CALAIS TO PROVENCE & THE CÔTE D’AZUR
This route is ideal for foodies. Catch the ferry over to Calais, before stopping off at Lille, Reims, Champagne, Provence and Marseille. Coupling mountain backdrops with scenic olive groves and lilac-hued lavender fields, this route is bursting with picturesque views, as well as cultural hits. Reims is home to the country’s best red wine vineyards, while a visit to The Calanques, a series of rocky bays surrounded by turquoise water, is a must when you’re in Provence. Be sure to add a stop at culinary capital Lyon to your itinerary, where you can try a selection of the country’s best charcuterie at one of the many bustling food markets. Best enjoyed over a week, you can extend the trip by journeying on to the Côte D’Azur.
Where to stay… While in Lyon, book to stay at Villa Florentine, a convent turned five-star hotel in the heart of the city, which is within walking distance of some of Lyon’s most-loved sites. Head to the Halles Paul Bocuse, the famed indoor food market, and the iconic Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière.
Where to eat… In Reims, dine at Le Bocal, where you can expect a menu of seafood dishes with a twist, such as sardines sautéed in chilli butter. For something less formal, opt for L’Epicerie Au Bon Manager, a tiny deli offering a selection of charcuterie, farmhouse cheeses, smoked fish and an array of local, natural wines.
AROUND THE LOIRE VALLEY
For a romantic road trip, head to the Loire Valley. Expect to pass a plethora of fairytale-esque castles and chateaux along this route, with over 3,000 residences having been built or modified here during the Renaissance period. Thanks to its vast sunflower fields and crystal clear lakes, the entire area is classed as a Unesco World Heritage Site, and nicknamed the Garden of France. Chateau Villandry is one of the most-loved local attractions, and is home to a large fragrant rose garden, hedge maze and organic vegetable garden. With stops at riverside cities such as Orléans and Angers, take a week to travel this route, drinking in the romance and history as you go.
Where to stay… Set in 70 hectares of forestland, Les Hauts De Loire is a grand 19th century hotel, with rooms that overlook the property’s lush green gardens and well-kept lawns. Children can make themselves at home in the hotel’s kid’s club, while adults enjoy the onsite spa.
Where to eat…For some traditional French cooking, visit Le Café De La Promenade in Bourgueil. With its relaxed and welcoming atmosphere, this bistro is brimming with character and features a menu of homemade quiches and tarte flambée, as well as the house speciality: the hambougueil.
emma paillex, thomas neteland
PARIS TO NORMANDY & BRITTANY
This route takes you from Paris, down to Normandy and on to some of Brittany’s most beautiful seaside towns. Coupling vibrant city life with beach retreats and scenic French countryside, it's a great route to embark on as a family. In Paris, be sure to visit the city’s famous tourist attractions, before heading to the nearby capital of the Normandy region, Rouen. Reflecting its Roman and Medieval history, you’ll find plenty of gothic churches and cathedrals to explore, as well as a large national park. Once you hit Brittany, spend your days relaxing in oceanside spots such as the Saint Malo and the pretty seaside commune of La Baule, home to one of the longest beaches in Europe.
Where to stay… Located in Brittany’s La Baule, La Palmeraie is an idyllic home away from home. A boutique hotel with art-deco inspired interiors, expect pastel hues, wicker antiques and coastal inspired decor. If you fancy bringing a furry friend along for the ride, dogs are also welcome.
Where to eat…Brittany is known for its crepes. In Saint Malo, head to Breizh Cafe, which serves up a great selection of both sweet crepes and savoury galettes. While travelling through Normandy, don’t miss the chance to purchase some local Camembert, a regional delicacy.
BORDEAUX TO BIARRITZ
Excluding any stops, the journey from Bordeaux to Biarritz takes just over two hours, but we recommend giving yourself a long weekend to truly explore this route. Framed by pretty French countryside, Bordeaux is home to the Dune du Pilate, the tallest sand dune in Europe, and Cathedral St Andre, a stunning Roman catholic church. Many will know it as a famous wine region, so book onto a local vineyard tour and visit the Cité du Vin, a museum dedicated to the drink. After a few days in the country, drive south to reach the surfer’s paradise of Biarritz. Located on the Basque coast, summer here is often hot and sunny, with sea temperatures reaching a balmy 25°C. Relax on the famous Côte des Basques beach before taking the footbridge over to the Rocher de la Vierge, a rocky formation with a statue of the Virgin Mary perched proudly on top.
Where to stay...Villa Reale comprises three, elegant private apartments that make for the perfect base while exploring Bordeaux. Stylish, chic and simple, they offer the privacy of self-catered accommodation with all the luxuries of a five-star hotel.
