On our 6 week road tripping exploration of France, we, admittedly did not travel the length and breadth of the country. We had a 2 and a half week house sit in the south of Normandy, then another 2-week house sit a week later about an hour east of Bourdeaux.
This country is so much larger than it looks. Driving 10 hours gets you like, nowhere, especially in comparison to our Ireland road trip, where 10 hours driving would cause you to lap yourself.
Here are 6 of the beautiful places we visited and would highly recommend being included on a road trip to France.
Steeped in World War II history, the beaches of Normandy became famous for the D-Day landings. Omaha beach (the most famous landing site) holds the beautiful memorial sculpture in the sand.
This story is told most infamously in Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan.
Let’s just say this is a sombre place.
Also within the area is the American Cemetery, with a free visitor centre that kind of bombards you with information. Seriously, so much to read! The videos are worth sitting down for, the original footage of the landings shows the beach that you were just on in a completely different light.
We only visited the Airbourne Museum, and personally, I would look at reviews and descriptions for the many museums in the area and choose one. There is simply too much information (mostly repeating) for you to see it all.
Mont Saint Michel
Unfortunately, all my other photos were on my hard drive, which was stolen in the great theft!
A very popular tourist destination in France. With so many wanderlust worthy photos out there, this place looks amazing. To be honest, it is very touristy but still beautiful and worth a visit.
Here’s how we visited for free:
- Parking down a side street about 1.5km from the car park (which costs a bomb!).
- Not using the bus from the official car park, but walking the distance through a field full of sheep to the beginning on the walkway to the Mont. Yes, it’s far and can be muddy. But better than paying for parking and a bus if you are fit and able.
- Do not purchase anything on the Mont. It is vastly overpriced and really not worth it. If you really want a souvenir, go somewhere else. If you want food, I’d recommend starving till demounting the Mont.
- We did not enter any of the paid buildings, personally, the entry cost was not worth it for us. There is plenty to see for free.
- Walk toward the bottom of the Mont, and instead of going back over the walkway just yet, turn right and walk around the Mont. This can only be done safely at low tide. There is a small cute chapel to see and the back of the Mont.
Camping park up spot:
There is a dedicated car camping place not too far from the free street of parking.
We decided to save our euros and didn’t really need a shower, so we used the neighbouring towns public loo and parked up by some recycling bins with a fellow freedom camper. I don’t think I have to say this, but please practice well behaved free camping. Leave no trace, easy when you stay next to a bin.
As we were so close to the Mont we witnessed the sunset, then early the next morning, the foggy sunrise and the farmers moving the sheep down the street into the field, the reverse of the night before. Such an odd spectacle!
Vitre – Medieval town
Our Housesit hosts recommended this place, informing us we HAD to visit. Apparently, they believe it to be the most authentic medieval town remaining in the area, where it is not over commercialised and touristy (like Mont Saint Micheal).
I’d have to agree. No buildings wall was straight and narrow little stone roads.
No buildings wall was straight and narrow little stone roads make this a charming village.
We visited around 10 am on a weekday and the town was empty apart from locals going about their daily business.
We did not camp here but moved on to Châteaugiron for an Airbnb that night. We needed a shower….
Saintes – Amphitheatre
Saintes provides a well preserved Roman town to wander around. Just outside of the historical town centre is the well kept Roman Amphitheatre, which, for only 3 euro entry, its worth a look around.
It isn’t the colosseum (seriously, some people’s reviews for this place are ridiculous!), but still interesting to see the expanse of the Roman empire.
There is more to this town than just the Roman history, it is well worth a walk around and an explore.
Blaye – Citadel
The Blaye Citadel is a huge and well-preserved stone fortress on the edge of the Garonne river.
To visit the Citadel is free, you even drive through it and over a very questionably old stone bridge to park up inside the citadel.
Car camping area:
There is a campervan park within the Citadel, yes, the place is just that large. It was closed for the low season when we arrived, and frankly, we didn’t want to pay the price they charged!
So instead, just outside of the town is a vineyard, Château Marquis de Vauban. Offering a parking area for camping cars, for FREE!
I shit you not, we are in campervan haven in France. Seriously, everyone has a campervan, so the country is well equipped.
The Chateau provides a spot to park, a toilet and a place to fill up water and empty waste (if you have a proper camper). For FREE! No, tours and wine purchases are not compulsory.
Heading into vineyard territory, free car camping space is very common. One vineyard outside of Bourdeaux even offered a hot shower. We were very happy about that. Yeah, we bought some of their wine as a thank you. Although a wine tasting at 10am before a 4 hour drive is a little odd.
Gorges du Tarn
Near the Millau Viaduct is this gem of a gorge. Driving up very windy roads, just to drive back down again, stopping repeatedly to take a few photos, then through the middle of a huge gorge with towering cliffs on either side. Sometimes driving through tunnels in the cliffs, or along the cliff edge. This place is non-stop beautiful.
From the town of Millau, you can drive the length of the Gorges du Tarn. We stopped multiple times along the way, but left the Gorge at the town Les Vignes. As we travelled in Autumn, the colours were beautiful, with very few people on the road and the cool air temperature with sunshine all day made for a beatiful experience.
An unforgettable experience
There’s something about a road trip. The stopping wherever you want, whether for a photo, a sandwich (or in France, a Baguette a day!) or the toilet. Deciding to turn left instead of following the path right. The freedom it allows adds a sense of adventure unattainable on a bus.
We used our mini mini camper car, Jedi for this adventure, she is sadly no longer with us.
Although all our stuff got stolen toward the end of this trip, I still loved our road trip of France! Just next time, we will be more cautious with where we
See our other post about the beautiful Chateaus in France that can be included on a road trip.