French 'aires'

Discussion in 'Motorhome Chat' started by LAM, Jun 5, 2014.

  1. LAM

    LAM Funster

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    Our trip is soon to be upon us + so looking forward to it.
    BUT................ there are lots of worries..................
    Been looking at 'le shuttle' and some info + visual video has been great, thanks to other, helpful people. It is very helpful, given you are 'au fait' with your route 'en France', but for us it is a completely new experience and we have no idea what to expect is going to happen when we collect our van .

    Being general 'organised folk' !! it has been difficult to 'go with the flow' mentality of the MH mantra.
    My life exists around 'list's for my every day life, let alone for a big unknown exciting journey. I think I have prepared for every eventually but we all know that's not entirely true !!!!

    If there is one thing that I cannot source (+ sounds awful !!) is how to use the facilities (for a 1st timer in an 'aire'). What I have seen is scarey. It seems it is hard not be contaminated by other thoughtful users.

    Guys............. this may be our first and only venture in MH'ing so if you if you have any advice no matter how simple...... please fill my in box............ All advice now matter how simple (given how knowledgeable you are all are !!) will be massively received !!!!!!!!!!!

    LAM
    a bientot
    (trying to 'fit in')
    :helpsos:
    :helptitanic:
     
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  2. scousebird

    scousebird Funster

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  3. vwalan

    vwalan Funster

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    far cheaper to buy an aires book in france . its in french so reading it helps your french get better.
     
  4. chrissyvine

    chrissyvine Read Only Funster

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    I'm in France at present on way home from Spain. There is no standard for the service point on an Aire. Some give free access to water, etc, some you pay in cash, some in tokens. There are some Aires where you can park but no services, or the service point may not be in the same place as the parking. Where there is a service point you can generally empty your WC but may not have access to rinse water without using cash or token.

    Confused? You're in France where there's a laid-back attitude to life. My advice is to carry a good stock of water in bottles (5 ltr) in addition to filling your tank at every opportunity. Same applies to emptying the cassette. Many public toilets in France still have "hole in the floor" cubicles which I've used when desperate! Make sure you have a bucket, just in case.....!

    I'm currently on a car park with 9 French motorhomes, not an official Aire but signed in the town as Motorhome parking. The service point was on another car park in the town!

    Most small towns and villages have large central car parks and it is acceptable here to park up and stay the night in your van. The French welcome us into their communities, unlike in the UK where we are not catered for.

    Travelling is a great experience and my advice is not to worry too much but to enjoy the journey and the wonderful way of life over here.:Smile:
     
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  5. lorger

    lorger Funster

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    Hi Lam

    Don't worry it really is easy, my advice would be arrive early for your first Aire so you get loads of time to work things out. Some aires the water is free and some you need a token these can normally be purchased at the local mayors office some just take euro coin. They normally have stickers on them to tell you what's what, if you have the aires book it gives you loads of info on each aire.

    Also don't be afraid to ask for help even if they don't speak English you will find most motorhomers are a helpfull bunch.

    Wen are you going if it puts your mind at ease your welcome to have my number so you can call if stuck with something and I would do my best to help.
     
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  6. scousebird

    scousebird Funster

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    We also carry a small stock of various coins for the service points that take cash.

    When are you going and what channel crossing are you using? We may be able to point you towards a nice aire for your first stop.
     
  7. magicsurfbus

    magicsurfbus Funster

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    Follow the first link in my signature below and have a mooch around, especially the Aire Guide page.

    Service point vary - part of the fun is finding out how.

    Best advice I can offer anyone regarding aires is never assume the service point at the next aire is working. Always make the best of the facilities you have in front of you - before you head off, fill whatever can be filled, empty whatever can be emptied, and drive in the confidence of knowing that if the next service point is blocked or broken you'll still be OK.
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2014
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  8. Soozywoozy

    Soozywoozy Funster

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    At the risk of being controversial you don't have to use an aire - France has fantastic campsites, including municipal and of course the acsi scheme which generally if accept motorhomes have the facilities to do what you need. Some allow overnight parking outside the campsite as well without having to do the whole campsite thing, but can use the facilities for emptying
    On our first trip we did a combo of both and like you I am a list bod and had a plan a, plan b, Plan c, plan d etc - never needed it, but felt better
    Hope you really enjoy.
     
