My Dream Drive: The Col de Vence

Name: Matt Bird
Where: Col de Vence, Cote d'Azur
Car used: Peugeot RCZ R

Amazing road tackled in a very good car
Amazing road tackled in a very good car
The route:
"This drive is a snippet from the launch route of the Peugeot RCZ R. The full 130km is epic if you have the time as it picks up the Route Napoleon and takes you back towards Vence. The south of France is used for plenty of car launches, and it's not difficult to see why from this experience.

"Starting from our hotel in Vence, we went out of town on the M2 Route de Coursegoules, which is a pretty spectacular road in itself. Just before Coursegoules it becomes the D2, where it works its way to Greolieres and Thorenc for kilometre after snaking kilometre.

"Carrying on past Caille, the D79, the N85 (yes, that is Napoleon's fabled route) and the D12 take you back towards Vence."

Sunshine + hairpins = bliss
Sunshine + hairpins = bliss
Why it's a Dream Drive:
"Where to start? Being British, the weather plays a huge part. Tackling a great road in beautiful sunshine rather than drizzle makes a huge (positive) difference, plus it makes the views all the more breathtaking.

"What stood out for me personally during my first time there was the relentless intensity of the roads. There is just no time to rest but, if you're up for the challenge, it's hugely rewarding. Up in the mountains, the hairpins switch back on each other incessantly but, because they're well sighted, you can pick your line and live out tarmac rally fantasies to your heart's content.

"Out at Greolieres there are some quicker sections but, just as you think the speed is picking up, there'll be another tight hairpin to keep you on your toes. It's all really well surfaced, to a British bum at least, allowing you to focus on inputs rather than scouring the road for potholes.

"There's huge variety on the Col de Vence too. Occasionally the scenery is as you would expect from the region, with overhanging cliffs and plunging valleys. Then a dense forest puts you in mind of central Europe, if you have time to look away from the road..."

Should be familiar to 007 fans...
Should be familiar to 007 fans...
Highlights and lowlights:
"Two sections burn brightest in my mind. The first is as you're climbing out of Vence with loads of tight second-gear bends working through the hills. Sometimes third is needed for a bit, but often it's just running right up to the limiter, braking as late as possible and threading your way through. The rock faces up around half way through are spectacular too. There the same roads used in the opening chase for Goldeneye; it typifies the south of France and is an excellent stretch of Tarmac.

"But there's plenty to be wary of too. As Mr Bond found, it's a popular cycling route so be prepared to make space for those attacking the Col on two wheels. Locals using four wheels and an engine can also be a hazard, practicing their lines regardless of other vehicles. And don't get too keen cutting bends; some of the drops off the road can be severe and looked like wheel ruiners. We stumbled across roadworks with very little warning too. Be careful!"

Hairpins galore!
Hairpins galore!
Sights, stops-offs and diversions
"There wasn't much opportunity to explore on the launch, but there are so many stunning roads in the region you really are spoilt for choice. The Col de Vence is wonderful largely because it's often deserted; only small towns and villages are on the route, and traffic is fairly sparse. However, keep a look out for the ranch (yes, really) and some stunning picnic spots if you fancy a break.

"Moreover, look at where Vence is! Cannes and Nice are just at the coast and there must be a whole host of beautiful little villages on the way. Unfortunately my time there was very much limited to one car and one route, but it was more than enough to make returning a priority. Soon."

Follow the route here

My Dream Drive is sponsored by Dunlop Tyres. To share yours email us - if we publish your Dream Drive you'll get a pair of complimentary tickets to the BTCC round of your choosing, courtesy of Dunlop Tyres.

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Comments (14) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Agdavie 21 Nov 2013

    Hi Matt,

    Im glad that someone from pistonheads has finally mentioned these roads! I'm lucky enough to have a family member with a very nice private villa just outside Vence on the D2210 on the way to Tourrette-sur-loup and I have been driving these roads and harping on about them for about 10years to my friends saying how much fun they were and apart from the militant locals who are determined to try and take the racing line on almost every corner it is probably the best place for driving roads I've ever visited.

    One of the best things about this is that once you have done these roads your only 30 mins down the A8 to Monaco or more importantly La Turbie. I suggest taking the A8 up to la Turbie then take the road down the mountain to Monaco. Fingers crossed its clear and you have good brakes, when i went there in my Alfa Guilietta 1.4 MultiAir with brembo upgrades and the 18" alfa 5 hole wheels my brakes were smoking by the bottom!

    Once in Monaco I would eat at star n bars then have coffee at the Cafe de Paris before heading back down the coast road to nice.

    Id be interested to know which hotel you stayed in as i would have thought that pistonheads would have put you up in the Chateau Saint-Martin but judging by your map you were short changed! lol

  • cydaps 21 Nov 2013

    Lived in Vence for a bit with my C63.... got through a lot of tyres! Amazing roads, but watch the French, they don't seem to understand that they take a blind corner on their side of the road, not on your side. So many near misses with French all over the road. Also, the cyclist have got bad there, so many of them makes it a bit of a nightmare. The whole area is filled with some of the best driving roads, up to Gordon is spectacular from Bar-sur-loup. They actually hold a rally stage up there. The road from the coast up to Sospell is also amazing, possibly better than the Col de Vence!! You'll normally find some nutter in an old Renault 5 Turbo thrashing up and down these roads!! The police have cottoned onto the speeding that occurs around these roads and they patrol quite a bit now so worth doing a gentle run first, get used to the road and check for plod, the give it the beans!!! Locals will report speeding motorists, they're getting as bad as the Brits! For emptier roads, head to the Var, over towards Fayence and head up into the hills and there's stunning roads there. Enjoy!!

  • cydaps 21 Nov 2013

    Agdavie said:
    Once in Monaco I would eat at star n bars then have coffee at the Cafe de Paris before heading back down the coast road to nice.
    Yes, absolutely, good recommendation. Cafe de Paris is the place to see and be seen, there was a classic car rally driving through when we were there last, saw everything from a D-Type with a wonderful old boy driving who gave it the beans past the cafe, through to a morgan 3 wheeler... I pity the guy in that if he's driven from the UK!! We often get a sandwich and head down to the marina as well, see the stars on their boats, sorry, ships!! Last time Angelina and Brad were out and about on something the size of an ocean liner...

    Agdavie said:
    Id be interested to know which hotel you stayed in as i would have thought that pistonheads would have put you up in the Chateau Saint-Martin but judging by your map you were short changed! lol
    LMAO!!! smile I love that hotel. Breakfast on a summers morning there is spectacular!!

  • Agdavie 21 Nov 2013

    cydaps said:
    LMAO!!! smile I love that hotel. Breakfast on a summers morning there is spectacular!!
    Ive been lucky enough to stay there a few times when the villa was either full or under repair/construction.

    Breakfast on the Terrace is perfect! the thing i like about it the most is the way that they treat everyone the same as when I was there a famous type turned up with bouncers hairstylists etc etc and when she came to dinner she asked the hotel to remove the other guests so she could eat in peace. (like anyone there gave a sht about her) and she was told that she either sat in the resturant with the rest of us or leave. Her other alternative was that she could book the whole place if she wanted it empty for her.

    The roads down in the Var are great.

    I must ask though if you lived there why did you come back? Im saving to move there and once i have the cash im outta here! (the 11's id leave would stretch from london to the chunnel....)

  • 80's Classic 21 Nov 2013

    The Vence is great! I saw the new Porsche Boxter press day up there last March when I was watching the Paris - Nice bike race.

    Loads of other good roads in the area like the Braus and Turini (I saw the Vauxhall Ampera being tested there too).

    Lovely and empty early in the year.

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