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4 incredible France self-drives


4 incredible France self-drives

story by: Anna Sarjeant

If you're thinking about a holiday to France, why not consider a road trip?

North France
Ideal length: 5 days

Best for: Those devoted to the three Cs: cities, chocolate and Champagne.

For Paris, base yourself an hour’s drive away in the cathedral city of Chartres and dive to and from. That way, you won’t get mixed up in the capital’s congested traffic. Champagne is on Paris’ doorstep so you’re only an hour’s drive from world renowned sparkling wine. Take advantage of your northern position and cross countries into Luxembourg, or head further north and seek fine Belgium chocolate in Brussels. Better than France? You decide.

HOT tip: Arc de Triomphe by car. In particular the notorious roundabout. Quite the experience, all rules go out the window. Honk and hope for the best. 

Central France
Ideal length: 5 days

Best for: Wine aficionados and food fiends.

If you have taste buds, then the central regions of France will serve them well. Burgundy is famed for wine, with its wine capital, Beaune, drawing aficionados from across the world. Then there’s Chablis, a quiet medieval stone village with namesake white wines, as well as a medley of rustic cuisine that’ll complement its grapes spectacularly. Savour gnarly hams and plenty of brutish cheese. For your liver’s sake, venture to Vichy, renowned as much for its volcanic mineral water as it is for grand streets and statement architecture. Finish up in Dijon because, well, the mustard.

HOT tip: Leaded petrol is sold as super or super 97. Unleaded is sans plomb 98 & 95 or Eurosuper 95. Diesel is referred to as gas-oil.

South France
Ideal length: 5 days

Best for: Sea, sand and celebrity fans.

Follow the coastal route from Biarritz to Nice, travelling through Montpellier, Marseille and Cannes. Biarritz is a surfer’s mecca, with giant waves rolling off the Atlantic, while Montpellier is an elegant coastal city that remains indecisive as to whether it’s akin with France or Spain. Marseille is worth a day visit but it’s the ocean-flanking roads that provide the most heart-pounding vistas. You’ll wish you owned a Ferrari. Although the French would argue a Citroen.  

HOT tip: In France, the minimum age for a child to sit in the front passenger seat is 10-years old.

West France
Ideal length: 7 days

Best for: Francophiles. This offers a little of everything; rural drives, coastal ports and the odd obscurity.  

Take your foot off the gas and enjoy a slower pace in rural, western France. It’s not just the towns and cities of Tours, Poitiers and Angoulême that have an old-worldly ambience – with Romanesque churches, medieval aesthetics and skinny timbered houses – it’s the people too. The minutes are longer, the seconds slower and haste ceases to exist. Take a slow sip of Cognac in its namesake town, savour a café au lait in the sleepy seaport of La Rochelle and bask on a long stretch of sand in sunny Sables d’Olonne. Return to modernity in Nantes. While in France’s 6th largest city discover The Machines of the Isle of Nantes which includes a 12 metre high mechanical elephant. Built by two aspiring artists and carrying up to 49 passengers on a 45-minute walk, it has to be seen to be believed.  

Hot tip: To avoid inner cities or towns, look out for signs saying ‘Toutes Directions’. These divert traffic around, rather than through.

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