Out of the several excellent options for this country, we would conceive a “TOUR DE FRANCE” on a clock-wise round direction.
The only upsetting fact for anybody challenging this trip, would be daring to cover the large geography of France on a tour; as it will be impossible not to miss wonderful spots just a few milles within your proximity throughout the whole journey, because France is the perfect country (THIS IS A MUST THING TO TAKE IN MIND) “to switch-on the eco-GPS mode” and drive and stop as it goes with the flow…
If it is your 1st time in the french country-side, you will have to agree that France is truly majestic, from a natural point of view & also from a historical perspective: dozens of beautifully preserved and ancient villages will be on your route (and off your route too, unfortunately).
There is a web-site which we strongly recommend as a reference guide, (this official site lists the most beautiful villages of France). You can click the map and choose your preferred route…the whole country is spotted by true marvels:
To reduce the journey towards Provence to a shorter tour, we would highlight 4 main sections which we consider not to be missed :
PROVENCE REGION, (further south would not be as pretty).
Provence has an iconic scenery such as the Italian Tuscany, or the British Cotswolds, or Cornwall.
The Provence is wonderful, specially during late spring (early June is the month of the lavender harvest collection).
Here are a few name of villages and spots which we would suggest not to be missed :
LOURMARIN, GORDES, ROUSILLON, BAUX-EN-PROVENCE, THE CASTLE OF “MARQUIS DE SADE” .
All these landscapes had inspired many impressionist painters such as Van Gogh, Matisse, Cezanne and this reason is why many impressionists made famous the Provençal colors (inspired by the natural beauty).
AUVERGNE & MASSIF CENTRAL (Central Plateau of France)
This is the largest volcanic area within the whole continental Europe.
The scenery here is pretty amazing, rolling hills everywhere and extinct volcanoes which are nowadays covered by green valleys, (hence this is not a typical lava landscape; more to the contrary it is a lush green fertile area).
Reducing this south-bound journey through MASSIF CENTRAL (direction to PROVENCE) would represent missing out Lyon city (aprox 150 milles East-bound, from the Auvergne area).
Lyon would alternatively be as worth it, considering this city is the gastronomical capital of France and arguably the worldwide coulinary capital tooconsidering that The Red Michelin Guide was born here.
The city itself is the second largest in France (together with Marseilles, same sized) and has an interesting city centre, mainly focused on upscale restaurants and a vibrant night-life.
AQUITAINE & BURDEAUX
Aquitaine has undoubtfully some of the most beautiful French Atlantic coast which only Bretagne could be able to rival.
In Aquitaine one can find unspoilt landscapes of LANDA trees (endemic from France) and The Dune of Pilat (the largest sand dune in Europe which is so emblematic that it is even being represented in some french coins).
BOURDEAUX area (close to Aquitaine) is, as everybody knows, a temple of wine. Hence, this region is spotted by pretty vineyard hills and pretty villages, all over.
This alluring valley flows along the Loire river and is famous for all the Ancient Castles on each side of the shores of the river. Truly appealing. Specially since you can sleep in these castles. Find some fast facts of Loire in this article from the GUARDIAN:
A beautiful stop, on the way up to LOIRE VALLEY coming from the south (AQUITAINE), would be the ÎLE DE RE (near La Rochelle), but it all depends on the available time.
IMPORTANT TO NOTE:
A great alternative to LOIRE valley and aprox at the same latitude, is the amazing BRETAGNE coast, however when looking at the map, the longitude of BRETAGNE results quite large, and a long drive is necessary to reach FINISTERRE (BREST area).
Bretagne is best along the coast, (rather than in the hinterland), and remarkably beautiful are the small islands of OUESANT & BELLE ISLE EN MER.
After this overall 1st glance, one would need to plan the journeys according to the longest leg distances, which are here for further reference (BASED ON GPS- ECOLOGICAL MODE)
LONDON – CALAIS – GIVERNY (3 HOURS TRAIN + 4,5 HRS ECO DRIVE TO COVER 250 KM FROM CALAIS)
GIVERNY – AUVERGNE (7,5 HRS ECO DRIVE – 500 KM)
AUVERGNE – PROVENCE (6,5 HRS ECO DRIVE – 400 KM)
PROVENCE – LOT REGION (7 HOURS ECO DRIVE – 420 KM)
LOT REGION – AQUITAINE (3 HRS ECO DRIVE – 200 KM)
AQUITAINE – LOIRE VALLEY (6 HRS ECO DRIVE– 450 KM)
LOIRE VALLEY – CALAIS (7,5 HRS ECO DRIVE – 450 KM)
Choose which area might be more interesting to explore in depth…
Above proposal (suitable for a challenging road-movie short holiday) would take 7 legs of aprox 400 km.
DAY 1 & start of DAY 2 would be proposed as follows:
DAY 1. – LONDON / CALAIS (3 HRS BY TRAIN) + CALAIS / GIVERNY (4,5 HOURS ECO DRIVE – 250 km)
Claude Monet’s garden at Giverny is one of the best known gardens in France. Some of Claude Monet’s most famous works were painted in Giverny. These include his Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge paintings. The Impressionist artist lived in Giverny from 1883 until his death.
An optional place to stay overnight would be LA ROCHE-GUYON (listed as some of the most beautiful villages in France), just 11 km from Givenchy.
DAY 2. – STOP OVER IN VERSAILLES PALACE in the southwest out-skirts of Paris.
Distance from Giverny 65 km (55 minutes).
If you already know the Versailles Palace (a pre-booking would be worth-it) it would be ideal to continue enroute from Giverny direction southeast (avoiding the highways)…towards Massif Central /or Lyon.
For anybody challenging this tour, IBERICA MARITIMA will be delighted to give some closer “zoom-in details” as France is one of our well known neighbourhoods.