I always think that if you’re going to come to France, you should plan some time to take a road trip (or at very least a train.) Why? Because this country is so vast and full of things to see beyond Paris alone. No trip to France would be complete without some time spent in the city of lights, but this country has a little of everything and the more you get to know it, the more you feel like it’s an experience of many parts of Europe all in one. What I mean is that you’ve got the Celts in Brittany, the Latin vibes of Nice (which was formerly an Italian city,) Alsace has foods that will make you feel a little like you’re in Germany and in the southwest you’ve got the Basque region which spans across France and Spain.
But sometimes you need to know where to go…
We were already in the town of Saintes for a wedding and on our way to Bordeaux to see friends only they’d mistaken the weekend we were coming and hadn’t yet made it home from a quick visit to Marseille so we found ourselves with the unexpected opportunity to check out somewhere new until they got home. Instead of going around the Gironde estuary, the large fissure on the map that points to Bordeaux, we decided to cross it on a little ferry, the Bac Royan – Pointe de Grave so we could see a little of Médoc, a region along the Atlantic ocean and home to some fantastic wines in case you were wondering.
Little did we know we’d soon find ourselves in the seaside town of Soulac-sur-Mer in the blistering heat of summer and the sand dunes that lined the waterfront were calling our names. A quick change into our swimsuits in the back of the car and we were running off in our sandals to the ocean. Unlike much of the Mediterranean, this beach isn’t quite so crowded and it’s an endlessly long beach that you can lay your beach blanket out on and stay a while or rent a little French stripped tent to enjoy some shade. Better yet, if you’re coming with kids there’s even an area with lifeguards surveying from morning until the bell rings in the late afternoon. The waves are great to play in and there are a few tidal pools and beautiful fine sand to sink your toes or your sand castle building buckets into.
After enjoying the sand and surf we were soon off looking for pizza and cooling off with the rosé from Médoc, which I have to give two thumbs up to, it’s a stunning salmon pink and the flavours are rich and delightful, don’t miss the opportunity.
As we sat for dinner we realized we weren’t quite ready to head onto the next town and so we tried to get a couple recommendations on where to stay while we ate but it was as we left and rounded the corner that we stumbled on a little bed and breakfast in a historic home called Villa le Cid. The rooms were basic but clean and the hosts were a sweet elderly couple who were very welcoming and full of stories about the town. At under a 100€ a night and with a very generous breakfast with lots of coffee (a measure I know my parents will appreciate) and bread coming from the Fournil de J & J Boulangerie just across the street we were pleasantly surprised! Even better is that it’s just a couple blocks off the main street and a five-minute walk to the beach with on-site parking.
What we liked about this town was that it was very tourist friendly. If you need a little getaway it’s an easy option and there are even plenty of English books for all ages available at the local used bookshop La Bouquinerie on Rue de la Plage so you have no excuse but to relax. There is a covered as well as an open-air market which is open every day and you’ll find many local products available to taste and make a wonderful picnic if you’ve packed a corkscrew, an Opinel knife and some glasses (or in our family we always have a couple ceramic yogurt pots from previous picnics waiting to be reused for picnics!) If not, there are many restaurants, pubs and ice cream available and endless historic homes each one unique if you go for a little walk around the town.
When you’ve had your fill of the beachfront life just hop back in the car and make sure to follow the scenic route des châteaux headed for Bordeaux and give yourself lots of time for tasting and enjoying all the beautiful vineyards along the way to the city.
Have you got a great road trip destination I should check out? Let me know!