French Driving Routes and Scenic Road Trips

France, Alpes de Haute Provence, Parc Naturel Reginal du Verdon (Natural Regional Park of Verdon), Plateau of Valensole, field of lavander
••• CAVALIER Michel / Getty Images

When most tourists think of a driving vacation, then think of driving between destinations. But that's not the point here. Here we present famous signed routes where the motorist can discover the beauty of the countryside--say within the Alpine areas of France--or follow routes determined by the local, traditional production of food or wine, like Le Route du Cidre, the cider route in Normandy.

  • 01 of 06

    Normandy offers the tourist a very high concentration of Abbeys. These can be visited in clusters, and are nicely grouped on the web site linked here. If you're thinking that Christianity has followed a single vision for 2000 years you might think twice if you visit these Abbeys. There are also events held in them, so check before you go.

  • 02 of 06

    Normandy is known for butter and apples, and this 40 km route takes you through some quaint villages on your way to tasting what Americans would call hard cider, which kept the colonies fueled for quite a while. Your target is the producers of "AOC Pays d'Auge" cider, which produces Cidre de Cambremer.

    You might also be able to taste Pommeau de Normandie and the apple "brandy" called Calvados.

  • 03 of 06

    Like Alpine scenery? This historic route was conceived by the French Touring Club in 1911 and the legendary route finally realized in 1937. It runs from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean, a distance of 684 kilometers and includes 16 passes. On this route, you don't even need a car. You can do it on foot, or on a bike--if you're extremely fit.

  • 04 of 06

    The native symbol of the Haute Provence has to be the lavender plant. the native variety of which came to be used in the emerging perfume industry in the 19th century. The industry almost disappeared until it was rescued by "wellness" applications--think aromatherapy, as practiced at places like the castle at Simiani la Rotonde.

    Along this route, you'll come across distilleries, farms, and apiaries, as well as outlets selling the many forms of Lavender products.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Yes, there are many wine routes, but Alsace is quite special, especially for the very fine cuisine which has evolved out of the quest for a good wine experience. It's also gorgeous territory.

    You'll be stopping at frequent intervals along this route, so make sure you allow plenty of time. For example, you'll pass Ribeauville - one of the oldest medieval towns in Alsace, and then just 4 km down the road is Riquewihr, a member of the Association of the Most Beautiful Villages in France. The village has many shops and boutiques, as well as hotels, restaurants, and Winstubs, so it makes a good place to stop in the middle of this route.

  • 06 of 06

    If you want to see spectacular earth tones on your road trip, here is a little itinerary in the Luberon for artists and photographers. The picture shows the trail you can take just outside of the village of Roussillon.

    In this case, the Trail is little more than a day trip, but a very scenic one.