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Geoff's guide - Driving from Calais to this area

Geoff's guide - Driving from Calais to this area

Postby geoffllo » Fri Aug 10, 2018 5:27 pm

From time to time, members ask about the best way to drive from Calais down to this area. Having just arrived back home this afternoon, having driven the route, I thought I would post my findings while they are still fresh in my mind!
Geoff.

Calais to Costa Blanca South

Overview.
In August 2018 (for the umpteenth time!) I drove from Calais to the Alicante area. The route I took is the result of years of trying various options, and fine-tuning, and nowadays is very successful. It takes in fast motorways, fast trunk roads, good quality rural main roads and some spectacular scenery. I use a sat nav app on my smartphone, called “Waze” which I find is better than any of my previous TomToms, Garmins etc.

How I did it.
As I was leaving Calais I set the satnav to Évreux – paying tolls. This took me along to Rouen and over the Pont Mathilde bridge and down a shortish section of motorway before turning off towards Évreux. Shortly before Évreux, I reset the satnav to Tours – avoiding tolls. This took me down past Dreux, Chartres etc (look out for the spires of the beautiful Chartres Cathedral on the horizon in front of you) and onto the N10 (later D910) towards Tours. Then about 10 km before Tours, I turned round to the right – blue signpost “Bordeaux (peage)” and went out onto the A10/E5 motorway, joining it at Junction 19. I stayed on the A10 as far as Junction 30, where I exited following the green signs for “Angôuleme” and took the N10 trunk road right down to about 30 km before Bordeaux, where you go onto a free section of the A10 motorway. Approaching Bordeaux, I followed the green signs for “Bayonne”, which took me around the Bordeaux ring road and onto the A63 signposted “Bayonne & Mont de Marsan”. I continued on the A63 down to Junction 18 where I exited onto the D834 towards Mont de Marsan. As soon as I was on that road, I set the satnav to Oloron Sant-Marie, this being the town where you first see signs for places in Spain. Coming into Oloron Sant-Marie, I followed the signs for “Saragosse”/“Huesca”/”Tunel de Somport”. I followed this road up the lower slopes of the Pyrenees to an altitude of 1000 metres (stunning scenery), then entered the (8.6 km long) Tunel de Somport. At the far end of the tunnel, I followed the signs for “Jaca”, then “Huesca”. This ensured that I got onto the superb (toll-free) A23 “Autovía Mudéjar”, which passes Huesca, Zaragoza and goes right on down through Spain past Teruel and right down, nearly into Valencia. Once I was on the A23, I set the satnav for my home address – no tolls. This took me down the A23 and round the Valencia ring road. After passing Valencia, eventually the road splits – left for the AP7 to Alicante, or right for the A7 to Alicante. My satnav took me to the right, this being the toll-free route. (I would only recommend the AP 7 for folks who want to get to the northern Costa Blanca – Gandia, Denia, Benidorm etc). For the southern Costa Blanca, it is just as quick to use the free A7 – later A35 – later A31, and down towards Alicante etc that way.

Tolls/ Distance/Driving time.
I paid a total of €22.80 altogether for the whole journey – Calais to home. This is not bad when you consider that it is possible to pay at least €160 in tolls on some routes that people recommend. Distance about 1850 km. Driving time about 21 hours. Two overnight stops, this time at Angôuleme & Zaragoza. I just drive until I feel tired, then go on Booking.com and look for a hotel for around €50 to €60.

Speed in France.
There are speed cameras everywhere in France, and they’re not always all that conspicuous. Also bear in mind that from 1st July 2018, for any road which does not have physical separation between the carriageways, they have reduced the speed limit from 90 kph to 80 kph and they are enforcing it, despite not yet having changed the signs from 90 to 80!

