For many travel enthusiasts, visiting Europe is the epitome of the perfect summer vacation. Europe has many famous and romantic “must see” spots, not the least of which is France. For beauty, breathtaking scenery and poignant venues, a road trip through France can be filled with excitement and wonder.
Planning The Route
With careful preparation, the trip doesn’t have to be intimidating. Start by picking up a map and studying the major roads and arteries through the cities. The thought of taking a wrong turn and getting lost is not as scary with a map safely tucked away in the glove compartment.
Before leaving home, arrange for a car rental. Taking a flight into a major city like Paris and then traveling by train to a smaller town or village to pick up the car is a good way to get accustomed to the roads and street signs. For inexperienced international drivers, this helps avoid having to drive in heavy traffic in a large metropolitan area. Once in France, there are a number of autos for rent on a weekly basis:
- For an economy car, the Fiat 500 Cabriolet
- In the full size category, the Renault Espace 7 Places
- For an environmentally friendly “green” car, the Smartfortwo Cabriolet Auto
- For a luxury vehicle, either the Mercedes Vito 9 Places, the Audi A5SB BVA, the Mercedes E220 CDI BA7, or the Audi A8 Auto
- For an automatic transmission vehicle, the Mini Cooper Cab or the Renault Megane Cabrio Auto
- For a cargo van or truck, the Peugeot 207 Affaire, the 12M3 7 Places Iveco Daily, the 10M3 Mercedes Sprinter EEV, or the 5M3 Mercedes Vito
Purchasing Auto Insurance
Many policies on drivers’ personal vehicles will extend to car rentals, but why take chances when traveling in a foreign country? When making arrangements for a car rental in France, additional insurance never hurts. A number of car rental agencies offer more than one type of coverage.
The basic rate is less expensive but doesn’t include Collision and Theft insurance. The inclusive rate provides the additional coverage, but the deductibles are high. One solution is to lease a car, which provides Comprehensive coverage. Another alternative is to use Visa or Mastercard, which provide Collision Damage Waiver coverage at no charge.
Staying Safe When Carrying Currency
A great idea is to exchange American currency for Euros before beginning the road trip. Travelers in the know who look less like American tourists find that the locals take them more seriously when they make the extra effort to blend in.
A tip to remember is that when touring Europe, travelers’ checks are not as widely accepted as they are in the United States. Since the mid-1990s, use of travelers’ checks when traveling internationally has been on the decline. Credit cards are the wiser choice.
Seeing the Sights
The obvious touristy places to see in France are the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre and Orsay museums in Paris. But venturing off the beaten path and looking past the glitter reveals some overlooked gems.
- Square Scipion, at the corner of rue Scipion and rue du Fer a Moulin, has a children’s playground with a lovely ceramic fresco. The work was commissioned from Alexandre Charpentier for the 1900 Universal Exhibition.
- Some say the Father Lachaise Cemetery, located on the eastern edge of Paris, is the most famous cemetery in all of Europe. More than 300,000 people are buried there, including a number of famous writers and artists.
- The Cite l’Argentine, obscure and unknown to many, was built on two levels in 1904 for an Argentine named Senor Mayol de Senillosa. One of the shops inside is the Bal Masque, where Carnival costumes are sold.
Exploring along roads less traveled can reveal sights often overlooked by crowds of tourists. Spending time in some of the smaller towns and villages gives a true feel of what France is really like. Don’t miss a golden opportunity to soak up some arts and culture by traveling through this beautiful and historic country this summer.