|Routes||Campings||Handy Hotels||Worth a Visit||Plus Beaux||Bastides||Short Tours|
|Wine Towns||Wines||Food||Occitan||Photos||Links||Contact Us|
|Superlative Places, Hotels, Dining Etc||On to Spain - Places to Stay|
Arcades Puy L'Eveque - Lot Sauveterre de Rouergue News
(Updated June 09)
Updated June 09
This French travel guide contains various routes from the Channel Ports to Southern France and Spain, via Bordeaux, Toulouse, the Pyrenees, Millau and Limoges
For those who visit France, touring by car or camping trip I have sections including - Dordogne, Albi, Auvergne, Aveyron, Cathars, Tarn & Loire valley, Canal du Midi,
Also covered are French food & cuisine, wine, restaurants, hotels, auberges, most beautiful villages, facts about France and even a paella recipe.
In over 40 years of visiting France by car and camping car, I have used just about every route possible, all the ferry ports in France, and stayed in every manner of accommodation.
I am not listing every route I have used, only those that I have found useful, scenic or interesting. I hope this website will be of interest to those who travel France, and also those who pass through France on their way to Spain.
I include interesting towns, villages, locations and sights, facts that I have encountered along the way. (I am assuming that Toulouse would be a good destination to make for if you are planning to travel Spain via Perpignan or Andorra.) back to top of page
Latest News updated 31st May 09
One New Hotel added see Handy Hotels
With the closure of Speedferries I have started using P & O again. Your ticket is very flexible, it is possible to catch the earlier and next available ferry without any penalty.
Fares start from as little as £25 if you you book 2-3 days in advance.
Reconsidering St Malo
I am reconsidering using this route again, but only for a quick trip into UK for up to 6 days or so (or vice versa). The return price for this is not so expensive (one way prices are scandalous especially from St Malo to Portsmouth) The night sailing from St Malo only operates on Saturdays and only during the winter months up to Easter. A recent quote I have is 313euros, with cabins each way, which is not bad for two overnight crossings.
From St Malo to Spain, I can pass through France with one overnight stop, instead of the two from Calais-Boulogne.
It is approx 500miles to Andorra and 580 miles to Perpignan
A75 in Winter
In my routes section, I warn of icy conditions when travelling south from Clermont Ferrand to the Mediterranean. I did recently use this route with some bad snow and ice and would not now advise this route in winter unless weather forecasts were good. The A75 was barely passable at times, but the French are super efficient with their gritters and snow clearing vehicles.
I had some starting problems with my diesel car, which miraculously cured themselves after I had called out a tow vehicle. This happened on a Sunday evening, which is a bad day to break down.
The last problems I had with my car were fixed after I enquired after "Quick Fit" or similar type garages. These proved very reasonable and quick, and much more effective than main dealers. I cannot remember the names or the companies, but they exist throughout France as per UK.
New Hotel on list
see Handy Hotels;- Auberge Picarde, an interesting experience, worth a try
The Ports - some brief observations
This is the most attractive of the ports but also one of the most expensive crossings. The town itself is no better, I have been fleeced here like no other place in France, expensive drinks and coffees, day trip food etc.
For an interesting amusing article written 1787 go to http://www.btinternet.com/~glynhughes/squashed/travelsinfrance.htm
Caen or rather Ouistreham
Without doubt the best port to pass away a few hours, the harbour area is full of good value restaurants and bars. Several good value hotels also and the Hotel Normandie I can recommend.
Fits in roughly between the former two ports, with several decent restaurants. However is is some 60 miles before you join any major routes or road networks.
The high town section of the town is quite interesting with restaurants but the lack of ferries operating here has had an effect on trade in the town.
Calais, Dieppe and Le Havre
I rarely spend any more time than necessary at these ports.
Routes see routemap.jpg
I am trying to describe what to expect along these routes, what there is to see and do, what to avoid etc, Bon Voyage.
(I usually bypass Paris to the west when coming from the northern ports, as there is not an easy way around to the east without a lot of congestion and extra time.)
A20 N20 Route
Fairly direct route passing many favourite tourist areas, route gets very scenic south of Limoges. Many good value hotels along the route (village etape) with numerous hotels at Souillac, Cahors, which is a good day's drive from the ports.
From Boulogne - Calais avoiding Paris & A7 Autoroute (Lyon)
e.g. to Toulouse, Perpignan or Andorra via Rouen-Evreux-Dreux-Chartes Orleans-Vierzon-Chateauroux-Limoge-Souillac-Cahors-Montauban-Toulouse etc
Whichever way you get around Paris, you end up with Orleans on your route.
This is a very popular route from Orleans to Toulouse and Andorra, a lot of free sections and plenty of Village-Etape along the route (signposted on route, small villages with hotels, campings, restauration etc)
The route follows Vierzon, Chateauroux, Limoges, Brive, Souillac, Cahors, Montauban, Toulouse, and on to Andorra. Limoges itself is often very congested and better bypassed. At Brive the scenery gets very interesting and the area to the east of Souillac is full of medieval villages, indeed the whole area from Brive to Albi contains some 350 interesting villages. See Photos
Souillac is a good place to stop with no shortage of hotels & amenities.
Cahors makes an interesting stop with all facilities and a medieval appearance.
N147 N10 Alternative Route
Very scenic route through Mayenne region, historical Angers and Saumur, with no peaje until Bordeaux
From Cherbourg e.g. (or Caen) to Toulouse-Perpignan or Andorra via-Laval-Angers Poitiers-Angouleme-Bordeaux-Toulouse etc
This route has varied scenery and sights, Vitre near Laval in a fine medieval town with a fine chateau. see photo Vitre The Mayenne valley is particularly scenic near Chateau Gontier, a nice town built on the river, parking by the quai. Angers is a large but easily accessible historic town. The national road to Poitiers is particularly good with interesting villages en route. Saumur, a historic town, can also be visited from his route. Mirabeau, just north of Poitiers is completely walled and worth a stroll through.
Use the motorway to bypass Poitiers and then use the N10 to Angouleme and continue to Bordeaux.
Just south of Poitiers is Vivonne, a pleasant village to stop, with hotel, camp site and restaurants.
Poitiers - Angouleme - Bordeaux is a good road mainly dual carriageway.
Central Route A75- Massif Central
A very direct, scenic and quick route to the southern France, Languedoc & the Mediterranean.
From Boulogne e.g. to southern France, Spain via Rouen-Chartres-Orleans-Bourges-Montlucon-Clermont Ferrand-Millau-Montpellier or Beziers - Perpignan.
The autoroute from Orleans to Clermont Ferrand (25euros) is a bit monotonous but the scenery from Clermont Ferrand south to the coast is spectacular and you can easily leave the motorway and visit the small towns and villages along the route. This route is well catered for with hotels just off the route. As an example at Le Caylar services south of Millau, Auberge du Roc Castel & Hôtel du Rocher in the village.
From Clermont Ferrand the road is toll free to the Mediterranean apart from the Millau viaduct. Weather however can be unpredictable in winter, with snow & ice.
An alternative to this route, but slower - Loire valley - Gien - Briare - St Porcain
Very scenic route following Loire, & Loire canal, passing wine areas.
Upon approaching Orleans from Chartes, either by Autoroute or national road, a ring road skirts the north of the city and follows the Loire south east E60. Take the D953 to Gien. The route to Gien is very scenic, following the river with no shortage of camp sites. Gien & Briare are well worth a visit, both riverside towns with plenty of hotels and campsites. The Pont Canal (bridge) at Briare crosses the Loire here and is not to be missed. see photo canal The route now passes Sancerre and Nevers (passing F1 circuit) Moulins and St Porcain, which is a colourful stopover with plenty of hotels and 2 campsites. South of St Porcain I always join the autoroute here, bypassing Clermont Ferrand and continue to Millau and Beziers by this route.
The Tarn river crosses the A75 at Millau and if you follow the river NE for about 50 km, you pass through the Tarn Gorges. These is spectacular scenery, with no shortage of hotels and campings along this route. see www.gorgesdutarn.net
At St Flour, you could cut across the Auvergne by various routes and end up in the Albi-Toulouse area. This does add some extra tine but the scenery is worth it.
