Best for… A taste of the wild northern coast after fashionable Paris
Il viaggio: 386 miglia
In Paris, visit the Musee D’Orsay and the Musée de l'Orangerie to wise up on Monet and the Impressionists. Then drive to the palace of Versailles. Mind-bogglingly large, visit the hall of mirrors, which drips with chandeliers, glassware, mirrored arches and gilded statues.
Dove soggiornare: Trianon Palace Versailles A Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Expect nothing but the best in Versailles. Within walking distance from the Sun King’s palace (it’s in the grounds), this fabulous hotel has two Gordon Ramsey restaurants and a fancy indoor pool.
Go on to explore the gardens of Giverny, another visionary undertaking by one man – Claude Monet. He redirected a local river and lovingly cultivated a garden around it, which he painted through all the shades of the seasons.
One hour’s drive takes you to Normandy. Crane your neck to look up at the western façade of Rouen cathedral – a gothic masterpiece that starred in another famous Monet painting. Look out for fantasy animals carved in relief around the booksellers’ portal and the heart of Richard the Lionheart, not on display, but buried within the ambulatory. The Bayeux Tapestry is held in the town of Bayeux. There’s Harold depicted with an arrow in his eye at the Battle of Hastings, and the same Harold rescuing knights from the quicksand around Mont St Michel.
After its appearance in the tapestry, see the real Mont St Michel. This famous tidal island commune is a precarious cluster of buildings couched in the cliffs. The perilous causeway has earned cautionary tales for centuries. Don’t let that put you off crossing.
Where to stay: You could rest overnight at the Novotel Bayeux, which is a useful base after a long drive.
St Tropez is the starlet of the coast. The little backstreets and glorious seafront is made for a long lunch and a spot of shopping
Finish in the fun, charming town of Nantes, with its fabulous theme park, Les Machines de l'île, and its penchant for moules frites. The birthplace of visionary author Jules Verne, his extraordinary legacy lives on in a mechanised elephant that guests can ride across the park.
Dove soggiornare: Radisson Blu Nantes is a Neoclassical former courthouse. The fancy plasterwork interiors are filled with modern furnishings. You can have an elegant dinner in the hotel, set in a former courtroom. Order! Order!