A friend and I are planning to rent a car at Charles De Gaulle airport, drive to the Loire Valley for a few days, and then back to the airport. How difficult is it to navigate around Paris to get to the Loire Valley? I noticed from other discussions that it's best to have cash for the tolls. Also when Michelin says a stretch of the highway is "dangerous", does that mean to be careful about your speed, is traffic heavy in those areas, or is there a problem with the road/motorway? We plan to pick up the car on a Tuesday afternoon and return it on Saturday by noon. Thank you.
It's not hard to navigate at all - - follow signs and route numbers just like everywhere else.
Dangerous probably has to do with accident frequency rather than anything else - - wild guess,
I've been driving around those roads for the last couple of weeks. The roads that are marked as 'dangerous' are no big deal. Just be cautious and drive as the conditions allow. Adjust your speed accordingly.
No one has ever accused me of being a slow driver. Ever. But in my opinion some of the speed limits I encountered on small, windy roads were crazy. I just drove at a comfortable speed for me.
"dangerous" is code for likely to have hidden speed cameras; always watch your speed in France but especially in areas so marked on GPS or print outs. When it suddenly says 110 or 90, that's what it means. It doesn't mean to start to coast down to that speed as you pass the sign, it means that speed at that sign. In France it is illegal to have speed camera locations in a GPS or on printed material.
You have been warned.
Gosh Nigel, why didn't you warn me before I drove there?!?
In general drive clockwise around Paris following signs with on top little ones in red A1 (direction Paris) – A3 – A86 combined at a regular bases with signs Bordeaux-Nantes-Lyon till A6. Later follow A10 Bordeaux-Nantes toll road/péage, keep direction Orléans.
Not being familiar with the situation can be indeed a challenge, I have done this route several times and always look carefully how to drive. A lot of signs to other directions can make you uncertain about feeling on the right way, for you a GPS will be a welcome tool I guess. You can practice at home with Google Streetview to get familiar how the signs look like on the spot, for me it works well.
I think dangerous roads mean slippery during rain or frost, or bad surface conditions, sharp bends, frequent congestions, things like that, so adapt speed accordingly. Not a bad idea to study the French road signs + texts before hitting the road there and be aware of the jetlag for driving safe and not getting too much nervous.
I made the mistake of staying on the outer Perepherique past the A3 this summer and got stuck in St Denis. When returning to CDG from the Loire be sure to use the A3 option.
I didn't realize, Andrea, that the asphalt melted after you had been over it, or I would have!!!!!
Thank you for all the good advice. I do plan to study the French road signs before driving over there.
The Paris ring road, the Périphérique, is free but it can be confusing. It is a good idea to study road signs and even look at your route on Google Street View or the street-view pages on the Via Michelin site. Generally, you'll navigate by the names of major cities in the same direction as your destination--in your case Nantes or Bordeaux--as well as the autoroute number. But if you get off the ring road and want to get back on, you need to remember that vehicles travel clockwise on the intérieur ("inner ring") and counterclockwise on the extérieur ("outer ring").
Just to add to the confusion, some stretches of the road are also signed by the direction the lanes are going--westbound or eastbound. For example, in the southern half of the highway, the "inner ring" is designated as the Périphérique Ouest ("Western Ring") as traffic flows westbound; and the "outer ring" is designated as the Périphérique Est ("Eastern Ring") as traffic flows eastbound.
One final tip for your return to CDG. As you approach Paris, the autoroute will suddenly divide into the A6a and the A6b--both signed with "Paris" as the destination! Maybe both will take you to the Périphérique, but I followed the signs that also read "Villejuif," "Arcueil" and later "Périphérique Est" and it worked.
Bienvenue en France!
I spent the night before my flight home at Senlis. It sounded nice and it's just north of CDG and so an easy trip in to drop off the rental car the morning of the flight. I had spent the previous few days in Amboise and planned to stop in Chartre and then on to Senlis. I tried plotting my drive, but my map was not good enough, so I went to the TI. She dropped it into Map Quest and was really dismayed by what came up. She finally ended up telling to drive around the east side of Paris. It would have the simplest directions. First, I was to follow all the roadsigns that said Reims. Then when I saw a sign that said Lille, I was to follow them, and then the signs for Senlis. I was never to second guess, but just follow those two directions. She got me there. :)
CDG is probably easier. I don't know why she didn't want me going up the west side of Paris, but it worked. :) Plot it out on Google maps and you'll see the route is one of the alternatives. The main route idiotically takes you right though the heart of Paris.
Pamela- Thats the same route I described but in the opposite direction and to be clear its not the same as the route via the Périphérique T. described, located just around Paris itself. The larger A86 circular road runs through the banlieues/suburbs, the shortest route in this case is counterclockwise, i.e. at the eastside of Paris following big blue signs A1 – Lille and later approaching the A3 also Ch. De Gaulle.
The link shows approaching Paris the place where the A10 merges with the A6 and become A6a and A6b, both lead to the Périphérique, but the A6b as you can see leads also to the A86 / Lille etc.