France - Wild Camping and Aires?

Sep 26, 2007
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Can anyone please give us some advice re wild camping and aires in France. We have just bought a motorhome and hope to spend the spring in France and all points south!.

We have heard some conflicting information about Aires, some people think they are great whilst others wont use them, and we are unsure what to do.

Also, what is the best/cheapest/most flexible way of crossing the channel? We want to specify the day we leave, but come back when we feel like it - ie 2 or 3 months later. Has anyone any information on which ferry company would be the most flexible, or do we have to book two separate tickets.

Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

Ginny and Mike
 

Jim

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Hi Teasy, looking just a little while ago it was SeaFrance who were coming out best (cheapest) and with them you can specify different ticket types for each leg of your journey, So if you are sure what date you are leaving then buy the cheapest ticket, but if you want to be able to adjust your return then buy the "Freedom" ticket just for the return, that way you can change your mind as often as you like with no charge.
 

rebbyvid

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Hi Teasy
We have only been twice ,both this year but have used a few aires,dont use the motorway aires there are plenty in the villages,as Don says get yourself an aires book ,we went for a week in sept to the Champagne region and used the vicarious book alongside a french book and stopped on aires every night all free and one in Joinville on the canal with free electric
Rob
http://rebbyvid.moonfruit.com/
 
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Teasy2007
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France - Are Aires safe?

Thanks for that information Jim, I will look at See France first.

Don and Madge, we bought the All the Aires book at the York show, but am still a bit concerned because we heard that the Aires were 'not safe' and one couple went into graffic detail of how they were robbed! That's why I wondered what experiences any other motorhomers out there had, just to give us a clearer idea of what we might be getting into.
 
B

baloothebear

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I would suggest you get "All the Aires" it's the only aires guide in English. That will give you the info you need on the subject.

http://www.vicarious-shop.co.uk/view_product.php?c_id=4&sc_id=&p_id=39

I can't help with the ferries as we live in East Yorks and use P & O North Sea Ferries.

Safe travelling

Don

Sorry Don
I have to disagree with you. I looked at the Vicarious book this year. I was not very impressed with it, fortunately, I didn't buy it. ::bigsmile:
The only thing in its favour is that it is in English. It is very bad on locating Aires: There was one place we were in that has 5, yes 5! Aires and Vicarious only showed 1 and that one was in the process of being run down.

The best thing I have seen for Aires is this CD
http://www.campingcar-infos.com/index1.htm
They do take PayPal and the new 2008 version is out in the middle of this month. It also has down-loadable pushpins for TomTom and Microsoft Autoroute.

Failing that, there is this website - Eurocampingcars
http://eurocampingcar.com/index2.php3?lg=uk&cat_id=0
Again, this is a bit sparse on detail and there a few Aires missing.

I wouldn't use Motorway Aires at all. I think that most if not all, seasoned travellers would say the same.

Have a great holiday! I managed 3 weeks at a cost of €500 including fuel so that may give you an idea of what can be achieved.
 
Jul 29, 2007
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Hi we have stayed in m/way aires and the village ones, never had any trouble. On the m/way we normally only stay at the ones with service stations, the general advice from other posters is don't stay in any m/way ones near Lyon or the spanish border. The village ones never seem to have any trouble.

We stayed at the Gace aire this year and apart from some local wildlife making a row on their scooters till about midnight it was fine. Woke up in the morning to the smell of bread, boulangerie just behind. yummy ::bigsmile:

Also wild camped overnight at St Jean de Luz in a car park along with some others, again no problems. don't get put of, thousands of motorhomers stay in aires and a very small percentage have any trouble. Don't know where you keep you m/h but how safe is it? Probably not as safe as it would be with you in it, on a French aire.

Olley

PS we did use "All the Aires" along with campinginfos and another couple.
 
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Aug 27, 2007
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Thanks for that information Jim, I will look at See France first.

Don and Madge, we bought the All the Aires book at the York show, but am still a bit concerned because we heard that the Aires were 'not safe' and one couple went into graffic detail of how they were robbed! That's why I wondered what experiences any other motorhomers out there had, just to give us a clearer idea of what we might be getting into.

Hi Teasy,

I've been travelling on mainland Europe for 55 years and never had a problem. The UK motorhoming fraternity thrives on rumour and speculation. Yes a few people have been robbed but thousands haven't. ::bigsmile:

Personally I don't use motorway aires (service stations) in France simply because there are plenty of other aires in the towns/villages just of the motorway and I'm a very light sleeper. ::bigsmile:

A few years ago we free camped along the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria, had a fantastic time. If I'd listen to all the rumours we would not have gone. Felt far safer there than we ever did on the Costa's in Spain.

