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Easter Drive Down - chit chat

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
So far a smooth journey. Skied until 3:30 on Saturday, the slopes were almost completely empty. No queues anywhere and skitrax said 50.6k!

Then an easy drive up to Troyes. Belgium must have been deserted last week - they were all on the road tearing back up north.

Nice meal, and left again at 8am. Now on the train, with about a 3hr drive the other side.

@johnE, good to hear you are all back home now. Not quite “planes, trains and automobiles”, but not far off.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
@Pamski, must admit I hadn't noticed, one of the kids did but obviously didn't feel the need to mention it rolling eyes

Sometimes share drive, yesterday I did the lot! Was fine as easy car to drive long distances and had a break for lunch and channel tunnel. Would have swopped if tired, however was fine and Mrs B happy to snooze and update Facebook!

Helps if you like and are used to long distance driving I guess
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Wow--- what a lot of tales of woe. Those Belgian drivers...... rolling eyes

Glad you made it at last, @johnE.
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@johnE, good to hear you’re back safely!

Our flight to Nice today also got cancelled! So we’re now have a flight on Tuesday to Luton, then we’ll have to get a hire car to Gatwick.

So a couple of days to keep the kids occupied in Geneva.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@Handy Turnip, that all sounds a bit of a nightmare, are you not under any time constraints re returning to work etc? Hope it doesn’t get too hot in Geneva with ski holiday clothing...
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@Pamski, work are being quite good about it all thankfully, although we have run out of clean clothes, and my girlfriend has run out of her medication :/

Not too hot thankfully, we must have looked a bit strange all wandering around in our snow boots!
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
@Handy Turnip, I remember the year of the Ash Cloud and our son, over from the States, with his five year old daughter got a bit stranded with us here in Les Gets, my husband was going back to UK by train and ferry, and son got a hotel booked in Geneva close to the airport with a nice big swimming pool, as I was also quite keen to get the chalet closed up and head back to the UK. I drove them into Geneva but said let’s pop into the airport and see what is happening. And far from having to wait another three days he was told there was a flight going shortly to JFK, so if he and daughter could run they might make it. And he reported that there were at least 25 empty seats on the plane, and he got home before OH arrived in Sussex.

So all the things that we had sorted out for them to go and do/see in Geneva came to nothing. Hope it all works out for you.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@Pamski, great story! I guess it always makes sense to keep your options open just in case you get lucky!

The hotel is very nice but the one thing it’s missing is a swimming pool - the kids would be in heaven if it did!!
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@Handy Turnip, Cricky. It makes our trip back appear to be a doddle (actually it was all pretty straightforward, none of the party got upset, angry or worried). It was always calm and relaxed. Mobile phones and kindles make this much easier than it used to be.

I suppose Geneva is not a bad city to be stuck in if someone else is paying for hotels, meals etc.

Let us know when you get back safely.
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 Ski the Net with snowHeads
Ski the Net with snowHeads
Decent run back for us today, left Reims at about 08.30, had a stop off at Vimy Ridge (someone on here recommended stopping here, thank you, an amazing and moving place)
Tunnel at 1pm uk time, 30mins queue for British passports but after that was a 5 minute job to get on a train because we had flexiplus then back in deepest darkest Yorkshire by 5 pm uk time
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 snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
@Handy Turnip, the aqua Parc at Geneva is brilliant!

http://www.aquaparc.ch/en/directions
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
We saw a Land Rover with a horse box trailer try and go through a 30kph telepeage around lunch time today right in front of us. Held back as obvious it was not going to fit under the height barrier. Hit the metal height barrier. Crumpled bothe the horse box and the barrier but they just carried on. Horse looked very distressed when we went past them.
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
@ringingmaster, I bet the horse wasn't very happy. There he was standing peacefully minding her own business
Then the roof gets torn off and it realises it will have to walk home.

