Lockdown almost driven you crazy? Itching to explore France this summer without setting your heart on one particular place? Time to play ‘join the dots’ on your map and explore the many beauty spots hidden across the Channel. Spread throughout the country, here are five ideas to inspire your plans for an exciting French road trip. It’s the perfect opportunity to stock up on wine and lifelong memories.
Les Plus Beaux Villages de France
The ‘picture perfect‘ journey
Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (the most beautiful villages in France) is an organisation formed in 1982 and has since listed 159 villages chosen for their heritage and very picturesque look. From Brittany to Provence, these secluded villages are officially France’s quaintest settlements and need to follow a list of strict standards to receive the famous red label. The Most Beautiful Villages of France book available in English is packed with maps and practical information about each village.
The most recent village to join the family was Grignan in 2019, an enchanting medieval gem in the Drôme department.
List of the villages available here (website in French only)
19 cities ‘à la Française’ to tick off your list
The Remarkable Sites and Towns of France along with Atout France invite you to discover 19 treasured French heritage sites. These small cities, off the beaten track, are towns where you
can find remarkable architectural settings and venues that inspire good taste and French touch.
Pedestrian streets, terrace cafés and markets, historic town centres and the beauty of the
surrounding landscapes; charm and authenticity are ever-present across these 19 areas that allow us to experience life à la française.
More information here
Centre des Monuments Nationaux
Road trip with a cultural twist
Governed by the Ministry of Culture, the Centre des Monuments Nationaux (National Monuments) conserves and manages 100 national monuments in France, which welcome 10 million visitors every year. The large network belonging to the State is spread throughout the country: the abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel, the Château d’Angers and the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau, the castle and ramparts of Carcassonne, the Arc de Triomphe and the Sainte-Chapelle, to name but a few. The perfect pitstops along the journey.
From 15 July to 15 October 2020: The castle of Angers is home to one of the greatest masterpieces of the Middle Ages, the Apocalypse tapestry. The exhibition “The Apocalypse as if you were there”, will reveal the intimate its origins, its rescue, its meaning, its universal and timeless message that continues to inspire pop culture and contemporary creators. Often announced, regularly postponed, the apocalypse haunts our imaginations because men have always wondered about the end of ends. More info
More information on CMN website here
Map of cultural sites across France available here
The Burgundy Wine Route
The ‘drive safely but stock up‘ kind of journey
Touring the Burgundy Wine Trail is a voyage of discovery, where you’ll learn about life in Burgundy and the region’s wine, its cuisine, and its extraordinary historical heritage. Among the tourist attractions along your route, we recommend that you stop at Beaune, Burgundy’s wine capital, and take the time to visit the town’s famous charitable hospitals. You’ll travel from appellation to appellation and will be surprised to encounter village names that you’ll recognise from the labels of your favourite bottles of Burgundy: Chablis, Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny, Meursault, Pommard, Puligny-Montrachet, and Rully…
Stop off to meet with Burgundy’s wine growers, who are proud of their land and its produce, and taste their wines as you go. This journey through the local wine culture, with its visits to the wineries of wine cooperatives, wine traders, and the wine-growing estates themselves, will also take you through a region with an incredible culinary heritage and unique local produce (if we only had to name one, we would choose Epoisses, the famous local cheese).
Happening this summer: You, stocking up your car with delicious wine.
More information here
Vallée de la Gastronomie – France ®
NEW! 620 km of French gastronomy
The Vallée de la Gastronomie – France ® is the first tourism project of its kind in France. The journey takes you through three regions – Burgundy-Franche-Comté, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur – covering a total distance of 620 kilometres and an area of 75,591 square kilometres.
Uniting 99 Michelin-starred chefs and around 200 individual tourist experiences (30 of which are considered ‘once in a lifetime’), the aim of the Vallée is to drive the local economy and boost the area’s attractiveness by promoting the ‘gastronomic meal of the French’ (listed by UNESCO as part of humanity’s Intangible Cultural Heritage) and the French art of gastronomy, which is the country’s leading tourist attraction. The ‘gastronomic meal’ emphasises the pairing of food with wine, the pleasure of taste and especially togetherness, the act of sharing around a table and the strengthening of social and familial ties.
The concept of the Vallée de la Gastronomie – France ® is to give travellers the freedom to devise their own multisensory road trip itinerary according to their time and interests. They will be able to choose from cooking courses, touring trufflegrounds and olive orchards, tasting niche grape varieties, learning the art of cheesemaking with artisan cheesemakers, going behind the scenes at distilleries, and dining at both Michelin-starred restaurants and rootsy farmhouse B&Bs. All stops are easily accessible, situated less than 45 minutes’ drive from an A6 or A7 motorway exit, and will introduce travellers to the French values of sharing, community, hospitality and expertise handed down through the generations, with an intensely personal feel to all experiences.
The Vallée de la Gastronomie – France ® was officially launched in 2020.
More information here