This route, at times 1100m high, can be icy in winter.
Several times, on the way back to the UK, I have cut across the Auvergne from Toulouse Albi, Rodez, Espalion to St Flour (A75)
Or from Montauban, Caussade, Figeac, Aurillac to the A75. These are much slower routes, but the scenery is worth it. The area around Cordes sur Ciel has many medieval villages and is rich in culture. See Photos Aurillac is also an interesting medieval town with arcaded streets.
Cordes is known as the 'City in The Sky'. Cloud covers the botton of the peak and it is a strange sight when viewed from the north west.
West Coast Route direct to Spain
From St Malo, the shortest route to Spain or Pyrenees,
From St Malo to Spain (shortest distance) via Rennes-Nantes-Niort-Saints-Bordeaux -Langon-Agen-Auch-Montrejeau-Tunel De Vielha-Spain. -or
Bordeaux-Langon-Aire sur Adour-Riscle-Maubourguet-Tarbes-Montrejeau-Vielha etc
From St Malo I would take the shortest route to Spain, - Rennes, Nantes, Niort, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Andorra & Spain. This is also perhaps the most uninteresting route to the south with dual carriageways or motorway. Most of the national road has been completely replaced with faster roads, which bypasses many towns.
This is however one of the shortest routes, 520 miles to Andorra, another 60 miles via Carcassone to Perpignan although mostly motorway.
I have also used a different route into Spain from Bordeaux. Take the A62 until Langon, follow then Aire sur Adour, Riscle, Maubourguet to Tarbes. Use the A64 towards Montrejeau, then follow the D33 for Tunel de Viella and Val de Aran into Spain. Continue on this road to Lerida, you can use the national road N240 to the coast. (the 'tunel' is a bit daunting, not well lit and after driving in sunlight, takes a bit of adjusting to)
(Alternatively, you can continue at Bordeaux until Agen and take the N21 to Auch and then Lannemezan, Montrejeau, Viella etc. These two routes are only 475-500 miles to Spanish soil from St Malo.)
When in Spain however, the landscape to Lerida and Zaragoza is very boring, just desert. The interior of the triangle made by Lerida, Zaragoza and Huesca is to be avoided, bad roads, dusty and incredibly hot in summer. This route however is usually clear of snow in the winter.
The route using the Tunnel de Bielsa involves quite a climb up to the tunnel from Arreau and can be unpredictable in winter. back to top of page
I am not in too much of a hurry these days and spend at least 3 nights in France on a journey to Spain. For many years now I have avoided the A7 (via Lyon) I have seen some of the worst motorway conditions imaginable on this road in winter. This route is particularly busy around the 14th July when the French holidays start and expect queues for petrol, peaje etc. It is also considerably longer than my preferred routes.
There are many good routes through the centre of France and western side. I vary the roads I use, but do use motorway when it suits me, often to bypass a busy town or to make some time up. There is not much in the way of free motorways now but there is a 175 mile section of the A20 between Vierzon and Souillac that is toll free.
Much of the A75 is also free (200 miles), Clermont Ferrand to Beziers. The new viaduct at Millau is now completed (peaje) and this route to the south is becoming popular. This is perhaps the most picturesque, with many interesting villages along the route. These villages offer good value overnight stops with good value food.
(This route south of Clermont Ferrand however, does climb to 1100 metres and can be icy in winter.)
Abbeville to Rouen is also free. There are though, many stretches of good dual carriageway roads, a good map will show these routes. When bypassing Paris for the southern routes, I invariably use Abbeyville-Rouen-Evreux-Dreux-Chartes-Orleans. This seems less hassle and I can be north of Orleans in a little over 4 hours for very little peaje.
The A28 from Rouen to Alencon is also free
I use http://www.viamichelin.com/viamichelin/gbr/tpl/hme/MaHomePage.htm to get street maps & town plans to locate hotels and up to date maps are downloadable, for free, in all magnifications, for all of Europe.
Rennes, Nantes, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Limoges, Le Mans, Angers have got excellent ring road systems and are passed through quickly. Tours can be a problem and the ring road seems endless. For getting around Poitiers, I always use the motorway.
The French do seem to have double standards for camping car parking. They either make it very easy or very difficult, many car parks in larger towns and cities have height restriction.
There is a good handbook listing all "aires de services camping cars" available from the Federation Francaise de Camping et de Caravaning
Caen, Le Havre or Cherbourg to Toulouse is about the same distance which ever route you choose (to within 50 miles) So it’s basically via Bordeaux or Limoges. The A75 down the centre of France, via Clermont Ferrand, would more likely to be used from Calais - Boulougne.
back to top of page
Mountain passes to be avoided or treated with respect, are Col du Somport, Tunel de Bielsa, Col du Puymorens, and Pas de la Casa-Andorra at times. Pas de la Casa is normally open and is easily passable unless there has been heavy snowfalls. A tunnel now under Pas de la Casa makes life easier. However I did once hit heavy sudden snowfalls on the way up to Andorra and suffered the worst conditions imaginable. (In really bad weather the pass is closed and the only alternative is to go back and enter Spain via Bourg Madame or Perpignan. The route up to Andorra from Perpignan via Prades is reliable, scenic and you can enter via Seo de Urgell.)
The Tunnel de Puymorens avoids Pas De La Casa, but enters Spain at Puigcerda. This route is good for accessing La Molina, and northern Cataluña.
I have never suffered an accident on these trips, which is largely due to the following rules:-
1- I am never in too much of a hurry to increase the probability of an accident.
2- I limit myself to time at the wheel or mileage per day, this period is gradually shortening over the years.
3- I view traffic and road conditons as a panorama, i.e.:- traffic behind me, traffic approaching me, the traffic I am following, traffic entering main road from left or right, or waiting to enter. This is especially relevant in France with so many agricultural vehicles on the road and side roads. I pay particular attention to oncoming traffic and judge each possible hazard differently. The French are generally good drivers, but rural attitudes and anachronisms still exist.
4- I give the weather conditions a lot of respect, including extreme heat, often cause of tyre failure in Spain.
5- I check the state of my tyres carefully, especially after a long period in Spain. Including the inside of the tyre walls for blebs, deteriation etc. I always have newish tyres on the front, discarding them regularly and well before they show any sign of wear.
Tyres are a major cause of high speed accidents in Spain. Whilst there is a MOT system in Spain, it is often blatantly ignored. A valid sticker, placed there by the ITV tester (MOT), should be visible on windscreen, showing validity of test. Spain does not use the UK system of having current insurance, MOT, in order to pay the annual traffic tax.( The tax paid very is low, 30€ and can be be paid independantly of insurance MOT etc to the local town hall.)
As such, suspension and brakes are often in bad condition on older cars in Spain. Traffic fines are often ignored in Spain, and as a member of the EEC, Spain seems a law unto itself when it comes to motoring regulations.
6- Sunday is a good day to travel in France, National HGVs are not allowed on road on Sundays, only HGVs in transit through France, Spanish, British, Dutch etc are permitted.
Hypermarkets and commercial centres are also closed on Sundays, thus reducing traffic. Sunday, however is not such a good day if you have a breakdown.
7- Familiarise yourself with basic road signs & instructions in French, Spanish etc. to avoid getting lost and frustrated.
8- Beware autonomous regions in Spain, i.e:-
Road signs changing to Euzkadi (Basque) can be a nightmare, San Sebastian becomes Donostia, Pamplona- Iruna,
Catalan & Valenciano are recognisable i.e. Gerona-Girona, Alicante-Alacant, Castellón-Castelló
The area in Belgium near Kortijk into the Lille-Roubaix area can be awkward with signs written in French and Flemish.
In the French Pyrenees and Catalan area town names are often written in both languages, but this is of little consequence. However, there seems to be a resurgence of interest of the Occitan language, for example Cahors is writen as Caurs and many older original names are being revived.
9- And, a little luck.
Speeding & Fines
I have been stopped twice by the police for traffic violations. In France I was fined on the spot and had little spare cash at the time. 6 months later I received re-embursement from France with no explanation.
