I’ve always loved touring the mountains in the car – it’s the freedom, the convenience, and the fact that you can be scruffy with your packing and the old auto can be turned into a mobile wardrobe-cum-cupboard-cum-kitchen.
I always opt for the easy route to the Alps – leisurely boat crossing from Dover to Calais with DFDS as our outward journey, which gives time for a sit-down, full-house breakfast, then hit the French roads re-fuelled and running. My favourite little route is to come off the motorway just past St Quentin and head due south to Soissons, then Chateau Thierry, Montmirail, and Sezanne. Okay, these are D roads and you could get caught behind a tractor or a truck, but this route takes in some lovely countryside, cruising through rural France, and is surprisingly straight and fast.
If you want to make more speed come off beyond Troyes, take the N71 to Chatillon and either way, just before Dijon, there’s lots of old coaching inns, which is what France is all about – fantastic food, log fires and crisp comfort at a low price.
Next morning a leisurely drive gets you through Dijon. Then again I take the D roads directly south to Seurre, Louhans, and on to the beautiful medieval city of Bourg En Bresse. Now here’s a detour of major significance and the making of a mountain motoring holiday. We cut through town and picked up the N83 to Villars les Bombes a few miles north of Lyons, France’s gastronomic capital for a blow-out lunch. Then you can take the autoroute straight to any mountain resort, arriving at night.
Me, I always take my time and overnight in Lyons. Next day, I cut across country again on the D904 through Chalamont picking up the N504 to wind through the gorgeous woodlands and mini-mountains around Belley to the spectacular views of Lac du Bourget.
Then I opted for the southern Alps via Grenoble and over the fabulous Col de Lauteret and down through the Guisane valley, where 13 Romanesque mountain villages make up one of the most versatile holiday areas of la belle France – Serre Chevalier.
And the valley exits my favourite medieval Briancon. This Napoleanic fortress (highest town in Europe) is enclosed with mighty walls and has a fascinating historic heart, but it also has a modern buzz of bars, shops and restaurants. And this is a great centre to stay to tour the mountains, or if I feel like some seaside it’s only a morning’s drive down to the Riviera.
FULL DRIVE TO SNOW REPORTS ALL SEASON