  9. Allanm

    Allanm Funster

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    Well, I think you have your answer. Relax, and buy the All the Aires book
    My only bit of advice to add would be to get to your chosen aire early. Most start filling up around mid afternoon, there's nothing worse than spending ages choosing your aire only to find it full!
    This time if year they are busy, but it will get busier. Coastal aires will fill up first.
    We are currently on a small aire next to the beach in Southern Brittany. It's €5 for the night with free water. This is our 8th aire in 8 days, so far we have paid €11 in total. Far less than 1 night in a campsite!
    Have fun and relax
    Allan
     
  10. Ven

    Ven Funster

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    I agree with most of what's been said here. We were nervous the first time too but we've probably spent over a years worth of nights on French aires now and love them.

    You'll learn a lot from observing others (one of the things I love about motor homing :Blush:). Touching on the contamination thing which is sometimes a concern we carry in an outside locker some diluted bleach in a spray bottle to use on suspect taps, along with wipes and a 2 litre spare bottle of water just for rinsing the loo if no water available (this happens occasionally but more often in winter).

    Have a great trip :Smile:
     
  11. Figaro

    Figaro Funster

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    We pick our hire van up tomorrow for our first time MH adventure......much the same concerns as LAM.... with the added concern of how busy the Aires / sites / roads may be in Normandy with the 70th D-Day anniversary.
    Ah well, it`s an adventure, whatever happens we`ll enjoy it.
     
  12. chaser

    chaser Funster

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    Best thing is not have a plan , get the all the aires book and just go, you can get some tablets to put in your water from any mh place or eBay, called aqua chem or something like that, if you put a couple of them in when you fill up you will be fine, but I would advise, as many do on here to use bottled water for drinking which also gives you a bit more water capacity. Other than that there's not a lot to put on your list but just enjoy:thumb::thumb:
     
  13. chaser

    chaser Funster

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    As has been said nothing to worry about, but unless you are specifically going to Normandy I would keep away, we were there a fortnight ago and it was filling up then, you could really manage without that hassle on your first adventure, plenty other places to go:thumb:
     
  14. Stephen & Jeannie

    Stephen & Jeannie Read Only Funster

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    A wee dog !!!

    Hey Chris ! What kind of dog is that in your avatar ???:thumb::thumb::thumb:
     
  15. FIDGET

    FIDGET Funster

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    Hi Lam,
    Hope this helps,
    Terry:sin::sin:

    | GENERAL INFO ON AIRES
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    GENERAL INFO ON AIRES

    GUIDE - AIRES DE SERVICE

    WHAT IS ONE?
    An Aire de Service is a stopping place for motorhomes that can offer one or even several options -- ranging from being able to fill up with fresh water or empty wastewater to stopping for a few days & filling/ emptying your various tanks. Aires de Service generally fall into the following categories:

    • Aire de Service Communal or Private -- Run by the town/ village council or privately owned & often provided as an encouragement to visitors to stop in the area & spend some money on local goods / services (something it is wise not to forget when making use of these facilities). These stops are often free although a charge may sometimes be made for using an electricity hookup or refilling the fresh water tank -- emptying of the grey tank or chemical toilet is usually free. Length of stay varies from typically 1 to 3 days. Payment (if required) is often at the Mairie (town hall) or the Office de Tourisme (OT), or at a nearby ticket machine -- it is useful to keep a supply of euro coins for this purpose.
    • Aire de Service on a Campsite - Ones run by campsites where you can stay overnight but often for a restricted time period e.g. 5pm to 10am, but for less than a night stay on a site pitch would cost. You would obviously be able to able to use the various emptying / filling facilities and possibly the campsites showers/ toilets.
    • Autoroute Aire: These often have the same facilities as the above aires but are located adjacent to the motorway in service areas. Whilst these may be useful for either filling & emptying and a short rest, they would not be recommended for an overnight stay due to the various security problems that have occurred at these aires in the past.
    • Aires on farms/vineyards -- These are similar to CL's in the UK but availability of services can vary from just a place to stay to one's similar to those above. The France Passion scheme allows motorhomes to stay on French farms & vineyards overnight for a one-off annual fee of 27 euros at more than 800 stopover places in France. Disadvantages are that there are usually no facilities provided apart from a pitch to park overnight on & it is not possible to book in advance - you just turn up & ask if there is a space and on average these are limited to 2 to 5 places per farm. Your motorhome should be self sufficient due to this lack of facilities.
    • Sani Station -- these are just a space, often in garages or car parks where you can refill/ empty your tanks & possibly recharge your battery, but you cannot park overnight.
    Aires can vary from a fairly unpleasant stop in a car park on an industrial estate to a beautiful location next to the Mediterranean, or in the heart of a medieval walled town, they can also vary from a couple of places to possibly over 50 or more spaces. It is difficult to tell in advance what the stop will be like but our Directory of Aires does however give opinions on many aires from other motorhomers who have stayed there before.

