Another 12 delightful French locations to combine into a road trip
In these trying times, Gary and I are longing to return to France on a road trip. It’s so tempting to hop across the English Channel when you can see France from the Kent shorelines.
We know the joys of touring the beautiful French country lanes will return. Nevertheless, in the meantime, we’re just going to have to reminisce from our home in the UK and start planning the next French adventure.
France has so many alluring towns and villages from north to south. Often, we head to France for a mini-break; although, our favourite type of trip is a road trip.
We usually try and avoid the autoroutes and weave our way through vineyards, orchards, the lush rolling hills and charming harbour towns. Stopping along the way at a local boulangerie or street-side café to grab some lunch.
An old fishing boat, St Tropez
A helpful guide
I love nothing more than planning a trip through France and so often I use the DK Eyewitness books. I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.
We used a previous version of this book to plan our French road trips, now you can grab the revised copy.
Tourrettes-sur-Loup is an incredibly charming hill-top village snuggled into the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in the South of France.
Its tiny narrow lanes weave their way amongst honey-coloured homes, with delightful French blue shutters flung open to the striking views of the French countryside.
Twisting lanes through Tourrettes-sur-Loup
Doorway to 46, Tourrettes-sur-Loup
Tourrettes sur Loup teeters on the edge of the southern French hillside, and you just fall in love with its charm as soon as you discover what lies beyond its ancient walls.
You can’t just help being inquisitive when you see cobble-stoned passageways lined with quaint medieval homes and window boxes overflowing with fragrant roses.
Suppose you love the work of French artist Claude Monet and his enchanting Water Lily paintings. In that case you’ll want to detour to his family home in Giverny.
Giverny is located in the north-west of France in the Normandy region. The village itself is extremely charming; however, you must head to Monet’s home. Monet and his family lived in this residence for over forty years until his death in 1926.
Peeking through to the lily pond in Giverny, Normandy
When you stroll around the beautiful gardens brushing past overhanging flowers and crisscrossing bridges over the ponds, you’ll immediately understand why Monet fell in love with this home.
There is no mistaking where the inspiration came from with many of Monet’s famous works.
A useful guide
We love visiting France and each region so different from one another. I find the DK Eyewitness Guides really helpful in planning a trip and so often find interesting little snippets of info.
Take a peek at this revised Top 10 Pocket Travel Guide and see what you can discover.
Yes, the home of Dijon mustard.
Dijon is a charming city located in the east of France in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region and the capital of Burgundy.
The Hôtel de Ville de Dijon
The architecture in Dijon is stunning, particularly around the Place de la Liberation with its dancing fountains leaping through the centre. My advice is to take a seat at one of the welcoming cafés and enjoy a glass of Burgundy and a sample of the local fromage and watch the world pass by.
Also, in this delightful square is the Ducal Palace, the Palais des Ducs et des États de Bourgogne. This province of France was home to the Dukes of Burgundy from the 11th to the late 15th centuries.
Place de la Libération in Dijon
Dotted through the historical centre, you’ll find some wonderfully preserved half-timbered buildings, dating from the 12th to 15th centuries.
Dijon is an ideal city in France to enjoy a mini-break.
We’re heading to the south of France along the French Riviera to Saint Tropez and what a stunning part of the country this is.
St Tropez is in the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, and yes it does get busy at times. However, it is one of those places that you really should pop into, even if it is just for a few hours as the old harbour is breath-taking.
Harbour view and fishing boats in St Tropez
Lining the quay of Saint Tropez are charming buildings painted in different shades of ochre & pink, with their pastel window shutters and the balconies teetering high above. Dotted all around are smart boutiques, eye-catching galleries and bustling restaurants.
Ahh yes, then there are the superyachts hugging the harbour, within touching distance of you, boy there is some money here.
A reference guide
If you love Provence as much as we do, you'll want to start planning your visit now. I so enjoy using the DK Eyewitness books, as they are extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.
We used a previous version of this book to plan our Provencal road trip, now you can grab the revised copy.
This particular region of France is remembered by the horrific atrocities that took place in World War I during the Battle of the Somme.
The River Somme weaves its way through the centre of the ancient city with the awe-inspiring 13th-century Amiens Cathedral, looking down from high above.
The UNESCO Gothic cathedral is a truly stunning example of a church from this period and the intricate detail both inside and out is magnificent.
