As spring sunshine gets the feet itching, I’m drawn to the idea of leaping in the car and heading down through France – and the prospect of the journey on French motorways.
As spring sunshine gets the feet itching, I’m drawn to the idea of leaping in the car and heading down through France – and the prospect of the journey on French motorways is as pleasurable as the destination.
The autoroutes seem somehow more spacious and leisurely than most British motorways. For a start, there’s the overhead road signs, which have the tone of courteously inviting me to take a break or drive carefully, rather than barking instructions. Then there are the brown tourist signs with information and gorgeous graphics about nearby places. One day I swear I’ll drive off on a whim just to see the glass works, cathedral or whatever is depicted. And when it’s time to take a break, every option is catered for, from the Aires with beautifully landscaped picnic areas to information about local village restaurants and, finally, the ultimate service area. In truth, I must admit to having had one truly terrible service area experience on the way to the Dordogne, but in general the greeting is polite, the food great quality and value and the shops fascinating.
I particularly remember a stop on the A72 where the parking spaces are marked with obelisks as a nod to the region’s Neolithic sites and the setting is woodland. I ate tasty fish with green lentils and vegetables for about 7 euros, bought gifts with a local theme in the shop and left with a smile on my face that lasted for several kilometres.