    FACILITIES AVAILABLE:
    Once again these vary but are usually either some or possibly all of the following:

    • Drinking Water -- a tap with a supply of drinking water (eau potable or eau propre) for refilling your fresh water tank -- there may be a charge involved.
    • Waste Water -- either a drive over gully or a waste trap where you can empty the waste water (eau vidange or usee) out of your vans grey tank. This may involve using a hose if there is no gully or you cannot get close enough -- usually a free service.
    • Chemical Toilet -- A compartment or cover with flushing arrangement in which to empty the contents of your WC Chimique - usually a free service.
    • Electricity -- an electrical (electricite) connection, usually at a low amperage, for recharging your battery for an hour or so, usually charged for but sometimes free.
    • Public Toilets -- Availability & standard varies depending on the location, often these are only available in service areas or town car parks.
    • Rubbish disposal -- Provision of a bin or bins (poubelle) for your waste -- once again it is normally free.
    [FONT=times new roman, times, serif]These facilities, well the first four, are often in the shape[/FONT][FONT=times new roman, times, serif] of a borne or service point which usually consists of 3 main types:[/FONT]
    [FONT=times new roman, times, serif]Euro-Relais or Raclet -- This is a purpose built service point built into a triangular shaped unit with separate taps for refilling water & rinsing, an integral drain for black waste & usually a separate grid or drainage platform for grey waste. There may also be electricity hook up sockets for recharging the leisure battery -- these type of bornes are often operated by jetons, coins or tokens.
    [FONT=times new roman, times, serif]Flot Bleu -- Another purpose built service point, usually blue in colour, with similar facilities as the Euro-Relais but often without a separate grey drain -- the integral grey drainage point often requires a hose to use it. These are once again usually controlled by jetons or coins although an increasing number are operated by credit cards -- unfortunately not British ones![/FONT]
    [FONT=times new roman, times, serif]Artisanal: These are custom made service points & can vary greatly in both quality & ease of use; they mainly consist of 1 or 2 fresh water taps, grey & black drainage points of some form & possibly an electric socket. They are often free or are operated by jetons.[/FONT]
    [FONT=times new roman, times, serif]A less common fourth type; AireServices can sometimes be found -- this being oval or hexagonal in section & similar in operation to the Euro-Relais borne.[/FONT]
    [/FONT]See also the separate page on "Using the Services at an Aire" - at bottom of page.

    PAYMENT:
    As stated before, if you are lucky all of the above may in some instances be free, so there is no charge to yourself. There however may be a charge for the electricity (if available) and possibly the water, although the other facilities are usually free (gratuite). If a payment is due for any of the previous and also possibly the overnight stay, they are generally paid for by ticket (billet) issued at a machine (horodateur) on site or at the town hall, the tourist information office or possibly someone will call round to collect a fee -- don't forget the euro coins. Often it is required to buy a token (jeton) for the service point (or "borne") -- instructions are often found on a sign nearby (get out your trusty phrasebook). In the worst case, payment is only possible by a debit card (Carte Bancaire or Carte Bleu -- CB) -- unfortunately your UK credit/ debit card often won't work in the machine (although the situation is now improving) & the only alternative I have found is to ask a friendly Frenchman if they will pay using their card & reimburse them in cash -- they'll often oblige! Once again don't forget how much you would pay in the UK for these facilities (if you could get them!) and be sure to spend some currency locally as a thank you.

    FINDING AN AIRE:
    If you are lucky, you may come across a blue motorhome sign as shown, which would indicate the exact location of an Aire. However the easiest way to find them is either to consult our sites directory, where we list aires that have been visited by motorhomers who have then offered their opinion, or buy a guide that lists Aires de Service.
    The most complete guide to Aires in France is the book 'GUIDE OFFICIEL AIRES DE SERVICES CAMPING-CAR', it is published annually and lists over 3000 various aires in France. This is available from www.amazon.fr, Camping Connections on 01308 898017 or in decent bookshops/ supermarkets in France itself. They are however on a limited print run & often sell out well before the end of the summer, so make sure you get your copy soon after the March issue date. The only disadvantage with this book is that it is in French -- it is however fairly easy to translate & since most of the listings tend to have similar facilities, it is fairly easy to follow. The guide also comes with a foldout map showing the location of the aires. The main problem with the guide is the directions to the aires are pretty minimal, and since the aires tend not to be signposted until you are within close proximity, finding them can present a problem -- it is obviously easier to locate one in a small village as opposed to one in a large town. We have listed many aires in our sites directory and have endeavoured where possible to give detailed directions as well as GPS coordinates.