I wonder if the driver forgot they were towing a horse box? I suppose a big fine will be chasing them from the anpr camera. I saw a couple of Jams caused by cars trying to reverse out of those lanes

Incidentally do other people play the "collect the ticket without actually stopping" game? I have never managed to pay without stopping. Perhaps longer arms and getting closer to the booth would manage it.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Gazzza wrote:
After a great 8 nights and 8 days skiing n Les Sybelles we got off the slopes in the glorious sunshine around 4pm yesterday. Left Le Corbier around 5pm after the usual cajoling and hollering at the kids to get changed etc. Got to Troyes around 10pm for an overnight stop. Left this morning around 8.30am. Satnav suggests we'll arrive at the tunnel around midday. We're booked on the 13.50 train so we may be a tad early even allowing for a quick dive into a supermarket to grab a baguette etc. Anyway all flowing well and Eurotunnel traffic news saying check-in and departures all running ok at the moment.

@johnE, hope your day of rental car surfing goes well. Sounds a bit faffy but at least there's a route home and you'll get there in the end ! Just hope each car they've lined up for you is big enough for your luggage!


Would you recommend Les Sybelles? Enough snow?
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Gazzza wrote:
After a great 8 nights and 8 days skiing n Les Sybelles we got off the slopes in the glorious sunshine around 4pm yesterday. Left Le Corbier around 5pm after the usual cajoling and hollering at the kids to get changed etc. Got to Troyes around 10pm for an overnight stop. Left this morning around 8.30am. Satnav suggests we'll arrive at the tunnel around midday. We're booked on the 13.50 train so we may be a tad early even allowing for a quick dive into a supermarket to grab a baguette etc. Anyway all flowing well and Eurotunnel traffic news saying check-in and departures all running ok at the moment.

@johnE, hope your day of rental car surfing goes well. Sounds a bit faffy but at least there's a route home and you'll get there in the end ! Just hope each car they've lined up for you is big enough for your luggage!


Would you recommend Les Sybelles? Enough snow?
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
They seem to have introduced lots of 30kph lanes on far right for lorries now - these were the ones we aimed for as Disco with roofbox is cutting it fine where there are height restrictions!

Do tend to avoid them all together when towing caravan as the lazers always seem to class us as HGV and the barrier won't open as we have a car tag. Always quickly sorted by pressing HELP button.

BTW - yesterday afternoon after unpacking, we booked up for Feb 19 Laughing snowHead
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
@JONR, We also visited Vimy Ridge yesterday, after the recommendation on here. Do not suppose you are the family that we did the tour with bright and early 10am?
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Quote:

They seem to have introduced lots of 30kph lanes on far right for lorries now - these were the ones we aimed for as Disco with roofbox is cutting it fine where there are height restrictions!

+1! Went zipping through these yesterday (also Disco + roofbox) bypassing the (admittedly very small) queues and feeling smug - that is until the last peage before Calais near Saint-Omer where we were funneled off the autoroute towards a business park! We lost no time however as there's a roundabout and a re-joining slip a couple of hundred metres or so after the barrier - so this might be a handy little nip-through if there ever are bad queues at this peage...

Glad to read about the universal disdain for Belgian drivers - I was worried that I was starting to hallucinate that every car whipping past at 160+ kph and/or tailgating had Belgian plates, it really was as though there was some sort of Belgian cannonball run going on - although we were buzzed by several M-series Beemers with British plates that would've caught the attention of the Gendarmes as well!
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@jma, yeah the signs at the Calais peage are very confusing - we nearly ended up doing the same as you!
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Quote:

Glad to read about the universal disdain for Belgian drivers

It was only recently that Belium introduced driving tests. I used to have a Belgian friend who proudly boasted that he had never taken a driving test.
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The Kaiser made a big mistake when he invaded Belgium on August 4th 1914. If he had moved at Easter then he would have found the country empty and no one would have noticed hence averting 2 world wars.

(OK I know Franz Ferdinand was not assignated until July and that part of the elements that started the war to escalate was that everyone was on holiday when he was assasignated with poor communications)
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Snowysarah wrote:
Would you recommend Les Sybelles? Enough snow?


Yes plenty of snow. The temperatures didn't stay as low as forecast, so it was typical spring skiing, but we had some lovely days. Bags of base snow, even as low as 1300, though slush in the afternoon down there as you might expect for April.
Looking down on Saint Sorlin from the top of Le Corbier on our last day. Tons of snow still:



Anyway in 8 days we had 3 days with overnight dumps and good fresh snow. Two of which saw a good 30cm at resort level. The last saw just a few cm at resort, but enough to refresh the off piste from about 200m higher than resort. It was warm, so the fresh snow was only really powdery for the first hour or two particualrly on the last of the three dumps.