In Spain similarly, the police insisted I pay and took me to a local bank despite my protestations that I had used my limit that day. The gave me a ticket to pay at a later date, I did not pay this and heard nothing more of the matter.
The Spanish police do now have random breath tests as do the French. I have been stopped several times in France for random ID checks and breathaliser.
Please bear in mind that some of these recommendations may have changed since my first opinion. I recently used a hotel where the food had changed considerably for the worst.
New!! Hotel at Fraisse sur Agout, Parc Regionaux du Haut Languedoc
Auberge de L'Espinouse http://aubergespinouse.net/
Excellent hotel, 45eu per night, refurbished, in sleepy village square. Excellent hotel menu at 14 euros, value wine and a very friendly staff and management. Very peaceful area with good access for lakes nearby, Lac du Lazoulas and Lac de la Raviege
New!! Loubaresse, A75 South of St Flour, Junction 30, Logis de France
Excellent hotel, with superb room for 48 euros, nice garden and terrace for eating and relaxing, only 300 metres from motorway, good half way stop for south of France or Spain. Restaurant very Nouveau Cuisine, 4 courses for 17 euros, wine was expensive at minimum of 14 euros a bottle, no pichets or value wine. Would use again certainly, but would try alternative restaurants nearby. There are three more hotels on N9 road between exits 30 and 31, all with restaurants. St Flour to the north has plenty of hotels.
New!! at Massarets, between Brive & Limoges, 2 miles off A20, Logis de France.
Hotel De La Tour
Excellent hotel, good value at 45 euros, tastefully decorated hotel with good food and wine in classy restaurant. Village set on top of a plateau, facing a historical well renovated tower, with excellent views over the valley. Hotel is 2008 "Marmite D'Or" winner and owner is local rally driver champion.
Night's stop cost only 85 euros with meal and wine (no breakfast)
This is a good day's drive from the ports, approx 400 miles
New!! Roussent, 15 miles north of Abbeville, 25 miles south of Boulogne
Auberge des Etangs
Small hotel and extensive camp site, 2 miles inland from Nemport Saint Firmin. Basic modern informal hotel with rooms from 28 euros. Good separate restaurant, with Brasserie type food available in bar should you require something lighter and simpler ( steack frites, omelettes, burgers, sausages etc, children would be easy to feed here.)
I will certainly use again as first/last stop etc. 0033 (0)184.108.40.206.10
New!! Janville, 60 miles south of Paris, 20 miles north of Orleans, just off A10
Hotel Sabots D'Or
Gem of a hotel if you like to experience real rural France, in centre of small village, basic but clean rooms 28-40 euros, half board 70 euros for two people, 4 course menu 14 euros.
15 miles south, near Etaples exit on motorway at Beutin, is the
Auberge de La Canche. Small functional hotel, changed hands recently now lacking the personal service of the previous owner.
Also, 30 miles south of Boulogne on N1 at Nampont St Martin is the Hotel Peupleraie, similar to above.
Just off the autoroute NW of Abbeyville
Hotel Lion D'Or - good old fashioned hotel with good food in restaurant
59euros double room, menus from 15 euros. This is one of the better value hotels in the area, only one hour from Boulogne
Chepy, 6 miles off A28 near Abbeville - 60 mins Boulogne etc
Auberge Picarde (Logis rated)
Modern tasteful hotel with 25 rooms near station of Chepy, sleepy village with all amenities etc. Well appointed rooms cost 50 euros, and has impressive restaurant.
We stayed on Saturday evening and the weekday economic menus were not available that evening, which is often the case in some hotels. Often, after a long journey and a boat crossing we are never particularly hungry but had too spend over 50 euros for something to eat and drink. This was however to be an interesting meal.
The first courses were amazing, the chef-proprietor obviously took his cooking seriously. I had a Dorade mousse with an amazing mushroom sauce.
My wife had a sausage made with smoked trout in sauce. The second course for me was disappointing, leg of lamb slices obviously frozen, served with the famous Lee & Perrins sauce often demonstrated by Marco Pierre White. Processed vegetables came as accompaniments. It was as if a completely different chef had prepared the second course. My wife had selected wisely with a fillet of Lieu in a Mariniere sauce with rice.
I would definitely go back there again, but during the week when there were more reasonable choices.
If anyone out there knows of a good hotel on the Rouen Abbeville Calais route, please let me know. (40-60euros etc, not too far from route)
Castelsarrasin (40m NW Toulouse)
Hotel Artel, at gare de peage-. I use this hotel frequently as the rooms have capacity for up to 5 people with not much extra charge. ( approx 48 -68 euros per night for 2 to 5 people). It is a good day's drive from St Malo or Caen, mainly by motorway. From Peñíscola (my base in Spain ) it is about 6-7 hours via Andorra or motorways. Reasonable restaurant, secure parking and there is supermarket over the road.
This hotel gets fully booked, for reservations tel-Int code plus (0)5 63 32 86 86
Air sur Adour (Landes)
Hotel Airtel( 2km north of town)
If you going to Spain via Tunel de Viella, this hotel is a good half way stop and Air is a pleasant town for a stop. A good days drive from St Malo, the hotel is similar to one listed above, similar price and accommodation. There is also a Premiere class type hotel next to the main hotel. The main hotel has a buffet style restaurant, very reasonable and there are more restaurants in the town near the river, which has attractive features. There are three other good hotels in the town.
From here you can be in the Dorada-Azahar region of Spain by late afternoon the same day.
Agen (70m NW Toulouse)
After the peage, at the Agen exit from the motorway, there are several hotels of all description, all with restaurants.
Langon (30m S Bordeaux)
Similar to above, after peage, there are several hotels, Horus, Plantation, Mauleon and on road towards Bazas. Leclerc, Lidl & commercial centre adjacent. back to top of page
Vivonne (10m south of Poitiers, route to Angouleme)
Hotel St Georges in village is good value & quaint with several other eating places in village, brasserie, restaurants etc. Campsite also on edge of village.
Doue la Fontaine (25miles SE Angers, near Saumur)
Hotel De France - for 47€ an excellent hotel, recently refurbished, warm, clean, near town centre. Good restaurant with traditional food, and aslo there is a Brasserie opposite with all manner of meals.
Grand Hotel, old fashioned hotel, reasonable prices on main thoroughfare.
Good food in restaurant. There is no shortage of accomodation in Souillac.
Loches (loire valley SE of Tours)
Hotel De France
Marvellous old hotel with turn of the century decor, right in town centre with parking only 50€ per night. Food however was disappointing in restaurant, but would use again.
Tarascon - Ariege
Le Vieux Carre
good value small hotel in town centre, 40 euros a night, bar and reasonable restaurant, with relaxing atmosphere, restaurant open Sunday evening.
Salbris - Centre - 40km South Orleans N20
Hotel Lion D'Or
Town centre hotel 40euros a night, comfortable rooms and a good restaurant, very rural style cooking.
St Chinian - Herault
One of the best value hotels I have stayed in, set in fabulous location overlooking vinyards, 1km out of town. 6 of the 15 rooms open out on to terrace and swimming pool. Excellent hotel menu del jour at 12.50euros with good local wine. Rooms 42euros to 52 euros, see hotelrestaurantlepressoir.com
I revisited this hotel recently and was most disappointed with the drop in standard of the food offered. Would only recommend now for a B & B stay, it is after all a good base for the area. Prices on web site are now out of date. There are several good eating astablishments in town, "La Caleche" is much recommended.
Excellent base for exploring area with Capestang and other canal du midi locations nearby. Capestang is a delightful village with a couple of hotels and a lively mooring on the canal. La Salvetat and the national parc de Languedoc is only some twenty miles away.
Salles Curan - Aveyron (30km SE Rodez)
Hotel Tilleuls- very pleasant hotel-bar-restaurant with newly refurbished, rooms only 50 euros in high season. Good menu and choice of wine, hotel is in centre of village close to lake.
There are three large lakes in the area, all opoular with water sports and fishing.
