It has been quite a revelation to find out how popular and accepted the motor home is in France. In England and Wales staying overnight anywhere other than official campsites (at a cost of £15 to £30 a night) is generally frowned upon. In Scotland they are a little more welcoming and accept responsible ‘wild-camping’.
In France however there are in the region of 2000 ‘Aires’ – places where mobile homes are welcome and a range of facilities are provided. They can be found in village centres, on the outskirts of towns, by rivers, on motorways – in fact virtually anywhere. To date we have stayed in the following 4 official Aires – Arromanches, Les Fleur, Royere de Vassiviere and St Flour. On the other 2 evenings we parked in well-lit free car parks.
The best ‘Aires-de-Camping Cars’ provide water, waste water disposal, chemical toilet disposal and electric, some charge a nominal fee of a few euros (normally for electric), but most are free. It’s a brilliant system, you might need to pre-plan if you specifically need to use a particular service as not all Aires provide all the facilities but in general you don’t even need to stay the night, just pull in fill up/empty out and drive on. There are books, maps and web-sites that list them all but as we’ve just been going where the mood takes without a plan we have just kept our eyes open for the blue signs and haven’t struggled to find a suitable overnight spot yet.
As we are travelling through in November there are very few other motor homes around – generally there have been 3 or 4 vans including ours at each Aire we’ve stopped at. I’m quite sure it’s a different picture in the height of the summer holidays but for now we are enjoying this very affordable way of journeying through France.