A growing number of holidaymakers choose to drive either to or through France to their destinations there or farther afield. This can work out cheaper than flying, but the main reason is that a lot more luggage can be taken along and that the landscapes and culture of France both have a fabulous reputation. Accomodation can be easily found online, staying in a French villa can add a real touch of luxury to your road trip.
French roads are mainly of a very high quality, making for a great driving experience, although in common with most countries around the major cities there can be some congestion. The network of auto-routes and motorways is as good as Germany’s autobahns and although the majority are toll roads you can make savings on time and money by picking up a Liber-T Autoroute tag before setting out.
Here’s our choice of contrasting routes to take in France’s wonderfully varied landscapes and experience the French countryside at its very best.
La Route des Grandes Alpes
Driving through such a spectacular landscape as the French Alps may seem at first like an alarming proposition, but it is one of the more rewarding ones and far less intimidating than you might expect. The route was created in 1911, covers 460 miles and reaches up to 2,300 metres in places to provide panoramic views of glaciers, forests, serene French Alpine towns and the awesome foothills of Mont Blanc. The route starts out from next to Lake Geneva in Switzerland but most of the roads covered are in France. It ends at Menton, a charming French city on the coast close to the Italian border. There are plenty of quaint little mountain towns and villages for stops along the way, and the route is fully open between June and October.
The French Riviera and Cote d’Azur
The route along the French Riviera and the Cote d’Azur is real James Bond territory, ideal for cruising along in a convertible with the top down, the hair streaming in a light Mediterranean breeze and the designer sunglasses suavely in place. The driving is spectacular, along roads that cling to the sides of cliffs bordering the sea and passing through colourful towns and villages perched on bluffs en route. The best ocean views are obtained on the A8 from Cannes all the way along the coast to where it crosses the Italian border. Alternatively, strike off inland to experience narrow, curving roads that cut through the hills and wind past ancient fishing villages that have barely changed in centuries. You can also drive along most of the length of the iconic Grand Prix route through Cannes.
Driving through mile after mile of vineyards has an enduring and peculiarly Gallic charm of its own, as French as morning espresso with croissants. France has numerous wine regions such as Champagne, Burgundy and Bordeaux, and these regions have some of the best driving scenery in the whole of the country. One of the joys of a route like the Cherbourg-Laval-Saumer or Le Havre-Limoges is making frequent stops to look around the numerous wineries and seeing how some of the legendary vintages are made, from picking to bottling.
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