Wintertime.
In the depths of winter, snow occasionally closes the Tunel de Somport. I would check ahead, and if it is closed, I would go from Bordeaux to Irún, Pamplona and then across to the A23, rejoining the route above.
Last edited by geoffllo on Fri Aug 10, 2018 7:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Geoff's guide - Driving from Calais to this area

Postby jpeg » Fri Aug 10, 2018 6:17 pm

Do you have to pull over and stop everytime you reset the Satnav
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Re: Geoff's guide - Driving from Calais to this area

Postby geoffllo » Fri Aug 10, 2018 6:43 pm

Yes, but I only did it three times in two and a half days, so it wasn't much of a problem. My car has a device in the seat next to me which automatically nags me if I touch my phone whilst driving, bless her!
Geoff.
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Re: Geoff's guide - Driving from Calais to this area

Postby Calledali » Fri Aug 10, 2018 8:42 pm

I’ve done that same route starting in Northumberland with only one stop at Angouleme. In hindsight I now have 2 stops, usually South of Rouen, and then in Candancu.
Beautiful scenery, but be careful on France.
Lately I have been using Brittany Ferries overnight and then only 1 stop. Still doable as a solo driver
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Re: Geoff's guide - Driving from Calais to this area

Postby geoffllo » Fri Aug 10, 2018 9:21 pm

Yes, Brittany Ferries ships are far nicer and more relaxing than driving down through France, but twice their off-season price at the moment, which makes them too dear for me.
Geoff.
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Re: Geoff's guide - Driving from Calais to this area

Postby nigieboy » Sat Aug 11, 2018 9:19 am

Good post...we always try to vary our route and always avoid Paris! Some great towns and sights throughout france so we try and spend a few hours looking around these en route...and try tollfree routes as much as possible..
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Re: Geoff's guide - Driving from Calais to this area

Postby bergor » Sat Aug 11, 2018 10:53 am

:text-goodpost:
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Re: Geoff's guide - Driving from Calais to this area

Postby loners » Sat Aug 11, 2018 12:24 pm

Yes good post.thanks
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Re: Geoff's guide - Driving from Calais to this area

Postby GrahamR » Sat Aug 11, 2018 3:37 pm

Thanks Geoff!
I fly down 3 times a year and drive once. In fact, I am driving back to the UK next Thursday.
Broadly speaking, I use similar routes to you but vary the destinations, as we only drive 4-7 hours a day and make it part of the holiday. Also, we do pay more in tolls.
I would just like to say that I set the Satnav to Rouen and then change it to my first night stop in the Loire Valley. The problem at the moment is Rouen as there are a lot of roadworks, but I think my Satnav may not have taken the best route through the town. We stay in Saumur, Chinon or Amboise.
On the second day, we have a short drive to St Émilion or Bergerac. This year, we stayed in Bergerac, met some old friends and had a great night watching the fireworks on the riverfront as it was Bastille Day.
Then we either take the Somport Tunnel and stay at Jaca or Huesca, before heading to Quesada, or go to Figueres. We really like the hotel there, but the problem is high road tolls and the AP7 through Barcelona and Valencia is busy and best avoided. In the past, we have gone via Bayonne towards San Sabastian and stopped over at Olite, but I think the border crossings near San Sebastian and Narbonne ar best avoided. The Somport route is the quickest and cheapest.
Next Thursday, we are staying in Sabiñánigo and will take a tour of the historic Canfranc Estacion (it is just by the southern entrance of the Somport Tunnel. If you have not seen it, you should google it). Then onto St Émilion and then Châteaudun.
Thanks again!
Graham
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Re: Geoff's guide - Driving from Calais to this area

Postby geoffllo » Sat Aug 11, 2018 5:23 pm

Thanks for that Graham, all very interesting.
I've got bottled up in Rouen several times in the past when my satnav has been on "avoid tolls"! But by doing what I said in my post and paying the small toll on the way to Évreux, I went straight round the outside of Rouen with no delays at all, so for your trip up there, I would suggest that when you get to Évreux, you switch to paying tolls through to Calais.
Talking about the Somport Tunnel, the old disused railway that runs along by the road on your way up there is being refurbished. They've done quite a bit of it already. I don't know how much of it they're going to do overall - I believe it used to run all the way from Pau to Jaca, via Canfranc Estacion, of course.
I never pre-book hotels, I just drive until I'm tired, then go on Booking.com and look for somewhere for around €50 to €60.
Good luck with your next trip!
Geoff.
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