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Driving to southern France. Stopover or plough through?

52 replies

Pippapotomus · 04/01/2020 11:35

This summer we are driving to the Ardeche. Three dc in the backseat,who will watch a dvd if they can all agree on one but will need a run around every so often on the way.

I’m wondering whether to have a whole day of travelling, or leave the afternoon before we had planned, then have an overnight stop.

We have driven in France before, but only to Paris and back. (We will be going via euro tunnel due to dd1 spectacularly vomiting all over a restaurant on a ferry bound for Calais last year. Seats,table,walls and windows were covered)

OP posts:

stringbean · 04/01/2020 22:55

We've driven to just south of the Ardeche for several years, taking early morning Eurotunnel at about 7.30am; we stop over at Dijon (there are a variety of hotels just south of the city at Marsannay-la-Cote (Novotel, Ibis, Premier Classe), usually arriving about 3.30/4 if we've had a short stop or two; Novotels have a swimming pool, so our dc always enjoyed this at the end of the first day in the car. Our ultimate destination on the second day was a campsite, so we needed to factor in time to put up the tent, and it would have been too much to do the journey in a single day, plus tent and all the camping gear to sort out.

The A6/A7 will be a lot busier south of Lyon, although you say you'll be travelling on a Sunday at the end of August, but I would still factor in additional time for this leg of the journey. If you're going to do the journey in a day, you do need to consider that any unexpected delays (accidents, Eurotunnel delay) could mean a very long day if so.


stringbean · 04/01/2020 23:00

And yes, book overnight stops beforehand, especially if it's the last weekend in August - a lot of people are on the move, and you'll get a much better price if you book in advance.


FraterculaArctica · 04/01/2020 23:05

We booked single-night overnight stops in France (en route to Italian lakes) in advance last year via, but only 4-6 weeks in advance, and had no real trouble finding nice places (we went for reasonably priced but nice over bargain basement or chain).


Naylor22 · 04/01/2020 23:10

I would definitely stay over its all part of the holiday ,I think it would be more relaxing and the holiday would start as soon as you get in the car , and I’m speaking from personal experience we drove from London to salou , and then to Holland it was the best holiday we ever did and the driving was all part of the holiday as we never put a time limit on ourselves


Helenluvsrob · 04/01/2020 23:20

Saturday/Sunday driving on french motorways is horrible. Definitely stop.
We once did it in one go and husband says at every opportunity how awful it was - and it was probably 15yrs ago 😂


Tinnedpeachesandcream · 04/01/2020 23:20

When we went to the Dordogne in 2017 we had two stops-one at Folkestone and then one in Orleans, the way home we did it in one go-all 648 miles of it 🤦‍♀️ DH had work on the Monday and was just desperate to get back on the Saturday so we’d have the full Sunday at home, which i can understand. The last 20 miles I was a bit hysterical though Grin we’re going to Provence this year, and haven’t decided what we’re going to do yet. Will probably stop on the way down for one night and then possibly going home via the Alps...


OhTheRoses · 04/01/2020 23:25

We regularly go a little further and I would recommend you break that journey. Ours is over 1100km from Calais and we have done it for years - since our youngest was 5.

We are only 1.5hrs from the tunnel but often stay in Folkestone the night before, 5.30am chunnel and drive to just South of Limoges on day one, breaking the back of the journey. Coming home we often stay in the Loire.

We don't mind the periphique but know many people avoid it.


Pippapotomus · 05/01/2020 11:55

Is the periphique the French equivalent of the North Circular?

OP posts:

ViveLEntenteCordiale · 05/01/2020 12:26

Yes the peripherique is like the north and south circular with a bit of the M25 for good measure. Easier with satnav though (our first experience of it was on our honeymoon 23 years ago... scene of our first married argument Grin)

I would stop, Dijon is a nice town to spend a few hours in - if you get a hotel in town everything is walkable.

Don't forget the speed limit on the route nationale (N on the map - A road equivalent) has been reduced to 80km/h so that will slow you down a bit too.


