France is not just Paris, but fortified towns with elaborate chateaus and castles; Roman ruins and religious monasteries; verdant vineyards and sunflower fields; magnificent mountains and the warm Riviera sunshine and so much more. For the gourmand, France is also a celebrated food destination, thanks to its world-renowned wine-producing regions and production of more than 300 types of cheese. With its winding country lanes and fields overgrown with produce, exploring France's countryside is often best done by car.

Much like learning French, driving in France may seem a little daunting and complicated at first. Their famous priorité à droite (priority from the right) can still be a bit baffling as can the way some town signs suddenly disappear leaving you wondering if you're heading in the right direction or not. But roads in France are generally of high quality with little congestion outside big cities so driving can be a real pleasure. Roads are well maintained (even in small villages) and the roadsides are generally clean, without drinks cans and polystyrene decorating the edges. The Service Areas on the motorways are plentiful and they often have children's play areas, trees or artificial shade and picnic benches.

France's road network is very well developed and covers over 620,000 miles, of which almost 5,000 miles are motorways operated by privately owned networks. Going by autoroute is anything but relaxing. But the advantages are that you will have more time at your gîte, and driving on autoroutes is comparatively easy; as long as you stick to the speed limit and remain alert, it is easy to stay within the law. Motorways are statistically safer, too. On the routes nationales you will be able to roll the windows down as you trundle through villages and towns, and soak in the atmosphere at your leisure. Rather than having to stick to crowded, expensive motorway-style service stations, you will be able to stop when you spot a beguiling café or restaurant.