Driving through France has always been seen as a challenge, I hear stories from other families about how long they drove for, day and night in many cases, to get to their holiday destination.
As for myself… I have ‘challenged’ myself on many occasions and dragged my family along on these challenges. Last summer I drove from Annecy in the Alps to Calais overnight without stopping, with just a couple of cans of coke and cereals to keep me going; we arrived at the port with around 10 minutes to spare at 7am.
We won’t be doing that again! (But we will.)
To help myself, my poor stricken family and many of you, I have put together 3 two-day routes through France that will help you experience the country at a more leisurely pace.
Route to the South of France
The first of our two-day routes is the classic eastern route, perfect for those wishing to go to the Cote d’Azur, Provence and The Alps.
Day One: Calais to Arras – Follow signs for the A26 Paris & Reims. Instead of driving right past Arras, as most do, come off at Sortie 7 and head to the ‘Centre Ville’ and then Les Places and find parking at Grand Place. You will be amazed by the magnificent baroque Flemish frontages here and at Places des Heroes. They were built for prosperous Flemish towns people to sell from… and today’s shops does them proud. Enjoy a walk through the centre of town, enjoy a drink or meal here in the many bistros that pepper the town’s squares.
Day One: Arras to Beaune – Go back on to the A26 towards Reims, avoiding the A1 to Paris. Drive past Reims and head towards Lyon. You are now in the Champagne region and it is said that the Montagne de Reims, which you will shortly pass on your right, has some of the best-tailored vineyards in the region. Soon you will arrive in Troyes, stop here if you need a further break, otherwise continue to Dijon, famous of course for its Mustard production. The vineyards between Dijon and Beaune are also famous as they produce some of the best wine of the world – you have reached the Cote d’Or, or as sometimes called, the Beverly Hills of Burgundy wine.
Now you have a choice of where to stay the night, we stayed in Beaune, a beautiful town that is the wine capital of Burgundy – literally millions of bottles of wine lie ageing in cellars under the town’s cobbled streets and had breakfast in the sunshine the next morning in the town’s main square and then ambled in between the market stalls before heading on our way. You could also stay in wine villages like Nuits St Georges and Vougeot.
Day Two: Beaune to Orange – Join the A31 once again, which turns into the A6 a little further south and towards Lyon. If you are heading towards the Alps or the Italian Riviera, head towards Lyon, but at Macon take the E21 towards Bourg en Bresse and Geneva or stay on our route a little further and take the A43 towards Chambery. You can reach Turin and Genoa via the Mont Blanc tunnel. Otherwise, continue south towards Lyon, passing Beaujolais country and you will begin to see signs for Marseille and the Autoroute du Soleil. At Lyon I would advise to take the route around France’s second largest city or risk getting stuck in city traffic. If you do have the inclination to drive through the centre of Lyon, you won’t be disappointed, I can assure you. South of Lyon heading towards Orange, the motorway meanders alongside the Rhone river, a truly spectacularly wide waterway that will make your journey a pleasure. If only the M25 or M1 would have such a feature, we wouldn’t mind so much getting caught up in traffic jams.
If you fancy lunch at Orange, then heads towards the centre from sortie 21, lunch at Le Parvis on Cours Pourtoules can be recommended and is also close to the Roman theatre, which is worth a visit. There is a small charge to enter. Another option is to stay on the motorway and head towards to Marseille and come off at sortie 22 and make for Courthezon and then on to Chateauneuf du Pape, the most famous wine village in the Rhone Valley and lunch at La Mere Germaine which has been serving great food since the 1920’s.
Day Two: Orange to Provence and Cote d’Azur– You are now entering your final leg of the journey, you should feel like you have already begun your holiday and left stresses of life back home behind.
Provence and the Cote d’Azur will take your breath away for its sheer glamour. With so many places to head for to like, Aix-en-Provence, Hyeres, Port Grimaud, St Tropez, Frejus, Antibes, Cannes, Nice and further into the Esterel mountains into Bagnols en Foret and the Gorges du Verdon, you will not be disappointed. I also recommend a trip to Monaco and to Menton to experience the highlife, even if just for one day.