Driving route a thing of beauty

My husband and I are planning to hire a car for two weeks in France in May. We plan to spend three days in Paris followed by a couple of days in Brittany and Normandy. We would then like to drive across France to see the Alps and wind our way back to Paris through the Loire Valley. We are more interested in seeing natural wonders, scenery and people than museums and wine-growing areas and we are used to driving long distances. Can you please suggest a possible route and perhaps even some small towns where we could find accommodation and won’t be overrun with people?

- K. Kimbrey, Wollongong.

From the French Alps, you could head south-west towards Avignon, planning a route along the Durance River valley with a slight deviation to the north to take in the Fountain of Vaucluse, the villages of Gordes and L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and Senanque Abbey. From Avignon, head north-west towards Bagnol-sur-Ceze and then north for a few kilometres and turn west along the gorge of the Ardeche for a really lovely drive.

This is the Auvergne region, which stretches itself out across the slow rolling hills of the Massif Central. It incorporates the country’s two largest national parks, lakes, gorges and snowy mountain peaks where chamois and wild sheep graze on the slopes and where some of the most famous rivers of France, including the Loire, are born. It’s also unmolested.

When you get to Vallon-Pont-d’Arc at the western end of the Ardeche Gorge, continue north-west across the rugged Cevennes region heading for Mende on the banks of the lovely Lot River. From there meander north to take in Chaudes-Aigues, Puy Mary, the Auvergne volcanoes, Le Mont-Dore and finally Vichy before the run back to Paris.

For accommodation, the sites I use in rural France include Logis de France (logishotels.com), Hotels de Charme (hotelsdecharme.com) and France-Voyage (france-voyage.com).