Hôtel Autogrill A75 Junction 21 at services Lorlanges tel 04.71.76.06.06
We had to use this hotel due to car problems, modern, fast food type restaurant, good wine, nice warm rooms with Sat TV. Open very early in morning but only 10 rooms, good family stop during daytime. Would use again.
Severac Le Chateau - Aveyron
just off A75 exit for Rodez
Hotel de la Gare - good old fashioned hotel 40 euros, very busy with food at lunchtime. Several other similar hotels in this medieval town
As a rough guide, a reasonable hotel in France will cost you 35-60 euros for a double room, plus breakfast. I generally use Logis De France rated hotels or similar and have had no cause to complain. You occasionally get a hotel that's in need of refurbishment, but these hotels tend to be honest, old fashioned establishments with reasonable, and more often than not, very good food. They all offer a child's menu too. Do not be afraid to look at the room first before committing yourself, this is normal practice in France.
Often if the hotel is close to an autoroute or main route, you can expect inferior service and value. The further you venture away from these routes, the better the value for money. Anyone tucked well away from a tourist route is pleased tp welcome guests that have taken the trouble to seek them out. I find this a good rule of thumb.
I avoid hotels that are part of a group, these tend to offer an inferior service for food and prices. If I see a hotel that has been in the same family for generations, this would be my choice for an overnight stay.
These companies have a good search engine giving prices details etc.
But there is a wealth of info regarding France on the net.
Sunday can be an awkward day on which to travel, as many hotel restaurants close Sunday evening, in this situation, I normally select a larger town where I can find a local restaurant open.
(I have found that as you go further south, the value for money increases with respect to food and hotels. The menus become simpler with less attempts at 'nouvelle cuisine' which should be translated as nearly empty plate.) The Auverne, Aveyron, Lot, Tarn and Ariège areas are good examples of this value for money.
The following is a good example -
Hotel des Voyageurs - Naucelle (on Rodez - Albi route)
Naucelle, a small village with an excellent value old style hotel and superb value food http://voyageurs.naucelle.com/
We had the following -Vegatable soup, Filet of fish, Beef steak "Marchand du Vin", huge cheeseboard and ice cream. all for 13euros plus wine (2006). The menus started at 11eu up to 27eu for a gastronomic meal. The hotel is small basic but clean rooms with all facilities and TV for just (30eu), and has very friendly management. To be recommended and is an ideal base for touring the area.
There are lots of similar establishments similar to above in southern and south western France.
To Be Avoided (I would feel guily if I didn't mention the worst as well as the best)
Hotel De France - Bessines sur Gartempe, N of Limoges.
Poor food, frozen vegetables, miserable owner, top prices in bar (invariably empty)
Was charged for 4 bedded room, for only the two of us, said hotel was full, which it wasn't.
Give this place a miss, and try Hotel Bellevue just 200 metres away.
Hotel Providence - St Pierre Buffiere (S of Limoges- village etape)
Shocking treatment, fawltyescue type hotel, no choice menu, tiny portions, huge prices, expensive wine 25 euros plus.
Hotel Muscadelle - Marseillette - (canal du midi)
Swiss run hotel also verging on fawltescue, good food ruined by inept know all chef, good local AC red Minervois served ice cold, argued with me when I explained how it should be kept. Restaurant would be not be out of place in a camp site, (sorry campsite owners) Place only exists because of proximity to canal moorings and no shortage of english customers and no other establishments nearby.
Auberge de Haut Salat - Seix, Ariege
Worst hotel I have stayed in -bad value , poor quality tasteless food, little choice, poor breakfast, frozen croissants. Indifferent service, very scruffy "weirdo" owners. Had to eat between 7.00 and 7.30pm. This establishment is Dutch run and is typical of many Dutch hotel-restaurants I have tried in France & Spain.
Auberge du Pont Canal - Briare, Loire Valley
Rather seedy hotel, well worn rooms, web site gives very false impression of this establishment.
Hotel Du Port et Bains - St Valery sur Somme
overpriced at 72 euros for a double room plus 9 euros pp for very ordinary breakfast. The hotel is however set in an excellent location facing the bay and from the outside looks good.
The restaurant had a very good choice menu and very nice restaurant, but all the wine was dreadfully overpriced. (Vin de Table at 18 euros a bottle, cheap rose at twenty odd euros a bottle, anything decent at least 30-50 euros a bottle plus)
The whole hotel was cold and despite my protests, we had no heating at all, which was necessary for the end of September. I would not stay at this hotel again, our room had two dreadfull cigarette burns on the floor and the carpet was bleached and stained. I just wonder if we Brits are targetted and placed in the worst rooms.
Most other hotels in the resort charge accordingly and the place is popular with the British and Belgians.
Camping Municipal Chartres (40 miles NW of Orleans)
Good site on edge of town, Chartes itself is well worth a visit.
Camping Gien (Loire Valley near Orleans)
Excellent riverside site opposite medieval town, by bridge - easy walk to town.
Camping Municipal Briare - Les Martinets (South of above, Loire Valley)
Excellent site on river banks, large canal basin & moorings in town with the famous 'Pont Canal'. Built at the turn of the century, the canal crosses the Loire on an Iron bridge. Spectacular scenery. There is a decent restaurant Le Petit Saint-Trop alongside the canal basin and La Grillade on the main street, forget the rest.
From Orleans to Briare, following the river, there are many sites on river locations.
If you are going south and in no hurry, take the west bank route, following canal, passing Sancerre and many interesting communities.
Camping Pre Lombard-Tarascon (Ariège)
N20-10 miles south of Foix
One of the very best camp sites in the Pyrénées, if a bit pricey. Spacious, by river, easy walk into town, secure, ideally situated for Ariège valley. Bar, restaurant, pool, activities during season, caravans and chalets to rent. (The site offers a half price stop for campers arriving after six and leaving before ten in the morning, 7.50€, and the site offers weekend packages for caravan or cabin rental)
Tarascon itself and the environs have interesting features. Good value restaurants also in town the ´Vieux Carre´ and at Hotel Bellevue.
Try round trip to Foix, Le Mas D'Azil, St Girons, Massat and back to Tarascon.
Camping Municipal Le Mas D'Azil (Ariège)
Turn off the D117 between Foix and St. Girons
Municipal site on edge of village (1 mile) spacious, reasonably priced, municipal swimming pool nearby (seasonal site)
Le Mas D'Azil has the largest limestone cavern in Europe, the road actually drives through it. There are allocated spaces for camping cars to park in village, with most services available in village.
Typical sleepy village with square and the Hotel Gardel, which is an anachronism. All hotels were like this when I first visited France in the 1960s. Double room at 28€ a night with excellent old style rural menus. This establishment has been run by the same family since the 1920s. I always make a point of staying or eating here when in this area.
Camping Municipal Donzenac (Correze )
N20-6 miles north of Brive la Gaillarde.
Excellent site, spacious, reasonably priced.
Bar and snack bar, good walk up into old town, good location for seeing area.
Camping Municipal Condom. (Gers )
Signposts from town centre.
Heart of Armagnac country. Excellent site, spacious, by river Baise, with working lock, moorings and adjacent bar-restaurant. Boat trips from mooring in town.
Nature Park adjoins site, and site is central for exploring surrounding area,
Visit Montreal, Larressangle, Fources and Barbatan les Thermes (good market Wednesdays)
Fources is a good example of a "circulade" a town built on a circular plan.
Easy walk into town following river.
Camping 'Cabessut' Cahors (Lot )
By river, east side of town, within walking distance of town (parking is difficult in Cahors)
Good site with pool, bar and facilities, but slightly expensive. Good Saturday market with fine produce on sale.
There is also a seasonal site at La Magdelaine, 6 km towards Figeac.
There is also another small but good municipal site is at Vers, 8km further along the road, situated alongside the river with a small but interesting village.
Camping Municipal Aurillac
site 3 km from town centre.
Town well worth a visit, arcaded narrow streets, unspoiled. Aurillac however has the reputation as being one of the coldest places in France. We had severe frost in early September. Salers however is not far away (see les plus beaux)
Camping Relais Landaise - Villeneuve de Marsan (Gers)
On national road D932 (Langon-Pau ) 1km south of town. Is in fact a small Motel-bar-restaurant with chalets and 16 camping spaces. Food in restaurant is some of the best I have tasted, but take a good dictionary.
