off the bucket list: driving the arc de triomphe traffic circle from hell

One of my favorite movies as a kid was National Lampoons European Vacation. The hilarious but pitiful scene where the Griswolds are stuck in a traffic circle for hours, will forever remain in my subconscience.

Watching that movie snippet inspired me to create a new term. Study it carefully, guys. You heard it here first and I suspect I will be using it often.

driving paris

In honor of the Griswolds, I faced my worst fears this summer by driving through Paris’ feared Arc de Triomphe circle onto Champs Elysees; one of the busiest streets in the city. With my family on board!  On an average day, the traffic looks like this:


[bctt tweet=”My observations and strategy for driving in Paris are the following – DON’T.”]

French people, don’t get so offended! I’m a mellow girl from California. I still love you and your insanity. And I’m sure the crazy drivers and moped riders in the video are not French – they are all cab drivers or foreigners.

  • The French don’t seem to like clearly designated traffic lanes or waiting in line. It’s a free-for-all!
  • If you can’t be aggressive and ready to rule, take a cab and let him/her be aggressive for you
  • Scooters, go ahead and occupy that 6 inches in front of me while I am moving fast, no problem
  • Scooters and mopeds, don’t forget to cross several “lanes” without checking. I’m sure the lovely person behind you will see you and hit their brakes
  • If you are in a battle for position, he who wants the least damage to their vehicle or mirror loses
  • Be sure to accelerate and take off JUST before the light goes green. You do this by watching the cross walk signal, not the traffic light. If you hesitate, you are left in the dust
  • Pedestrians know better. They GET OUT OF THE WAY
  • Keep your window down and have your arm out the window, ready to wave it forcefully at someone you just cut off. It is better to be the fist waver than be fist waved
  • In the chaotic traffic circles, there is an art. If you are getting off right away, stay right or you will Griswold. If you are going around for a while, stay somewhere in the middle or you will get cut off constantly by vehicles entering the circle. AND NEVER GET CAUGHT DEEP INSIDE THE CIRCLE. Or you will definitely be Griswolded
  • In the end, the best piece of advice when driving through Paris is to have a co-pilot to do all periphery checks and directions, so you can focus on looking forward, being a bastard and not hitting whoever cuts in front of you. It’s a lot like rally cars, post about Brad as my rally car copilot here. And always follow the fastest, most aggressive driver. He or she will clear the way

With Brad as my copilot and assertiveness counselor, we got through that circle before midnight! Don’t mistake my laughing for fun… It was more like pent-up terror. I was trying to keep it cool for my girls in the backseat, who were mysteriously quiet the whole time.

Voila! One more item off my bucket list.


  1. Sher

    That is a funny Griswold gif, Brian. Would love to display that on my driver side window when driving sometimes.
    I will be renting the European Lampoon movie tonight, it’s been a while. The family could use some good laughs…

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