Whenever we travel to France by car I like to take the overnight ferry from Portsmouth to Le Havre because it arrives very early in the morning. There is nothing nicer than having breakfast in a café in the town before we set off to our destination which is more often than not down to the south of France – to old town of Nice or Avignon, both of which are two of our favourite places to go when we have a few days free to spend in France.
I particularly like the drive down through France and we try to keep off the motorways as much as possible. Our reasoning for this is that we like to take our time and stop off as often as we can to do a little shopping in the local shops en route. We also enjoy a tremendously good lunch at one of the routiers restaurants that are found all along the route. I have always said the best French food is served in these restaurants and from my many experiences, I am yet to be proved wrong.
I love to see the changing countryside as well, and you don’t really get to see this when you are on a motorway. We do tend to take the motorway out of Le Havre down to Paris but then after the capital we take the smaller roads and go off on our adventures through France. Over the years we have found some really delightful places to either just stop and relax or on the odd occasion to stay overnight.
I remember how on one occasion we were travelling south and we came across a town which I had always wanted to visit called Avallon. I wanted to stop here because of the King Arthur connection and I must say I found the old part of town absolutely enchanting. We also found a ‘maison forte’ just on the outskirts that had been restored and opened up as a hotel. There were only 2 rooms but each of these had four poster beds in them and tapestries hanging on the walls. The owner had restored the house into its medieval splendour and even served wonderful medieval dinners in the evenings when guests would dress for the part.
As you get further south and especially as you arrive in Provence, the landscape really changes. We always love to stop in the towns and villages in Provence and very often manage to buy a few treasures as well as some of the extremely good local produce like olives and cheeses. Being able to just stop is very much part of the adventure and finding lovely things to eat makes it that much nicer.
There are always antique shops or brocantes en route which I find fascinating and so very French. I have always managed to buy something even if it is just an alabaster lamp or an old photograph of the area which I like to get framed. The beauty of driving through the different regions is that they are so very unique and each has its own very particular charm.