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.
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.
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.
Photo by Calips (wikimedia commons)
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………
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.