That time TomTom almost got us killed in Paris

*This is a tongue in cheek post, and the issues we had were due to a very old TomTom device, in a tunnel with virtually no GPS signal, and our first time driving in Paris. We learned from our experience and have not had any major issues since*

You may have read my post about the “other” woman in my husband’s life.


I have got use to have her around, and put up with her now, but there was a time when she tried to kill us in a tunnel in Paris and whilst we can laugh about it now at the time it was rather stressful.

It was our first time navigating what is known as the Boulevard Périphérique which is a rather scary part of the dual carriage motorway used to navigate around the outer circle of Paris that makes the M25 in London seem like a tame children’s playground. People, usually Paris commuters wanting to be somewhere and knowing the route well, drive FAST, and do not have any patience or tolerance for inexperienced tourists who haven’t a clue what they are doing or where they are going. Our first experience took place about 5 years ago.

We had some printed maps, but we were very reliant on our TomTom to get us where we needed to go and we had NO idea how fierce the roads around Paris are. We knew we had to navigate about a third of the Boulevard Périphérique and then come off onto the road that we needed. What we didn’t realize was we needed speed, dexterity, sharp wits, and an actual working device.

We entered one of the long, rather gloomy tunnels on this road from hell, and were pootling along, trying not to annoy the other drivers who could tell from our number plates and obligatory GB sticker on our car that we were tourists and we knew there was a turn off coming. We were watching the TomTom carefully for her to tell us when to come off.

Suddenly, a little voice announced, “you have reached your destination” and that, was, as they say, that. We were in a tunnel, on a fast-moving piece of road, with no idea when we needed to turn off to the exit. The GPS connection had failed and TomTom had gone for a nap. We HAD NOT reached our destination, we had no clue where we were going.

With a fair bit of profanity, and some sweating, we realized that the jolly navigator that my husband was usually fond of had abandoned us, and with visions in my head of us crashing, and reenacting how Princess Diana died, so infamously, I scrambled for the printed maps as the husband started to yell “when do I turn off? Can you reconnect the GPS?”. All this whilst going at over 70km an hour, with cars zooming past us and the kids in the back wondering what on earth was going on.

If you have watched Four Weddings and A Funeral when they are late for the wedding and use a word my mother in law would not approve of, a lot, in a short space of time, then you can imagine the same scene in our small car, as I tried to work out in the space of about 60 seconds if we had to turn off to exit or not.

“Go now, turn off now” I screeched as the exit loomed in front of us. I had no idea if it was the right one, but wasn’t going to tell the husband that til we were above ground and able to connect to the GPS signal again. As we pulled out of the tunnel and onto the exit, the navigtor came back to life and lo and behold I had managed to get us out via the correct exit and we were going the right way.

But we were a bit shaken. It was in fact a rather scary couple of minutes and we had put far too much faith in our technology and the Boulevard Périphérique had almost got the better of us. We managed to pull off and compose ourselves and stop shaking and I attempted to wash my mouth out from all the rude words I had said, with some leftover coffee from earlier that morning and we took a few breaths and started back on our journey. By the time we arrived our sense of humor had returned and we have repeated that journey several times since, but now know the turn-off, very well. I may have threatened to throw the TomTom out the window, and the husband was very shellshocked, mainly I suspect because he didn’t realize I knew so many swear words or how to map read in semi-darkness in a feeling like life or death mad moment.

The moral of the story is that Paris roads are scary, GPS systems that fail at vital moments are almost relationship breakers and now we have all the online maps downloaded so if we do ever lose signal, we at least can rectify the situation without trauma.

Posted in Family Life and Parenting and tagged Driving in France, TomTom.


  1. Typical of it to fail at the most crucial moment. I don’t drive, but I’ve been caught out almost getting lost in Tokyo when I lost signal on my phone and couldn’t update my map. I now always download an offline map to be sure.

  2. This sounds utterly horrific. Things like that on unknown British roads would put me off driving for life. Foreign tunnels… I’d spend my life savings on taxis.

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