Camping Municipal Maubourguet (Gers)
seasonal site only 300 meters from village centre. Good food in Relais on market day (Tuesday)
Camping Municipal Bretenoux (Lot)
good, spacious, reasonably priced site for exploring the area. At junction of Dordogne and Cere rivers. Cahors, Rocamadour, Argentat, Souillac are within easy reach. There is also a very good restaurant at Port de Gagnac (La Riviére) some 5 km away. The villages of Loubressac and Carenac are also closeby.
The 'Gouffre de Padirac', an enormous hole in the ground revealing limestone caverns, is some 24 km away. The caves can be visited with a system of lifts.
Payrac -Camping Panoramic (Lot)
20 km south of Souillac. Friendly Dutch run site, reasonably priced with bar and small restaurant-easy access for exploring Dordogne valley
Camping Municipal Cahuzac (Tarn )
very good cheap small site, but very quiet village apart from clock striking every quarter all night. Good for exploring region and Albi. Area full of Medieval villages & Towns.
Camping Municipal Ceret (Pyrenees Orientales)
good shaded site 1km from town centre often busy.
Excellent Saturday food market. Town very Catalan, with unspoiled old part.
Usually there are exhibitions of impressionist work etc in museum and gallery. In May there is a cherry festival in town.
Camping Municipal St Paul Fenouillét (Cotes de Roussillon Villages)
excellent new site in town, very sleepy village, one bar restaurant. Excellent red wine though (C.R.V.)
Camping Moulin de Julien (Cordes sur Ciel)
Excellent site, 5 min from Cordes. Good meadows, lake for fishing, swimming pool, well landscaped site.
Camping Municipal Caussade (N of Montauban -route to Cahors)
Cheapest site during '05, (7 euros camping car, 3 persons, electric) good spacious clean site, sports centre alongside. 500m out of town.
Good base for exploring medieval area, SE of Caussade. St Antonin Noble Val, Castelnau, Puycelci, Cordes. All are within a 30 miles radius.
Puycelci and Castelnau are spectacular, but there are some 300 medieval villages in Midi-Pyrennes and surrounding areas.
Excellent restaurant opposite the Hotel Larroque near station. We had an excellent meal there, and serves the best glass of Moelleux ever tasted. The excellent Brasserie des Arcades, in square just off town centre, offers all manner of food and is always busy. (direction Villefranche)
Camping Chadelas - Lac de Aydat (Puy Dome)
Unspoilt area only 25km south of Clermont Ferrand, small unspoilt lake at 800m altitude. Nothing in village apart from small shop & Bar-Tabac, good open site on lake, privacy and wildlife.
There is a similar larger lake at Chambon, 25km south with several campings and a few hotels.
Camping Alegria- Benicarló -I Can Highly Recommend this site to anyone.
Whilst this website is concerned mainly with France, this is one of the best family run, smaller site in the Azahar region of Spain. It is an ideal stopping or staying point on journeys to and from Spain, 4 hours from the french border or Andorra.
Richard & Julie have a small, secure but convenient, very friendly family run, international site near the beach, north of the harbour and within walking distance of Benicarló and it's new impressive marina. The popular resort of Peñiscola is only 6km away.
Richard and Julie are constantly updating their site and the toilet facilities have been completely modernised during 2005.
Dance & Karaoke nights in season and the site is a popular stay for British winter campers with restaurant serving good food and a good social atmosphere. There are special rates for longer stay campers. Bikers and enthusiasts clubs are also welcome, Richard & Julie are keen bikers. Tel 964-470871
At Christmas and New Year, it is one of the very few places in the region where there are the usual dinners, celebrations and activities celebrated.
There are also plots available to site your own static caravan permanently with attractive rates, or the family can help with the purchase of a suitable caravan. See photo page and www.campingalegria.com
Les Plus Beaux Villages (Most beautiful)
Listed are the ones that I have visited.
See official site at http://www.villagesdefrance.free.fr/
Sauveterre de Rouergue (Aveyron)
Spectacular arcaded village, perhaps the most impressive of all. The arches and buildings have been well maintained well but sadly some of the square is unoccupied, the village needs an injection of interest and commerce. It is not on a direct route, you have to go there specifically, but is well worth the visit. There is a decent hotel and a camp site in the village.
The village is 8 miles off the Albi - Rodez road.
However, some 5 miles away is Naucelle, a small village with an excellent hotel and superb value food - Hotel Des Voyageurs. http://voyageurs.naucelle.com/
We had the following -
Vegatable soup, Filet of fish, Beef steak "Marchand du Vin", huge cheeseboard and ice cream. all for 13euros plus wine. The menus started at 11eu up to 27eu for a gastonomic meal.The hotel is small basic but clean, and has very friendly management. To be recommended.
Between Aurillac and Marciac. Spectacular old village, original, but slightly spoiled by tourism. Auberge in village.
Loubressac (Lot )
Upper Dordogne valley, near St Cere, set atop a hill. Totally unspoiled, little tourism, Auberge and good eating in village, spectacular views.
near above, on Dordogne, similar village with hotels and good eating. Unspoiled.
near above, unspoit with hotel and good eating in village
The above four villages are some of the most impressive I have seen
Cordes Sur Ciel (Tarn)
15 km north of Albi, perched upon a hilltop with steep cobbled streets, very hard to climb to reach centre ville. On misty mornings, valley is covered in low cloud and town is visible above the mist, hence name (sur ciel-in the sky). A much visited village. Good cheap campsite and log cabins to rent, 6 km north-west of town. ( Le Garissou ) and Camping Moulin de Julien (see Campings)
on Aveyron, 25km south of Villefranche Rougere. Village set on steep slope overlooking river, camping nearby.
18 km SW of Cordes, another spectacular medieval town, completely walled in good condition with good views over the valley. Restaurant, well worth a visit. Campsite to be found 3km north. British run painting school in town, see pictures at http://painting-school.com
on D964, 25 km west of Cordes. Medieval walled village atop a hill, Unspoilt with imposing ramparts and views. At nearby Larroque (4km) there is an an excellent restaurant serving menus (weekdays) at from 15€
Fources (Gers )
10km NW of Condom. Village built on circular pattern, restaurant in village, worth a visit. Chateau hotel in village
Rocamadour (Lot )
much visited town, spoilt slightly by tourism. Very steep ascent into town from parking in valley bottom. There is however a tourist train in season which tours into the town. Plenty of parking at top near monastery with lifts to town below, camp site also at the top.
Villefranche-de-Conflent (Pyrénées Oriental)
Medieval town, completely walled, unspoiled. Hotel and restaurant in town, with caves to visit nearby.
Prats de Molló (Pyrénées Oriental)
Border town, completely walled, unspoiled. Hotels and restaurants, very Catalan. Camp sites near town.
30km south of Perpignan on coast, the french equivalent of the northern costa brava. With a rocky coast and picturesque harbour, this is a favorite haunt of artists and holidaymakers. Lots of camp sites near Argeles, if somewhat expensive.
Mirepoix -Ariege, 20km east of Pamiers on N20
Spectacular walled town with wooden arcades, well preserved with good eating in the square. Market on Mondays, see bastide section.
In south west France there are literally several hundred medieval towns and villages, many in a well preserved condition, often with original walls. Most are built on a square or circular pattern and are known as Bastides, many have arcaded, central squares and some good examples of these are -
Mirepoix - exceptional
Limoux, Mirande, Tillac, Marciac, Mielan, Auvillar, Vianne
Sauveterre de Rouergue, Villeneuve d'Aveyron (both exceptional),
Castelnau de Montmiral and Puycelci (both are exceptional walled towns)
L'isle sur Tarn
The towns reflect the locally obtained building materials, Mirepoix has wooden arcades and supports. L'isle sur Tarn is made of red sandstone, and Sauveterre is built with harder limestone material.
Many are classed as amongst the "Most Beautiful Villages in France"
with the logo found on signs and maps, see http://www.villagesdefrance.free.fr/
The Circulades are villages built on a circular pattern, mainly found in the Languedoc.
