Little bit of help - please can you guys tell us what you typically do when rolling through France towards the South of France, Spain or Portugal ? (1 Viewer)

Apr 24, 2018
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Hello Everyone

We introduced ourselves to the forum and community on here a few months back, we are living in our 2002 B544 while looking to find a campsite to buy and develop in France. We’ve been looking since last October, and we’ve seen about 25 sites so far.

There’s one I keep coming back to like a moth to a flame. It’s probably because I’m an idiot, but it’s got ‘money pit’ and ‘future bankruptcy’ written all over it. It’s completely run down, needs a couple of million investing, it’s in a non tourist area (but is very near the main route through western France), there’s huge industrial development a little bit too close to it, the asking price is a ridiculous €1.7m inc fees and we’d be in so far over our heads that we wouldn’t be able to see the surface..

My French wife wants to run a mile, but, like I said, moth to a flame. I can’t resist a challenge.

You guys are a potentially one of the key possible customer bases for us, To help us with decision making, may I ask as many of you guys as possible to answer/contribute with a simple answer to the below question?

If you could write either a), b), c), d) or e), together with a line outlining your rationale, and what would tempt you to answer c) or d) it may well be enormously helpful.

For those experienced motorhomers who regularly do continental travel to either the south of france, spain or italy, if you prefer to roll through part or all of western France (as opposed to take the ferry to Santander or Bilbao), when rolling through France, do you, in general:

a) wildcamp, or stop at the huge network of free aires, then overnight and away. Why pay for overnights anywhere when you just don’t have to?

b) stop at one of the many paid aires, usually costing roughly €5-15 per night, more space and security, often better located, quieter etc. Possible to take the bikes and explore a little.

c) stop at campsites, enjoy the pool (if open), get the awning and tables out, relax a little explore the local town or village, try a local restaurant, maybe stay a couple of nights, ‘i.e. the travel is part of the holiday/fun’ - usually the cost is about €30-€40 or out of season €15-20 with the ACSI card.

d) a mix of the above, it depends (for example) on how much of a hurry we are in, how attractive, interesting and English/Brit friendly the site we are passing is, or how good it’s restaurant looks (from the search result/website or phone call)

e) none, don’t like france or don’t like too much time ‘on the road’, so we start early, use autoroutes, cough for the tolls and usually make it to spain in a day or so

Many thanks in advance for your replies !

Pls don’t ask about the site in question, I know some of you will know it, I have seen loads of Brit reviews. Most Brits have said the same, it could be great but has been run into the ground… All in good time, dependent on answers of course :)
 
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Feb 18, 2017
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D.

We tend to go for paid aires if we are in a hurry, but most of the time we are on campsites.
For me the important thing about campsites is location, location, location.

A slightly run down campsite can be counteracted by a fabulous location. Be that on the beach, in the mountains, or and urban site close to an interesting city (with public transport outside the gate)

The issue with money pits of any sort, is the unknown. Any builders estimate given will need to be doubled, in both time and money. So go in with your eyes wide open.

This forum is full of people who in many cases have spent years of their lives on campsites, and so become experts at telling the good from the bad.

Therefore in the first season, could you make at least one of the shower blocks absolutely fabulous ?
As a minimum we are talking heated floors throughout, decent sized cubicles that you can actually get changed in and your clothes don't get wet, proper decent loos, no wildlife (including those with wings), and so clean you could eat your dinner off the floor. Basically you want to compete with the local 5* hotel.

That then becomes the base line for the rest of the site over a 2-3 year plan.

We have renovated many properties over the last few decades, we have never bought a property that was habitable long term without major work. From the outset we apply what we call the 'turd polishing principal'.

Cost of the purchase of the property, plus double the estimated cost of the renovation equals how much?
Does that exceed the resale value of the completed property ? If so by how much ? (A few percent may be OK, but a double figure percentage is not)

Over the years we have walked away from more properties than we have bought, we have also bought properties where once we did the figures we put in a far lower purchase figure than they were asking, as we were happy to share our estimates and showed the sellers the maximum we could justify.
It is not unusual for the property purchase cost to be less than the renovation cost.

You have to be prepared to walk away if the location and the maths don't add up.
Lead with the brain not the heart.
 
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Aug 22, 2007
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A and b for us we tour around and don't usually stop for long
 

Lenny HB

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A+B

Since we changed from a caravan to Motorhome in 2008 we have only used a site in France once.
So many Aires in France no point in paying for a site. Like free Aires don't mind paying €5 a night will pay more if its where we want to be.
Even when holidaying in France rather than travelling through we still use Aires or wild.
 
