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Peejays Miniguide to Aires De Service in France
IntoductionAre 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;
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
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
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.
‘'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.
Trailers Park - Guides Des Aires De ServiceThere 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 Mediterranee Aires De Service Book
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
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
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….
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.