OhTheRoses · 05/01/2020 12:26

Yes but bigger and with 4 lanes. I drive it and DH directs.


Pippapotomus · 05/01/2020 18:07

I think I'll let DH drive that part then. He manages the North Circ to work and back, I avoid it at all costs.

OP posts:

GiantKitten · 05/01/2020 18:38

You don’t need to go via Paris though, unless you were thinking of stopping over there?
The most direct route is SE & then S.

Driving to southern France. Stopover or plough through?

Dorsetcamping · 05/01/2020 18:47

So we did both last summer, stop off on way down to south and straight through on way back.
Both awful in my opinion!

Stayed overnight about half way down in a ridiculously overpriced (family marketed) hotel. For ease it was Close to the main road we were travelling on but noisy and really expensive food. Didn't sleep well at all which negated the whole point of stopping off.

On way back, with as few stops as possible it took 12 hours to get to Calais, by which point we were ready to rip each others heads off (even with plentiful technology!)

Not sure what the least painful option is but i sure ain't doing it again!


profpoopsnagle · 05/01/2020 18:49

A good stopover for something to see en route is Guedelon castle near Treigny.


Todayissunny · 05/01/2020 18:53

Can you arrive in Calais in the evening?
When we do long journeys we drive overnight. Kids sleep. There is much less traffic. We are very strict about stopping and changing every 2 hours.


Hassled · 05/01/2020 19:00

Agree you don't need to be going around Paris. We drove to Nice with 4 kids a few years ago - we all nearly killed each other. Even laid-back, placid DS1 turned into a monster. We stopped somewhere around Dijon, I think, and then Lyons on the way back. My only real advice is a) count to 10 a lot and b) never ever book a Formula Un. Just don't do it.


Loveislandaddict · 05/01/2020 19:02

I would stop. Its8 1/2 hours drive on the French side, plus the UK and ferry crossing added on.

We did a similar route last year, stopping at Reims on the way, and Troyes on the way back. Both were quite nice to walk around in the evening. Been to Dijon previously which is also nice.


Charlottejbt · 05/01/2020 19:34

never ever book a Formula Un. Just don't do it.

The one in Besançon is an actual brothel. The sex worker in the room above me had a constant steam of clients and they were literally and figuratively banging all night long. Oh and somebody managed to break into my (locked) room and I chased them down the corridor because I wasn't thinking properly after no sleep.

It was also cash only because it's probably run by the Mafia or something. I've never felt so unsafe.


Charlottejbt · 05/01/2020 19:37

Oh, and the room in the Formule Un smelled of wee. Apart from all that I'm sure it was great. Confused


OhTheRoses · 05/01/2020 19:51

To be fair we often have lunch with friends v near Paris but I promise, once you have the hang of it, it does work well but we are both used to driving in Central London.

My tip would be don't under-estimate the time it takes. It's at least 50mph overall.

We both dislike driving at night but never minded a couple of 5.30am starts to get 250-300km under our belts before the world woke up.

or you could fly drive but we regard the journey as part of the fun.


GiantKitten · 05/01/2020 20:46

@Charlottejbt I think our overnight with a room full of ants might have been a Formule Un. Fortunately the passage of time has wiped the detail from my memory.


fruitpastille · 05/01/2020 20:57

We are thinking of a similar journey. Had anyone got a recommendation for a nice but inexpensive place to stay in dijon?


Emmapeeler1 · 05/01/2020 20:57

We used to stay in Beaune or Reims in a campanile or Ibis. I haven’t driven to the south as a parent (yet) but I was formerly one of three kids in the backseat, and I wouldn’t personally do it all at once.


Loveislandaddict · 05/01/2020 21:25


Lovely campsite with friendly English owners.

Also have Gites you can stay in.


thirstyformore · 05/01/2020 21:58

We've done England to the south coast of France (st Tropez are) three times, and twice we've done the journey down in one go. Getting the early tunnel and driving for 11/12 hours. Kids between 4 and 10.

Hard work, but doable. We have always broken up the journey back with a few days in the north of France.

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