This excellent site gives full descriptions. locations with aerial photos etc
Worth a visit (worth deviating from your route)
Interesting town with riverside frontage, a large mooring for pleasure craft and a medieval town centre. Chablis, the wine village is only 15km away.
Old walled city with plenty of history, do not miss the square in front of the the Pope's palace with perhaps twenty restaurants of all description. Ample parking by the old "pont"
The surrounding area is full of hotels, campings, and the nearby town of Tarrascon is worth a visit.
Laon (west of Reims)
medieval town with magnificent cathedral. Elevated town has unique cable car access.
South of Tours, medieval town, unspoilt, fine architecture. on edge of Loire valley, good base for exploring. The Hotel de France in the centre is history preserved, but I had a disappointing meal there. The area from Loches to Orleans is full of Chateaux.
Built inside a loop on the river Dronne, this town is very appealing and is much visited. Not unlike Cahors but smaller.
Very popular with the British, beautiful location but very very peaceful. Exceptional original old bridge. Only 2 hotels - Hotel Emeraude - Hotel Mere Michelet. Campsite nearby.
Spectacular setting, old walled medieval town at the top of town, varied architecture. The "Rouergue" area is rich in medieval villages, many with arcaded squares. (see Sauveterre de Rouergue in plus beaux)
The route from Saint Flour to Rodez is spectacular, passing Chaudes Aigues with its hot springs. Laguiole is also on this route and is world famous for the knives it produces. Virtually every shop in the village sells the knives. Be careful if buying these knives, there are many imitations about, look for bee logo and shepherds cross pattern to rivits on handle. photo photo2
Severac Le Chateau just off A75, exit for Rodez.
Medieval town old and new parts with a good overnight stop at the Hotel de la Gare - good old fashioned hotel 40 euros, very busy with food at lunchtime. Several other similar hotels in this medieval town
exceptional - set on a hill, very steep ascent. Top of town shows through low cloud if viewed from N, NW in a morning, hence name 'sur ciel' in the sky. Albi is closeby.
There are 2 camp sites close by and several hotels in the haut ville and surrounding areas. Parking close to Cordes can be difficult.
Village between Auch and Montauban, with spectacular 14th century cloistered market hall and square.
Between Pamiers & Carcassone
Spectacular walled town with gates and wooden arcaded square with timbered houses, well worth a visit, several eating places in central square. Camp site nearby
Good market on Mondays in square.
Baie de Somme
St Valery sur Somme
Interesting small resort but very pricey, plenty seafood restaurants with worth a visit
Canal du Midi
A canal links Bordeaux with the Mediterranean at Beziers. After Toulouse it is known as the canal du mid and is popular with pleasure craft. Onwards from Carcassonne the canal becomes even more interesting as it crosses more difficult terrain. Along the route are various ports and basins where mooring is possible. These are mainly well serviced with all the usual amenities.
Capestang is a pleasant place in which to observe the canal, with a popular reasonably priced restaurant, which is busy at lunchtimes, on the canal moorings.
There are some spectacular locks, bridges and tunnels before the canal reaches the sea at Beziers. The wine areas of Minervois & Corbieres are bisected by the canal and the scenery can be spectacular.
Pont Canal - Briare, mid Loire Valley
Large canal basin and spectacular canal brige crosing over Loire river (400m from basin). All manner of river traffic around the basin. An excellent secure campsite ( Les Martinets) on banks of Loire, easy walking reach from canal basin and town centre. Lots of cycle pistes in the area. There are several hotels, "Le Cerf" being perhaps the best. I have never stayed in hotels here, but intend to when next in the area.
Montargis is nearby, with it's canals, Briare is a good base for exploring further. You can follow the canal all the way to Sancerre and Nevers on the left bank of the Loire.
In fact, to the east, south, and north of Briare, there is a large area of canals that pass through Montargis, Joigny, Auxerre and Clamecy. see map
Loire valley - Gien to Sancerre and Nevers
Gien is an interesting place with medieval town centre on river, plenty of hotels and a riverside campsite. Taking the west bank road south, the route is exceptionel, you pass many interesting villages and mainly follow the canal de Loire to Nevers, passing Sancerre on the way. There is a large canal basin at St Satur with campsite, just south of here is Menetreol with the Hotel Floroine on the canal and another adjacent restaurant.
Lacs de Levezou (SE of Rodez)
Three spectacular lakes attracting anglers, hikers, cyclists, water sport enthusiasts etc
Lac de Pareloup
largest of the lakes, centred at Salles Curan.
Nice small town set on a hill, good hotel Les Tilleuls in centre of town( see handy hotels). Lots of campsites around lake, and free camping car areas around lake.
Villefranche de Pannat
Also set on lake with all amenities etc
Pont de Salars
similar to above and less busy.
Lakes in the Parc Regional Du Haut Languedoc
As you leave the coast and venture inland towards the Parc, the scenery changes dramatically. The dry Mediterranean style scenery gives way to a mountainous terrain with heavily wooded hillsides, verdant pastures and quiet roads. The area is full of wildlife and at times heights of 1000 meters are reached. One my recent trip I had to stop for a family of wild boar that were crossing the road. Unfortunately, they had disappeared before I could take a photo.
Lac du Raviege at Le Salvetat
This lake is set in the parc regional du haut languedoc and is spectacular, the town itself is set on a hill, narrow streets with a British run chambres in the town - La Pergola. There is a another Logis listed hotel in a stunning location set right on the lake's edge - La Plage.
There is the smaller, similar Lac du Laouzas a few miles away near Fraisse sur Agout. (one hotel, the Auberge de L'Espinouse -see handy hotels) http://aubergespinouse.net/
There is a bar-tabac in the village that does a thriving business at lunchtime with menu du jour.
The whole area is of outstanding beauty, see http://www.pageloisirs.com/ for more info
France has a lot of other artificial lakes, mainly in south and south west and a few that I have seen are Lac de Salagou near Clermont L’Hérault -The Lac du Salagou lies about 5km to the west of Clermont l'Hérault and 14km to the east-north-east of Bédarieux, it is over six kilometers in length. Boats with motors are banned so the place remains a peaceful place with swimming, fishing, windsurfing and other aquatic sports. There is no shortage of shoreline, beaches and rocky coves. If you wish to go fishing you need to get a permit and I believe these are available from the "Tabac" in Octon.
Lac de Montbel near Chalabre, Ariège- popular water sport centre on campsite.
There is also Serre Ponçon, near Gap, Alps de Haut Provence - largest artificial lake in Europe some 15 miles long, but is in exceptional setting with alps in background. The lake has many caravan sites but generally is not touristy. There are several hotels set around the lake.
South of Clermont Ferrand however are several natural lakes, among them are Aydat and Chambon sur Lac. Both are in exceptional settings, Aydat is very peaceful with few amenities and 3 camp sites, Chambon has more to offer with several hotels. If you are looking for peace and quiet in very pleasant natural surroundings this area should appeal to you
The "Empty Quarter" (Ariège Pyrenees, 50km west of Foix)
This is an unspoilt area, adjoining the Ariege river valley containing 2 river valleys and some spectacular mountain scenery, south of St Girons.
It can be accessed from Tarascon and St Girons. It contains several villages- Oust, Aulus les Bains, and Seix. There are several hotels in Aulus, one good hotel in Oust, the Hotel de la Poste, and several camp sites. The area is surrounded by mountains and the area is rich in wildlife. Popular with walkers, climbers and hikers, but there is little else to do here. It is however spectacular, calm, and completely unspoilt.
Near Aulus is the spectacular cascade de Ars. Many of the small barns "Grangettes" have been converted to gites. This area is famed for clogs and bear trainers.
Mont Valier is a popular mountain for climbers and the ski resort of Guzet Niege is not far away.
Ax Les Thermes
This attractive spa town town is the start of the ascent into Andorra or Spain, plenty of hotels and restaurants, and three nearby campsites. Space for camping cars by river. Busy place in both winter and summer. A cable car takes you to ski areas and the lift is open during summer for panoramic views. Good base for exploring Ariege valley and surrounding areas.