    You can find a SatNav download for all of the aires in France here:
    http://www.campingcar-infos.com/Francais/telechargement.php

    STAYING AT AN AIRE:
    There are few differences in the practicalities between a stopover at a campsite and that at an Aire. The main difference will probably be the spacing (if it is busy) -- vans stopped at an Aire will be quite close together whereas on a campsite you still have all of your pitch to yourself. You may also find that a longer hookup cable is required (if you are using it) as you may not be able to get as close to the connection as you would like. You may also need a hose for the wastewater tank, as it may be required due to the arrangement of the emptying facility -- it is sometimes built into the servicing post. Hose connectors may also be required for the freshwater connection -- as these will vary from Aire to Aire. The length of your stay at an aire is obviously determined by the regulations on site that probably allows at most a 3-night stop (although this is often not enforced) whereas there is often no limit at a campsite.
    However I think the biggest difference you will notice will be the cost!
    [​IMG]
    AireServices borne
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Euro-Relais borne
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Flot Bleu
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Artisanal service point
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Euro-Relais drainage point
    [​IMG]
     
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  16. Allanm

    Allanm Funster

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    Best keep away from Normandy coast today. We were there last Friday at Pegasus bridge, most towns have limited vehicle access and some hàve banned all vehicle movements for the day, including main roads.
    Allan
     
  17. LAM

    LAM Funster

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    Re assured

    Phew !!

    I'm blown away by you all !!

    Thank you all so much for your time, tips, advice + re-assurances.
    Not surprisingly we are already in possession of the aires book + have a few sites in mind on which to stay on the way down.

    We travel next week taking Le shuttle, stopping around Rouen for the 1st day (mid afternoon) hoping spaces will still be available ! Then a slow amble to the Loire for some cycling with only 1 place planned, how laid back is that (altho' i/m secretley nervous)

    I feel so re-assured by you all i'm (almost) tempted to throw away my lists !!

    Once again,a big thank you to you all

    :thanks2:
     
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  18. peterc10

    peterc10 Funster

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    I know exactly how you feel. When we were planning to use Aires on our run to the sun earlier this year I spent ages researching. But is was brilliantly easy thanks to Vicarious Books' Aires guide.

    I would recommend that on your first night you stop at the Aire at Neufchatel-en-Bray, about 20 miles or so North of Rouen. It is just off the motorway and easy to get to. It is a really good Aire, but is a bit expensive at 12Euros. But for that you get a decent size "pitch", electricity and wifi. Le Clerc, Lidl and Aldi are all within 5 minutes or so walk and the nice town is only a little further. You will find it is the closest thing to being on a campsite, so it will be familiar to you.

    And I agree with others that say that you can use campsites too, especially if you have your off season ACSI discount card and book. The Loire has a lot of nice Aires and campsites. Coming back from Spain earlier in the year we decided to stop at Gien, a town we had stayed at in a campsite the previous year. Went to the Aire but it was not really for us - a bit too much road noise from traffic crossing the river close by. So we just drove to the campsite (which we can thoroughly recommend) and found a pitch, as we did last year, overlooking the river and town. OK it cost a bit more but when you factor in the fuel and capital costs involved in motorhoming it was peanuts.

    Aires (and campsites) give you the freedom to do what you want when you want and take your time,
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2014
  19. tomm2

    tomm2 Read Only Funster

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    The main thing is not to over worry about your 1st time trip. Like others have said its basically a pleasure to motorhome in France . Towns and villages all seem to actively encourage motorhomers to stop in the places . Pay a couple of euro , if that , for the aire , spend some euros in the local food shops ( the little independents are great ) and bars and you are well in .

    Our 1st trip was just over 2 years ago. Midnight ferry over , found our only pre planned aire ( Gravelines ) , settled for the remainder of the night .Then we just looked at our all the aires book and for the next week with little to no plan , tootled around to places within say 60-70 miles of Dunkirk.Just to get the feel of the roads , aires etc .

    We hadnt a clue , genuinely none , ref using facilities at aires . For that, we looked at the info pages in the all the aires book and took it from there. As well as watching and asking the obviously more seasoned travellers on the places . We just made sure that we had a mix of water tap / hose connectors to hopefully cover all eventualities . No 2 aires being the same , its basically down to checking in whatever aires book you have , which will give a list and or graphics of any particular aires facilities .Along with coordinates and some basic info on the immediate area etc.

    Everybody has their own preferences for motorhome trips , but I would be surprised if you came back and were not quickly in the early stages of planning a return . Just go , relax and enjoy .
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2014
  20. laser101uk

    laser101uk Funster

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    [ame="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3vGvKATGzc"]Aires de service - YouTube[/ame]

    its in French but it will give you the idea...

    France is great, your going to love it...

    Steve
     
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