After our culinary (Ojja with Merguez and Brick Pastry with Tunisian salad) and actual trips to Tunisia, we are now heading for a European country: France. I have spent many, many summer holidays in France, mainly because a large part of my family lives there and so, despite the distance, we could regularly see my grandparents. For almost my entire years as a teenager, my mother and I took these trips as road trips through France. With the tent in the boot, we knew more or less which route we wanted to take to drive to the respective meeting point with the grandparents. However, we were very flexible and often enough we decided by tossing a coin whether we wanted to go left or right, stay another night or continue our journey.
As we also had a complete collection of all Asterix volumes at home, the “Tour de Gaule d’Asterix” (“Asterix and the Banquet” in English) was a fixed part of our general education. In this volume of Asterix comics, Asterix and Obelix travel through Gaul, i.e. France, as part of a bet and bring back a local culinary speciality from each place as proof that they had been there.
In retrospect, I am actually surprised that we never did Asterix’s Tour de France during our summer trips! However, we did follow in the footsteps of Asterix in a different way, namely in search of the monument to Vercingetorix in Gergovia. But, at least at that time, it was not so easy to find – as the saying goes in Asterix and the Chieftain’s Shield: “Alesia? I do not know any Alesia. I’ve never heard of Alesia!”
However, my brother and his family have already done a slightly modified version of Asterix’s Tour de France as a road trip with their motorhome. So I was inspired by this idea and designed my own route.
Asterix himself takes the following route:
- Starting point: Gallic village
- Rotamagus = Rouen
- Lutetia = Paris
- Camaracum = Cambrai
- Durocortorum = Reims
- Dividorum = Metz
- Lugdunum = Lyon
- Nicae = Nice
- Massilia = Marseille
- Tolosa = Toulouse
- Aginum = Agen
- Burdigala = Bordeaux
- Gesoscribate = Le Conquet
- End: Gallic village
If you take this route as a road trip, you have about 3,500 km to go. As I, personally, find this too long, I have divided the tour into two trips: One is a road trip through the north of France, which I will present in this article; the other one is a road trip through the south of France, which will follow in a later article. There, I will also describe how you can combine the two routes. The two individual tours are designed for a fortnight each, the whole Tour de Gaule then accordingly for 4 weeks. To make the road trips a little more interesting, I have included additional stops at places that are known for a local culinary speciality and that are worth a visit.
From Paris, the first stop is Asterix’s home, the Gallic village in Brittany. Then you travel through the north of France with stops in Rouen, Cambrai and Reims. After another stop in Reims I have added two more stations, namely Colmar in Alsace and Dijon, before returning to Paris. Apart from the culinary specialities, you will definitely see very beautiful, old, historic cities and, above all, numerous impressive cathedrals!
- Duration: 13 days plus arrival and homeward journey, hence 14 nights
- Start: Paris
- End: Paris
- Distance in total: 2.149 km = 1.335 mi
- Themes: food, culture, historic places, Asterix
View the route on Google Maps.
This road trip through the north of France starts and ends in Paris, but of course you can start at any other place, too.
Saturday: Arrival in Paris = Lutetia
The first day is dedicated to the journey to Paris. Depending on when you arrive there, you can also use the day to see the city. Paris is so diverse that it is difficult to make concrete suggestions here. A short walk along the Seine and the sight of the illuminated Eiffel Tower in the dark could certainly be a nice start.
Sunday: Start of the road trip with the drive from Paris to Erquy (454 km = 282 mi)
In the morning, you will first pick up your rental car and then the journey begins. Unfortunately, the first drive is also very long, but then the hardest part is done and the later stages will be shorter.
If you want to stop somewhere to do some sightseeing on the way, you can stop for example in Chartres to see the impressive cathedral. By the way, one of the specialities from Chartres are the Mentchikoffs, small chocolate pralines in a white coat, which, in my opinion, look a bit like Obelix’s menhirs!
