Six Week Road Trip in France, Spring 2015

On May 20, 2015, my husband, Phil, and I set off for a six week road trip in France, during which time we covered almost 3,000 miles. This post is a summary of what we did and how we did it.

Prior to leaving, we generally knew what we wanted to do in France, but upon arrival at the Charles De Gaulle Airport, the only hotels we booked were for our first and last days in the country. Past that, we were free to drive and stay anywhere. Now that we’ve completed our trip, this map shows the locations of the nine cities where we stayed.

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LEGEND

Match numbers in the green (start and end) and yellow boxes on the map to the legend below:

  1. Paris: We flew into Charles de Gaulle Airport, picked up our car, then drove to our first hotel in La Rochette.
  2. La Rochette: This location is within easy driving distance to the Palace of Fontainebleau and is 45 minutes away from the Palace of Versailles. We stayed here for three days, during which we determined where we’d stay next in the Loire Valley.
  3. Tours: We stayed here for three days and decided to remain in the Loire Valley vicinity for another week. Unfortunately, we could not extend our stay at this hotel.
  4. Loches: Fortunately for us, our six day stay here was far better than in Tours in terms of quality housing and things to do in the city. Here, we were introduced to the Pierre & Vacances Residence chain, which helped us formulate where we would stay in the future.
  5. Lyon/Lissieu: We stayed here one day on route from Loches to Cannes.
  6. Cannes: OMG, what an experience that we did not expect! We stayed approximately 13 days in stunning Pierre & Vacances resort overlooking a infinity pool and the Med. What a pleasure! 
  7. Six-Fours-les-Plages: Based on our good experience staying in a Pierre & Vacances resort in Cannes, we decided to stay at another one of their French Riviera facilities, this time closer to Marseilles. (“Plages” means “beaches” in French.)
  8. Sarlat-la-Caneda: From the Riviera, we headed to the Dordogne, where we spent five days in a delightful boutique resort. If we had had more time, we would have extended time in this area by at least another week.
  9. Douarnenez: Based on a conversation with a Pierre & Vacances manager at Six-Fours-les-Plages, we decided to spend our second-to-last week in another Pierre & Vacances residence on the coast of Brittany. This location was close to her home town, which she loved, and is a major French and English vacation area that is almost unknown in the USA. 
  10. Paris: Our last week was spent in the very center of Paris in a 300 year old hotel that was formerly associated with a Catholic Church.

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THE CAR

We booked our car by phone from Hertz. Upon comparison, Hertz offered the lowest price on a rental that included a GPS. This is the second time in three years we’ve rented a car from Hertz in Europe and were very pleased with their cars, service, and, of course, prices.

THE LONGER DRIVES

During our entire stay, we only had four, 6-to-7-hour drives. They were from Loches to Cannes (with a stopover at Lyon), from Six-Fours-les-Pleges to Serlat-la-Caneda, from Sarlat-la-Caneda to Douarnenez, and from Douarnenez to Paris. Main highways were excellent, with tolls easy to make (we kept a lot of change in the car). Streets in new towns were equal to those found in the USA. Roads in medieval villages were narrow, often 1.5 cars wide, and from time to time, only one car wide.

THE GPS(s)

We used three GPSs and managed to drive throughout France without any problems. In addition to primarily using the car’s GPS, we relied on my iPad Air connected to a Bad Elf GPS and the Maps.Me app for extended detail, which was very important in cities. My husband’s cell phone GPS and offline maps provided further backup, which we did use twice.

THE HOTELS

We used Hotels.com exclusively, booking everything online. Among the many benefits to Hotels.com is their “one night free after 10 bookings,” travel notifications, and keeping of accommodation records since we started using their service.

We booked all hotels “sight unseen.” That said, after a week in France, we fell in love with the Pierre & Vacances chain, which offers small-to-medium sized apartments that are built as hotel accommodations, not rental units. All locations are in prime areas with spectacular views. Their vacation apartments include one or two bedrooms, a kitchen (or kitchenette), a dining table, and two sofas that can be turned into beds. All apartments face some type of fabulous view, which can be accessed by opening a sliding glass wall onto a private balcony.

Note that when using Hotels.com in France as well as in the USA, I choose hotels by customer satisfaction ratings and comments, location (whether a central location is important), and price, in that order. In France, however, it is very important to check the size of a room before committing because it could be as small as 150 sq. ft.

THE PHONE

Learn how to enter phone numbers in France. Test to make sure that you can successfully call your lodging, as well as any 800-number you might need in your home country, before you actually need to do it.

LINKS TO HIGHLY RECOMMENDED HOTELS

Le Grand Monarque, La Rochette, France: A nice place to stay if visiting the Palace of Fontainebleau is in order. The Palace of Versailles is approximately 45 minutes away.

Pierre & Vacances: Hundreds of locations are available throughout France, Spain, Italy, and far more. This chain’s facilities are all in excellent locations with stunning views, and porches on each unit.

Hotel La Verperie, Sarlat-la-Caneda, France: This is a well-managed boutique hotel on the edge of the medieval city of Sarlat. Breakfast with freshly made croissants is included. Simple, but very roomy rooms. Lovely grounds. Sunny glass-walled restaurant.

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MY BLOGS PUBLISHED ON LITTLEVIEWS

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AUTHOR:

Articles and art by Karen Little. Photos by Karen and Phil Little. Posted October 11, 2015 on www.Littleviews.com. Request permission to copy any part or all of this article from Karen at Karen@Littleviews.com.

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