Where to eat… Aux 4 Coins Du Vin is a much loved bar in the heart of Bordeaux serving up some of the best local wines, while the hip La Guinguette Chez Alriq, sees live bands play under a canopy of festoon lights. In Biarritz, enjoy a plate of moules frites at one of the many seaside bistros.
French countryside at its finest, Provence is known for its breath-taking scenery. This route takes you through picture perfect lavender fields and vast vineyards, with planned stops at Avignon, Arles and the quaint Aix-en-Provence. In Avignon, visit the Palais des Papes, the largest gothic palace ever built, and the Pont d’Avignon bridge, while Les Arènes is also well worth a tour in Arles. A large amphitheatre left in ruins, it’s one of many archaeological sites in the region. Combining iconic purple-hued scenery, historical architecture and traditional French food, the Provence route is brimming with culture, with the added benefit of sunny, southern weather.
Where to stay… Hotel Particulier is a secluded townhouse that can be found in the heart of Arles, where large and airy rooms overlook a secret courtyard. In the evenings, pull up a chair in the hotel’s lantern lit garden restaurant which acts as the perfect spot for al fresco dining.
Where to eat...Avignon is home to several Michelin starred restaurants, but for something less formal, opt for La Cuisine Dimanche. Set in a pretty square, it serves up seasonal dishes made with ingredients from a local famer’s market.
MARSEILLE TO MONACO
Dripping with the glitz and glamour of the French Riviera, take ten days to two weeks to enjoy this coastal route, making stops at Nice, Antibes, Cannes and St Tropez. Between drives, spend your days soaking up the sunshine and swimming in the turquoise waters, or relax in one of the many chic beach clubs. For souvenirs with a luxurious twist, head to one of the many designer stores in St Tropez and Monaco, or if woven baskets and pretty painted ceramics are more your thing, hit Nice’s old town, which is full of independent boutiques. When it comes to nightlife, the seductive Côte D’Azur is second to none, with an evening spent at Monaco’s legendary casino a must before you head home.
Where to stay… Les Roches Rouges, in quaint Saint Raphael, is a boutique hotel with sweeping ocean views and simple, chic interiors. Use it as a base from which to journey to the nearby cities, knowing you’ve got a haven waiting for you on your return.
Where to eat… Despite being the world’s smallest country, Monaco goes big on luxury, especially when it comes to cuisine. Omer is a restaurant set on the garden level of the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, with a Mediterranean menu, exotic cocktails and a well-stocked champagne bar.
LA ROUTE NAPOLEON
So called because it's the same route the famous leader took after reclaiming power, La Route Napoleon is an undeniably epic drive. Journeying from glamorous Cannes to the Alpine capital Grenoble, it includes stops at Grasse, Castellane and Digne. Enveloped by the culture and history of southern France, as well as enviable warm weather, this is a great holiday to embark on either as a family or couple. In Grasse, the home of perfume, make sure to tour the Musée International de la Parfumerie, where you can bottle a sample to take home. As you travel north, leave the sea and sand behind and rest up in Gap, the highest commune in France, before journeying to your last destination, Grenoble, a haven for hikers and cyclists.
Where to stay…Set high up in the Grasse hills, La Bastide Saint Antoine is a luxurious hotel that makes for a perfect place to relax after a day of exploring. Rooms are simple and stylish, with shutter framed windows looking out over a pretty courtyard.
Where to eat…Start your journey in style with a cocktail at Le Roof, a bar perched on top of the Five Seas Hotel in Cannes. Overlooking the rooftops of the city, it’s the perfect spot to enjoy a pre-dinner drink.
For a holiday that combines a lakeside road trip with a skiing adventure, travel around the breath-taking French Alps. From Annecy to Chamonix, there are some stunning resorts to visit along this route. Spend the first few days exploring the home of crystal clear Lake Annecy, where, just north of the water, you’ll find an old Medieval town framed by a dramatic Alpine backdrop. From there, it’s just over an hour’s drive to the ski resorts of Chamonix and Morzine, both of which make for magical settings. It's a short hop over the border to Geneva, which is known for its cosmopolitan nightlife and beautiful, glassy lake.
Where to stay… Those travelling with children should book into Hotel Faucigny. A charming hotel tucked away in the centre of Chamonix, it’s located just a stone's throw from the nearest ski lift, with plenty of equipment available to hire, as well as a designated drying space for boots and jackets.
Where to eat… You can’t do the alps without après ski. In the centre of Morzine lies La Grange, a cosy restaurant with a menu that focuses on the popular mountain fare of fondue. Enjoy a serving of raclette with a glass of wine post ski.