Our destination is the Gallic village where Asterix lives! But the question is where exactly this village is located. The comic books do not give any exact information about this, they only talk about the Aremorican coast. This includes Brittany and Normandy, but the large magnifying glass on the first page of the Asterix books makes it impossible to see in which of the two regions the village lies exactly. However, there are a few volumes that show Asterix’s travel itineraries and give an indication of the exact location of the village. These are in particular Asterix at the Olympic Games, Asterix in Spain and our Asterix and the Banquet. According to these, the Gallic village is located on the north coast of Brittany, and both the villages of Erquy and Le Moulin de la Rive claim to be the true Gallic village. As the route from Paris is already quite long, I have chosen Erquy as my destination here. But it is clear that René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo have deliberately left this question open, so that you can actually choose any village on the Aremorican coast.
Monday: Erquy/Brittany = Aremorica
You can use the next day to visit some parts of Brittany. In the area around Erquy there are a number of picturesque places that give you a first impression of the beauty of this region. Nearby are, for example, the small town of Saint-Brieuc, the impressive Fort-la-Latte castle perched directly on the rocks by the sea, and the well-known Saint-Malo, which is very popular with tourists.
As a speciality you can of course eat a lot of galettes, i.e. something like savoury crêpes, but made with buckwheat flour. Although I am a great lover of both sweet crêpes and savoury galettes, they are unfortunately not so easy to pack in your suitcase. Therefore, the traditional Breton cake with the beautiful name Kouign-Amann is the perfect choice as a culinary souvenir!
Tuesday: Drive from Erquy to Rouen = Rotamagus (346 km = 215 mi)
Now we leave Brittany and drive to Rouen, in Normandy. There are several stops you can make on the way.
For example, you can see one of the more famous menhirs, the Menhir du Champ Dolent near Dol-de-Bretagne. In our experience, however, you can discover a menhir or a dolmen in just about every village in Brittany.
Afterwards, of course, there is a visit to the famous Mont-Saint-Michel. The island of the Mont-Saint-Michel is accessible all year round, regardless of the tides. Only a few days a year the tide rises so high that access is not possible during about an hour. Actually, Mont-Saint-Michel has the strongest tides in Europe. The French version of the Normandy tourism website provides more information on this.
Wednesday: Rouen = Rotamagus
Today you can take your time and visit Rouen. Rouen is the capital of Normandy and is characterised by its picturesque half-timbered houses. In addition, France’s patron saint, Joan of Arc, was burned at the stake here, which is still commemorated by a statue and a modern church (Église Sainte Jeanne d’Arc), which is architecturally controversial but certainly worth seeing. The city’s main monuments include the Gros Horloge with its lunar calendar, which was once important for shipping, and Rouen Cathedral, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame l’Assomption de Rouen.
Asterix himself did not get around to it, but of course you should buy a local speciality! Normandy is best known for its Calvados apple brandy and Camembert cheese.
Thursday: Drive from Rouen to Cambrai = Camaracum (213 km = 133 mi)
Today’s destination is called Cambrai and is especially famous for its candies Bêtises de Cambrai, which also Asterix brought home from here. I have to admit, however, that I had never heard of the city or the sweets before, although the photos of the sweets ring a bell, I must have eaten them as a child. Yet, after some research I found out that Cambrai indeed looks like a nice little town. It might not be the highlight of the trip, but it seems to be worth a visit. Apart from some historical buildings, I personally would be particularly interested by the museum donated by Henri Matisse himself with a large collection of his works. You can find a good overview of the sights in English in the blog The Crazy Tourist.
Friday: Drive from Cambrai to Reims = Durocortorum (142 km = 88 mi)
The drive from Cambrai to Reims is not very long, so you can use it for a nice stop along the way. Both Saint-Quentin and Laon are located directly on the route, both of which should be worth a short stroll around town.
Saturday: Reims = Durocortorum
First, Reims is famous as being the most important city in the Champagne region, as many champagne cellars are based there. It is worth visiting one of these wineries and learning a lot about the history and production of champagne. In any case, I can still remember the visit I did, although it was a good 20 years ago. Not necessary to say that you should buy some champagne as Reims’s culinary speciality!
Second, Reims is of course famous for… its cathedral, what else. Incidentally, in the history of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims, we once again encounter Joan of Arc, who attended the coronation of Charles VII there after she helped him win the Hundred Years’ War.
The Basilica of Saint-Remi is less well known, but is said to be just as beautiful. You can find some information about this in the multilingual blog Voyage Tips.
