It’s Sunday morning and it’s just me and the dog. Everybody else is having a lie in. So time to take over the living room coffee table to “plan” that most important of all holiday essentials. The Route.
It’s a fair old drag from Manchester down to the south coast of France so there are lots of variables to consider. First and not insignificantly is how to get across the English Channel (La Manche as the French call it.) Do you opt for quickest/cheapest, or longer more relaxed crossing?
There are various routes to cross the channel quickest/shortest/cheapest is Dover-Calais via either the ferry or the channel tunnel. Then you have the routes out of Portsmouth, Southampton you even have the option of a ferry to Spain. What usually make up the mind of most travellers is a combination of cost and drive time on the other side. This of course depends on where you are heading. To the Vendee or Brittany or even the Loire Valley sees a lot of people choose to travel to St. Malo and take the shorter drive. However if you’re heading all the way to the south west corner like us that really doesn’t leave you any shorter drive. So as we are so close to the Spanish boarder does a ferry to Spain make more sense? Well No not really unless we can get one to Barcelona, but that would be more a mini cruise and the cost implications would be much higher. It looks like Dover-Calais is our best bet. It leaves us around a 10 hour drive once in France a distance according to Via Michelin of 1023miles taking 18h 25m Google Maps on the other hand rekons 1093miles and 16h 12m. who is right? Well actually neither! Funny that init? We have done this exact trip twice before and I can honestly say that I set the trip meter on the car just before we set off and when we arrived it read just short of 1000miles.
This year I decided to look at alternative routes instead of the “sun” route which is:
- Clermont Ferrand
- Argeles Sur mer
I looked instead at a route taking us past Limoges and Tolouse. If you use the Via Michelin route planner it will give you approximate costings for fuel (which are very approximate) I told it our car and we are towing a caravan but I think it was very optimistic on fuel consumption but more accurately it will give you Toll costs. Using this site I can see that there is not going to be any cost or time saving to be had in varying our route and to be honest when I told Halys I was thinking of missing out the Milau Viaduct she pulled a face like a kid who had just had their sweets taken off them. It is pretty dam impressive!!
The best advice I can give anyone attempting to drive through France is do your homework! Do whatever works for you. People will always tell you different things about the best route to get from A to B and the nightmare trips through Paris after taking a wrong turn on the infamous “Periferique” but really it’s not so bad traffic is usually pretty slow on the Periferique anyway so you have time to change your mind. If it’s your first trip into France you will love it! Driving is so easy, there really is no traffic on French motorways and the French lane discipline is much better than over here so you will have no problem. Driving on the right is easy and when you exit the tunnel or Ferry you are automatically on the right so no issue of remembering which side. The road signs are pretty much the same as ours. They look a little different but they are all pretty self explanatory. Remember your driving in France kit. A High Viz Jacket/vest for all passengers and to be kept inside the car. A spare set of bulbs for your car and trailer/caravan just one universal kit is fine, the bulbs in your caravan are the same as in your car. A warning triangle. A spare pair of spectacles if you need them for driving and the breathalizer kit.
Breathalizers had to be carried in your car and be in date, you needed 2 and they were about a fiver from go outdoors Halfords etc…. Now they are still being sold here and we are still being told that they are a legal requirement, however I am informed by friends living in France that the law concerning them has been set aside I have not seen any proof of this so I am still taking a set with me. They take up no space anyway so it can’t hurt. The daft thing was the law said you had to carry them but it didn’t say you had to use them. Go Figure?