There is a tinge of nostalgia about road trips. They offer the ultimate freedom, lots of experiences and time with your family. Here is our take on a wonderful road trip through France.
Road trips - perhaps you remember the long hours in the family's small car, where you could just squeeze in with the luggage, packed lunches and games for the trip. Or maybe you have never tried out this type of holiday because it sounds too chaotic?
Whether you love the ultimate freedom where you will just wait and see where the wheels will take you or you prefer a carefully organized trip, then a road trip might be the perfect opportunity to spend time with the family and get some unforgettable experiences together.
But where do you start if you are dreaming of a driving holiday in France? Here's our take on a delightful self-drive holiday; three weeks in the car in France packed with spectacular nature, UNESCO sites, charming towns and delicious food.
All the practical stuff
Before you go, it might be nice to know the rules and practical information on driving in France - you can read more about here.
Depending on where you start, you might have a long or short stretch before you reach the French border. You might be able to go in the morning and cross the border around supper – but maybe you only have one driver and fancy longer breaks - then it might be nice to spend a night at a hotel on your way.
It is also possible to take a car train - you can read more about here: https://bahntouristikexpress.de/autoreisezug-en.html
When it comes to accommodation during your trip, you must ask yourself, whether you prefer to plan it all in advance or have the freedom to take the trip haphazardly. In any case, it is worth looking at Logis hotels and restaurants (https://www.logishotels.com/en/ ), which is an association of independent hotels in France and several other European countries. They are all different, but meet the same requirements of a warm and friendly welcome, good quality and locally inspired cuisine. That way you can easily find hotels and restaurants outside of the cities that are worth a stop.
The first stage - five days: Alsace
First and foremost, it is important to pack the family and maybe a lunch and head to France - your first goal is Alsace, which lies on the border between the Germanic and the Roman world. The region offers hills, mountains and valleys with numerous castles, vineyards and picturesque villages such as Riquewihr and Hunspach.
Along the way, you can visit:
- Mulhouse automobile museum (Cité de l'Automobile - http://www.citedelautomobile.com/en ), which offers the world's largest car collection.
- Strasbourg - the historic center "Petite France", originally tanners and turbines neighborhood, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site today. An ideal way to see the city is taking a canal cruise, which also passes by the European institutions.
- Colmar - the city with the many channels – is known as the most Alsatian of all cities. It is also known for its rich cultural heritage, the many interesting buildings and a history that goes back more than 1000 years!
- Visit a wine merchant. The famed Route des Vins d'Alsace runs from north to south, through the vineyards and past the hospitable wine cellars and traditional restaurants where you can taste the good Alsatian wines.
- The gastronomy in Alsace, which is influenced by German cuisine; For example, sauerkraut, flammekueche and baeckeoffe.
Second stage - four days: Drôme, Ardèche and Gard
The second stage of the road trip goes through the departments of Drôme, Ardèche and Gard, which offers versatile nature with forests, mountains, cliffs, lakes and deep creeks and impressive historical sites.
Along the way, you can visit:
- Montelimar - also known as the nougat capital. The town is cozy with its many squares and nougat factories - do not forget to visit one of them. https://www.montelimar-tourisme.com/en/
- Pont d'Arc - a natural bridge created by the Ardeche River. It is 60 meters wide and 54 meters high. A popular place to go canoeing and kayaking, if you need to exercise a little.
- Caverne du Pont d'Arc, a unique model of the Chauvet Cave with its 32,000 years old cave paintings found in 1994. The original cave, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is closed to the public, but in Caverne du Pont d ' Arc, which opened in 2015, you can get a feel of life in the Ardeche 32,000 years ago. http://www.cavernedupontdarc.fr/
- Pont du Gard – the Roman Empire's highest aqueduct bridge. The bridge was constructed around 50 AD and is considered one of the ancient wonders of the world. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Uzes - a charming medieval town that is worth a visit.
Third stage - 6 days: Montpellier
Now turn your nose in the direction of Montpellier and the region that stretches south to the Mediterranean. If you need some quiet time, you can consider dropping your anchor here and use Montpellier as a base. Rent an apartment or a house, so you have the opportunity to buy your food at the delicious markets and cook your own meals.
Along the way (or your stay), you can visit:
- The beautiful Mediterranean beaches, to cool down on a hot day.
- Canal du Midi. Sail quietly through the many locks on this amazing channel that was built under Louis 14 and is currently listed as World Heritage by UNESCO.
- St Guilhem-le-Desert - one of France's most beautiful villages, which among other things has the Gellone Monastery, which is also included on the UNESCO World.
- Grotte des demoiselles - a huge cave that gives a glimpse of how spectacular nature can be and is also a nice cool break if you travel during the hot summer months. http://www.demoiselles.fr/index.php/en/
- Sète - a charming and authentic fishing village on an isthmus between the Thau lagoon and the Mediterranean with a number of channels which means that you are always close to the water. A obvious place to taste sea delicacies.
- Pézenas - a small town full of history and art with beautiful houses from the 16th, 17 and 18th centuries.
Fourth stage - five days: Auvergne, Normandy & the ride home
Now it's time to turn the car to the north, but instead of taking the same route back, we suggest that you drive over the Millau Viaduct, the world's highest road bridge, and into the Auvergne region which is known for its many springs and volcanoes. Then you continue to Normandy, which is considered to be the cradle of Impressionism and also is known for the invasion beaches of World War 2.
Along the way, you can visit:
- Vulcania, a theme park where you can learn about volcanoes and the Earth.
- Mont Saint-Michel and it's bay with Europe's strongest tides. It looks like something from a fairy tale and is also one of the French UNESCO World Heritage Sites. http://sca.france.fr/en/mont-saint-michel
- Memorial de Caen - a memorial to World War 2 and museum of peace, which gives food for thought.
Monet's house and garden in Giverny, where the artist lived for 43 years and painted some of his most famous works.
Now you are probably ready to go home and digest all your new experiences. Depending on where your final destination is, you might have a long journey ahead of you - once again you must ask yourself, if you will take the journey in one stretch or stop along the route. Have a great trip!