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Peejays Miniguide to Aires De Service in France


Intoduction

Are you also interested in German Motorhome Stellplatz sites ? Then See our other guide on Stellplatz written by Boff HERE

So just what are Aires De Service? Well, they are a network of stopping places specifically designed for motor homes or camping cars as the French call them. In most instances they are run by the local town council or ‘Mairie’ but there are also private Aires, auto route Aires, Aires within the proximity of campsites, Aires de Stationement (an Aire for parking, but no facilities) and Aires on farms and vineyards.

 

 

The Aire de service at St Valery en Caux (dept 76)

 

 

They can be large (150+) purpose built parks with all facilities down to tiny spots that accept only 1 or 2 vans at a time. The variety is immense. It is not the same as a campsite, far from it, some locations close to the tourist haunts and along the coast are extremely popular and units can be parked very close together, sometimes only a few feet apart but you’ll soon get used to this and it’s also a great way of meeting your fellow motor homers or ‘camping caristes’.

Once you get into the ‘Aires mood’ you’ll wonder why you bothered with campsites, although you’ll need a fully equipped motor home because showers etc are rarely provided, it’s using your motor home for what it’s designed to do. If you don’t have full facilities on board, don’t worry, there is a way round this, book into a site every now and then to use the shower and laundry facilities between using Aires.

How do you find them?

 

The best way is to purchase the book ‘Le guide official etapes touristiques camping-car’, a rough translation meaning – ‘The official guide to tourist stopovers for motor homes’. You can also look up one of the numerous websites available on the internet.

 

Whilst on your travels in France you will sometimes stumble across them by chance.

Sometimes they can be well signposted with the blue motor home pictogram….

And at other times, you will probably wonder if they really exist at all. It’s all part of the fun. If you speak the language, then the Town Hall or Tourist Information office is the best place to ask. If your language skills are a bit suspect, don’t worry, start by trying…’Pardon messiuer/madame, ou est l’aire de service pour le camping car sil vous plait?’ And point to the entry in the book. It’s amazing (contrary to popular belief) how helpful the French are once you’ve had a stab at the lingo.

 

What facilities do they offer?

 

Again, it varies, but most Aires will have what will be called either a ‘Flot Bleu’, ‘Euro-Relais’ or ‘Sani-Staion’.

 

 

Examples of a ‘Flot Bleu’ and ‘Euro-Relais’ servicing post.

 

These are all different versions of a similar thing, a ‘borne de service’ or motor home servicing post and will include some or all of the following;

  • a fresh water fill point
  • waste water emptying point
  • chemical toilet emptying point
  • and in some cases even an electrical hook-up.

     

    Fresh Water (Eau potable); you will almost certainly need a hose to fill your motor home from a servicing post. I recommend the collapsible type on a reel, they take up less space. A few tap adaptors would come in handy as some are the threaded type and others are the ‘push to pour’ type with no thread on the end. Sometimes you will have to pay to get water, sometimes it’s free.

     

    Waste water emptying point (eau vidange); sometimes this is built into the post and very awkward to reverse up to or get close to. In this situation it’s handy to have some form of extension pipe to attach to your tank, but by no means essential (you could always use a bucket to transfer the water), other Aires have ‘drive over’ waste points, very handy. This facility is nearly always free.

     

    Chemical toilet point (WC Chimmique); again, a compartment at the base of the servicing post, usually with some kind of fresh water flush. These are sometimes a bit awkward to use and you can get a ‘splash back’, so take care. Another point is they are rarely cleaned, so don’t expect Caravan club standards here! Once again, this facility is usually free. nb: Something else you will come across quite often is a dual emptying point in the ground and is used for the disposal of both grey water and toilet waste.

     

    Electricity; some posts will also have the facility to ‘plug in’, but bear in mind that this power will only be very low amperage, usually just enough to keep the fridge going or top up your battery, nothing more, so don’t turn on the ultra-heat and boil a kettle or you’ll be asking for trouble! It’s also worth noting that to use this facility you will probably need an extra long cable. You will notice the Europeans have their cables on extending reels and are probably twice the length of our orange versions.

     

    Rubbish Disposal (Poubelles); most Aires will have a large wheelie bin or skip provided for your rubbish.

     

    The Aire de Service at Gerardmer (dept 88)

     

     

    How to pay.

