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Driving through France, from UK to Switzerland

Pauline

Forums Admin
#1
This year we are going to do it! We almost did the drive last year but changed our minds at the last minute. The plan is to drive from Dorset (in the UK) to Lenk, Switzerland near the end of August.

DAY 1
Drive Dorset to Folkstone - 4 hours (probably will take longer with August traffic).
Train in chunnel to Calais.
Drive Calais to Arras - 1 hour.
Spend one night there. I have booked the very boring Mercure Hotel thinking it will be staffed if we arrive late and will be easy to find.

DAY 2
Drive Arras to Colmar, in the Alsace - 5.5 hours (may take longer, plus we will stop for breaks).
Spend 1 night there. Again booked a Mercure Hotel.

DAY 3
Drive Colmar to Lenk - 3 hours.
>> Should we stop in Strasbourg instead?

We are spending 3 weeks in Lenk and it will be a good savings to have our own car instead of renting one. Of course, now I am worried about our car breaking down (10 years old but low mileage).

Any comments on my choice of route and stopovers? We have to do the drive straight through because of timing with a friend visiting before we leave. On the return I hope to take a different route and spend a couple of nights in a couple of places.

Map showing our route and stops.


View on Google Maps.View: https://www.google.com/maps/d/embed?mid=1PoahGCm_SuTK9-LRIMqp9jDw-pfmrcqz
 
Last edited:
#2
This year we are going to do it! We almost did the drive last year but changed our minds at the last minute. The plan is to drive from Dorset (in the UK) to Lenk, Switzerland near the end of August.

DAY 1
Drive Dorset to Folkstone - 4 hours (probably will take longer with August traffic).
Train in chunnel to Calais.
Drive Calais to Arras - 1 hour.
Spend one night there. I have booked the very boring Mercure Hotel thinking it will be staffed if we arrive late and will be easy to find.

DAY 2
Drive Arras to Colmar, in the Alsace - 5.5 hours (may take longer, plus we will stop for breaks).
Spend 1 night there. Again booked a Mercure Hotel.

DAY 3
Drive Colmar to Lenk - 3 hours.
>> Should we stop in Strasbourg instead?

We are spending 3 weeks in Lenk and it will be a good savings to have our own car instead of renting one. Of course, now I am worried about our car breaking down (10 years old but low mileage).

Any comments on my choice of route and stopovers? We have to do the drive straight through because of timing with a friend visiting before we leave. On the return I hope to take a different route and spend a couple of nights in a couple of places.

Map showing our route and stops.


View on Google Maps.View: https://www.google.com/maps/d/embed?mid=1PoahGCm_SuTK9-LRIMqp9jDw-pfmrcqz
Do you use the Chunnel? Fascinates me, but also frightens me!! If you do or have used it, what does it feel like being locked in those containers?
 
#3
Hi Pauline
If you want somewhere friendly, characterful and slightly quirky on the way back near Calais, then worth a look at Villa Heloise in the quiet village of Andres. It's a short drive from the chunnel.

Hi Sharon
The chunnel is ok. Book the slot, but when not too busy, you can turn up an hour or two early and sometimes get an earlier train. Indeed when it's busy it's still worth doing this as they've taken to delaying the trains, but still allowing choosing an earlier slot on arrival, getting you back on schedule!

There are signs up saying when you 'boarding letter' is ready for boarding, at which point you can (drive and) follow the signs which take you through passport check, then a brief park in lines, until they wave you through to drive around to the platform. You'll turn onto the train (it's not as tight as you might think), then drive along inside the train (now that's weird) until the car in front of you stops in line. Handbrake on, engine off and windows down (at least halfway). A short wait for everyone to board, then a c. 40 min journey which is fairly humdrum (but not unpleasant unless the aircon is off) sat in the car. At the other end, drive off the train, up and away.

There are shops / cafes at both ends, but just the sort of dull / soulless chains you'll find in airports, train stations etc..

In general, a much much better experience than modern air travel, though in the current peak season, the traffic in the UK around the dartford tunnel / bridge can be appalling. The complete opposite in France, wih good roads, well-maintained and far less traffic.

Regards
Ian
 
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#4
One further comment Pauline. I'm not sure if you can adjust the days, but it would be ideal if Day 2 were a sunday, as apart from refrigerated trucks, the lorries are barred from the autoroutes, making for very pleasant driving indeed.
 
#5
Thanks Ian
One further comment Pauline. I'm not sure if you can adjust the days, but it would be ideal if Day 2 were a sunday, as apart from refrigerated trucks, the lorries are barred from the autoroutes, making for very pleasant driving indeed.
Thanks Ian, Certainly is something I would like to try. I'm kind of afraid of being underwater, with no way to escape if something bad happens. Just one of those weird fears!!! I just finished the show, The Tunnel, and they actually filmed inside the cars. Fascinating, and so different from what I thought it would be. Had no idea you drove into box car type containers.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
#6
One further comment Pauline. I'm not sure if you can adjust the days, but it would be ideal if Day 2 were a sunday, as apart from refrigerated trucks, the lorries are barred from the autoroutes, making for very pleasant driving indeed.
Day 1 is Thursday Aug 23. Hoping tunnel traffic won’t be too bad. Our Lenk rental starts on Saturday.