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Bolti

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Just roll along and locate stops as we are travelling along, never deviate to a specific campsite/aire off route

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Feb 9, 2008
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a for us.
Listen to your wife, she is making sense.
We have been using our motorhome in France (and other E.U. countries over many years. What we now experience in France is a very expensive country and whilst still a wonderful place, for us its just a route to other countries. We use Aires when travelling through and if we were to use campsites we would use municipal campsites. (If there are any left). IMO if the campsite you are considering purchasing is on its knees what makes you think refurbishment will bring in customers in their droves. IMO your on a hiding to nothing. Electricity prices alone are putting off campsite user's. Best of luck though !
 

MisterB

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enough to know i shouldnt touch things i know nothing about ....

Falcon 269

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I think you already have your answer in the way you phrased the question.

'Rolling through towards Spain and Portugal'
says to me that you anticipate trying to build your business on a client base that is en route to somewhere else. By definition, that means most are going to be spending only a couple of nights tops at any one location.

An investment of 2 million euros on the site itself means you'll have to charge top whack to recoup your outlay. Transient clients will balk at paying more than 10 - 15 euros per night. Most - as I think you know already - will make full use of France's super free or lost cost aires to keep travelling expenditure down.

The location you have in mind doesn't appear to have any appealing features to make it a destination in its own right. If you can't change that component of the equation then it's a non-starter.

Sorry but keep looking. You'd be a mug to build your dream on the description you've given. :)
 
Feb 16, 2013
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A and b never been on a site apart from if we wanted to do some washing, but with all the laundry things that are about now we don't even need to do that.
By your description of the site ,it doesn't seem to have much going for it and at your figures of nearly 4 million I would think it's way too much for a campsite that are getting way out of date with this campingcarpark idea taking over.
 
Jan 6, 2017
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A & B, never ever C - Sorry!! But good luck with your endeavours, there are plenty of campers who enjoy a full facility site.
 
OP
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Apr 24, 2018
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a for us.
Listen to your wife, she is making sense.
We have been using our motorhome in France (and other E.U. countries over many years. What we now experience in France is a very expensive country and whilst still a wonderful place, for us its just a route to other countries. We use Aires when travelling through and if we were to use campsites we would use municipal campsites. (If there are any left). IMO if the campsite you are considering purchasing is on its knees what makes you think refurbishment will bring in customers in their droves. IMO your on a hiding to nothing. Electricity prices alone are putting off campsite user's. Best of luck though !
It isn’t on its knees, it’s turning over 400k a year. Both Bea and I can see genuine potential for €600k, but the borrowing and work required is a bit scary…
 

JockandRita

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dawsey. I am fully with Phil's post above, on every point, especially the one about listening to your wife. They more often than not tend to speak words of wisdom, as well as having that very reliable "woman's intuition". ;)

Re your poll, it's always "A" for us too, until we reach our booked destination.

Don't let your heart rule your head. ;)

Cheers,

Jock. :)
 

Lenny HB

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It isn’t on its knees, it’s turning over 400k a year. Both Bea and I can see genuine potential for €600k, but the borrowing and work required is a bit scary…
If its turning over 400k and making 10% that would only make the business worth 120k plus the value of of the land certainly not 1.7 million.

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May 29, 2016
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Mostly A & B, plus France Passion. Its not so much the cost of staying on campsites that puts us off them for an overnight stop, its the hassle: you have to spend time messing about booking in, find/be directed to your pitch, manoeuvre onto it. Whereas on an aire or France Passion its a case of pull up in a parking space and that's it. Its just simpler.

it’s in a non tourist area (but is very near the main route through western France), there’s huge industrial development a little bit too close to it
We do like to use campsites when we're staying somewhere for a couple of days or longer....typically on a two week holiday we'll stay at 2 or 3 campsites and use aires & FP in between. But to be honest, from that description it doesn't sound like somewhere we'd want to stay.....I'd say listen to your wife.

When choosing a campsite we look at firstly whether they're in an area we want to explore, then we look at access and whether they look attractive (photos, reviews, streetview, satellite view etc.). It doesn't need to have a pool, but decent-sized pitches and a basic but clean and well designed sanitary block would definitely be positives. Fresh bread in the morning and a good washing machine would also be a bonus. Price is obviously a factor but for us its well down the list, location and attractiveness are probably our top criteria.
 
Aug 26, 2008
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Unlike many Funsters, we prefer C.

