For France we recommend All The Aires France primarily, and
Our final week started by looking at what else we wanted to see, then working out how long the drive was… The progress in the SE corner of France is quite slow if you stick to the slower but more fun D roads, so we realised we were quite tight on time.
Enjoying the twisties still (make note to check tyres and brake pads) we went via Moustiers Ste Marie which is a really pretty town, through Digne les Bains which wasn’t through to Sisteron which was okay. Opting to stay at an Aire at Sisteron we needed to use the laundrette to ensure we had enough clothes for the last week! A reasonable town, reasonable castle, but not spectacular.
Heading homeward we opted to go the very slow route via the Vercors gorges (the Rayons) on the D539. Again a stunning drive very challenging and a little tight in places. Again – our van did us proud. We ended up finding Vassieux en Vercours with a large free aire and a nice small quiet town and environment. Lovely and peaceful so we got the kite out again and had a decent meal in the local restaurant. The town has a heroic yet sad history with the WW2 and French resistance. There is a resistance museum just up the hill (aka 1hr walk) which was very informative but sadly not fully translated till 2010.
Carrying on via the gorges we ended up in Villard de Lan due to some of the passes being closed and no alternatives available! We stayed here and if we had time would have undertaken a good bike ride but it was not to be. This is a ski resort town and the tourist info gave us information on using the cable car to get to the top and as there is no snow you can go-kart down! Great! Apart from when we got there in the morning the cable car wasn’t working – so this adventure which Mel agreed to go passenger will have to wait…
Continuing we got to Grenoble which just felt like an okay place but didn’t have anything really outstanding to offer. Pretty, nice town, nice views etc, but nothing that was wowwing. So we didn’t stay too long and continued north then just getting tired and just crashed (as in fell asleep – not banged the van) in Pont da Ive which was rather uninspiring. From here though the landscape was a lot flatter and progress much quicker so at last we appeared to be making headway to Calais.
The drive to Beaune was lovely – some stunning and very pretty and well kept villages. After using a nice aire at St George de nuit we contined and headed to Chaumount. Fancying a meal out we explored town but wer not inspired by anywhere, so after a couple of loops ended up in the Spar with a tea consisting of nuts, chocolate, crisps, beer and some other goodies. I know what you are thinking – how can I still look like Daniel Craig after eating that much crap….
Our last big city stop was Reims, which lived up to its billing as a city much destroyed in WW2. It seems to be trying hard but doesn’t have a huge amount to offer apart from its history. They are installing a new tramway when ironically the old tramway is visible under the tarmac in places. No idea why it is a good idea now when it wasn’t previously and removed. Reims would be more impressive if we’d not been spoilt with some better places enroute – e.g. the cathedral was good, but Amiens was better… The roads around Reims were very Itallian in nature – so don’t leave anything loose around!
Finally our last night was spent at Le Cateau-Cambrésis at a very good aire though the rest of the town was tired. A good stop about 2.5 hours from Calias ready for the ferry home