Avignon, Palais des Papes - France
Mont Sainte Victoire in Provence, France
Roman amfitheatre in Orange, France
A 6 day driving tour along the iconic road
Blue route, holiday route, road of the sun… There’s no shortage of nicknames for this 1,000km asphalt ribbon that connects Paris to Menton by following the route of an ancient royal road and an ancient Roman road.
The Nationale 7 has all the charm of the rural and agricultural landscapes that it crosses, the attraction of its architectural and cultural heritage, the bends of its river beds, the Seine, the Allier and the Rhône.
Here is a 7-day route between Paris and Menton, passing through Nevers, Roanne, Valence and Avignon.
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You leave Paris via Porte d’Italie to discover Fontainebleau and its 25,000 hectares of forest. Built by François I, the Renaissance castle, with its beautiful horseshoe staircase, remains attached to the memory of Napoleon who here bid farewell to the old guard.
At the crossroads of the obelisk, the road leads to Nemours, birthplace of the wealthy American Dupont de Nemours family. It then follows the rural valley from the Loing to Montargis, nicknamed the “Venice of Gâtinais” due to the 131 bridges and footbridges that span numerous canals.
Now head in the direction of Nevers where you can stay overnight.
MyTripTailor advice: About 30km from Montargis arises Briare and its curious canal bridge over the Loire, a technical feat carried out by the Eiffel company in 1896.
In Nevers, dominated by the silhouette of the 11th century St-Cyr-et-Ste-Juliette cathedral, severely scarred by bombing in 1944, the road soars over the last wild river in Europe.
Next comes Moulins (on the banks of the Allier) with its cathedral built in the 15th century in a flamboyant Gothic style.
Greeting your arrival in Lapalisse is the emerging tall outline of the Renaissance château du Maréchal de la Palice.
You are now well on your way to Roanne for your second stage.
MyTripTailor Advice: The Cathedral of Moulins houses a masterpiece ” le Triptyque du Maître de Moulins” dated 1498.
In Roanne, La Nationale crosses a canal put into service in 1838 to transport most notably coal from St-Étienne, Montceau-les-Mines. After a visit to the town and a lunch break, your next rest stop is the Tête Noire, the oldest coaching inn of the “Route Royale”, ancestor of the Nationale 7, built in 1464 at St-Symphorien-de-Lay.
Take the road back down to Tarare, the capital of muslin. Here are the ever present mountains of Beaujolais with their golden stone. Next, the road finally enters Lyon Tassin-la-Demi-Lune.
Gateway to the south, the ancient Lugdunum brings together the Middle Ages and the Renaissance around its cathedral. The secret pathways and traboules of La Croix-Rousse are well-known, as is the gastronomy.
La Nationale then escapes from the Gaul capital via the famous tunnel of Fourvière and descends along the left bank of the Rhone, following the route of Via Agrippa taken by the Roman legions 2,000 years earlier. After 30km it leads to Vienne, known for its ancient site with towering ruins.
Next head to Valence where you will stay overnight.
MyTripTailor Advice: In Roanne, make a gourmet stop opposite the train station, where the Michelin-starred Troisgros restaurant perpetuates a family tradition dating back to 1930.
It’s in Valence « laughing door of the sun » that the south begins! Dominated by its Romanesque cathedral, St-Apollinaire, the city is built on a set of terraces descending towards the river. Further south, to reach Orange, you cross La Drôme, somewhat sluggish, with the Varais mountains to the right,.
Next, head towards Avignon to begin your visit of the city: the Palais des Papes and the Pont Saint-Benezet.
MyTripTailor Advice: In Orange, be sure not to miss the two prestigious Roman monuments classified as UNESCO World Heritage sites: the Arc commémoratif and the ancient theatre.
After a morning roaming the streets of Avignon, take the car towards Fréjus, the next step of your trip. Branching slightly to the southeast, after 100km on the old Via Aurelia, the elegant city of water emerges: Aix-en-Provence. A walk along the Cours Mirabeau is a must. You will marvel at the beautiful mansions.
After Brignoles, a maze of narrow and winding alleys enclosed behind ramparts, the legendary road continues and crosses the Plain des Maures.
From Le Var the Nationale becomes DN7. The crossing of the Esterel between St-Raphaël and Mandelieu, is breathtaking: the road meanders through landscapes of red porphyry, remaining wild and grandiose.
Stop off in Fréjus for the last night of your journey.
MyTriptailor Advice: After Aix, take a detour to the imposing Sainte-Victoire mountain in the east, of which Cézanne would magnify the colours.
The road finally joins, never to leave, the Mediterranean in Cannes. Famous for its international film festival, the seaside city runs along its famous Croisette with its prestigious palaces, that bear witness to the rise of tourism in the 19th and 20th centuries.
By the Baie des Anges, the road then joins Nice, with its Promenade des Anglais and Villa Masséna, dedicated to the history of the city, as well as its Matisse and Marc Chagall museums, its carnival…
And here you are finally arrived in Menton at the end of the dizzying ridge of the Alpes Maritimes. Here is the end of the 1,000km of the Nationale 7, the longest road in France, which inspired the game of 1,000 milestones conceived by Edmond Dujardin in 1954.
MyTripTailor Advice: Choose the spring for this tour (the days are longer) or even September. On the other hand, avoid the summer because of the traffic jams, unless you’re looking to attend a festival in July (Orange, Avignon, Lyon…)
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