Via the highways in France you can travel throughout the country in no time. But it is much more fun to take the time to get to your destination. For example, we explored the back roads of Hauts-de-France, Normandy and Pays-de-la-Loire during our trip to the Atlantic Coast. A succession of lovely landscapes and historical places. The trip was also made even more unforgettable by two special overnight stays.
We have done this route by car, but we do not foresee any problems driving it with a camper, motorcycle or caravan. At the very bottom of this page you will find a route map and itGPX file can be downloaded via this link. Looking for more road trips through the French countryside? Then order our bookFrance Pure Road Trips, with a total of fifty routes for the car, camper or motorcycle.
Day 1: Dunkirk to the Vexin (240km)
From the Belgian Westhoek we enter France, after which we leave the highway at Dunkirk. Straight through the French part of Flanders we move in the direction ofSaint-Omer. Left and right we see many names of places and streets that remind us that this part has a common history with Belgian Flanders. All names that you can encounter everywhere in the southwest of the low countries, such as Oost-Cappel, Coudekerque ... Around the town of Guînes there are even own (distant) family roots, around 1685 my grandmother's Protestant ancestors fled from this place to Zeeland, from fear of persecution. At the village of Watten we turn off to the Blockhaus d'Éperlecques, which unfortunately is still closed when we drive past it. This imposing German missile launching base and bunker is now a museum. Just like the nearby La Coupole, which is also on our wish list.
From Saint-Omer, or Sint-Omaars, we continue south-west via the D928. Then we take the D126 to Montreuil-sur-Mer.
Lunch break in Montreuil-sur-Mer
Montreuil-sur-Meris one of those many nice places on the Opal Coast that are worth a visit. It has a pleasant center but is especially interesting because of the citadel on the northwest side. For a small fee you can visit it, where you get a nice insight into the history of the town. Moreover, from the fortifications you have beautiful views of the surrounding farmlands. In earlier times, Montreuil even had its own harbor with access to the sea, but this came to an end after the silting up of the river Canche. In the First World War, the headquarters of the British was located in the citadel.
After Montreuil it is time to continue south. Take the D901, which becomes the D1001 in the Somme department, and head for the town of Abbeville. Here you will find a thirteenth-century belfry and the beautiful Collégiale Saint-Vulfran, a Gothic church. At the beginning of the Second World War, the center was bombed by German troops, which unfortunately means that many of the historic buildings have disappeared.
From Abbeville it is not far to the Normandy border. We have found a nice place to stay in the Vexin, a historic region that extends over part of Normandy and Île-de-France.Bed and Breakfast La Lévrièreis located in the countryside just outside Gisors. It is an old Normandy farmhouse with half-timbered facades, situated in a wonderfully quiet spot with a babbling river in the large backyard. Handy because we are traveling with a toddler: there is a family room, consisting of two bedrooms. Thetable d'hôtesis prepared with fresh products from the vegetable garden and especially breakfast is a party, with delicious freshly baked warm waffles.
Day 2: Vexin to Rochemenier (330km)
We drive from the Vexin on the D181 to the Seine, which we cross at the town of Vernon. We were also in this area a few years ago when we visited Monet's beautiful gardens in Giverny. But now we move on quickly, because there is more on the agenda today. Via Pacy-sur-Eure and Saint-André-de-l'Eure we arrive at the N12 which then quickly takes us to Mortagne-au-Perche.
Lunch break in Mortagne-au-Perche
The Perche is a rural region with many green forests. It is an unknown area between Chartres and Alençon and since we drove through it, it is on our wish list to stay a little longer. BecauseMortagne-au-Perchehas surprised us and tastes like more. The city in the Orne can easily be explored in an hour or two, for example on the basis of the circuit that the tourism office has set out. You will then pass all the atmospheric streets and squares and discover more about the past of this place. You can see the remains of the medieval defenses, old stately mansions, the Gothic church, and numerous small antique shops in the ancient houses. Not to be missed is the Couvent Saint-François, a sixteenth-century Poor Clares convent with a beautiful, colorful chapel and a relaxing cloister. During our walk around we discover a nice eatery, La Biscuiterie, which has various sandwiches and a few small lunch dishes on the menu.
Then it's time to quickly jump back in the car to drive in the direction of the Loire region. We reach it by driving via Bellême to Le Mans and then towards La Flèche. The latter place is known for a large zoo, not to be missed by the many billboards scattered around the area. But our destination today is another tourist attraction in the region: the many caves that have been carved into the marl rock over the centuries. The village is located near Doué-la-FontaineRochemenier. Here you will find a special open-air museum of a farm whose rooms are in the rocks. But also the local hotel is in fact an old farm, with rooms that are half or completely underground. Stay overnighthotel Rocaminoriis a special experience for young and old. The candlelight breakfast in a dark cave is one of the highlights.
Day 3: Rochemenier to Marennes (210km)
The next day we first visit itTroglodyte museum, the local museum where you can learn about life in and around the caves that dot the region. We then drive via Doué through the vineyards of Anjou to Argentonnay and Bressuire to finally arrive in the Vendée. One of the nicest villages in this department on the Atlantic Coast is Vouvant, our last stop on our drive to the Charente-Maritime.
Lunch break in Vouvant
The villagewishinglies in a bend of the river Mère and has beautiful old defenses. It's one of thoseMost beautiful villages in Franceand we also find a great restaurant for a delicious lunch. After the meal we walk around the village, not being able to avoid the large medieval church. It is equipped with a beautifully decorated portal and in the crypt we watched a short film about the history of the structure. Another highlight in the village, literally and figuratively, is the Tour Mélusine, which you can climb for a nice view. It is also nice to walk to the river, where a large part of the city walls can still be admired intact.
From Vouvant we continue south through the Marais poitevin towards the coast, soon reaching La Rochelle. From there we drive to our gîtes in Marennes-Plage.
La Rochelle's Old Port is the heart of the city and a must-visit for anyone visiting for the first time. It's a wonderfully lively harbour surrounded by colourful buildings and lined with restaurants, cafes, and shops. Take a stroll along the harbour like I did in the picture below.How many days do you need in La Rochelle? ›
La Rochelle in 3 days
The coastal path invites you on a wonderful long bike ride from beach to beach and port to port. You can discover the splendid landscapes along the coast: the limestone cliffs, the fishing huts known as “carrelets”, the panorama of the islands, lighthouses and forts...
The top cities between Paris and La Rochelle are Versailles, Amboise, Chartres, Blois, Orleans, Tours, Rochefort, and Poitiers. Versailles is the most popular city on the route. It's less than an hour from Paris and 4 hours from La Rochelle.How to get from La Rochelle to Cognac? ›
Travelling from La Rochelle to Cognac by train
The fastest trains from La Rochelle to Cognac take around 1 hour and 17 minutes, covering a distance of approximately 82 kilometres. On weekdays, the first train leaving La Rochelle is scheduled to depart at around 05:27. The last departure is usually at around 19:08.