Sunday: Drive from Reims to Metz = Dividorum (191 km = 119 mi)
The journey continues to Metz in Lorraine. The journey is not so long, so a stopover is not really necessary. However, if you wish, you can of course stop in Verdun and learn about a sad part of Franco-German history at the scene of one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War.
You can also drive straight through to Metz, so that you then have more time to visit the city. I do not need to mention that Metz also has an impressive cathedral, the Cathédrale Saint-Étienne.
Apart from that, Metz places a special emphasis on art. For one thing, you can visit the Centre Pompidou with its exhibitions of contemporary art. There are also various circuits around the city displaying various works of art. It is also worth taking a walk at night, especially to see the light installations of the “Constellations” project.
In addition to that, Metz is known for its many gardens and parks, making it a great place to stroll surrounded by nature.
You can find a nice description of various circuits and sights in Metz in German on the blog Reisehappen.
When it comes to culinary specialities, Asterix does not bring anything from Metz. The most famous speciality of the region and, by the way, one of my absolute favourite dishes is of course quiche lorraine. Alternatively, Lorraine also offers numerous dishes with mirabelle plums, but it rather is Metz’s neighbouring town of Nancy which is particularly famous for its mirabelle plums.
Monday: Drive from Metz to Colmar = Columbaria (235 km = 146 mi)
If you want to stick with Asterix’s Tour de France, you can drive back to Paris from Metz to complete the round. However, I have included a small detour, which I think is worth the trip both from a tourist and culinary point of view.
So, first of all, we are going to Colmar in Alsace. On the way you can take a longer break and visit Strasbourg (Argentorate). You can use this stop to stroll through the old town of Strasbourg and have a look at the picturesque half-timbered houses. The most famous district is certainly La Petite France, the former tannery quarter.
Tuesday: Colmar = Columbaria
The next day you can visit beautiful Colmar. With its half-timbered houses and picturesque waterways, Colmar and Strasbourg are quite alike, but at least on an international level, Colmar is less well known and therefore a little less crowded, although there are still enough tourists. Again, it is the former tanners’ quarter that is particularly worth seeing, but here it is called La Petite Venise, i.e. little Venice. At every corner you will discover a richly decorated old house or a nice café. Anyway, Alex and I enjoyed very much to just let ourselves drift through the small alleys.
Alsace is known for various specialities, but my personal favourite is definitely the Flammkuchen!
Wednesday: Drive from Colmar to Dijon = Divio (251 km = 156 mi)
Also the last stop before returning to Paris is not part of Asterix’s trip. Nevertheless, Dijon is simply part of a culinary journey, as the name of the city automatically brings to mind mustard. The best way to visit Dijon is to follow the owl, namely by following the small plates with owls on them, which are set into the streets. This will give you a good impression of the main sights of the city. And do not forget to buy some mustard.
Thursday: Drive from Dijon to Paris = Lutetia (316 km = 197 mi)
Now it’s back to Paris. For this route I would rather suggest not to plan any sightseeing, so that there is a little more time for Paris. This way, you can bring back your rental car in the evening and buy some ham, the famous Jambon de Paris, like Asterix. And of course a few Champignons de Paris would go well with it!
Friday: Paris = Lutetia
The last day is reserved for Paris. The city is so diverse that it is difficult to recommend anything in particular. If you have never been to Paris before, you will probably want to visit at least some of the most famous sights. These certainly include the Champs Élysées, the Montmartre district, the Sacré-Coeur Basilica and Notre-Dame Cathedral, and the Louvre Museum. But there are of course countless other districts and sights to see, especially many museums.
Saturday: Homeward journey from Paris = Lutetia
Time to go home.
Which fictional trip would you like to turn into a real journey?
During the France road trips in my youth I described in the introduction, I have seen many French towns and villages. These include most, but not all, of the stops I will be presenting during these two Asterix tours. Unfortunately, most of the trips took place so long ago that the photos date from before the digital age and are still in my mother’s photo album… I have asked my family, who have also travelled a lot in France, but they all seem to be rather lazy when it comes to taking pictures, so I can hardly add any photos to the articles.
If you have any and would like to contribute them here, please let me know!