On two days we woke to this at 1550m:



Anyway, yes I enjoyed Les Sybelles. It was certainly worth what we paid. Apartment rental was just around 400 EUR (two bedrooms), and as mentioned earlier with the promo the 4 of us skied for 8 days for a snip over EUR 600. It's the 4 th largest area in France in piste km. Just under half the total piste km of the 3v. Lift infrastructure is more dated, no gonodolas, each resort only has a few detachables, so you you will end up on some slower fixed grip chairs every day and some drag lifts.

The drags were the biggest disadvantage to the area - you can't really tour the area without using them. It was my 10 year old's second snowboard trip and he struggled with the drags, and this did limit us a little. To get from Le Corbier to Saint Sorlin the link is via two short and 1 long drag, coming back it's two short drags. We made it on two days, the third day he fell off the long drag and we had to turn back. You can get from Corbier to Toussiere and back via a 3 seater chair each way so that's fine. You need to use a long drag to get back from St Colombard, and you need to use a very long drag followed by a shorter very steep drag (50%) to get back from Bottieres. If they could replace a couple of these links with chairs it would be fantastic.

Plenty of skiing for a week. The big plus is how quiet it was. Pistes generally weren't busy, we did not queue for a lift once. (Tell a lie, on short drag to get into the main town in Saint Sorlin had about 8 people in front of us). Every lift was literally walk on, you didn't have to worry about clogging up the barriers/gates waiting for your family to catch up. Lifties were friendly. The ones on drags and fixed grip chairs were great at helping the kids. The huge boon compared to say the 3v was how long the off piste, by which I really mean off the edge / between the pistes stayed un-tracked. You could find patches of untracked right next to the piste at the end of the day and even the following day. The proper off piste requiring a guide or proper route planning stayed untracked or only very partially tracked for days after the dumps. As it was so quiet you could make fresh tracks on the piste for the first few lift rides of the day, if you caught first lift.

Just off the edge of the piste. Looking at the main express chair (it's empty!), and La Toussier in the backround.


Looking up the same piste where the last shot was taken from:




Beer was similar to 3v prices, maybe a snip cheaper. 6-7 euros for a serieux. Pichets of house wine typically EUR 6 for 25cl, EUR 11 for a 50cl. Standard restaurants a bit cheaper than 3v. Decent plat du jour typically around EUR 13. You could usually get the daily set starter du jour or salad, plat u jour and dessert du jour for around EUR 20. Kid menus 9-10.


Corbier was well located to cover each area. We spent the first day or two in Corbier/St Jean then alternated days between heading toward St Sorlin or La Tousierre. Saint Sorlin has the highest skiing so maybe a better option for later season skiing. In Corbier the two fast lifts come right back to resort level 1550m, so on warms days whilst it was good at the top 2200m, you were coming back to the slush at the end of each run to catch the chair. Saint Sorlin has a fast lift serving mid-mountain to the highest point of the area allowing for laps of around 1800m to 2600m so its possible to avoid dropping back to resort level at the end of each run to catch the chair. Toussiere has 3 detachables arcing out from resort, but it's base is a tad higher at 1750m.

All in all very enjoyable. I'd certainly consider going back and it was great to explore somewhere new. Good family resort.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@johnE, Glad you made it back. When you think about it, all things considered 18-20 hours is not bad for your journey, all things considered - changing hire cars, taxis, foot passengers etc. Given at best it's probably a 12-14 hours via the tunnel anyway.

As you say the wonders of technology for keeping the kids amused for hours on end. DVDs, kindles, tablets and Nintendo/PS Vita keep the trip sane. Not to mention absurdly large quantities of snacks and sweets that under normal circumstances would feed them for a month!

I hope your car makes it back in reasonable time. You'll have to update us when it does.


On a brighter note, one of the things about returning home from a driving ski trip vis-a-vis flying, is the post-trip plunder one can bring home :
Toofy Grin

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Quote:

Given at best it's probably a 12-14 hours via the tunnel anyway.

It's never that quick. The best ever I did it in is 14 hours when we got onto a shuttle immediately. The normal journey is 9 - 10 hours Les Arcs to Calais. 2 to 3 hours at the tunnel 4 hours from the tunnel home. So 20 hours wasn't too bad. It could have been much faster if the car hire in St. Quentin was open when we got their and a hire car was available at Dover.

