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Summer's here!

July and August is the time when many of us can at last get away and enjoy a break.
If you’re coming to France this summer, there’s lots to see and do with a motoring twist. As well as car shows happening over the holidays (see www.driveguide.guru/events/ for a full list), the next two months are a great time to visit one of France’s car museums. Altogether, the guide provides information on 37 museums, so there’s plenty to choose from, in every region. Many of these open for extended hours or have temporary exhibitions you can visit in July and August. Even the collections in smaller towns are often a short drive from the autoroute: if you have a copy of the guide, use the maps at the start of each regional chapter to see where you could stop off!

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Summer picnic at Meudon. (Courtesy Vincennes en anciennes)

Paris & the Ile-de-France
A highlight of the year for classic car fans in the capital, the 8th Traversée de Paris will take place on Sunday, 2 August, with several hundred cars starting from the Château de Vincennes and finishing up for a huge picnic in the grounds of the observatory at Meudon. See www.vincennesenanciennes.com for details of the route the cars will be taking through Paris.

If you’re visiting Paris with young children and speak some French, France’s oldest scientific museum, the Musée des Arts et Métiers, is arranging a series of special tours of their transport collection for children aged 7-12 (and their parents!) on selected Sunday mornings. See www.arts-et-metiers.net/musee/il-etait-une-fois-les-transports-7-12-ans-et-leurs-parents for full details.

Few visitors to Paris miss the Champs-Elysées, and for car enthusiasts the famous avenue is home to many manufacturers’ showrooms. All of these stay open throughout the summer, and many are staging special exhibitions. Take your pick from Citroën, Renault or Mercedes:

  • At Citroën’s C42, you can see a C-Zero light up to your heartbeat, or take the 63m toboggan down to the Citroën Racing display! More information at www.citroen.fr/univers-citroen/vitrines-citroen/citroen-c-42.html
  • Renault’s display focuses on the new Kadjar, but with tightrope walking displays and a drawing studio for your kids to enjoy, from now until 1 November. Find out more at http://atelier.renault.com/en/expo/kadjar
  • Your children should love the Mercedes-Benz Gallery too, which has a special Jurassic Park theme until 4 September


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Book the date: Sunday, 2 August! (Courtesy Vincennes en anciennes)

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Renault’s brand-new Kadjar. (Courtesy Renault UK Limited)

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Mercedes among the dinosaurs! (Courtesy Daimler Media)


Western France
If you’re heading to Western France, three museums have special exhibitions this summer:

  • In Châtellerault, not far from the Futuroscope, the Musée Auto Moto Vélo will be reviving memories of one of France great holiday roads, the Nationale 10. From now until the end of December, why not turn off the autoroute and go back 50 years? See www.agglo-chatellerault.fr/culture/le-musee-auto-moto-velo-chatellerault for more details
  • You probably won’t need much excuse to stop at Le Mans, but until 30 September there’s a special exhibition at the Musée des 24 Heures, which looks at the technical innovation which the 24 Hours Race has fostered. More information at http://musee24h.sarthe.com/en-GB/actualites_detail.aspx?card=8097
  • Less well-known, the Musée du Moteur in Saumur – in the heart of the Loire Valley, with its historic châteaux and tasty wines – holds an exhibition each summer on the original theme of art & cars. Check it out at www.museedumoteur.fr

Visitors to this region are spoilt for choice among the events taking place too: choose from concours d’élégance in Sarlat (19 July) or La Baule (14 August), or motorsport action in Le Mans (4-5 July), Le Puy-Notre-Dame (25-26 July), Saint-Brieuc (28-30 August) or Étretat (29-30 August).

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The Nationale 10 runs right past the museum in Châtellerault. (Courtesy Musées de Châtellerault)

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Part of the permanent collection in Châtellerault.

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Art and cars come together again in Saumur this summer. (Courtesy Musée du Moteur)

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One of the finely wrought sculptures on show in a previous summer exhibition in Saumur.


Central France & the Alps
Readers of the guide will know that this region has a wealth of museums to visit, so it’s no surprise to find plenty of interesting exhibitions this summer.

  • In Romorantin-Lanthenay, the Espace automobile Matra proves it isn’t sectarian, with a special show devoted to Ferrari’s road and racing cars, from now until 15 November. See www.museematra.com for the extended opening hours
  • Nearby, the Musée de l’Automobile de Valençay takes Gordini as the inspiration for its temporary exhibition, which also runs until 15 November. Full details at www.musee-auto-valencay.fr
  • Also close by, the Château du Menetou-Salon has a small permanent display of cars, but they are in beautiful condition and the château is open for only a few weeks each year, so take the chance to stop if you can. The website at www.chateau-menetou-salon.com has information too on the wines produced there by the Prince d’Arenberg, which you can taste and buy after your visit
  • Further along the Loire Valley, the Musée Maurice Dufresne in Azay-le-Rideau (famous for its château) has a full programme of events throughout the summer, with lots for children to enjoy. The Fête du battage on 19 July, which has an agricultural theme, is just one of the highlights. You can read more at www.musee-dufresne.com/en/

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Ferrari à l’affiche: this summer’s exhibition at Romorantin. (Courtesy Musée Matra)

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Italian colours on this Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale.

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Gordini takes pride of place at Valençay this year. (Courtesy Musée de l’Automobile de Valençay)

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Renault 8 Gordini, seen here during the Circuit des Remparts in Angoulême.

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International Harvester Titan tractor outside the Musée Maurice Dufresne.


North-East France
There’s a good chance you may have been to Mulhouse before, but the Cité de l’Automobile regularly has new things to see. There is a special display of artistic wooden models from now until 3 September, and a pair of racing Matras on loan to the museum from the Musée Matra until 15 November. There are also regular demonstrations of the museum’s cars on the new outdoor track throughout the summer. See www.citedelautomobile.com/en/home for full information in English.

Only 45 minutes’ drive from Mulhouse, the Aventure Peugeot in Sochaux turns the spotlight on 120 years of the marque’s competition history. Until 31 August, take the chance to see many of Peugeot’s winning cars, right through to the 208 T16 which Sébastien Loeb drove to a new record on Pikes Peak in 2013. More information is available at www.museepeugeot.com/en/aventure-peugeot-museum/news/new/article/peugeot-et-la-competition-120-ans-de-records-et-de-victoires.html

On the way back to Calais, you might like to stop off in Laon, close to the A26. The collection originally known as ‘Le garage de mon père’ in nearby Crépy has grown so much that it has just re-opened in larger premises, with the new name of the Musée Automobile de Laon. There’s a quirky selection of cars from 1950-1990, many of them with fascinating histories. Look for the museum’s page on Facebook while its new website is set up.

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Matra sports prototypes, here at their usual home in Romorantin.

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Citroën Traction Avant takes to the outside track at the Cité de l’Automobile.

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Mosaic floor panel at the Aventure Peugeot depicting a Peugeot racing at Indianapolis in 1913.

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Loeb during practice on Mont Ventoux in 2013. (Courtesy Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool)

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Record-breaking Range Rover from the Musée Automobile de Laon, seen here prior to the move to new premises.