     

    Some Aires are completely free, the local community provide the service to attract tourism to their region (UK councils take note!). In this case, it is good practice to purchase something from the local shops or restaurants as a ‘thank you’.

    Some Aires require a ticket (billet) to be purchased from a machine (horrodateur) in exchange for a nights stay. In some cases you have to pay further for fresh water or electricity but this is unusual.

     

    Where overnight parking is free sometimes there is a charge for the facilities of the servicing post. Normally you will be charged a few euros for 100ltrs of water or 1 hour of electricity or both.

    Sometimes the machine will accept euros, sometimes they will require the purchase of tokens (Jetons).

    These will be available nearby, normally at the town hall (Mairie) or tourist information office. A sign normally tells you where, or it will be in the book. In some instances a member of the local community comes round every evening to collect the fees.

     

    On most Aires the emptying of waste water and chemical toilet waste is usually free, although I have seen one at Gerardmer (Dept 88) where all the services were located behind a door and the only way to gain entry was to swipe your credit card (3 euros) through a machine. These are rare though. A good tip is to keep a selection of 1 & 2 euro coins in the dashboard for the facilities; they also come in handy for the supermarket trolleys.

     

    About the book.

    Aires De Service Book‘'Le guide official 2005 Aires de Services Camping-Car' is an annual publication exclusively for the use of motor homes. It should be regarded as the 'motor homers bible' when travelling in France. It is available from Outdoor Bits online shop here:- http://www.outdoorbits.com/2010-guide-officiel-des-aires-de-services-camping-car-p-1383.html or the Camping &Caravan Club (more expensive and available to members only) or via this Amazon France link; You can also buy it on 'the other side' from most large super/hypermarkets, though do bear in mind that they sell out quickly after publication (usually March/April time). The book comes with a detachable single sided map of France and a legend for the different types of Aires… Red; for community or private Aires. Orange; for Aires on the property of campsites. Blue; for Aires on Auto routes. Green; for Aires on farm/vineyards (France Passion). This map is very handy and will get very tatty by the end of the year. On the reverse is an alphabetical list of towns with aires. New for 2005 is a handy index on p19 and lists all the locations in alphabetical order and indicates the type of stopover that is available at this location, ie aire comunale, aire privee, campsite or just overnight parking. The main list of aires starts on Page 46 and is divided into 'Departments', France has 94 Departments, or regions, all with a name, for example, Dept 62 is called 'Pas De Calais', you will soon get used to the system. Under each Department there will be a list of villages and towns with services for the motor home. The entries shaded in blue are either 'Aire communale' or 'Aire privee' and these are the ones you will use most. The entries prefixed by a red 'N' are new additions to the book. Although it is all in French it is quite easy to understand, but helps if you read it with the aid of a phrasebook.

    You will see other entries and these are for Aires in the proximity of campsites. The stars after the title indicate the level of facilities the campsite has, generally speaking, the more the stars the higher the price. The majority are 'Aire interieur ' and are basically a motor home service point within the campsite, you can use these purely to 'service' your motor home for a small fee but to stay the night will normally be the price of a standard pitch. The other ones to look out for are 'Aire exterieur avec parking'; these are located outside the campsite and are normally cheaper than staying on the site.

    Page 258 - 259 is a list of Aires on Autoroutes, these can be handy to use for servicing the motor home, but I personally wouldn't recommend staying overnight at these because of security issues that I'm sure many of you have read about in the motor home press and posts on MHFacts.

    Page 262 - 265 is for 'France Passion'. A scheme whereby for a fee (currently 26 euros) you have access to a network of farms and vineyards that allows you to stay the night free of charge. These are indicated on the map by the green van. More details about this scheme can be found at www.france-passion.com

    Page 268 is a list of previous winners of 'Aires of the year'.

    Page 270 - 277 is 'Parking for motorhomes in towns and villages (by dept), this is mainly a list for parking only but some indicate that overnight parking is also possible.

    Pages 281 - 370 is a basic list of aires in other European countries (UK is notable by its absence!).

    Pages 374 - 385 is a list of addresses in Europe for after sales service of various European companies and M/home manufacturers. Note, no UK Motorhome companies appear on this list.

    Please note that in typically Gallic fashion they usually change the format slightly each year, this guide is based on the 2005 edition, previous and later editions may differ slightly.

