Driving in France is easy once you’ve got used to being on the wrong side of the road! All the autoroutes are very well signed and are easy to follow as long as you know which direction you’re heading. Eg. Towards hello velo head towards Lyon and miss. Towards Calais, head towards Lille and miss.
Toilet stops are easy once you’re in France, as there are “Aires” at regular intervals, these are large tree lined areas with toilets and picnic tables dotted around and make for a decent stop. There are also “Service Station” Aires that do a variety of reasonable food and great coffee. They have no problem with you picnicking at these and usually have lots of tables outside.
The most direct route from the port of Calais to Hello Velo will take you around Paris. As long as you stick to the outer ring road (n104) getting around Paris it’s relatively easy (and ideal for a day at Disneyland or parc asterix). Sat nav will try to take you on the inner ring road A3 (E15), which goes around the centre of the City. The congestion on this route can be bad and is best avoided if you don’t like traffic! However clients have gone this way and had no trouble at all.
If you take the 104, the journey around Paris( clockwise A1 to A6) should take an hour. The traffic tends to stay the same on this route so barring accidents you will be sure of your timings. Basically you go in at from the A1 at ‘12 o’clock’ and leave for the A6 at ‘6oclock’
A longer, but more scenic route takes you into the north of burgundy through the Champagne country. This takes you along beautiful roads and through the MORVAN regional park and has the advantage of avoiding Paris, via the A26 direction Reims. Friends of ours who have come this way have taken the advantage of enjoying a champagne lunch. Arriving later but REALLY enjoying the trip!
The French Autoroutes have tolls and are the quickest way of getting around. Compared to British roads they are traffic free and will cost about 35 euros( one way) if you go around Paris. Toll roads do not charge for going round major cities. Toll gates and are made a load easier with a liberte tag which can be bought from the uk and are really useful if you intend to come to France a lot. At the moment euro tunnel ( le shuttle) have an offer to get a free tag, leaving you with only the cost of the actual tolls (taken directly from your bank acc in the uk) We get through cues with a little satisfying beep as the tag activates the barrier – it’s great! And if you are travelling on your own you don’t need to have an inspector gadget arm!