The Blue Train Challenge 2017
18 - 22 September, 2017
The Blue Train Challenge - Route Outline
In the 1920s and 1930s, heyday of the legendary Train Bleu, motoring the length and breadth of France was an adventurous undertaking and one to savour. The route of the inaugural Blue Train Challenge recaptures that nostalgic age of travel with an exciting five day journey of discovery. While not religiously following the tracks of the original Blue Train, our route planning team of Keith Baud and Anthony Preston have combined some of the most beautiful and spectacular landscapes with a fine selection of driving roads and venues to provide the perfect blend of competition and adventure.
The event begins in Deauville, just two hours from Paris, and with easy access from the UK. With its film festival heritage, opulent marinas, fine villas and sumptuous hotels, Deauville is one of the most elegant and exclusive resorts in France and provides the ideal and relaxed start location for the Blue Train Challenge. Our pre-event base at the luxurious and spacious Hôtel du Golf, part of the prestigious Barrière Group, is conveniently located a few minutes from the heart of the town.
Day 1: Monday 18 September - Deauville to Fontevraud
From the Start in Deauville, the route south uses quiet country roads to explore the orchards of Calvados. It then motors on into the Alpes Mancelles, a beautiful area of quaint stone built villages more like the Cotswolds than the Alps!
We then make for Le Mans as no motoring journey through this part of France would be complete without a visit to this famous circuit. Fast traffic-free roads then speed us south through the afternoon to the Loire Valley, and our end of the day at Fontevraud l’Abbaye.
After the excitement of the first day, a night at Fontevraud offers an incomparable experience. Not only was the abbey once the largest in France, but it was founded by Henry II, and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine - Plantagenet King and Queen of England. A very special place…
Day 2: Tuesday 19 September - Fontevraud to Vichy
A longer day lies ahead as we follow the rivers Vienne and Creuse across the empty heart of France. However, fast roads allow good progress, so there should be time to enjoy some of the beautiful chateaux that pepper the landscape in this part of Anjou.
The planned lunch stop is at a private race circuit before we continue east into slightly more hilly terrain. This is the northern edge of the Massif Central, an area of dramatic volcanic peaks. The twisty roads here provide the first real driving challenge of the event before you slip into the spa town of Vichy, a welcome meal, and your bed for the night at the fine Hotel Celestins and Spa.
Day 3: Wednesday 20 September - Vichy to Lyon
It is not a great distance from Vichy to Lyon so today’s run is relatively relaxing giving us the chance to explore the wooded heights of the Monts de la Madeleine before we re-cross the Loire and head into the hills of the Beaujolais.
After a leisurely lunch at a fine chateau, a pleasant afternoon is spent exploring the delights of these vine clad hills before you roll into Lyon.
As the second city in France, Lyon can be a busy place, but we avoid the industrial heart of town and head to a unique and secluded hotel on a hilltop overlooking the confluence of the Saone and Rhône. This is one of the oldest parts of the city and within walking distance are the Roman Amphitheatre and the magnificent church of Notre Dame de Fourviere.
Day 4: Thursday 21 September - Lyon to L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
An early start may be necessary to pack in all there is to enjoy on today's journey to Provence. Once clear of Lyon, we climb the flanks of Mont Pilat and then motor into the remote hills of the Ardèche, which has been a heartland of French motorsport for many years.
After crossing the mighty Rhône south of Valence, we enter the Drôme, a landscape of sun-bleached hills, rocky outcrops, vineyards and your first lavender fields. Still undiscovered by many, the Drôme is how Provence used to be before mass tourism…
Looming ever large to the south is the brooding mass of Mont Ventoux, a fabled mountain revered by cyclists and motoring enthusiasts alike. The views from its 2000m high summit are staggering; the snow-capped Alps to the north and east, and the shimmering Mediterranean to the south. By the time you descend from Ventoux you will be ready for a relaxing drink on the terrace of your hotel overlooking the clear, babbling waters of the River Sorgue.
Day 5: Friday 22 September - L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue to Cannes
The final push to the Cote d’Azur. East of L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, a string of pretty Provencal villages lie along the southern edge of the Plateau de Vaucluse. Ancient stone walls divide sun baked fields of olive groves and apricot orchards, colours vivid in the clear bright light so beloved of artists past and present.
Once across the Durance, vast lavender fields stretch to a horizon edged with the jagged peaks of the Alps. After skirting the impossibly blue waters of Lac St Croix, the route plunges into the Grand Canyon du Verdon, the second largest in the world. A 30-km drive along its very edge and over the limestone plateau of the Plan de Canjeurs finally brings you to the more familiar landscape of the South of France; ancient perched villages, expensive villas, and the journey’s end in Cannes - where Woolf Barnato’s legendary race against the train began 85 years ago.
Our French agents are already busy making arrangements for the Grande Arrivée on the famous Croisette, with a Gala Prizegiving right on the beach in front of the Hotel Martinez where you finally lay your heads after a memorable weeks motoring.
I had a wonderful time on the Alpine Trial. The roads were Great and the ERA staff and marshals were excellent. Thank you for these wonderful adventures.
Jim Gately - The Alpine Trial 2016 participant - 1937 Cadillac 60 Series