Paris, the vineyards, good food is all very well, but it is possible to add a “gearhead” or car enthusiast component to the visit of this country and its European neighbours to enhance the travel experience.
First stop: The City of Lights
When you are on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, don’t miss Atelier 53. It’s easy to find, 53 being the address and it’s just a few steps from the Arc de Triomphe. It’s a space where Renault shows its current products and know-how. It’s also a restaurant where you can eat (yes, the prices are in line with the other restaurants on the biggest avenue in the world, so it’s a bit expensive) and watch the F1 Grand Prix on TV. You can see the vehicles on demonstration, and also take some pictures in the Formula 1 stand that simulates a pit stop. Of course, the boutique offers an almost endless array of souvenirs, including products bearing the Alpine logo.
Then… a trip to Le Mans
If your journey in France takes you to the west coast from Paris, a stop in Le Mans is a must. This place doesn’t need any more introductions. The Circuit des 24 Heures is very easy to find by following the signs from the motorway. Once there, you will find a well-stocked souvenir shop and a museum. It is also possible to see the trail up close and to do so, different packages are offered: self-guided tour (on foot), or accompanied by a guide. A version with a guide who personifies a driver is even available, in addition to group visits that allow access to exclusive areas such as the podium and the race direction room.
Don’t miss: Monaco
Let’s now head south and more specifically to the Principality of Monaco, an exotic destination par excellence. Once there, you don’t have to go very far to see exceptional cars. When we arrived on the Grand Place, three Bentleys were parked… We also crossed several exotic Italian and English cars, for the pleasure of our eyes and ears! The ideal is to find a parking space and to make the visit on foot. There are several underground car parks in Monaco and, good news, the first hour is free! A small paying train also goes around the main attractions and of course passes through the tunnel of the F1 circuit.
And while you’re there, take the opportunity to visit Prince Rainier’s personal collection of cars. You can see a hundred exceptional cars, including several Formula 1 and rally cars…
Monaco being landlocked between the sea and the mountains, it also gives the opportunity to ride on some of the most beautiful roads in the world. The Route des Grandes Alpes is one of them. From the town of Menton, take the direction of Sospel and make sure that your passengers don’t get motion sickness because it turns into a mountainside! Assured pleasure (for the driver) and incomparable panorama (for your passengers).
Of course, hotels are rather expensive on the French Riviera. A little tip if you plan to spend a few days in the area: the small town of Seborga, Italy. Located in the mountains, about 35 minutes from the Principality, it offers several B&Bs at reasonable prices. Not to mention the welcome of the guests and the breathtaking view. You’ll be in the clouds, literally and figuratively!
And for dessert: Maranello
If your route takes you even further south and east, into the Bologna region, there is another city not to be missed: Maranello. First recommended stop: the Ferrari museum. You will be able to see several road and race cars (above a 312 T4 ex-Gilles Villeneuve in 1979), as well as a temporary exhibition. The theme during our visit: the Hypercars. The F40, F50, Enzo and LaFerrari, among others, could be seen there.
After the museum, it is very tempting to get into action and drive one of those red racing cars… To satisfy your desire, several companies (not related to Ferrari) are nearby and offer short term rentals to take a Ferrari (or other exotic) tour for a few dozen Euros. On this beautiful sunny day, we took the opportunity to rent a Ferrari California for a few minutes. With the guide seated on the right, it’s a great way to have a good time and also to enjoy it with two passengers in the back.
And finally, just a stone’s throw from the museum, you can go and pay tribute to the greatest driver that Canada has ever known: Gilles Villeneuve. A statue of his bust is clearly visible near the entrance to the Circuit of Fiorano, on the street that bears his name .