Take a road trip down to Switzerland, and see the best of France along the way. After crossing the channel, the gentle countryside of Northern France leads you through to the romance and excitement of Paris.
Spend a day exploring the capital, then return to nearby Cergy by train to avoid parking in Paris. Next day, take a leisurely drive down through central France, and arrive in Lyon, the country’s Food Capital, in time for dinner at one of its wonderful restaurants.
After another day exploring this lovely city, take the road to Lucerne- a breathtaking journey through Alpine mountains and valleys. Once there, sail across the lake and take the funicular up the majestic Mount Pilatus for otherworldly views of the surrounding lakes and valley.
On the way back, a leisurely meander through France brings you to the medieval charms of Troyes, before heading to Lille to finish your road trip in this lovely city. This is a ten day trip that will feel like a month, so packed is it with astonishing sights, places and experiences.
Arrive in Dover Eastern Docks, for a mid-afternoon crossing to Calais. Allow at least 45 minutes before departure to check in. If you’re taking the Eurotunnel, there are four departures an hour, a crossing time of just 35 minutes and cars emerge straight onto the Autoroute. The sea crossing to Calais takes around 90 minutes, depending on the weather.
After driving onto the ferry, leave your car and go up to the decks. After watching the white cliffs slowly fade into the distance, have a meal, drink or snacks in one of the onboard cafes and restaurants- the food is decent and reasonably priced, and there are usually safe play areas for children. In the seating areas, there's plenty of space to simply sit and watch the many ships that sail the channel.
Remember you can take the Eurotunnel too. This is a quick and easy way to cross the channel if you don't want go by sea, and takes just 45minutes.
CALAIS to CERGY (approx)174 miles 3hrs £50.00 inc tolls
Take the ferry from Dover or Eurotunnel Le Shuttle from Folkstone and join the A16 autoruote (L'Europeene) to Cergy Pontoise, on the northern outskirts of Paris. This a simple drive, through classic, rolling French countryside with distant villages, pretty towns such as Amiens and church spires piercing the horizon. It only gets busier as you reach the outskirts of Paris.
Just north of Abbeville you can take a break at the excellent Aire de Baie de Somme, which has its own little nature reserve. There's another service station, Aire de Hardivillers, south of Amiens.
We recommend the Hotel Mercure Cergy Pontoise Central, which has a pool and kids under 15 go free if sharing their parent's room. The hotel is easily reached from junction 9 of the A15. By RER Cergy is only 40 minutes from Chateau Les Halles, right in the heart of Paris near Notre Dame, the Left Bank, Le Marais and Les Halles.
Take the RER from Clergy into central Paris. Alight at Chatelet Les Halles, in the heart of the city, for easy access to Les Halles, the wonderful Marais area, Notre Dame and the famous Left Bank. Spend the day exploring and enjoy dinner in Paris before returning to Cergy.
TOLL £27.02 DISTANCE 320m TIME 5hr 30
After breakfast, set off for the next stage of the trip. The drive is primarily on autoroutes, bordered by the countryside of central France. Stop for breaks at the Aires (service stations), which are every 20km or so. Break for lunch at Aire Venoy Grosse Pierre, just south of Auxerre, and arrive into Lyon by early evening. Once checked in to your hotel you'll have time for dinner in one of Lyons wonderful restaurants, such as Les Bouchons des Filles.
Days 3 - 5
Spend the day in Lyon. Head to the old town, Vieux Lyon, and take the funicular up to the Basillica de Notre Dame for amazing views of the city below. In the old town there are plenty of charming cafes and restaurants, as well as shops, museums and churches to see. Head back to the Presqu'ile area to see the shops and perhaps have dinner on the famous Rue Merciere.
This is a spectacular, memorable drive that winds close to Lake Geneva and on into the breathtaking Swiss Alps. Reaching Bern, either continue slightly north on the autoroute, or take the spectacular, slightly longer road that heads south, skirting Interlaken.
Have lunch just off the autoroute in the Lavaux Unesco World Heritage area. We recommend Le Baron Tavernier Chexbres, Auberge De La Gare or Relais De La Poste, Grandvaux
If you'd prefer to eat at a service station, staying on the autoroute perhaps choose Lavaux.
Arrive early evening in Lucerne and check into your hotel before relaxing over dinner and cocktails at glamorous Bam-Bou.
You'll need to buy a "Motorway Vignette", which is the Swiss road tax. It's approximately £27 (40CHF) and is valid for 14 months. They can be bought online before you travel at The Swiss Travel System or at service stations near the border or at the border crossing point itself.
Days 5 - 7
In the morning take a relaxing ferry ride across Lake Lucerne to connect with the cog railway that takes you to the summit of Mt.Pilatus - seen in James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
On a clear the day the views are breathtaking and, whatever the weather, the experience of climbing up through the clouds is both breathtaking and moving. There is an excellent restaurant, in the Hotel Pilatus Kulm, or a cafeteria style restaurant in the visitor centre.
After lunch take the cable car back down the mountain and return to Lucerne where you can stroll around the old town. In the evening have dinner at Olivio, or the Montana Hotel with its views across the lake.
TOLL £9.12 TIME 6hrs DISTANCE 332mls
Leave the silvery wonder of Lucerne in the morning and begin the journey back through France. It is once again a memorable drive as you leave the Alps.
Stop for lunch close to the autoroute, in the ancient city of Besancon, with its famous citadel. Parking is easy to find on the edge of the city centre and there are plenty of cafes and restaurants. For an afternoon break, there is an Avia service station mid-way between Dijon and Langres.
Arrive in the medieval city of Troyes by early evening, check into your hotel and then enjoy wandering the ancient streets before choosing a cosy restaurant for dinner.
TOLL £21.08 TIME 3hr 45 DISTANCE 210m
After a relaxing breakfast in the one of the cafes in the old town, carry on up to Lille, driving through the chalky, undulating landscape of Champagne. North of Reims, pause for lunch in Laon, with its magnificent medieval cathedral. Laon is close to the autoroute and parking is available around the cathedral. Spend a couple of hours having lunch and exploring the town. Arrive in Lille late afternoon, before rush hour begins, and settle in to your hotel before dinner in one the many excellent restaurants in the old town such as Le Compostelle.
Take your time strolling through the old town, with its charming shops, cafes and restaurants. Have lunch at Meert or before taking the Metro to the Baths at Roubaix, now a museum housed in the splendid Art Deco building. In the evening go for a drink at the jolly Fifi’s.
Day 5 Lille - Calais 75 miles No Tolls
After checking out in the morning, take the Autoroute for the short, simple journey back to Calais for a lunch time crossing, ensuring that you're back in England in time to be home by Monday evening, admiring all your fantastic finds. Allow plenty of time for check-in at Calais as they can sometimes be a little thorough at passport control.
Remember that you can always take Eurotunnel Le Shuttle if you'd prefer not to travel by sea. It's very simple and takes just 45 minutes.
Take the ferry and after ninety minutes or so, you'll see the white cliffs of Dover appearing on the horizon. You'll be back in Dover in plenty of time to be home by bedtime, as you gain an hour going back to England, ready to start planning your next trip.
Remember you can take the Eurotunnel too, if you'd prefer to avoid travelling by sea. Check in is simple and it takes just 45 minutes.
Taxis are available to take you the short distance to Dover Priory railway station.