Wines - A Very Quick Guide (I apologise for the brevity)
Appelation De Origin Controleé AC
Categorised wine of high standard, by wine producing area or village.
(the very exceptional wines per area are classed as "Grand Crus"if applicable - very expensive)
Vin Delimité de Qualité Supérieur VDQS
The AO-VDQS are a category between AOC wines and Vin De Pays and seem no worse than AOC wines
Vin De Pays
perfectly drinkable wine, usually produced locally
Vin De Table
blended wines, I would rarely drink in this category unless the 'Cepage' was specified.
Wines - the Names
French wines are named after the appelation named on the bottle,
eg Chablis, Bourdeaux, Cahors, Roussillon Villages, Sancerre.
The modern worldwide trend is to label wine by grape variety
eg Chardonnay, Semillon, Gamay, Riesling.
The French system only uses this method in Alsace
eg Riesling, Sylvaner, Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer ( a throwback to German occupation of Alsace)
largely a question of personal taste, the different wine areas produce a large range of differing tastes, bouquets, and flavors.
a very very basic guide to white wines -
Very Dry White Wines -Sylvaner, Muscadet
Medium to Dry White -Chablis, Sancerre, White Burgundy (Chardonnay) Gaillac, Touraine, Nantais, White Bordeaux, Entre deux Mers, (Sauvignon Blanc) Minervois Blanc (Semillon),
Sweet White Wines - Muscat, Sauternes, St Croix du Mont, Barsac, Montbazillac.
Good quality white wine is becoming an expensive commodity in France.
Most areas produce good or reasonable rosé wines and if unsure on your choice of red wine, go for the rosé.
Some Rarer Wines
St. Croix Du Mont AC
In the Sauternes- Barsac region. Excellent 'Poor Man's Sauternes' at around 6 euros 40ff a bottle. Hard to tell the difference. Usually a good selection in 'Auchan'
AC Madiran, AC St Mont
Two good wine villages, of rare appellations in Gascogny. South of Aire sur Adour. Wine usually available locally.
Vin De Pays Quercy
very respectable wine from Cahors region. Can be bought in Halle (Market Hall) in Cahors. En Vrac, 1.80 euros litre (11ff)
Maury (AC Roussillon Villages)
On Perpignon-Quillan route. Several good wine villages producing AOC wine. Maury was one of the best buys of the year. The whole area produces under-estimated wines. Wine can be bought 'En Vrac' in village co-operative on main road through village. VDQS 1.5 euros litre (9ff), AOC 2.4 euros litre (15ff).
Is also stocked at Auchan-Perpignan.
St Paul de Fenouillet (AC Roussillon Villages)
next to Maury, red is best wine in valley, en vrac (draft) from village cooperative, ask for appellation contrôlée village or Vin De Pays village.
LES CAVES COOPÉRATIVES S.C.V.(Roussillon)
There are further co-operatives at Baixas, Espira, Fourques, Lesquede, Millas, Pezilla, Cases de Pene, Thuir, Ponteilla, and Ceret. These are open to the public, normally all year, and offer wine sold by the litre and bottles. Appellation Contrôlée Village and Vin de Pays Village are usually available as well as specialities. You can also buy containers, and these establishments offer good value for money. All regions in France offer this facility.
back to top of page
One of the most beautiful wine villages. Set on a hilltop with spectacular views. Typical town square has degustation houses.
Centre of Aude wine and the Blanquette de Limoux. Good town square with several excellent delicatessens. Set on river, with camping car area allocated on quai. There is also a reasonable campsite set on the river and Limoux is central for exploring the area. (Carcassone, Pyrennees, Cathars circuit)
St Chinian (Herault)
Lively wine town set in beautiful location, one excellent hotel the "Pressoir" (see handy hotels)
Canal du Midi and Parc National de Haut Languedoc are not far away and is good base for exploring area.
Photos & Maps
Castelnau - walled medieval town, S of Cordes
Brantome - near Perigueux - showing loop in Dronne
Cordes near Albi - from air
Cordes - city in the sky
Castelnau de Montmiral - walled bastide town, a fine example- near Cordes
Puycelci - near Cordes - walled town from air
Confolens - in Charente, pont vieille, river Vienne
St Cirq Lapopie spectacular Lot valley village
Larresingle medieval village near Condom
Mirepoix medieval village near Carcassone - Pamiers
Mirepoix3 medieval village
Mirepoix4 medieval village
Sauveterre de Rouergue near Rodez - the arcades
Sauveterre de Rouergue1
Sauveterre de Rouergue2
Sauveterre de Rouergue3
Sauveterre de Rouergue4
Sauveterre de Rouergue5
Briare Loire Canal
Pont Canal bridge over Loire
Camping Alegria reception-bar
Alegria general view
Aulus les Bains Ariege, mountain scenery
Lot Valley - typical village - Puy L'Eveque
Regions of France Map Auverne, Loire etc
Departments of France Map Perpignan, Cahors, Toulouse etc (also are vehicle area number)
back to top of page
an exceptional city, with the magnificent Cathedral of St Cecile, a must. The cathedral is situated at the north end of the town next to the river. The rest of the town is mainly south of the cathedral.
The heretic Cathars, or Albigeois originated from here. They brought terror and confusion to the south and west of France with their bloodthirsty crusade.
There is architecture of all ages in the town, The Toulouse Latrec museum is next to the cathedral. Parking is difficult, but there is a very large parking area past the museum, downhill, and close to the river if you can find it.
The area to the north of Albi is full of medieval villages and small towns. This area between the Tarn and the Lot is a much under estimated part of France.
another town well worth a visit. The town has a cosmopolitan feel to it with fine shops, but retains the old town feel to it. The Saturday food market is well worth a visit, but parking is difficult. There is a museum of viniculture in the old town, close to the river.
The Lot valley to the east and west of Cahors has a lot to offer, following the river gorges, with many interesting villages. To the east are St. Cirq-Lapopie and Cajarc both with campsites.
The road from Villeneuve sur Lot to Cahors is spectacular, with many villages, such as Puy l'Eveque perched on the river gorges. The area to the north is also rich in medieval villages. ( Montflanquin, Montpazier )
The whole area between the Tarn, Lot and Dordogne, contains some 350 medieval villages often shown on road signs as an icon
Capital of Le Catalan, Perpignan is a city of great variety. The old town centre has a very left bank feel to it and not far away is the Arab quarter.
Good eating can be had on the canal, opposite the Hotel De Ville and Perpignan is well served for parking.
Perpignan makes a good base for the area. Within easy reach are-the Pyrenees, the Côte Vermeille (Collioure, Banyuls & Port Vendres). The beaches are closeby and there are scores of camp sites along the coast.
South of the town on the route national, exiting the city, there is a mile long strip of all conceivable types of retail establishments. These include-Auchan, Lidl, Leader Price, DIY, Motors, and several hotels and eating establishments back to top of page
Perpignan-Villefrance de Conflent-Bourg Madame-Ax les Thermes-Quillan-Perpignon
From Perpignan head toward Canigou and Prades. Reasonable campsite at Prades, easy walk into town, but not much in the way of accomodation.
The route now passes Villefrance, an old medieval town, completely walled and well preserved with an old style hotel. Nearby is Vernet le Bains, old spa village with hotels and reasonable eating. Canigou now towers over the area.
The road now to Bourg Madame has spectacular scenery. At stations along the route the 'Yellow Train' can be ridden along the valley. Mont Louis is one of the highest fortified towns in the Pyrénées.
At Bourg Madame, Llivia, a Spanish enclave totally within France, can be visited. A spectacular scenic valley links Bourg Madame to Seo de Urgel (Spain) and Andorra. The ski resorts of La Molina and La Massella (Spain) are nearby, and be accessed by car, with good views from Supermolina.
However from Bourg Madame, the route to Ax includes the Col du Puymorens and some more spectacular scenery. (The journey can be shortened by taking the tunnel to Hospitalet but it is expensive for caravans and camping cars.) There is an another route into Andorra along this road, and Pas de la Casa is the border resort between France and Andorra. (Angina sufferers beware of the altitude at Pas de la Casa.)