Once you have travelled around a bit you get a "feel" for a place, it's like this country, there's many place where you would not park your van just by the feel alone. It comes with experience.

Go for it, use your aires guide, try out the smaller towns/villages first and once you feel more confident broaden your horizons.

France is a great place to tour, the scenery is so varied and the "D" are a real pleasure to meander along.

Safe travelling

Don
 
B

baloothebear

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There's a couple of people who post on here that could tell you a few tales about Aires - Come on, you know who you are - ::bigsmile:

Give us all a laugh :Smile:

It'll read a bit like a News of the World article; you know "We made our excuses and left!" :Eeek:
 

JDS

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The french book: "Guide Officiel des Aires de Services Camping Car 2007" is supurb. It has all the full time camp sites and, more importantly, the serviced but very cheap (or sometimes free) aires listed in it. We found a few really good ones in the Medoc this summer which supplied great views, water, leccy and drainage facilities for €5/day! The book is only in French, but even if yuou don't speak any of the language it's easy to navigate through it and find what your looking for.

It now has a permanent home in the glovebox of our van it's so useful.

We brought ours online from Amazon and it was under €8.00
 

Beachbum

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Wid Camoing and Aires

Hi Ginny and Mike, Glad to know you have a motorhome. Hope you both enjoy it to it's maximum.
Nothing at all against Sites and Aires. Many reasons why people do and do not use Aires and Sites, some have young families, some find it expensive for what they get and some for other reasons.
I personally do not use Sites or Aires. I love parking directly on beaches or deep in a forest or anywhere where I can sightsee on foot. I also admit, it is a vast saving on cost, seeing that I am fully independent with my 3 leisure batteries, solar panels and generator. As I said, each one to their own.
If sites are your choice, go for it and enjoy life on the road. You are a motorhomer, one of us, that's all that matters
 

wayfarer

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Aires

Hi Ginny and Mike, we have used Aires all over France for the past 3 years and never had a problem. Don't use the motorway Aires, just the town and village ones and always make sure there are other campers there, safety in numbers. The French campers use them all the time so when you see a few of them parked, join them. Enjoy France and enjoy the life, its brill:thumb:
 
2

2escapees

Deleted User
Aires de service

If your traveling through France why would you ever use anything but the superb aire de service! We live in France and always use them. But do not stay overnight at the aires on the motorways nor at those in the larger towns/cities. Also do not try stopping at what looks like an aire but has a sign saying "Gen de voyage" its for traveling workers or what you might call Itinerants. They wont stop at aires either!

So when you arrive buy the guide des aires de service at the Maison de presse in any town and enjoy France for free (well almost!)

:secret:
 
Nov 28, 2007
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Aires

Do not be afraid to use the aires in villages or towns, we have been usung them for years and have found some beautiful little spots and mostly free, we have found the French to be very proud of their Aires and on more than one occasion have had local French people go out of their way to show us where they were located.
Unlike CLs in Britain they are not miles out in the country away from the nearest facilities, they are nearly always very handy to the village and its facilities as they want your custom and want you to visit the villages.
This country of ours could certainly learn a lot from the French and the Germans with their Stella Platz, instead of thinking how much profit is in it for number one think instead of the overall trade and custom it would bring in if we had the same sort of system, we as a nation are far too greedy and short sighted.
 
H

hymer1

Deleted User
Sorry Don
I have to disagree with you. I looked at the Vicarious book this year. I was not very impressed with it, fortunately, I didn't buy it. ::bigsmile:
The only thing in its favour is that it is in English. It is very bad on locating Aires: There was one place we were in that has 5, yes 5! Aires and Vicarious only showed 1 and that one was in the process of being run down.

The best thing I have seen for Aires is this CD
http://www.campingcar-infos.com/index1.htm
They do take PayPal and the new 2008 version is out in the middle of this month. It also has down-loadable pushpins for TomTom and Microsoft Autoroute.

Failing that, there is this website - Eurocampingcars
http://eurocampingcar.com/index2.php3?lg=uk&cat_id=0
Again, this is a bit sparse on detail and there a few Aires missing.

I wouldn't use Motorway Aires at all. I think that most if not all, seasoned travellers would say the same.