The Monument to Jules Verne in Amiens
One of Amiens famous residents was the renowned author Jules Verne, who lived in Amiens with his wife from 1857 until his death in 1905
It was in Amiens that Jules Verne wrote many of his notable novels; Around the World in Eighty Days, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, & Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
Have you seen?
Heading back south we are in the captivating Provencal area of France, and one of my favourite parts of the country.
Cucuron is a village hidden in the heart of the region Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. Cucuron may be small (although that’s its charm), but you will be left speechless when you turn the corner into the main square, and you are greeted with Bassin de l'étang.
This rectangular basin of water dates from the beginning of the 14th century, and it’s incredible. The charming basin is surrounded by lofty trees that offer welcomed dappled sunshine while you sit and enjoy your lunch. Tuesday’s is market day, and tempting local delicacies are on offer around the Bassin de l'étang.
You may even recognise Bassin de l'étang from the movie ‘A Good Year’
Ahh, not too far of a hop from Provence and we are back on the Côte d'Azur, Nice to be exact.
I love Nice and not just for its spectacular location on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. However, the far-reaching views when you promenade along the bay are impressive.
The shoreline at Nice on the Cote d'Azur
However, it’s the captivating colourful lanes around the Old Town that I love. The lived-in rustic appeal is what really charms me, laundry fluttering on washing lines overhead, flowerpots crammed with herbs and ancient architecture stretched high above.
That’s all before I had a delicious ice-cream, from Fenocchio’s ice-cream parlour in Place Rossetti.
Rustic lanes in the centre of old Nice
Don’t miss the market along Cours Saleya, the vibrant, juicy fruit, and the fragrant garden-fresh flowers on offer are irresistible.
Nice is perfect for a weekend away in the south of France.
The quayside in Dinan
The quayside is lined with beautiful old stone houses, restaurants and bars and as you stroll by the river La Rance, you’ll hear the jangle of yachts bobbing in the water.
It’s been quite a few years since we last visited Dinan, I think a return visit is long overdue for a weekend break.
Sommières is located in the Occitanie region in southern France and is only around 35 miles (56km) from the Roman aqueduct, Pont du Gard.
The ancient settlement was built beside the River Vidourle and is straddled by a 1st-century Roman bridge. Which was built on the orders of the Roman Emperor Tiberius. The bridge has undergone many repairs over the centuries and what can be seen today is from later periods.
The Pont Du Romain in Sommières
The Roman bridge was originally constructed with 20 arches and at one time would have been lined with buildings. The present bridge now only has seven arches and unfortunately, none of the dwellings remains.
The picturesque Medieval town of Sommières has undoubtedly seen some action in its time, as it was sieged in 1573 by Catholics and then again in 1622 by King Louis XIII.
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Or alternatively, catch a Brittany Ferry and tour through France under your own steam.
We are still In the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, region; however, we have now headed to Cassis. Another stunning location along the French Riviera.
Cassis is only around 17 miles (27 km) east of Marseille but feels like a world apart. With beautiful coves, inlets and craggy cliffs giving an incredible backdrop to the picturesque harbour.
It’s a lovely relaxing town to stroll around, particularly around the quay and bays.
Don’t go thinking that you’ll find an abundance of the liqueur crème de cassis when you arrive. As this blackcurrant liqueur is actually produced further north in France, in the Burgundy region.
We’re back in the Occitanie region at Mirepoix in the southwest of France and only around 30 miles (47km) from the fortified town of Carcassonne.
Mirepoix is a bastide town and due to flooding was re-built in the 13th century. The incredibly picturesque town is beautifully preserved from its Medieval past.
The market square will stop you in your tracks. The half-timbered houses and shops surrounding the square are stunning, passing underneath is a decorative arched walkway supporting all the ancient buildings above.
A traditional market is held in the square on a Monday, such a delightful way to mix with the locals.
In our opinion
Last but by no means least we arrive at one of the furthest south-western parts of France and the city of Biarritz, in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region.
We are also in the Basque country, which straddles a small region in France and northern Spain. You can really appreciate the flavours in this part of the world, the mix of culinary influences in the local dishes are amazing.
The coastline of Biarritz is along the Bay of Biscay and is spectacular. Golden sandy beaches and raging waves crashing against the outlying rocks. It really makes for an impressive view.
There’s such an elegant mixture of architecture around the bay in Biarritz and especially the eye-catching grand Hôtel du Palais. A palace on the beach, built-in 1854 for Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III.
Biarritz makes a delightful mini-break in the Basque region of France.
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