Whether it’s an insatiable need for speed that motivates you, or simply a scenic route with a slow enough pace to appreciate panoramic views, you can find your perfect place somewhere in France.
After all, many consider the country to be the birthplace of the car. Admittedly, it was Karl Benz of Germany who invented the world’s first modern combustion engine car, but technically France’s earlier version – a ‘self-propelled road vehicle’ for the French army – arrived first.
Besides that, the country boasts some of the best mountain passes and scenic driving roads in all of Europe. A few years ago, they proved so irresistible to Top Gear speed-freaks Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond that the pair were slapped with a driving ban for three months.
Yet stick to the speed limit and the world is your oyster. Here’s our guide to some of the most thrilling road trips around France and where to purchase property at the heart of the driving action.
One perfectly placed region to indulge in road-trip culture is the Côte d’Azur coastline and the Provençal Alps above it. The area boasts a perfect blend of beaches, lakes and mountains, all within easy distance of each other – and there’s rarely a dull driving moment. For those who like to mix their movies with their motors, three main corniche roads wind around the scenic coast and clifftops and two have featured in a James Bond movie.
The Grande Corniche, has been described as ‘the best scenic driving route in the world’ and for good reason. A highlight is the Col d’Èze, the legendary mountain pass that made its action-packed appearance in GoldenEye.
Just a few kilometres further and you can be in Monte Carlo in Monaco, pulling up alongside the Ferraris and Lamborghinis next to the famous casino, where Bond also appeared in Never Say Never Again. It’s here that the reckless ladies’ man famously forgoes his $267,000 winnings – the price of an entire apartment in parts of Provence – to instead ‘settle for one dance with Domino’. The Grande Corniche also appears in To Catch A Thief with Cary Grant and Grace of Monaco starring Nicole Kidman.
The Moyenne Corniche is scarcely less impressive, starring in a competitive car chase between Nice airport and Monte Carlo Casino in 1970s series The Persuaders. Roger Moore, who gave it his all in a bright yellow Aston Martin DBS, left the show soon afterwards to begin his career as Bond. However, this scene gives a great view of the scenic viaduct on the approach to picturesque Èze village.
Finally, contrary to any expectations caused by its name, the so-called Corniche Inférieure is anything but inferior. While it might lack the high-altitude views, it covers the best seaside resorts, including Villefranche and Beaulieu-sur-Mer. It stretches from Nice to Menton, the latter being the warmest spot on the Riviera and just a stone’s throw from the balmy Italian border.
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