I haven’t cancelled our flights (on miles) or car rental yet, but will next week.

Driving home will start on Saturday so will be driving Sunday.
 
#8
Hi Pauline
If you want somewhere friendly, characterful and slightly quirky on the way back near Calais, then worth a look at Villa Heloise in the quiet village of Andres. It's a short drive from the chunnel.
Do you mean Ardres, Ian? Many years ago when we used to go camping in France every year, we always used to time our ferry (no tunnel then ...) to arrive late afternoon/early evening. Then we would do the short drive to Ardres to stay in a quaint little hotel and have a lovely meal -- the real start of the holiday. I'd hesitate to recommend the places we stayed now though, as it was so long ago. I still remember the time we ordered a bottle of Nuits St Georges and the patronne promptly took the cheap wine glasses away, unlocked her glass-fronted cabinet, and brought out her best cut crystal :)
 
#9
We did a car train in Switzerland thru a mountain and we’ve taken the Eurostar train in the tunnel under the water. So somewhat prepared. But, yes, going under the water is freaky!
The thing is, that you don't see any water, so it really just does feel like being inside your car, inside a train that has no seats.

Hi Veronica
Ardres is very close indeed (2km away) but her place is indeed in Andres, a pleasant village with not much there. Wine glasses are funny. The wine enthusiast community spends many hours talking over them, and despite it seeming illogical, the shape and construction of a glass can make a huge difference. It seems she sees that difference as well.
Regards
Ian
 
#10
The thing is, that you don't see any water, so it really just does feel like being inside your car, inside a train that has no seats.

Hi Veronica
Ardres is very close indeed (2km away) but her place is indeed in Andres, a pleasant village with not much there. Wine glasses are funny. The wine enthusiast community spends many hours talking over them, and despite it seeming illogical, the shape and construction of a glass can make a huge difference. It seems she sees that difference as well.
Regards
Ian
Ah, OK, thanks! I think it was more that she felt a sense of occasion and due respect was needed for the fine wine. But certainly the shape and size of the glass makes a difference. I still remember the meal too, one of my best ever ... home-made vegetable soup, omelette, chips and peas, tarte aux pommes :) Just the perfect country auberge meal, and with the whole holiday to look forward to!
 

Kathy

100+ Posts
#11
I would NOT overnight in Strasbourg. It's a great city, but it's big and busy and complicated to get in and out (and park) if you're just wanting to walk around a little and spend the night. Colmar is much more manageable (and not far off the autoroute) and a pretty town. How much time do you think you'd have there?

What does the Mercure hotel say about parking? And where is it located?
 
#13
That route is very similar to the one we used to drive, for many years, passing through Switzerland and then on to Italy. I absolutely agree with Kathy about Colmar: smaller towns are so much easier for one-night stops. I’m sure you'll enjoy having your own car there - not to mention the huge advantage of just chucking everything you want/think you might need in the boot at home, and having it with you always.

In an unrelated aside, I think I now understand why many Americans find the thought of European driving scary. After 3 weeks of driving ourselves round short trips, and one longer one, here in Colorado: everything is so orderly, People keep to the speed limit every bit as much as they do in Switzerland (and in few other European countries); in-town driving is so relaxed, with real acknowledgement of pedestrian priority at crossings and crossroads.
 
#14
In an unrelated aside, I think I now understand why many Americans find the thought of European driving scary. After 3 weeks of driving ourselves round short trips, and one longer one, here in Colorado: everything is so orderly, People keep to the speed limit every bit as much as they do in Switzerland (and in few other European countries); in-town driving is so relaxed, with real acknowledgement of pedestrian priority at crossings and crossroads.
Well, the driving courtesy varies between countries. I find British urban drivers generally more considerate than French ones in terms of giving way, letting people out in heavy traffic etc. I hesitate to step onto zebra crossings in France, whereas in Spain drivers will stop instantly if you just happen to be walking towards a zebra crossing without intending to cross. In fact when driving in Spain you have to be aware that people will step confidently onto crossings in front of you assuming you have seen them and will stop -- in France I don't step out till I've made eye contact with the driver! Don't get me started on French tailgating and ignorance of the use of indicators ...
 
#15
In an unrelated aside, I think I now understand why many Americans find the thought of European driving scary.
Parking spaces are wider and the space between rows is wider so it is easier to pull in and out.

Highways have wide shoulders where you can pull over and stop or where a broken down vehicle can be pushed to instead of closing the highway like they do in Dorset.

Fewer roundabouts!
 

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