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Getting to Cannes by car

Getting to Cannes by car
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Add pleasure to business by driving down to Cannes, says vca Travel director Tim Cocking

If you have a bit of time and are master of your own destiny, driving to Cannes makes a nice change from the stress of airport security, possible delays and other hassles. It can turn a business trip into pleasure, especially if you travel with likeminded colleagues or friends.

I have made this journey many times and have picked up some useful tips along the way. So here they are.

The Channel crossing

Eurotunnel is the quickest way to cross the Channel. Weekdays are always less busy. Departure time depends on how far you are from the tunnel at Folkestone, so you need to build that in when you plan your journey. I aim to get a crossing around 9am and I’ve based these recommendations on this.

Which route?

Once you reach France the first thing you notice is, relative to the UK, the empty motorways. Driving as it used to be – a forgotten pleasure. There’s a choice of routes – and don’t forget you can go a different way on your return for the sake of variety.

Using motorways, the quickest route is east of Paris taking the A26 via Reims towards Lyon and then down the Autoroute du Soleil (A7). Door to door, this takes around eleven hours, so will normally involve an overnight stop. The only drawback is the boring agro-industrial countryside until you get near Dijon. But the road’s usually quite empty.

And if by the time you get to Lyon, you’ve had enough of the motorway, cut through the Vercors to the N85 (Route Napoléon) and down to Grasse and Cannes. This way takes in some great scenery.

You can go round Paris, although you need to factor in the périphérique (think M25 at rush hour). You then join the A6 to Burgundy, passing through pretty countryside and areas like Chablis.

Or you can go west of Paris taking the A16 to Rouen and then dropping down through the Loire and Auvergne. I can promise spectacular scenery en route. However, this is a longer journey and it’s sensible to build in two stopovers.

Where to stay

You’re travelling across France so take advantage of the hospitality offerings. Whilst the cheaper chain hotels are plentiful, they lack character and the dining could be better. However, there are good deals to be found within 20kms of the motorway, as long as you do a bit of research in advance. And don’t take potluck – book your accommodation from the UK.

Check out the Logis de France hotel network. It includes mainly independent properties with restaurants. I always cross-check with the Michelin Guide. If the hotel’s in both, you’re pretty safe.

Recommended stop over areas when driving from Calais

3 hours from Calais – Reims/Epernay (Champagne

4 hours from Calais – Troyes (interesting historical town in Champagne)

5 hours from Calais – Beaune area in northern Burgundy, where you’ll find the famous Corton vineyards. I recommend this as a stop on the return journey. Look out for the 60km Burgundy wine tour, La Route des Grands Crus, which runs through spectacular countryside taking in thirty-eight of the most beautiful wine villages. 

6 hours from Calais Mâcon area in southern Burgundy is a good place to stop on the way down. Look out for the Brancion Hotel among the Mâconnais vineyards. Or stop over in Tournus itself - les Remparts is good value.

R & R en route

Remember to buy regional products as you go. Several motorway service stations have regional product shops. And check your overnight destination for local specialities and shops.It’s worth taking a little extra time to see sights. I recommend the chateaux of the Loire, the volcanos of Auvergne, the vineyards of Burgundy and the Rhone valley.

And you should definitely indulge in a fine dinner. It’s worth booking in advance, though, as popular places fill up quickly. The Michelin Guide will help you find places on your route.

The economics

The cost of driving to Cannes compares favourably to other modes of transport if you’re sharing costs. It’s obviously more expensive than an Easy Jet flight booked in advance. But in terms of experience and pleasure, there’s no comparison really.

Apart from the Eurotunnel crossing, you need to factor in:

  • tolls: this will be around €90 door to door if you stay on the motorway
  • fuel: fill up at supermarkets near where you overnight and not on the motorway
  • hotel and food: whatever you want to spend.

Don't forget your breakdown kit - gilets jaunes (hi -vis vests) and a warning triangle.

Arriving in Cannes

If you reserve your accommodation through vca Cannes, we can direct you to our properties that have private parking and guarantee you a parking space. But there are plenty of car parks in Cannes. The Tourist Office has a helpful car parking guide.

And don’t forget – you have your own transport during your stay in Provence, so escape to the towns and villages around Cannes. You’ll find good food and better value than in town. We can recommend some real hidden gems for days out and eating.

On a personal note

If you’d like more details on driving down to Cannes, drop me, Tim Cocking, a mail or call me on +44 7785 267929. Happy to hear from you.