France From The Inside

France From The Inside: Driving through France

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From St. Malo, you drive south through Brittany, maybe (if you take the scenic option) catching tantalising glimpses of names from Arthurian legend, like the mysterious forest of Broceliande where Merlin is rumoured to be buried. This route will take you towards the west coat and then onwards towards La Rochelle. If you leave after breakfast, you will have crossed the Marais Poitevin and can be sitting on the quayside at La Rochelle in time for a late lunch.

On the other hand, you could head for Rennes and then on towards the heart of France, where the ancient town of Poitiers holds sway over the Poitou-Charente and the department of Vienne.

La Rochelle or Poitiers?

Each city has its own charms. La Rochelle is steeped in the history of a great port and has so many beautiful buildings and attractions that once you arrive there, you may decide to stay. The Jaques Cousteau Aquarium, the Musee des Beaux -Arts, the covered market, the summer music festival and the boat trips out into the Bay of Biscay, not to mention the pavement artists, the street theatre and the very good shopping all conspire to keep you there.

Poitiers is more sedate. Its main attractions are historic and architectural. The Eglise of Notre-Dame la Grande is a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture and there are many more stunning buildings to be seen in the city itself. Not far away is the Futuroscope, the European Park of the Moving Image, a complete contrast to the historical cityscape of Poitiers.

Onward to Biarritz or Carcassonne

Whichever way you choose to go, the siren song of the south calls. Will you choose to stay on the Atlantic coast and make your way down to the Basque country, beautiful Biarritz and the Spanish border, or will you head for the watershed of Toulouse and then onward to Cathar country, mystical Carcassone and the Mediterranean coast?

In the words of the old Chinese proverb, it can be better to travel than to arrive. Don't get me wrong, arriving is fine, but roaming through France with no particular destination in mind could be a very good holiday indeed - endless anticipation and scope for appreciating the unexpected treats which are bound to come your way.

Having no particular destination in mind doesn't mean going unprepared. France is a cornucopia of chambres d'hote (bed and breakfast rooms), gites (self catering accommodation which can often be booked for a few days rather than a week), chain and luxury hotels.

Armed with a map or GPS and a couple of guide books, la belle France is a wonderful holiday destination for any budget - well worth exploring by car, on foot or by bicycle. Far too good, in fact, just to fly over, even if the views from the plane are spectacular!
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