they just adopt the same approach of many French men and drive as if there are no other road-users.

Otherwise, they would presumably argue that there is usually just enough space for two cars to pass, though this ignores tight turns at either end of the stretch shown. It also ignores the inconvenient fact that one-way systems, in car parks as on motorways, are there for a reason.

There is almost never a proper justification. Very rarely, the normal route may be obstructed by a huge delivery lorry

Here are a couple of other instances photographed, first at Matalan and then at Intermarché, where some drivers even enter the car park an an exit-only point where there are No Entry signs intended to help them make a wiser choice.

Wrongway uk 2

And ...


The show, for those in Le Lavandou, continues in similar vein at Carrefour and the biggest car park in town, le Parking du Marché. But remember that Je m'en foutisme - not giving a damn, in this case what others think of your behavior - has spread across the Channel/Manche.

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