The main things for us are an easy walk to a town center with shops, and very importantly, the toilets mustn't be "a la Turk" type. We don't like coin-operated or token-operated showers, or having to keep pressing the push-button tap although that is just about tolerable. Some facilities blocks can be too open-air and windy.

There needs to be a drive-over grey water disposal point.

A pitch near a lake or riverbank is a bonus. So is a Bar at reception. We can do without a swimming pool.

We like pitches with dividing hedges for privacy, and to stop others using our pitch as a shortcut. A bit of shade too, if possible. Although trees need to be trimmed now and then to stop branches falling onto the MH roof, as has happened twice to us, thankfully without damage.

A visiting boulangerie van in the morning is a plus point. Or, ordering bread at reception the afternoon before.

I don't mind if the EHU is limited to 6 amps.
 
Nov 5, 2013
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A for us, if a site has failed it's failed for reason,many years ago when we had a caravan we stayed on what for us was a fabulous site near Puivert,the only trouble was that we were the only people there! it closed a few years later 🙁
 
Nov 3, 2013
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Hi.
English chap and his wife,bought a run down site near Oliviera do Hospital Portugal from a Dutch couple. Same as yourself.... " Its run down,but we can turn it around ..." They put in hard standings-water and electric points-loo's and shower blocks,even a few Static c/vans.
Two reasons it did not take off. 1. There was a free Aire 2 miles down the road on a river bank,with bar and restaurant down a few steps. 2. There were no " Must see features " nearby. The Estrella mountains ( The nearest ) were a fair drive away on not very good roads,their son and daughter in law came to help them,but the game was lost.
Wife and i have done assistant wardening for the C@MC club years ago really enjoyed it but house prices were going up hand over fist so we bailed out. It IS a rewarding job,mixing with all sorts of people,but if you have to keep one eye on the money going out,it will drag you down.
Last but not least,your good lady wife saying....... I told you so.... Best of luck whatever you decide.
Tea Bag
 
OP
OP
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Apr 24, 2018
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If its turning over 400k and making 10% that would only make the business worth 120k plus the value of of the land certainly not 1.7 million.
Hold on guys. I spent a career in asset management, don’t worry! Our eyes are fully open. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so frivolous, negative in my description, it was a slightly jokey and not meant to be a completely accurate outline of either risk or opportunity… :)

It makes 40-50%. The land is 10 hectares and features an 18th century chateau, a ruined medieval church and parts of a 14th century castle including 3 towers. The chateau is the possible money pit, if one elects to put money in to do it up, which is an option for any owner. Previous owners have not, they have soaked the asset, and now it’s cheap, but critically most of the roofs have been done. Land and building value is about €800k. Fonds are 1.5 x CA which is unusual even for France - it is absolutely recognised it needs investment. New swim pool for one and that’s 250k alone…

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OP
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2001 Hymer B544
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Unlike many Funsters, we prefer C.

The main things for us are an easy walk to a town center with shops, and very importantly, the toilets mustn't be "a la Turk" type. We don't like coin-operated or token-operated showers, or having to keep pressing the push-button tap although that is just about tolerable. Some facilities blocks can be too open-air and windy.

There needs to be a drive-over grey water disposal point.

A pitch near a lake or riverbank is a bonus. So is a Bar at reception. We can do without a swimming pool.

We like pitches with dividing hedges for privacy, and to stop others using our pitch as a shortcut. A bit of shade too, if possible. Although trees need to be trimmed now and then to stop branches falling onto the MH roof, as has happened twice to us, thankfully without damage.

A visiting boulangerie van in the morning is a plus point. Or, ordering bread at reception the afternoon before.

I don't mind if the EHU is limited to 6 amps.
Thank you, This is the type of comment we are after :)
 
Nov 18, 2011
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Read you first post again we can't make up your mind. But one thing I will say it keep the prices real.
Many of us just want parking and dump as we have all onboard facilities.
And just need to place fore tyre's on the ground.
Facilities don't nead to be posh just clean.
Grass cut and the place not over run with weeds and rodents.
I class a place by it's firs impression and toilet and Elsan point cleanliness.
Thay can be run down but clean surprising what a bit of paint can do.
Post sume photo's of the place the good the bad and the ugly
But pleas don't get burnt in the flame
You say 600,000 turn over that could be 650,000 for the price of a strimmer lawn mower and a lot of paint and hard work and promoting the business and your on the right track meke friends with funsters and other motorhomers
Surprising what you will get for a few beers and a free meal.
And still get a pinch fee out of them
I won't pay more than £20 pound to put 4x tyres on the ground and £17 without toilet block and shower
Best of luck keep us up dated
Kind regards wildbill
 
Oct 7, 2013
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Usually B but, if simply travelling to get somewhere, a mixture of A & B.