Have a great holiday! I managed 3 weeks at a cost of €500 including fuel so that may give you an idea of what can be achieved.
Hello
I am interested in the CD can you tell me more,I have autoroute 2003,I take it it is unavailable in English ,is it easy enough to understand.
Malcolm
 

haganap

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Well I have the Vicarious book of aires and must say that I too think that it is not as comprehensive as it could be. I have three different aires books in total. Each and every one of them have different aires in them. Some of course are the same but each book has its best. The vicarious book is in English of course but the trusty one we use is the aires de camping car.
The other thing you need to take in to consideration is the munincipal camping sites. These are very cheap with quite good facilities. They are ran by the local councils and can be as little as £5 per night.

One aire I would reccomend is Soustons down on the West coast great Aire, stay as long as you like, excelent beach access to brilliant waves for surfing.

Eurocampings ACSI is also a CD worth having as it has a good list of muninciple campsites if you ever get stuck.

You can normally find a good Aire wherever you are, so make sure you enjoy it.

Paul
 
OP
Teasy2007
Sep 26, 2007
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Many thanks for all the help and advice!

Thanks to everybody for their help and advice. We are aiming for late January/early February and are looking forward to a long stay, reasonable weather and meeting lots of new friends. :thumb:

Happy New Year to everybody!!::bigsmile:

Ginny
 
T

Tommys Dad

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Safe? What is that?

Hi Teasey

Over the years, my wife and I have been all over France and most of Europe . . . but predominantly France, and we have never had any problems whatsoever, whether that be camping in Aires (both in villages and on A-routes) or in out-of-the-way country spots. We have always applied a measure of common sense and not camped in target areas (if you think you are a target you probably are) some places just don't feel so good.

Up until this year we had always camped in a "Classic" VW but we have now bought a new A-class, we had always comforted ourselves with the thoughts that anyone viewing us and/or our outfit would consider we had nothing worth pinching. Whether this theory was correct or not we cannot be certain, but I reiterate we have had no trouble of any kind whilst camping in this fashion.

We have often discussed the implications of the transition we have now made and only time will tell if things will change or not . . . we will be going to France in early May and will continue to do what we have always done. Hopefully our good fortune will continue and with any luck you will also enjoy your freedom of spirit afforded by our vehicles. In short, enjoy, use your noddle and do what YOU feel comfortable with.

Bon voyage
Tommys Dad
 
S

stagman

Deleted User
Well I have the Vicarious book of aires and must say that I too think that it is not as comprehensive as it could be. I have three different aires books in total. Each and every one of them have different aires in them. Some of course are the same but each book has its best. The vicarious book is in English of course but the trusty one we use is the aires de camping car.
The other thing you need to take in to consideration is the munincipal camping sites. These are very cheap with quite good facilities. They are ran by the local councils and can be as little as £5 per night.

One aire I would reccomend is Soustons down on the West coast great Aire, stay as long as you like, excelent beach access to brilliant waves for surfing.

Eurocampings ACSI is also a CD worth having as it has a good list of muninciple campsites if you ever get stuck.

You can normally find a good Aire wherever you are, so make sure you enjoy it.

Paul
Yes I agree don't forget the municipal camp sites,usually basic but with clean water showers toilets etc some are in areas where you would expect to pay 5 star prices,most I have paid was 11 euros a night and that sight had a restauraunt and 50 mtrs to the beach. Also if you are going to a particular area you should be able to get an aires guide for say Brittany in the local Frence supermarket.Another tip would be if you spot a British van on an Aires try and park alongside or close,.:thumb:
 
OP
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The absolute worst part of our trip to France was the first day!! I could have turned around and gone home!

We got off the ferry at Dunkerque and went towards Rouen! big mistake. We had to travel through torrential rain, snow storms and blizzards which at one stage closed the motorway because there were 3 major accidents in a 2 km stretch!

We put a destination in Tom Tom and soon realised the problem with Tom Tom and France. The village/town is the only point you can identify, not the street name or postcode. We were totally lost (once because I clicked on a Villiers do Mont something instead of Villiers to Mant something) and ended up going nearly 45 mins backwards! Eventually we ended up in a very small village, at 8.30 at night with no idea where we were or where we could park for the night.

In front of the church was a village green with 3 cars and a very old motorhome(empty). I said enough is enough, I was scared sh****** of going out on the narrow, unlit roads again and persuaded Michael to park up and hope we were not moved on in the middle of the night. If this is wild camping - you can keep it!!!!

We woke very early to find a little group of 'old french folk' looking and pointing at us! Needless to say we set off straight away, and didn't even have a cuppa until we reached an Aire on the motorway!

Thankfully our experience has improved; on Monday we eventually found our way to Vanessa's stop-over at Lubersac and enjoyed a much needed break and an even better meal! I cant recommend this stop-over enough!

