Ouff! Where do I start? Lets begin with the big picture:
A great trip you've got planned there! I wish I could come, too...
Looking at the forecast, you may want to postpone the trip for another few days: snow to 500m pretty much everywhere.
Firstly, I'd like to point you to a couple of useful sites:
Resizeable maps online. The green lines are the scenic routes.
F Govt. site. This link will take you directly to the page with the info about mountain passes. It's in French, but all you need to do is choose a Département and you get a list of all passes, showing Ouvert (=open) or Fermé.
In any case, I suggest you arm yourself with a stack of yellow Michelin maps. They show every road there is with number plus lots of things to see.
In the East of France you've got the Vosges, the Jura and then the Alps, mountains almost all the way to the coast. Trouble is, about half of the passes are still closed. There is still some good riding to be had, though.
In the Vosges there is the "Route des Crêtes", the summit road. Goes the length of it. Not to be missed. Check the map for castles here and there.
From there to the Jura I tend to use a bit of motorway to Montbéliard. These days I give Switzerland a miss: too much traffic, the going is often very slow. There are some very good backroads, though, and if the weather is good and you haven't been there yet go to the Berner Oberland just for the architecture in wood. Great scenery, of course.
If you decide to go through the French Jura instead you will easily be able to pick a route off a map.
Further South, all the high passes are still closed, so pass West of Grenoble (avoid the city). You come to the Parc de Vercors. Check out two spectacular sites: Les Gorges de la Bourne and La Combe Laval.
Going South, as you pass through the summit tunel of the Col de Rousset you will notice an abrupt change in Vegetation: you are entering Le Midi, the Mediterranean Region with a much drier climate. There is a magic place to stay South of Die: L'Abbaye de Valcroissant, an ancient Abbey, now a farm and Hostel. We stay there whenever we can. Great walks, too.
Continuing SE you will almost have to pass through Sisteron, as again all the passes to the East are fermés. Sisteron has a very large castle, which I'm ashamed to say I haven't checked out yet. You could go and tell me whether it's worth seeing!
After that, and absolutely not to be missed: Le Grand Canyon du Verdon. I suggest you ride right around it clockwise. Note that the Northern Corniche is one way.
You arrive now in our back yard :-}
Some of the highlights I recommend:
The road through St. Auban to Entreveaux (spectacular fortifications).
From Puget-Théniers SE to the Col St. Raphael. Hang a left and follow the tiny road. On a clear day turn left 1 km after Toudon and ride almost to the top of Mt. Vial (1549m). You walk up the last 200 m and you have an almost 360° view.
The Gorges du Daluis and Gorges du Cians make a nice loop. Absolutely superb scenery through red rock country. Do it anti-clockwise to get more views and less tunnels.
Generally I advise people to avoid the coast itself, except to pop in at our place for a cuppa, of course. It's only a slight exaggeration to say that a city stretches from San Remo in Italy all the way to Gibraltar, interrupted by small bits of steep coast line. The traffic is horrendous most of the time. There are often scenic routes you can take a small distance inland.
On the way to Spain don't miss Carcassonne. For me it's THE medieval city, despite the hordes of tourists.
As for accommodation in France look out for the small green and yellow sign "Gîte d'Etape" in scenic areas. This is usually cheap and often rustic, i.e. bunk rooms (but not always). Then there are Youth Hostels. Get a listing from your local YHA. There is also a website somewhere. The equivalent to B&B is called "Chambre d'Hote", but this is not really cheap. Then there is camping, but it's still a little cold in the moutains for that.
In Spain I found YHs to be notoriously unreliable, to the point where they have either closed down (but are still listed) or haven't been built yet! Near Algeciras in S Spain I suggest you check out our friend Linda; see the entry http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/ubb...ML/000044.html
She has travelled extensively in Spain, so she might have better info.
Hope to meet you soon and ride safely.
Salut from Southern France, the bikers' paradise,