Summer is finally here and that Parisian holiday you’ve been thinking about for the past couple of months is just around the corner. But why not extend your travels to explore a bit more of northern France, by hiring a car? To whet your appetite, here are some ideas for a road trip through northern France, starting in Paris and taking in some enjoyable stops in Normandy and Brittany – if you need to book a ferry crossing to get you there be sure to check out Brittany Ferries.
Ready Set Paris
When you find yourself in the City of Light, Capital of Fashion and the most romantic city in the world, it’s quite easy to get lost in all its beauty and things to see. So, if you want a chance to experience the most important landmarks, I suggest booking three days for your stay in Paris.
On your first day you’ll probably want to see the major sites; the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and, if you have enough time left, the Notre-Dame Cathedral. On your second day why not explore on foot with a walking tour – either a classic one or something that will show you a different side of Paris, such as the Catacombs of Paris tour, then end the day with a show at Lido on the Champs Elysées or the Moulin Rouge in Montmartre. On your final day you might like to visit Disneyland Resort Paris or if that’s not your thing, enjoy some fabulous shopping can be that small treatment for your soul.
If you’re getting around Paris by public transport, you could look at the Navigo Découverte weekly passes which might save you some money depending on how many times a day you plan on using the Metro. The Navigo is €5 and you need a photo ID for the card plus €19.80 for unlimited travel in Zones 1 & 2.
Next Stop Nantes
Paris was amazing and you can’t wait to get to your next destination, so now it’s time to pick up your hire car. It’s better to book your car starting with the day you leave for Nantes rather than leave it in front of the hotel while you explore Paris. By going through a broker rather than a specific company, you may be able to save money, as brokers check around 40 different suppliers for the best deals.
After three days in Paris, it’s time to head for Nantes, which will take around 4 hours via the A11, depending on traffic of course. Two days should be enough to see something of Nantes, but avoid planning your trip with time in Nantes on a Sunday or Monday, because most things will be closed.
If you want to explore five centuries of medieval history then the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany is the place to visit. The entry price of €5 for museum and exhibition gives you access to the ramparts, the moat and the yard, then walk around the old historic centre and stop at the Les Machines de l’île. This artistic project is a mixture of Jules Verne’s worlds, the mechanical universe of Leonardo da Vinci and the industrial history of Nantes, on the site of the former shipyards and is not to be missed.
Your second day can be filled with a cruise along the Erdre River with “Les Bateaux Nantais”, and a walk on Ile de Versaille in the middle of the city exploring the Japanese garden and the Talensac market nearby.
On to Rennes
Next on your driving holiday through France is Rennes which you will reach in around an hour and a half via the N137 from Nantes. A one day stop here will get you ready for sunbathing in Deauville and we’d suggest that you take the guided tour (except Tuesdays and Thursdays), of the Parlement de Bretagne from the tourist office. Next, visit the museums and exhibitions centres in the centre of town and if you are there on a Saturday, be sure to check out the food markets. Your taste buds will thank you for that one. If you’re looking for a ferry crossing to get you there be sure to check out Brittany Ferries.
For the more active there are also bikes available to hire under Le Velo Star scheme in Rennes at €1 for 24h and €5 for a week. Each time you borrow a bike the first 30 minutes are free – that’s one way to work off the pastries at breakfast. If cycling isn’t your cup of tea, go for long walks in the gardens of Rennes; Thabor gardens, Tanneurs park and Saint-Martin meadows, Beauregard park or Bréquigny park.
Continue your summer holiday with a stop at the beach and in two and a half hours drive from Rennes you will reach Deauville, with fabulous beaches and the names of movie stars on the beach huts.There’s plenty more to explore in the area, so visit Honfleur with its Saturday market, and the hinterland of the Calvados – dotted with farms and cottages throughout the countryside. You’ll find some natural cheeses, calvados and Foie gras, straight from the farm here. A short walk from Deauville is Trouville and the two towns are separated by a lovely bridge which is well worth the walk. If Deauville is posh and polished, Trouville still has the small fisherman’s village feel and is cheaper to eat out. If you’re looking for a ferry crossing to take you there be sure to check out Brittany Ferries.
The trip shouldn’t break the bank, if you plan ahead you’ll have a driving holiday in France that will make your heart smile and the memories last a lifetime.
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