We have now chilled and recovered from our experience and have enjoyed a great stay on the River Lot at Tuzac, a few windy days near Perpignon and we are now sunning ourselves in Northern Spain. :thumb: :thumb:

Ginny
 
Aug 25, 2007
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Hi Ginney & Mike,

Good to hear from you, & that you having a good time :ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO:

We also stopped on the river Lot on our way back, but at Saint Gery. Couldn't find Tuzac where you stayed on my map, but if it was anything like where we were it would have been great. It's a lovley valley & we hope to return some day.

Where are you in Spain?

Keith & Jean
 
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Teasy2007
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Hi Ginny,

For finding places in France you need Lat Long. Enjoy the rest of the trip.

Don
Thanks Don,

Yes, but I have not figured out how to put a long/lat in my Tom Tom, all I can get to is the long/lat of where I am, not where I want to go!! Do you (or anybody else know how to do this??)

The book we are using most is the ACSI, card and book, and that has nothing except the nearest town/village and some very suspect instructions, as we have found to our cost!!

Ginny
 
Aug 27, 2007
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Thanks Don,

Yes, but I have not figured out how to put a long/lat in my Tom Tom, all I can get to is the long/lat of where I am, not where I want to go!! Do you (or anybody else know how to do this??)

The book we are using most is the ACSI, card and book, and that has nothing except the nearest town/village and some very suspect instructions, as we have found to our cost!!

Ginny
Ginny,

I have a Garmin Nuvi 350 and I can enter the lat/lon as a destination which is very helpful.

TT is a very popular sat nav, I've asked on the Motorhome List if lat/lon can be entered. I'll let you know when I get a reply.

I agree that some of the directions in the ACSI guide leave a lot to be desired, I asked when they plan to include the GPS co ords for each site and they hope to include them "soon". :Smile:

I don't know how long a Dutch "soon" is.::bigsmile:

Don

PS. With TT it seems you Page 2 of <Navigate to> to enter Lat/Lon.
 
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M

mikeandbev

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aires in france

Hi Ginny and Mike

I just came across your post and wanted to say that we bought our first motorhome about 2 years ago and last year we went to France for the first time we spent 3 weeks it was the best 3 weeks of my life, we stayed in aires, in small towns, not motorway ones as like you I had heard the stories, we used the book to guide us and we had no problems really it is the best way to go, there are always others around and the freedom is amazing just going from place to place and not restricted to campsites, not forgetting it is free, or sometimes we had to pay 2 euro for the water and electricly which was no trouble to us we enjoyed it so much we are going back this year. Dont worry about the scare stories trust your instinct look around and see what the area is like you will know when you arrive in a place whether you will feel safe to stay.

Have a great holiday

Bev and Mike
 

highwayman

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Hi Teasey
Press ' navigate to ' then arrow onto second page then press latitude
longitude
and go from there :thumb:



regards...nige
 
W

Wilbury

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Hi Teasy
We have only been twice ,both this year but have used a few aires,dont use the motorway aires there are plenty in the villages,as Don says get yourself an aires book ,we went for a week in sept to the Champagne region and used the vicarious book alongside a french book and stopped on aires every night all free and one in Joinville on the canal with free electric
Rob
rebbyvid
Hi rebbyvid,
Why should we not use the motorway aires?
Wilbury
 

highwayman

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Hi wilbury
Village aires are far quieter and there's less chance of being broken into and robbed.
The chances of this happening are highest on the motorways as the perpetrators can be miles away before anyone realises what's happened.
Near marsallies (spell-check? :Blush:) we were told not to sleep in the services by the police, they said it wasn't safe to do so!!
There are so many available elsewhere, we get off the motorway and go for half an hour or so to find a quiet-one.



regards....nige
 
Jul 29, 2007
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The general advice on this and other forums is not to park on m/way aires, but many including us do. We normally only do so on the service station ones, but have on occasion stopped on the plain ones.

I wouldn't close to Lyon as this has been reported as a crime hotspot, but most other places. We roll up and if theirs plenty of others (safety in numbers) we stop.
It really down to you, if your going to lay awake all night worrying then don't stop on them.

The worst nights sleep was at Gace, and that's a village aire, flipping youngsters buzzing around till 01.00 at least on their mopeds, didn't feel threatened at all, it was just the noise. But the consolation is the bread shop across the road which opens about 07.00, fresh french bread mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Olley
 

rafiki

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Hello all.
We are buying a Maggiolina roof tent to put atop our Land Rover Defender, this link shows what it looks like:
http://www.boab.biz/images/Autohome gallery 385.JPG
Does the team think we could be classed as a motohome for staying in French Aires? I understand from earlier posts that tents and caravans are not permitted at these stops.

Brian
 
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