A Monster French Road Trip
Updated: Apr 24
It all started with a casual remark from me to my husband, Steve. "I think a road trip in the monster would be great in the summer".
Now, the 'monster' is Steve's Mitsubishi GTO TT, a car that we all love. Why monster? It's orange, fast and kinda sexy really! And after all, it was built as a touring car, that's what GTO stands for: Gran Turismo Omologato (Oh and TT is for 'Twin Turbo'). That's my geeky bit about the car out of the way.
We're a family of petrolheads and this car turns heads wherever we go. So, after nearly 2 years of it hardly being driven, we decided that we would actually do this road trip and France was the destination of choice.
And so, on a rare sunny English summer's day in early September while the kids were away with other respective parents (it's the second time round for both of us), we set off to catch the Eurotunnel from Folkestone to Calais. The noise the car made inside the train was immense and I'm not sure the staff on the train knew what to make of it.
After arriving late in the evening into Calais, not fancying another long drive after the 5 hours it took to get to Folkestone, we drove to St. Omer about half an hour away to find a bed for the night before we set off on the main part of our journey.
Oh, did I mention that beside knowing that we wanted aim for the South of France the only real part we arranged for this trip was the Eurotunnel there and back?
Yeah, this was going to be a proper road trip where we just went where we felt like on the day and stayed where we liked the look of and the car park was big enough!
Unfortunately, St Omer was quite busy the night we arrived and we ended up starting our stay in France in an Ibis hotel, not exactly the authentic French accommodation we planned, but nevertheless the car park was big enough and the beds I have to say were very comfortable!
On our first full day in France, we headed South and came across Auberge de la Cruchade in the sleepy village of Vergigny, pictured above with the car in the car park.
You will notice the large, empty car park. Well it turns out that we were actually the only ones staying at the hotel, but the staff there were so friendly (despite our pidgin French and their pretty much non-existent English.
And the food in the restaurant was absolutely sublime. Probably one of the best meals we had during the trip and we were surprised that the restaurant only had a total of 6 people in it all night on a Saturday night. Maybe it was out of season.
In any case, we loved it. A lot.
The next day we pointed the car South through the French countryside with stunning scenery to keep us company along the way, not forgetting the awesome Millau Bridge, which unfortunately you're not allowed to stop on.
An 8-hour drive later (thank God for air-conditioning!), we arrived in the truly beautiful Collioure on the southern coast. Despite the town still enjoying throngs of tourists, we secured a room at the charming Hotel Les Mouettes Hotel for 3 nights, taking in the sights, sounds, smells, wines and of course
the fresh seafood of the town, with even a live
Spanish band on the promenade one evening.
The Catalan influence is prevalent throughout the area.
Dragging ourselves away from Collioure and heading north along the west coast, we ended up in Arcachon, just South of Bordeaux.
What can I say about Arcachon, well it wasn't our favourite place and we only stayed one night.
The hotel, the Hotel Du Parc, was fine; the owner friendly and breakfast was brought to the room in the morning and served on the balcony, which was nice.
We did end up on a very, very long walk the night we stayed though as the owner's idea of a "not very long walk" to the nearest restaurant was a little off.
Advising that the best places to eat were about a mile away in one direction, we duly followed his directions, only for there not to be vert much going on when we arrived and the restaurants lacked atmosphere.
Apparently there are not very many taxi companies, in fact there are a total of zero! And as a result, very hungry, we set off in the opposite direction towards the town centre and...an hour later(!) we found a lovely Italian restaurant. A few beers and a 'pichet' of local red wine and a couple of pizzas later, we were finally full and happy!
So, off we set the following day and determined not to drive all day, we headed for La Rochelle but as we got closer I remembered that a friend had mentioned Il de Re as a beautiful island to visit.
So instead we crossed the bridge and scouted out places to stay in St Martin de Re.
Eventually, after a visit to the local tourist office and calling a few places
for availability and not being prepared to spend £200 a night,
we opted for Residence Le Clos Rhea with some trepidation only having the pictures from the booklet - it gave the impression of a holiday park.
But our fears were allayed when we walked into the place. With lovely rooms set around a courtyard and one of the friendliest hosts, we spent a couple of very comfortable and pleasant nights on the island with the best glass of Bordeaux wine I have ever had, and saw an unusual sight in the grounds of the hospital one evening on our way back to the hotel - they had had some sort of production/play and I managed to get the shot (purply lights) just before the gates closed.
And after Il-de-Re we aimed further North for the city of Tours, which to be honest was a very pleasant surprise and we both fell a little in love with it.
This time, opted to stay at the larger Mercure hotel as it was the only hotel that wasn't too far from the city with a decent car park. Car parks were important on this trip.
There was so much to see in Tours. The museums, the many churches, the cute shops and unfinished tramway (reminded us of walking around Edinburgh, especially with the tramway!)
We found lovely restaurants, except for probably the only bad meal we had at a very touristy place on the square - but I won't dwell on that; and the bars allowed us to people-watch well into the night.
Although I was glad that when we saw the man with white mouse running all over his head while he had his charute in his mouth (the man, not the mouse!), we were sat in the bar across the way.
We had great fun in Tours, it was a fun city and we vowed to go back for a long weekend and maybe even take the kids this time.
Our last day was spent bombing to Calais to catch our train home, as we had spent an extra night in Tours, but we got there in time.
We covered 2500 miles in our 10 days away and a month later France seems but a distant memory, but a great one where Steve and I finally managed to get a holiday together after 4 years.
©Nadia Fortune 2012
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