Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bordeaux to Toulouse to Montpellier Roadtrip

On this route you’ll pass though some places which you’ve probably heard of, big clue…smell, and parts of it are going to cause great hilarity, but as you’re old enough to drive you should be more adult about places with funny names; you’ll see.

Place de la Comédie, Montpellier
Photo by Fritz Geller-Grimm (wikimedia commons)

Day 1.
You’ve visited the Musée d'Aquitaine and the Porte des Salinières, and now its time to leave Bordeaux and the west coast for Montpellier. Take the D10 which roughly follows the same route as the Autoroute until Langon. On your left will be the vineyards of Bordeaux and on your right, the forest of Landes; admire the countryside from your vantage point inside your motorhome rental or campervan hire. Along the way there are some great viewpoints, and then you will arrive at the first stop. This is where you will have to take a picture of the town sign, Condom, you can’t miss it there’s always a huge queue of grinning tourists. Now, if you are from a part of the world where the word condom isn’t used for a form of contraception then you won’t find this in the least bit funny, but for those that do, there are lots of jokes which could have been written in! There isn’t really a lot to se in Condom, but the cathedral and the Museum of Contraception are worth popping into, it’s also where the beautiful liqueur Armagnac is produced, free sample anyone?

Onwards to the climax of the day! Well not quite next you pass through a very smelly place…….Cologne. Unfortunately Eau De Cologne originated from Germany and not here, but it all adds interest, a bit like eye spy on a long journey. This part of the route has some serious twists and turns, but take your time and you’ll arrive in Toulouse in high spirits.

Day 2.
Today is a day for exploring the sights and delights of Toulouse, the Pink City. Take a boat tour on the River Garonne or the Canal Du Midi; visit the Romanesque Basilica of St. Sernin; the biggest in the western world, or other buildings such as the Albi or the Capitole, the magnificent Town Hall and theatre. If you’ve been to Toulouse before, or want to stay out of the city nearby Carcassone is only 70 km’s away. The UNESCO walled city is very beautiful with its castle and old bridge.

Saint Pierre Cathedral, Montpellier
Photo by Vpe (wikimedia commons)

Day 3
It’s another twisting and turning road, the N126/D162, but its all about the journey and the scenery today, if you want to get to Montpelier quickly then take the A61. You’re halfway point is in the middle of the Parc Naturel Du Haut-Languedoc, and around Courniou there are some excellent walking trails and caves such as the Grotte de la Deveze. This really is a beautiful route and if you enjoy walking you may prefer to stay in one of the small villages en route so that you can explore the area a little more.

Finally, you arrive in Montpellier where you can explore the city by bike or tram, but leave your motorhome rental or campervan hire outside the city and travel in because the centre is pedestrianised and the traffic jams are terrible.

Montpellier to Marseille to Nice Roadtrip

The journey between Montpellier and Nice is only a short one, but it’s very different to the forests and mountains further north, here you will pass many Étang or lakes, and you’ll also notice a difference in the temperature, cuisine, and the buildings. So, jump in and enjoy your motorhome rental or campervan hire trip between Montpellier to Nice

View of the "Petit Nice" on the Corniche, Marseille Photo by Jddmano (wikimedia commons)

Day 1.
Leave Montpellier heading west on the N113, after Vauvert you will start to notice the lakes start to come into view. If you need a quick stretch of your legs stop off at St-Gilles if you’re into architecture, or you’re a stonemason, you’ll enjoy the façade of the Church of St Giles an abbey dating back to the 12th Century, if not there are some nice patisseries where you can stock up!

The next major port of call will be the charming city of Arles with its Roman amphitheatre. The site dates back to the first century BC and was capable of seating 20,000 spectators who spent their Saturday afternoons watching chariot races and hand-to-hand combat. The next part of your route the N568 is long and straight, but a word of warning there are also speed cameras and the Gendarmerie get pretty cross if you speed. At the end of this very straight road are the Marseille Port Information Centre and the small village of Fos-sur-Mer with its 14th century castle and Romanesque church. Make a point of stopping off, as the views from the ramparts are beautiful. That’s it for the side roads, now you join the A55 towards Marseille.

The area around the coast is filled with places to park up a motorhome rental or campervan hire vehicle for the night and you’ll have plenty of choice between the city itself, or one of the nearby towns such as L’Estaque; popular with the artist Cezanne for its natural harbour and old village.

Day 2
You need at least a day to explore the sights of Marseille, more if you can spare it. European Capital of Culture for 2013, the city has some wonderful old sights such as the Viuex Port where you cross the harbour in an old wooden ferryboat, don’t worry it’s perfectly safe, and where you can buy fresh fish for your barbecue. Perhaps you would prefer a train trip, or a tour of the Notre Dame de la Gare which is the landmark of the city, but probably best of all is to just walk around the street and get hopelessly lost.

The Opera House, Marseille
Photo by Mrlopez2681 (wikimedia commons)

Day 3
Enough of getting lost, today you need to get to Nice. Take the A560 out of the city and you’ll soon be in the forest and higher ground with some excellent vistas. As soon as you see the signs for Frejus and Cannes, you know you’re getting close; you may even want to stop off for the night or have a look round at the extravagant marinas with all those yachts and fast cars. This route takes you on the Autoroute, but if you have all the time in the world the coastal route is a lovely option.

Of course once you reach Nice its not that much further to Monte-Carlo, did you pack your tuxedo?

