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We want to drive to the south of France, by avoiding Paris. Since we will be traveling with small children we want to take it very easy, and take some days to get there. I am familiar with the autoroutes to the south, but I prefer to take the "route national", which have better sceneries and allow "going with the flow".

Are there routes I should consider to travel from the Benelux to the south of France?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

It is a more or less personal opinion, but I personally would first travel along the Rhine valley. There you can find nice landscape and also stop in beautiful cities like Strasbourg. After that I would carry on through Alsace, crossing nice cities like Colmar. After that I would try to cross the Alps, to see some high mountains and beautiful landscape. It depends a little bit on where exactly in the South of France you want to travel (i.e. to the border with Spain or Italy or between), but assuming that it is somewhere in the middle like Marseille, I would then visit the Swiss city Basel and travel along Lake Neuchatel and Lake Geneva back to France. There I would aim to Chambéry, located directly between two Natural Parks. And from there you can pass Col de l'Iseran, the highest pass in the Alps (2770m) to get to Italy. From there I would aim at Albenga so that you can later follow the beautiful Italian respectively France coastline to your destination.

Here is a map of my suggested route: enter image description here

Google Maps tells me it is 1495 km, while the direct route would be 866 km. So you see it is really a lot more to drive, but you will also see a lot more!

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It might not be fun to drive the Col d'Iseran if passengers are likely to get carsick. Or other high cols for that matter. –  gerrit Jul 17 '12 at 12:20
    
Yes that's true. If your fellow travelers get car sick easily, you should maybe avoid the Alps. –  RoflcoptrException Jul 17 '12 at 12:31
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agreement - the road from lausanne to grenoble is very nice as is the coastal part from genoa to marseille. all trips over the alps (4 different roads) I have made have been stunning. –  froderik Jul 17 '12 at 13:27
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the Route Napoleon is also supposed to be nice (it goes from Grenoble to the sea). There is a lot of information about it, mostly in French(but a map and pictures are the same for any language). I drove only a part of it but as @froderik said, most roads in the Alps are pretty nice. –  Vince Sep 4 '12 at 21:58
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Take the "route des vaccances" (Nationale 7). It is a mythical road in France and crossing fine places, such as Bourgogne, Auvergne and the Rhône Valley. No "autoroute".

Officially this road starts in Paris. But you can avoid it. Travel through the Ardennes to Reims (via Charleville-Mézières) and then to Fontainebleau, where you rejoin the N7. If you come from one of the Luxembourgs, one of the Limburgs or Liège, you can easily reach Charleville-Mézières via Libramont, Bouillon and Sedan, as shown on this sample itinerary.

This first part to Fontainebleau involves some portions of "autoroute".

If you love moutains, there is an alternative road that runs through the Ardennes, along the Moselle, across the Vosges, Franche-Comté and Jura to Grenoble, from where you can take the scenic Route Napoléon (N85) to Grasse. Lots of fines places too. There are some small portions of "autoroute" involved (Thionville - Nancy and Chambéry - Grenoble), but it is straightforward to avoid them if necessary. Or you can add more "autoroute" if you want to shorten a bit.

This road can be done in three days if you come from Belgium, Luxembourg or Dutch Limburg. If you live further North, it can be wise to foresee one additional day.

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