Oddly our "plunder" consists largely of uneaten food. As for keeping people entertained - my son has always (and still does even though he is now in his 20s) slept all the way as does my wife when I am driving. I am the only one being entertained - audible books and then only when I am driving
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I've only ever once spent more than about 30 minutes at the tunnel, usually bigger delays on our outbound trips than coming home, but we rarely travel on peak weekends.
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We arrived at tunnel on Saturday at 3:50pm for a 5:20 booked departure - took 10-mins to get through Check-In (offered 4:50 train) then about 30-mins to get through FR and UK customers.

Drove straight through to loading bays, sat there for 10-mins then were on train - so hour overall! Have to admit to feeling slightly smug that our usual discount ticket saw us through and onto train as quickly as all the Flexi Plus we arrived with.

We have learnt over the years that 5:20pm is a good time to aim for
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
@Hells Bells, I rarely go at peak times - it is usually early hours of the morning mid week, but my wife says travelling peak times is usually much more reliable. I think they have a policy of cutting trains during the night if they don't have enougth cars to go on them - or they are doing engineering work on the tunnel.

I think in all the times I have used the tunnel I have only got one once that left within 30 minutes of ariving at the gate and that was on the way out this easter when we arrived a bit late for our scheduled departure. And that took 40 minutes to get across and then 10 minutes to unload. So my best time for arriving at the tunnel entrance to leaving the other end is 1:20.

The worst is over 5 hours. Most are between 2 to 3 hours.
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So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
Quote:

I think they have a policy of cutting trains during the night if they don't have enougth cars to go on them - or they are doing engineering work on the tunnel.

They only run a few trains overnight. Only ever been on trains at either breakfast or lunchtimes.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
johnE wrote:
Quote:

Glad to read about the universal disdain for Belgian drivers

It was only recently that Belium introduced driving tests. I used to have a Belgian friend who proudly boasted that he had never taken a driving test.


I don't think the test can include looking in the mirror before pulling out into another lane on the motorway. You can drive hundreds of miles through Germany at any speed without this happening then the moment you cross into Belgium it's chaos, the drivers simply pull out in front of cars approaching from the rear without looking at all.

Despite this, the Belgium/Germany route is much better than the calais-reims-metz-strasbourg route for Austria. Very few speed limits on the autobahns I used and much better than watching for gendarmerie hiding all the way through northern France. Easy to maintain 160-180kmh all the way through Germany without any stress at all.
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Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Not sure I would find driving at 100 mph non stop no stress at all. Toofy Grin
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
It's very easy as the quality of the driving is excellent. Nobody pulls out in front of you and as long as you remember to exercise the same courtesy to the people who want to pass you at even higher speeds (200km/h + ) all works smoothly.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Back home now. Left Les Carroz lunchtime on Monday and did an overnight in Reims. Even the kids now spot the B sticker after some joker has pulled a stunt in front of us. Left sharpish this morning to go as planned to Vimy. Really pleased we did, very moving. No queues at pet passport with 4 members of staff available but only one human passport booth open! Train delayed by 20mins so not bad. Always a shock when we get to the dreadful M20 road surface. I feel very sorry indeed for foreign drivers who have to deal with the crape road surface and huge numbers of HGVs. Looks like missed a snow top up at altitude.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
No one can deny that there are lots of Belgians driving like nuts on that Autoroute des Anglaises (usually in big, shiny, black, German-manufactured motors), but they are definitely given a run for their money by many Brits on there when it comes to speeding, outside-lane-hogging and tailgating. I can't help wondering what the big hurry is. It must burn a hell of a lot of juice blasting along at 150kph+ in a Range Rover, or similar, complete with with roofbox, ski rack - and in a couple of instances also a rear-mounted bike rack used as a makeshift suitcase carrier.

However, biggest nut of our trip was French I think (number plate was a bit of a blur),on the Thursday night on the way down. I was doing about 75mph and he was past without me realising, then out of sight in seconds. Doing about 120mph or so I would guess. In the wet.
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@Ingemar_Skidmark, once past Reims I'd tend to agree, it's not called the Autoroute d'Anglais for nothing. I guess at this point some are panicking about missing crossing - not uncommon to see police just before last tolls.

