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Monday, 24 June 2019
THE last time I visited Mont Saint-Michel, a peerless religious edifice on the northern coast of France, I was able to park on the sand dunes under its towering ramparts.
But that was some 25 years ago. Now in 2019 super tourism has taken hold — more than three million visitors a year come to this Unesco World Heritage Site — and cars are placed in regimented lines across acres of open land leading to the monument.
A new bridge to the site has recently been completed. Visitors are bussed in or pay a few euros to go by horse and carriage.
And yet, as with the best of 21st century must-see attractions, Mont Saint-Michel literally rises above the super tourism makeover and emerges yet again — 25 years on — as a spectacular place to visit.
We were in France in May — when the spring blossom was in abundance — on a driving holiday in Brittany and Normandy.
I cannot recommend Brittany’s Emerald Coast enough — from Saint Malo and Dinard to Saint Jacut de la Mer and beyond.
Not for nothing does this coastline to me resemble Devon and Cornwall writ very large. Add in spectacular beaches, dramatic cliffs and countless villages and hamlets and you get the picture.
Our drive for this visit was the Peugeot 5008 SUV (sport utility vehicle), the largest in the French carmaker’s family stable of SUVs.
You always believe that you need more space in a car and you are probably right. Certainly, for touring Brittany with four adults on board, the 5008 proved both capacious and economical, even when fully loaded.
The ferry crossing is my favourite way to go to France on a motoring holiday — from Portsmouth overnight to Saint Malo with Brittany Ferries has proved the best. There is no equivocation here. Brittany Ferries has set the bar high with regard to the cross-channel ferry travel.
Motorists can travel overnight, thus sleeping in a clean, secure cabin, and wake up refreshed for the drive ahead in France wherever that might lead.
As well as from Portsmouth, Brittany Ferries offers ferry services to France from Poole, Plymouth and Cork. The company also has ferry services to Spain.
If you want to get to France in a hurry, the Normandie Express, Brittany Ferries’ high-speed catamaran carries up to 843 passengers and 235 cars.
In 2019 it will make the daily sprint across the Channel from Portsmouth to Cherbourg in Normandy in three hours. Portsmouth to Caen is the company’s most popular route.
If you’re looking for a lower fare and are content to travel without the cruise-style experience offered on the cruise ferries, there is the no frills économie service.
I like the overnight crossing because, as a driver, it allows me to eat a decent meal at the excellent restaurant on board if I wish, then wake refreshed in France early next morning for a day’s drive.
If you have already travelled a lot of miles in the UK to get to Portsmouth, the overnight break makes complete sense.
The 5008 is an award-winner in its own right. If you are a caravanner, the 5008 was best in class in the 2018 Tow Car Awards and was overall winner (large SUV) in What Car? magazine’s 2019 car of the year accolades.
Taking this car on a motoring holiday, you can see why it is highly rated. The seven-seat option is there if you require it, but the flat folding seats allow a variety of choice for load carrying.
There is around 30 litres overall of storage space, including a front centre storage compartment, front door pockets, map pockets on front seat backs and rear door pockets offering 2.2 litres of space.
So, when everything gets stowed — and there was a lot of luggage for four adults on a self-catering holiday — the 5008 is pretty full but able to cope.
The engine in the 5008 I was driving in France was a 1.5-litre diesel that proved both economical (56.3mpg on the combined cycle) and with more than enough torque (pulling power) for our needs.
The eight-speed automatic transmission and incredibly light steering made for easy driving.
Paramount for any motor touring holiday is comfort in the car.
The 5008’s front seats (standard on GT models) have electric multi-way adjustment, heated function, multi-point massage function, and driver seat memory. Nappa Mistral leather trim adds to the feeling of enduring comfort during a long drive.
For details of Brittany Ferries’ 2019 crossings visit www.brittany-ferries.co.uk
Peugeot 5008 SUV
GT Line Premium BlueHDi 130 EAT8
Price (on the road): £35,815
Metallic paint (£525)
Transmission: eight-speed auto
Economy: 56.3mpg (combined)
0-62mph: 11.8 seconds
Maximum speed: 118mph
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