Driving the behemoth on the wrong side of the road is a bit like being in Gulliver's Travels. We kept muttering, "Keep to the left." The infernal roundabouts are everywhere, but at least the motorways are easy enough, and drivers are amazingly polite. It's on the back-country roads where the adventure lies, akin to a surprise-packed Disney World amusement- Reverend Mike aptly tagged it "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride." Breezing along at 50 MPH on narrow roads lined with hedgerows, you can't see the giant, lumbering farm tractor pulling a hay wagon until it suddenly looms smack in front of you. Finding a parking place for a 20-footer in a country with twelve-foot parking spaces was also a challenge. Those itty-bitty toasters that British people drive in lieu of cars are so small, we could have carried one in the trunk as a lifeboat.
You know you're getting people's attention when a double-decker bus passes you in traffic, you look up, and every window on both levels is filled with people staring down at you. Just as a ship leaves a wake, you hear a ripple of comments behind you as you drive through small towns, a murmur of startled exclamations, shouts, and squeals of joy. One old chap dryly nailed us after eyeing the car; "So you're an introvert, are you?" We received all manner of kudos in England. Among our favorites: "That's a lovely jam jar" (Cockney rhyming slang for 'Car'); What a lot o' motor!" "That's the mutt's nuts"; and "It's the bollocks." Occasionally, too, someone would express displeasure upon seeing the car, like the old geezer who said, "It's rubbish- must be American." Another said, "It's awful," to which we responded, "Thank you."
We proceeded, with a crew change that had my son Chris replacing Reverend Mike as navigator and radio operator, via the Channel Tunnel's Eurostar train to France.
In Paris, the Lincoln was a people-magnet. Reactions ranged from jaw-dropping befuddlement to pointing and laughing. Everyone snapped a picture of it. In plodding traffic we chatted with other drivers and pedestrians. The most common question was, "Cadillaque?" Comments included, "C'est bomb" ("It's the bomb," a compliment), "Fantastique," and "Incredible."
The city of Paris is a sea clogged with cars that seem to swim through the streets like schools of fish. We were a giant log in a slow-moving logjam. To our rescue came Claude Lefebvre, editor of the French rod magazine Nitro, who'd arranged parking for us in a special garage, the bottom level of which was entirely filled with antique and classic cars. We don't speak French, but the reaction in Paris was always thumbs up, tooting horns, and friendly waves. In case anyone didn't notice us sitting there in traffic, we cranked our music through the exterior speakers. Nothing like keeping a low profile. On a previous trip to Paris in 1973, I found the French to be generally rude. This time we found Parisians to be warm and friendly, people who would stop and help with directions, providing you didn't bark at them in "Ugly American." We played tourist at Montmartre, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and the automotive museum at La Defense. One afternoon, we visited the city's most famous museum and became the Manhattan Louvriders.