We very rarely use “all singing and dancing sites” with bar/pool etc.

Clean fresh water facilities, easily accessible to motorhomes, (not always the case on sites), easy grey and black water disposal are a must. This is one of the reasons why companies such as Camping-Car Aires are doing so well.

We tend not to use on-site toilets and showers but, if they look tatty, it would put us off.

Pitches need to be able to support motorhomes in the event of bad weather or you need to be able to accommodate them if pitches get soft.

EHU is not essential on all pitches but, where it is provided, should be easy to access from all serviced pitches.

Close to a village, say a five to ten minute stroll is a big advantage, especially if the village has a boulangerie. If not, a visiting van will be an asset.

A large shop is not necessary but a few essentials, non-perishable for your sake, held for sale in reception can also help.

Good luck, whatever you decide.
 
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Sep 3, 2012
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Probably an A+ B for us a mix.
We like to potter through France and meander through the western side. We would normally stay at Aires, paid or free as the fancy takes. If we like the place we may stop over a couple of nights or three to take in the sights, Markets,places of interest etc.
We would possibly stay in a campsite if it was close to interesting areas ,but not necessarily for the campsite amenities, ie pool not interested, toilets/ showers yes shop no.If there was nothing of interest in the area we wouldn't stop in a campsite.
We tried that once on a funster meet in France ,the " campsite" was run down ,old facilities,an expensive bar and cramped pitches.If a campsite was acsii ,and looked OK we could probably stop for a couple of nights just to refresh,dump ,fill up water etc.
What would your return be on a 1.7m investment at 20 euros per night?
Sounds too much to me plus what you would have to spend to get it up to scratch. You said it bankrupt , money pit.
Why not look to buy a cheap chateaux with grounds/ outbuildings you can convert to gites ( higher income)and a camping ground subsequently.
Best of luck
 
Feb 16, 2013
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Hello Everyone

We introduced ourselves to the forum and community on here a few months back, we are living in our 2002 B544 while looking to find a campsite to buy and develop in France. We’ve been looking since last October, and we’ve seen about 25 sites so far.

There’s one I keep coming back to like a moth to a flame. It’s probably because I’m an idiot, but it’s got ‘money pit’ and ‘future bankruptcy’ written all over it. It’s completely run down, needs a couple of million investing, it’s in a non tourist area (but is very near the main route through western France), there’s huge industrial development a little bit too close to it, the asking price is a ridiculous €1.7m inc fees and we’d be in so far over our heads that we wouldn’t be able to see the surface..

My French wife wants to run a mile, but, like I said, moth to a flame. I can’t resist a challenge.

You guys are a potentially one of the key possible customer bases for us, To help us with decision making, may I ask as many of you guys as possible to answer/contribute with a simple answer to the below question?

If you could write either a), b), c), d) or e), together with a line outlining your rationale, and what would tempt you to answer c) or d) it may well be enormously helpful.

For those experienced motorhomers who regularly do continental travel to either the south of france, spain or italy, if you prefer to roll through part or all of western France (as opposed to take the ferry to Santander or Bilbao), when rolling through France, do you, in general:

a) wildcamp, or stop at the huge network of free aires, then overnight and away. Why pay for overnights anywhere when you just don’t have to?

b) stop at one of the many paid aires, usually costing roughly €5-15 per night, more space and security, often better located, quieter etc. Possible to take the bikes and explore a little.

c) stop at campsites, enjoy the pool (if open), get the awning and tables out, relax a little explore the local town or village, try a local restaurant, maybe stay a couple of nights, ‘i.e. the travel is part of the holiday/fun’ - usually the cost is about €30-€40 or out of season €15-20 with the ACSI card.

d) a mix of the above, it depends (for example) on how much of a hurry we are in, how attractive, interesting and English/Brit friendly the site we are passing is, or how good it’s restaurant looks (from the search result/website or phone call)

e) none, don’t like france or don’t like too much time ‘on the road’, so we start early, use autoroutes, cough for the tolls and usually make it to spain in a day or so

Many thanks in advance for your replies !

Pls don’t ask about the site in question, I know some of you will know it, I have seen loads of Brit reviews. Most Brits have said the same, it could be great but has been run into the ground… All in good time, dependent on answers of course :)
Well with a quick Google it looks as if it could be the one in cahors which I know is only assuming, but if it is ,it's not the sort of place that people stop for a holiday no coast or anything,just green like here, if it is I wouldn't touch it at anything like that price.

