Licensed to Drive in La La Land
DRIVING IN LA LA LAND, FRANCE OR ANYWHERE FOR THAT MATTER
I still have a California driver’s license, but it hasn’t had a California address attached to it since we left in 1994. I know that seems odd, but it’s true and the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) doesn’t seem to care that the address on it is in Louisiana. It was one reason I came to L.A. — to renew it in person at the DMV office in Santa Monica on Colorado Avenue. I know it well and appreciate the good job they do taking the photo for the license — they have always been some of my best photos!
I don’t have a license to drive in France. It’s so rarely needed, that it never made sense to go to the trouble…and IT IS a lot of trouble! If on a visit in France less than 90 days or hold a visa and are 18 years old and older, you can drive using your valid U.S. driver’s license for your first year in France. FranceIntheUS.com says it must be accompanied by a notarized translation in French, but I guarantee you that almost no one goes to that trouble. I certainly never have and never needed it to rent a car. The site also highly recommends you have an International Driving Permit, but guess what? There is no such thing. Sure, you can Google it and find one to purchase (such as on the AAA site), but it’s just a great way for them to make money as the paper it’s written on is worthless. You don’t really need it.
Driver’s licenses from some states are eligible to exchange for a French driver’s license. That’s the simplest way, and include: Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. If I were smart, I’ll apply for a permit in any one of those states and trade it in — but then I wouldn’t have the license for the U.S.!
To get a French driver’s license, be prepared. Go to the Préfecture or a driving school (easier, but more expensive) to get form Cerfa 14866*01 for submission with proof of identity, your residency visa, two recent passport photos, two self-addressed envelopes and a medical certificate confirming you are fit to drive. There are two tests to take: first, theory and then practical. You are given five attempts over three years to pass the practical test — 25 minutes in normal traffic conditions. Think this is easy? Think again!
How’s your French? You best study the Code de la Route first…in French. If your French is about as good as mine, then you might want the driving school approach. Besides, most préfectures require it! And watch out, the French drive differently and the rules are not the same. Fehrenbach Driving School could be the city’s best known English language school, but there are others from which to choose, just to complicate matters.
Because the license was renewed outside of 90 days of its expiration date, I had to take a test at the DMV. I can’t say I knew the answers, but managed to pass it, thank goodness! And you can imagine how important it is to be able to drive in Los Angeles!
PARIS IN A POT
When Sharon Leslie Morgan came to Paris in 1999, by complete synchronistic happenstance, I was the first person she met on her first day in the City of Light. With aspirations to write a cookbook, but instead, a mere two years later, she opened a Soulfood restaurant called Bojangles, serving up a gumbo that she made first in my own kitchen before introducing her recipe to her clientele. She brought in the finest of American jazz and blues musicians and Bojangles became home to the African American community and a few “honkies” like me. I was there on opening night, New Year’s Eve 2001 and at the closing in 2003…with tremendous sadness.
Morgan moved back to the U.S. after her whirlwind experience as a restaurateur in France and lived to tell her tale in her new book, Paris in a Pot. Be sure to have a read! Find out why we miss Sharon and Bojangles as much as we all do. Visit our Recommend Reading page to get your copy.
Note: I will be forever indebted to Sharon Morgan for always saving the big crab out of the gumbo just for me and for making those years at Bojangles so very special.
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
(with daughter, Erica)
P.S. Check out the latest issue of Expatriates Magazine and read my article to find out if you can afford to buy an apartment in Paris.