Personally find French worse for tailgating - if you're not back in right lane after overtaking they're on exhaust pipe. Unfortunately still do it when you're passing a string of lorries behind other cars.

Overall though far better than driving in uk

Incidentally, have they changed the rules on lorries on motorway at weekend? Always thought was refrigerated only on Sunday (Saturday afternoon?) but were loads out
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
We drove back from Les Deux Alpes last Friday. Took a couple of days, stopped at a lakeside air at Arrigny and then Cite d’Europe ready for the 7.50am crossing on Sunday. Caught the 7.20 so a nice early start. Bit of a queue for French customs, all motorhomes, coaches and caravans were directed into one lane although several stayed left and got through ok. No van search, quick gas check and off we went. Sadly we live in Dorset so have 5 motorways to cover and I would agree the M20 is absolutely shocking. My only real moan was why on earth my sat nav would constantly try to take us off the main routes in France through poxy little villages. Surely it cannot be faster to divert into tiny side roads?? We always have a written route with main road numbers and the map, so we ignore the sat nav until we actually need to get to a particular destination. On our way to Grenoble it tried to take us left over the Rhône at one point onto minor roads. Makes no sense. We do have it set to fastest and no tolls but even so. Drove us mad. Will be doing it all again next Easter I expect too. Very Happy
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@Michelle63, if we are going to a new destination, I always check it out on Google Maps.
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@Michelle63, We noticed that the car satnav would often try and take us off the motorway (including one that wanted us to leave at every junction and rejoin the mototorway a couple hundred metres further along (something many Belgian drivers do). Then I realised that the satnav was using the wireless broadcast that said the motorway was closed or had very heavy traffic and was trying to bypass the jam. Afterthat I always went back to my old motorcycle days and memorised the route (and like @Hells Bells, used google maps to get real live traffic condidtions).

The bit that gets me on the Frech motorways is the habit of some drivers to hang back. There I am pootling along in the inside lane and approach a lorry ahead. I look in the mirror and see a car approaching quickly in the outside lane and of course switch off the cruise control to wait until it passes before overtaking. The car in the outside lane then gets almost level with me and slows down dramaticaly so now I cannot pull out to overtake but have to brake to a crawl to let it get past and then crawl along behind it until it pulls in (at least it is French so will pull in) then reset the cruise control, overtake it and continue on my way. I am not sure what it is all about but happens when I'm driving Uk or French registerd cars.

@Cheesie168, if you think the road surface on the M20 is bad try the road to Tignes. It has taken a real hammering this winter.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@Michelle63, Our German Sat Nav insists we go via Paris each way - its near Troyes that it sees sense!
@Boris, HGV's - indeed we were wondering the same and I thought they were banned until 5pm Sunday but all were stationery in the service areas beyond that. I noticed on the Gantries they were displaying the Italian times for HGV bans - maybe something has changed...
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Re satnavs doing odd routes abroad: On my previous BMW we got on-line updates in the car, and UK routes generally were sensible. But after a couple of years we started to get very odd routes in France, and it clearly hadn't picked-up new road changes, producing much confusion and instructions to go down the wrong way what were now 1-way streets. When I changed car, I discovered that BMW UK only release the on-line updates to the car for the UK maps. For the European maps, the size of the updates means that you have to login to BMW with your VIN and download a car-specific folder, then uncompress it onto a USB memory stick. You then put the stick into the car's USB port and it updates the euro maps. There's a BMW Map Updater app for the PC that streamlines the process.

So it may be worth checking if the same applies if you have a BMW. If another brand, perhaps it's worth checking whether Europe is included in UK updates and of the mechanism is more manual for Euro updates.
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 Ski the Net with snowHeads
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Funnily enough our garmin sends us the usual Reims, Dijon, Troyes, Macon, Lyon bypass, Chambery route heading from Calais to the Tarantaise or Maurienne, but coming home it tries to send us via Paris. Fixed by setting it to Reims until past Troyes, then changing it to Calais.

Annoyingly on this trip home it was randomly re-booting itself for no apparent reason. Sometimes every 5 minutes, sometimes it would run happily for an hour then just shutdown and reboot. Haven't updated the firmware or maps since the Feb half term run when it was fine, so not sure why it's doing it now.
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