By now, you’ve probably indulged your travel passion with several trips to Europe, some in groups and tours, some with family and friends, and maybe even a solo journey or two. Travel throughout Europe can be pulled off with trains, buses, and planes connecting national and international destinations. But for a fully invested, richly European-soaked vacation, nothing compares to a road trip.
Like travel anywhere else in the world, staying in big cities and well-traveled tracks can’t provide the truly in-depth experience that car travel can offer. Side lanes and rural destinations, otherwise unknown to most tourists, provide the same beauty and history as the major sites, but bring with them the down-home personal flavor of the true country culture.
For wine enthusiasts, the trip of a lifetime has to be along the back roads on the way to France's incomparable Bordeaux region.
Driving to Bordeaux
At just 584 kilometers, the A10 takes you directly from Paris through Orleans, Tours, and Poitiers on your way to the city of Bordeaux. This is a toll road, so be prepared for that expense.
On your way through Orleans, plan to stop by the Maison Jeanne d’Arc, a replica of the home where Joan of Arc stopped on her way to vanquish the English in 1429. Also, the view of the city is lovely from the top of the Cathedral Ste-Croix.
Plan to stop here for at last a few days. Tours lies in the heart of the Loire Valley, the home of some of France’s most mythical castles. The Chateau de Chenonceau, Chateau de Villandry, and Chateau de Chambord were homes to seven French kings and ten French queens. Their design, architecture, and landscaping continue to inform global tastes and trends to this day.
For the art lovers, the nearby Clos Luce was the home of Leonardo da Vinci during the last years of his life, where he lived as the guest of King Francois I. The town it lies in is Amboise, which is accessed by a bridge crossing the Loire River.
Mr. da Vinci was onto something when he found this serene spot to spend his retirement, that’s for sure. We spent a couple of days wandering this town on one of our Auto France “business” trips, and one of the more memorable sites of beauty could be seen from under the “Cedars of Lebanon” perched above the city, as seen in the photo. No doubt, it was neat to see his early inventions, which they recreated here according to his drawings.
This city offers a complete turnaround from Tour’s historical vibe. The City of the Future, Poitiers is the home of Futuroscope, the second largest theme park in France (after Disneyland Paris). NASA satellites, the Apollo 11 mission, and lighting effects designed by a Beijing Olympic lighting wizard create an experience that’s literally “out of this world.”
If history is your goal, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine ruled England from here in the 12th century. Her palace currently serves as the local Palais de Justice (justice court).
When you finally arrive in Bordeaux, you will note that half of the city has been designated a World Heritage Site. Significant portions of the city were built in the “Age of Enlightenment” (beginning in 1730), and its many castles and public gardens reflect the sentiments of that era. Some consider Bordeaux's riverscape over the river Garonne to be one of the finest views in Europe.
The Wine Tour
The Bordeaux Winery Region is comprised of 37 distinct appellations, each of which is home to many internationally celebrated wineries. Like Paris, they are divided based on their location on the right or left banks of the Rivers Gironde and Dordogne.
The Bordeaux Winery Valley is only about 200 kilometers from the mouth of the Gironde River to its southeast terminus at the city of Marmande, making it a perfect loop for a long, slow drive. Plan to spend a few days savoring the vistas from the patios of your favorite wineries.
Of course, the real beauty of this adventure is that it is a road trip. Every destination will be uniquely personal to you and your traveling companions. When you travel by car, you can stay as long as you like at any one point without having to commit to any single itinerary, allowing you to relax and enjoy every beautiful sip as long as you’d like.
Auto France offers Peugeot vehicles in a variety of makes and models that will ensure safety, reliability, and fun are accomplished every leg of your road trip. And at prices that leave a lot of Euros left for tasting rooms, we can ensure that getting to your destination will be as much fun as being there.
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