Even though I’ve travelled to over 40 countries there is still one that has so far eluded me. And it’s only across The Channel.
I don’t really think you can count a pit stop through Paris , or a booze cruise to Calais. I’ve never spent any notable time in France… until now.
In a few weeks time, an excited MTM family will be packing up the car, jumping on the Eurotunnel, and braving the French roads on an adventure to the heart of the France – the Burgundy region, and more specifically around Pays de Guédelon.
Not only are hubby and I massive wine drinkers – the prospect of sampling and learning about exceptional wine from villages including Chablis is making our palettes tingle in anticipation – but there is also so much to see and do, from Renaissance châteaux, medieval abbeys, hilltop towns and fortified villages.
History seeps from every crevice and none more so than in the captivating and opulent buildings in Burgundy’s capital Dijon, built by rich dukes when the duchy was more powerful than France itself. Then you have the rolling countryside, vineyards and mustard fields – plus 1,000 miles of unspoilt wilderness in Morvan National Park.
We have a loaded itinerary organised by the lovely people at Pays de Guédelon which will see us take the back roads of Burgundy to visit Guédelon itself, and take part in a stone carving workshop, as well as visiting Château of Saint Fargeau, and strolling the ancient streets of Vezelay, to make our way up to the famous hilltop Romanesque Basilica of St Magdalene, a UNESCO heritage site.
However, this is the first time we’ve every driven to Europe in our own car. We’ve done plenty of long journeys and have no problems in travelling long distances. But since we’ve organised this trip, I’ve realised there is so much more preparation involved than just throwing our belongings into the boot. And, unlike hiring a car abroad, there is a list of compulsory items you need, or you may find yourself in trouble with the law and facing a hefty fine…
Thing to consider before hitting the road in France:
• Purchasing a European Car Kit
It was only when I mentioned to a friend we were driving to France when he asked if we had a European Car Kit. When I looked at him blankly, he patiently explained that this was now a legal requirement. I swiftly purchased one for less than £30 from an online retailer. You will be fined on the spot if you do not have the following:
• Headlamp converters
• Spare set of bulbs
• Hazard Warning Triangle
• Hi Viz Vest
• GB Sticker
• Breathalysers (no fine, but compulsory)
• Checking your car insurance is valid
Although all motorists insured in an EU country or Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland are automatically covered for third-party liability in France, British motorists should note that British insurance companies usually insist on you applying for a ‘green card’ if you’re driving to France (or any other European country). Most companies will issue a green card for a maximum of 90 days per year.
• Getting European Breakdown Cover
Although this isn’t compulsory, it’s worth paying for piece of mind in case anything should happen to your car. Single trip cover can be brought relatively cheaply especially through price comparison sites.
• Making sure your sat nav/navigating app is up to date and downloaded with the relevant maps
I’ve also gone on to Via Michelin route planner and printed off our routes, just in case we have massive tech failure on our devices. You just never know…
• Having an in-car charger for your digital devices
Imagine being in an emergency and your mobile phone has died? Dread to think…
• Shops are closed on Sundays
Which is the day we travel. So I’ll be packing plenty of food, drink and snacks for the journey as we won’t be able to buy any!
• Trying to avoid Paris
Unless you want to sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours, try planning a route that takes you away from the Capital’s ring roads. I’ve heard some nightmare tales…
• Getting the iPad loaded up
Monkey is pretty good in the car, but we need to make sure he’s entertained. I’m also going to get some car games to keep him amused when he’s bored of watching cartoons.
• Being prepared to stop and take a break
We’re not in a huge rush to get to Auxerre, where we will be spending our first night. I think the key for us is to take our time and go at our own pace. We most certainly will be needing toilet breaks and to stretch our legs. On our way back, we’ve decided to break up the journey and stay in Reims, Champagne, which will not only cut down driving time, but give us one more night to enjoy our holiday!
• Don’t forget your driver’s license, proof of car ownership (log book/V5) and your insurance details
These items are compulsory.
With my checklist ticked off, hopefully we are fully prepared for every eventuality when we begin cruising along France’s highways making our way from Calais to Auxerre, and then along the back roads of Burgundy.
It does come as somewhat of a surprise to read that this lesser-known part of France is often pushed aside in favour of more Southern regions such as Dordogne and Provence. From all accounts, we’re going to be captivated by Burgundy, and we can’t wait to discover it.
Have you ever driven in France? Do you have any tips to make the journey smoother?