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OP
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Apr 24, 2018
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Read you first post again we can't make up your mind. But one thing I will say it keep the prices real.
Many of us just want parking and dump as we have all onboard facilities.
And just need to place fore tyre's on the ground.
Facilities don't nead to be posh just clean.
Grass cut and the place not over run with weeds and rodents.
I class a place by it's firs impression and toilet and Elsan point cleanliness.
Thay can be run down but clean surprising what a bit of paint can do.
Post sume photo's of the place the good the bad and the ugly
But pleas don't get burnt in the flame
You say 600,000 turn over that could be 650,000 for the price of a strimmer lawn mower and a lot of paint and hard work and promoting the business and your on the right track meke friends with funsters and other motorhomers
Surprising what you will get for a few beers and a free meal.
And still get a pinch fee out of them
I won't pay more than £20 pound to put 4x tyres on the ground and £17 without toilet block and shower
Best of luck keep us up dated
Kind regards wildbill
Thanks WildBill. That’s very helpful.
 

hja

May 8, 2020
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Unlike many Funsters, we prefer C.

The main things for us are an easy walk to a town center with shops, and very importantly, the toilets mustn't be "a la Turk" type. We don't like coin-operated or token-operated showers, or having to keep pressing the push-button tap although that is just about tolerable. Some facilities blocks can be too open-air and windy.

There needs to be a drive-over grey water disposal point.

A pitch near a lake or riverbank is a bonus. So is a Bar at reception. We can do without a swimming pool.

We like pitches with dividing hedges for privacy, and to stop others using our pitch as a shortcut. A bit of shade too, if possible. Although trees need to be trimmed now and then to stop branches falling onto the MH roof, as has happened twice to us, thankfully without damage.

A visiting boulangerie van in the morning is a plus point. Or, ordering bread at reception the afternoon before.

I don't mind if the EHU is limited to 6 amps.
As this but pool rather than bar. Would only use a site if in an area worth stopping. The site itself is not enough.
 
OP
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Apr 24, 2018
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Probably an A+ B for us a mix.
We like to potter through France and meander through the western side. We would normally stay at Aires, paid or free as the fancy takes. If we like the place we may stop over a couple of nights or three to take in the sights, Markets,places of interest etc.
We would possibly stay in a campsite if it was close to interesting areas ,but not necessarily for the campsite amenities, ie pool not interested, toilets/ showers yes shop no.If there was nothing of interest in the area we wouldn't stop in a campsite.
We tried that once on a funster meet in France ,the " campsite" was run down ,old facilities,an expensive bar and cramped pitches.If a campsite was acsii ,and looked OK we could probably stop for a couple of nights just to refresh,dump ,fill up water etc.
What would your return be on a 1.7m investment at 20 euros per night?
Sounds too much to me plus what you would have to spend to get it up to scratch. You said it bankrupt , money pit.
Why not look to buy a cheap chateaux with grounds/ outbuildings you can convert to gites ( higher income)and a camping ground subsequently.
Best of luck
It has a chateau, and a castle, huge pitches, 40 statics, tree house, safari tents, 20 acres of grounds and multiple gites made out of 14th century towers and 15th century bread ovens :) - just all needs a bit of TLC and some hard cash.

I’m interested because it has already got all the things you mention, and crucially, already a 400k turnover large campsite. It is very hard to get permission for a new campsite now in France.

Very interestigly, the trend for older, less fashionable operations is to convert the land use, especially where there is development and houses are needed. In this respect, the site is well positioned for a potential conversion to constructible if the worst were to happen. It is a mitigation I have factored

Like I said, moth to a flame…..
 
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Sep 7, 2010
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C probably

Some good advice there.
There's a lot of competition especially in France with aires and passions.

For my idea of an ideal campsite look at Austria e.g. Grubhof.
Lovely setting, superb facilities, good restaurant and spa.
I don't mind paying for a perfect site (Concierge camping Winchester is pricy but good), but don't like scruffy sites with lots of empty statics and long stays, dirty playgrounds etc.
As has been said, it's much easier and nicer to park up in an aire or stellplatz rather than driving up and down a site avoiding the low trees and kids on scooters.
Also for aire/stellplatz (usually) there is less territorial land grabbing with windbreaks, furniture etc.

But if I'm going to Spain I take the big boat.

I'd listen to your wife!
 

Steve and Denise

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Only having driven through France once in a Motorhome so we would say A only stopping overnight if we have to, but are now looking at alternatives ferries to shorten the route,🙂

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