Paris to Marseille via Lyon Roadtrip

When you travel from the chic boutiques of Paris to the sunny port of Marseille you notice an enormous difference, in not only the weather, but the architecture and way of life too. If you took the Autoroute and blasted your way to the south you could get there pretty quickly, but you would certainly sacrifice visiting some pretty towns and villages along the way. This route gives you the best of both worlds, a few toll roads where the surroundings aren’t quite so interesting, and a few twisting and turning smaller roads, to test those driving skills and check out the best bits of this part of the country on a motorhome rental or campervan hire holiday.

Panorama of Marseille Photo by Tabletpc2 (wikimedia commons)

Day 1.
The first stop of the day is the historical city of Auxerre. The first part of the journey from Paris is one of those Autoroute moments just to get you out of the city and well on way to the best bits of the route, it should take you around two hours. Auxerre is in Burgundy so if you enjoy wine you’ll probably be very excited at this moment, if not, it’s a small city so park up and explore some wonderful architecture, cathedral, churches, squares, and museums.

The next part of the route has some hills and ‘bends’, but the drive through the forest and along the River Cure is well worth it. The riverbank is a good place to enjoy a typical French lunch and if you’ve got time the Grottes d’Arcy or caves of d’Arcy, have the second largest collection of cave paintings in Europe. Now you have a choice head towards the city of Avallon and stay overnight, or if you want to visit a pretty hilltop village take a detour onto the D951 to Vezelay, home to the greatest Gothic cathedral in the province and magnificent views to boot.

Day 2.
Leave Avallon this morning for Lyon. Another possibly detour first thing is a trip to Beaune which succeeded Dijon as the capital of the Dutchy of Burgundy. The centre is charming and the perfect place to pick up some ‘real’ French delicacies and some incredible wines; you might even stay all day. The route on the N9 follows the Autoroute, it’s long, straight, and without the tolls, but beware of the speed cameras. There are lots of towns and villages along the route which also follows the River Saône, giving you a great choice for one of those all-important picnic opportunities. Even better, within twenty minutes of Mâcon there are some excellent Beaujolais wineries. When you’re ready, continue along the very straight D306 all the way to Lyon, but leave the motorhome rental or campervan hire outside the city, the parking is appalling.

Lyon, with the old city in the foreground
Photo by Calips (wikimedia commons)

Day 3.
No driving today, instead spend your time exploring France’s third largest city. Even if cities aren’t your thing, the UNESCO World Heritage Site might just change your mind. Second only to Venice, Vieux Lyon has the largest Renaissance area in Europe, with its cathedral, gardens, and Traboules (corridors which link two streets through a building), then there are the excellent shops, restaurants, bars………

Day 4
Today is not much of a sight seeing day, its three hours to Marseille the majority of it on the A7 passing by Avignon….Avignon, you’ve got to stop. Avignon is a major city in Provence, with Le Palais des Papes or the Palace of Popes, which is the world's largest Gothic building. Once you’ve had your fill of Gothic architecture get your fill of food at the Place Pie, a covered market which is highly recommended, then its back on the road again for the biggest Mediterranean port of the Provence, and don’t forget to try the La Bouillabaisse de Marseille, its wonderful.

Paris to Nantes via Tours Roadtrip

The inland areas of France used to be overlooked in favour of the seaside resorts, now the Loire valley is just as popular due its wonderful Château, mouth-watering cuisine, and delightful sparking wines. This route assumes you’re already spent a fair amount of time in Paris, have done all those important tourist sights, and discovered the delights of the périphérique (hopefully not in your motorhome rental or campervan hire), and now you’re ready to move on to some open roads and pleasant countryside.

Pont Wilson, Tours
Photo by Tango7174 (wikimedia commons)

Day 1.

Head south from the city towards Chartres, this is the scenic route, you could opt to take the A10, but that would mean you would miss out on the first stop, Château de Maintenon. It should take around an hour and a half to get to the château which dates back to 1509 and incorporates an ancient castle. Built on the banks of the River Eure, the chateau isn’t the biggest you’ll encounter on your trip, but very nice none the less.

Back on the road towards Chartres and as you’re going to be driving right through the centre, and you’re bound to be hungry; you can’t stop and not visit at least one of the city’s attractions. The most dominating feature of the city is La Cathédrale Notre Dame de Chartres with the most extensive collection of stained glass in the world, or if that sort of thing doesn’t interest you, just walk around the city and admire the half-timbered houses on your way down to the river.

From here hit the N10, not literally, for just over an hour before taking the much smaller D910 towards Tours (with a silent S) your stopover for the night or two.

Day 2
Leave you motorhome rental or campervan hire vehicle on site today and hire a bike to explore the area. The city is a small one and at the heart of the ‘Loire à Velo’ project which means its relatively safe, no crazy motorists to contend with! The city is where Joan of Arc had her armour made, a natty souvenir if you can find a replica piece, or perhaps visit the castle, cathedral, or stroll along the river; its all about the atmosphere.

Town Hall and Place Jean Jaurès, Tours
Photo by Tango7174 (wikimedia commons)

Day 3
Armour safely stowed away its time to head for Nantes, but not before you do a bit of a detour. You cannot visit the Loire Valley and not take a trip to Saumur and its truly magnificent château, not to mention its wine.

Château de Saumur overlooks the River Loire and was once the residence of the Dukes of Anjou. There are some beautiful interiors; it also has a magnificent display of equestrian items. After you’ve spent a couple of hours looking round, leave the town in search of some of the vineyards and buy a bottle to enjoy later.

The last part of your journey towards Nantes is quick and painless, unless you don’t agree with paying tolls in which case it will take a little longer. Take the A11 and then the A811 and in less than an hour you’ll be in Nantes home of the Porte St-Pierre, Cathédrale Saint Pierre, and The Jules Verne Museum.