    Trailers Park - Guides Des Aires De Service

    There is another book also in French which lists Aires De Services, but this one deals with Quality rather than Quality.
    The Trailers Park guide des Aires de Service are themed around areas of France only, France has been split into the following themes:
    Mountains, Coastal, Meditteranean, Centre, Brittany

    Trailers Park Montagne Aires De Service BookTrailers Park Montagne Aires De Service Book

    Trailers Park Atlantique Aires De Service BookTrailers Park Atlantique Aires De Service Book

    Trailers Park Bretagne Aires De Service BookTrailers Park Bretagne Aires De Service Book

    Trailers Park Centre Aires De Service BookTrailers Park Centre Aires De Service Book

    Trailers Park Mediterranee Aires De Service BookTrailers Park Mediterranee Aires De Service Book

    Each of the aires guides has a 1/2 page dedicated to each Aire De Service. One 1/4 of the page is a simple road layout map showing exactly where the aire is in relation to its surroundings and a "verified" GPS Location, the other 1/4 shows what facilities you can expect to find, prices if applicable etc.

    All the trailer parks guides can be purchased at OutdoorBits.com

    Websites.

    There are many websites that list Aires de service in France, so for simplicity, I shall recommend what I consider to be the best of them all and that is.. www.campingcar-infos.com or http://campingcar.free.fr both links take you to the same site.

     

    Log into the site and from the home page click on ‘cliquez pour entrez’ located in the centre of the screen. This takes you to the main menu page, look on the left for the option ‘rechercher une aire’, click on this and you are taken to the main Aire de service locator page showing a large map of France divided into Departments as explained before. Simply select the Departmentt you are interested in and click on it. From here a list of ‘Aire de service’ and ‘Aire de stationment’ are listed. The places with a ‘camera flash’ next to it indicate that photo’s of the Aire are included on this selection, very handy so you can see what the Aire is like before going. You can also print a list of Aires for each particular region. Another entry that is sometimes ignored by people is the ‘Aire de stationement’ entries at the bottom of the screen, although at first glance it looks like just parking for motor homes, it should be pointed out that on these there is sometimes the option to stay the night, usually free, the only difference being there isn’t always a motor home service post available. For example; under Departmentt 62 ‘Pas de Calais’ the large motor home park is listed under ‘Aires de stationement’. If you look in the book, this is not mentioned at all, so it is always worth checking the book and the website.

     

    The The ‘Aire de stationement’ at Point de L’arcouest (dept 22).

     

    So, there we are, I hope this mini-guide will prove as much use for people going to France for the first time as well as all you seasoned travellers out there. We rarely use campsites in France now (except to catch up on laundry and sometimes in winter when electrics are required), preferring the unique atmosphere that only an ‘Aire’ can bring. If you have any comments (good or bad) about it, I would be most interested to hear from you, just send me a ‘PM’.

     

     

    Finally, I have compiled a small translation guide to some words and phrases relevant to the world of the ‘Camping-cariste’ in France. It should be pointed out however, that I am by no means an expert in the French lingo so take no responsibility for glaring errors or spelling mistakes….

     

    On site
    On the road
    L’accueil Office or reception. Carrefour Crossroads.
    L’eau Water Poids lourds Heavy vehicles.
    Eaupotable Drinking water. Rond-point Roundabout.
    Eaunon potable Non drinking water. Sortie Exit.
    Eauvidange Water emptying. Prendre Take.
    Eauusees Waste water. Suivre Follow
    Jeton Token. Tout droite Straight On
    Horrodateur Ticket machine. Centre ville Town Centre
    Poubelle Rubbish bin. Flechage Arrows/Signpost
    Ordure Rubbish. Plage Beach
    Etape Stopping place. Ouest West
    Camping-car Motor home. Est East
    Camping-cariste French Motor homer. Peage Toll
    Parkinggratuit Free parking. Autre directions Other Directions
    Emplacement Pitch or site. Toutes directions All Directions
    Ouvert Open. Travaux Road Works
    Ferme Closed.    
    Campinginterdire Camping forbidden.    
    Mairie Town hall.    
    Billet Ticket.    
    Tirez Pull.    
    Poussez Push    
    Pacques Easter    
    Ete Summer    
    Hiver Winter    

     

    Syndicate d’iniative Tourist ,
    Office de tourisme Information.
    WC Chimmique Cassette toilet emptying.
    WC Fixes Toilets. (on an aire).
    Aire sans parking Aire without parking.
    Pas emplacements without pitches or parking.