Ax les Thermes is well served by hotels and restaurants and is a good base for the area. A road leads from Ax to Bonascre, the skiing resort and a spectacular view is observed from the top of the mountain. There is now a cable car, open most of the year from the square in Ax taking you up to the ski area.
From Ax, the road to Quillan again is spectacular and the road descends steeply into Quillan. The old town of Quillan, although dying, has an appeal. There is a good municipal campsite, several hotels and this is a good centre for exploring this area. Limoux and Carcassone are easily reached from here. Rafting and caving are practiced in the area.
The route now to Perpignan follows the Aude valley with spectacular gorges. The 'Fenouillettes' a wine growing area, is passed, producing good red and rose wine, much under-estimated. There are several villages along the route where wine may be sampled and purchased. ( Maury-wine and liqueur, St Paul-wine, Estagel-wine,)
Tautavel, the prehistoric site, is a short detour from the route.
back to top of page
Food terms - some of which have given me trouble and amusement
Meat, Poultry & Game etc
Aligot - Aveyron speciality of mashed potato with cheese.
Pounti - Auverne ham & prune pate meatloaf
Andouillette– stuffed chitterling type sausage, a delicacy !
Biche - doe or hind
Cerf - venison, stag
Carre de Agneau – rack of lamb
Rôti du Porc - roast pork
Côtelette, côte du Porc - pork cutlet, chop
Cervelas type of sausage
Chapon - capon
Crotin - small goat's cheese
Boudin – type of sausage
Carpaccio – salmon or steak cut very thin and marinated
Foie Gras – ‘fat liver’ liver pate of forced fed geese & ducks
Oie - Goose
Graisse d`oie - Goose fat
Girolles - alt name for chantarelle mushroom
Lange - tongue
Choucroute Garni - Alsatian dish of sauerkraut, sausage, cured hams & potatoes
Jarret - ham shank
Joue - veal or beef cheek - Joue de Boeuf
Pavé – small cut of steak
Onglet - similar small cut of steak
Faux Filet – ‘false fillet’ a variable beefsteak cut
Bavette – small cut of steak
Saignant – bleeding raw, very rare
(It is sometimes difficult to get your steak how you like it. The French cook steak, beef and duck very little, when asked for the "cuisson" I usually go for medium or "a point" to get a rarish steak. "Bien Cuit" will get you a medium cooked steak )
Lapin, Lièvre – rabbit, hare
Poitrine – belly pork
Petit Sale –cured ham type stew with lentils
Blanquette de Veau – veal stew
Ris de Veau - sweetbreads - remember riz is rice, don't mix up the two
Tête de veau – brains
Confit de Canard- duck, stewed in it's own fat
Magret de Canard – duck breast or slices of breast, cooked very rare (saignant)
Cuisse de Canard – duck leg
Pintade - guineau fowl
Bécasse - woodcock
Caille - quail
Civet de Lièvre- Lapin – stew of hare - rabbit
Sanglier – wild boar, can be like young pork loin or dark when stewed
Marcassin - young wild boar
Bar - bass
Cabillaud - cod
Colin – hake
Lieu - white fish of cod family
Espadon – sword fish
Lotte - monkfish
Maquereau - mackerel
Sandre – pike type fish, though with better taste, favourite with the French
Homard – round squat lobster
Langouste – crayfish
Crevettes - prawns
Langoustines – gambas
Rouget – red mullet, tasty fish but can be boney
Poulpe - octopus
Coquille Saint-Jacques -scallops
Morue – salted cod type fish, somilar to Spanish bacalao
Brandade - Puréed salt cod mousse often served in a Vol au Vent
Brochet – pike
Raie – skate
Flétan – place-halibut type fish back to top of page
On to Spain - Places to Stay
Obviously I can't cover every way into Spain, but the most popular routes seen to be Andorra and Catalonia.
There is no shortage of accommodation of all levels in Andorra La Vella- Les Escaldes-Canillo-Encamp-Sant Julia de Loria.
All the hotels I have used have been value for money.
Andorra is not just a busy, shopping centre, there are many beautiful locations in the valleys around the centre.
A place I would recommend is L'Escala, I have stayed here many times and it is just 11 miles from the Autopista or national road.
In an attractive setting, with small coves and beaches, this is an interesting town to pass a day or two. I have eaten particularly well here, and the town is busy with French at the weekends, winter or summer.
Again there are hotels of every type and one I have used frequently is the Hostal Roser. This hotel is a little hard to get to but is behind the church. The same family has the Restaurant Roser on the edge of the bay, this is a very high class seafood restaurant. http://www.elroserhostal.com
On the route national into Spain, this is a place to avoided if you want to just pass through. Always busy and a bottleneck, summer and winter. There is however all manner of shopping here, as the Spanish prices for liquor and tobacco are considerably cheaper than France.
La Junquera is a similar place but not so congested.
I include this because the French also make excellent Paellas and the dish is popular in the mediterranean area.The word as used in Spanish, means a mixture. The vessel used to cook it, is called a Paellera.
Supposedly Valenciano in origin, the essence of the dish is rice, flavoured with chicken, seafood or a combination of both. Rabbit, pork ribs, lamb or any meat can also be used. There are many variations of the recipe such as the following for 4 persons.
Joint and cut up a Chicken into small pieces. leaving skin and some fat on the meat. Fry with onion and garlic in olive oil. Add a few pieces of squid and 4 large prawns, cook slowly for 10 minutes. Add water, and a few white and green beans along with red peppers, Add the seafood, (more squid rings, small squid, several types of large prawns and gambas), and for colouring use turmeric if saffron is not available. Add 1 cupful of rice per person, top up the water to the level of the pan rivets. Simmer until rice is almost cooked. Season well to taste. Add to the paellera, scrubbed mussels and clams and let them steam for five minutes. Serve with lemon wedges and a good bottle of wine.
With imagination, this recipe can be varied to suit all tastes.
(However, the best paellas I have seen or tasted have been in France or the far north of the Costa Brava, close to the French border)
Occitan - Langues de Oc - Catalan - Dialects
Currently spoken by some 11,000,000 people in Spain and some 250,000 in France, as well as by about 30,000 in Andorra and more than 20,000 in Alghero (Sardinia), Catalan has lost little of its former lustre, even though it is no longer as widespread as it was between 1137 and 1749, as the official language of Aragon. Catalan is closely related to Occitan and formed one of the Langues d'Oc, along with Provencal and Gascon.
Derived from Occitan and Spanish, it is clearly distinct from both. It differs from Spanish in the following characteristics: a lack of rising diphthongs (such as ie and ue, as in compare Catalan be and Spanish bien "well," Catalan bon and Spanish bueno "good") and an abundance of falling diphthongs (such as eu, au, ou, as in compare Catalan peu and Spanish pie "foot," Catalan bou and Spanish buey "ox"). Catalan also retains the sounds j (pronounced like French j or the z in English "azure"), z, tj (pronounced like English j), tz, and x (pronounced like English sh); none of these consonants occur in modern Spanish. Catalan stresses certain verbs on the root rather than on the infinitive ending, as in Spanish (Catalan VENdre, Spanish venDER "to sell"). Catalan differs from Occitan less than from Spanish but often uses different vowel sounds and diphthongs and also has somewhat different grammatical conventions.
Valenciano, continues the language southward in an almost identical form all the way to Alicante.
There is now a strong resurgence of all the languages mentioned above and I include a link below extracts and examples of three of the southern languages of Lengadocian.
link to - occitantext word document
back to top of page
http://www.quelleroute.com hotels, search by region, prices etc
This site is an easy to follow hotel guide for the whole of France, navigates from maps of France and regions. The hotels listed are largely of the older type, Auberges etc, often set just off the beaten track, with little of the modern fasthotels so prevalent in France today.
Les Plus Beaux, the most beautiful villages in France. Navigate from lists of villages and regions or from maps with links.
Excellently worked site with pictures and descriptions.
History and description of Peñiscola, Spain with section devoted to anyone buying a property or considering moving or retiring to Spain.
I would welcome any comments or feedback from this site and feel free to ask any questions, advice etc
back to top of page