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Real life experience of travel with dogs and Pet Passports in France

Where we stayed with the motorhome


Because we were travelling in a motorhome, we could be much more flexible about where to travel than we could with the caravan. So, we booked nothing in advance and decided to just head where we wanted when we wanted. Big campsites with facilities and pools were definitely not an option – too expensive for us, certainly when taking the charges for four dogs into account. So, we equipped ourselves with guides to French aires, the France Passion book (24 hour stopovers on farms) and the Caravan Club book so that we could look up the cheaper municipal campsites.

Here is a list of the main places we stayed:

Cappy, Somme 80 (Camp Municipal les Chamilles). Little campsite with a lot of permanent pitches so not many touring pitches. But, it was extremely expensive (we now realise!) and motorhomes were charged double that of caravans. Use of the showers was an extra cost! Ouch!

Soissons, Aisne 02 (Camp Municipal). Very nice, quiet site close to lovely parkland. Vibrant, pretty town just five minutes walk away. Attractive hedged pitches.

Camp Municipal at Soissons

Camp Municipal at Soissons

France Passion, Aube 10. Our first stay on a France Passion site and how lovely it was. Just like a CL. Our host was a champagne producer and we had a small field to ourselves. Local village was very beautiful tucked among the champagne grapevine terraces.

Just us on a Champagne farm

Just us on a Champagne farm

France Passion, Rhone 69. Gorgeous little site in the middle of Beaujolais vines. Lovely scenery. Only van once again.

What a view!

What a view!

France Passion, Haute Loire 43. Very basic site on a bit of grass at the side of a dairy farm. Joined by another van later on.

La Bourboule, Puy de Dome 63 (Camp Municipal des Vernieres). Much busier here but still lots of free spaces on this campsite. Busy site with lots of comings and goings but still quiet and a stone’s throw from the bustling town. Great walking from site.

Great walking from this site at La Bourboule

Great walking from this site at La Bourboule

France Passion, Correze 19. Only van in an orchard on a Paille winemaker’s farm. Glorious scenery. But very tricky to get to – bad signage, low trees, narrow lanes and narrower bridges!

Domme, Dordogne 24 (Aire Communale). Stayed here with a number of other vans but good spacing between us all and very quiet overnight. It cost 5 euros for the night but it was in one of the most popular areas of the Dordogne and a five minute walk from the glorious Bastide town of Domme with its amazing views over the Dordogne valley. Our first experience on an aire and a good one.

France Passion, Gers 32. Very good site with gravel marked pitches each with its own picnic table. Easy to find. Very peaceful.

A perfect place to stop

A perfect place to stop

Arreau, Hautes Pyrenees 65 (Camp Municipal Beuse Debat). Nice little site (with a pool!) right beside the fast flowing river. Very busy little town just five minutes away but lots of space on site.

Lescun, Pyrenees Atlantique 64 (Camp Municipal de Lauzart). Wow. What a location for this small site, filled mostly with tents. Not an easy one for caravans as it is a steep climb from the valley road, complete with tight hairpins. But it’s worth the effort. At 3000ft, you are really among the mountains and the scenery is breathtaking. Probably one of the highlights of the trip.

We were truly up in the mountains on this site

We were truly up in the mountains on this site

Capbreton, Landes 40 (Aire Communale). Having said that we would avoid the hotspots, we were, for some reason, drawn to Biarritz. Not suprisingly, the aire there was full to bursting so we moved just a little further up the coast to Capbreton where, by some miracle, we found a space empty (considering there were about 10 other vans circling for spaces at the same time as us, we couldn’t believe our luck). This was a big carpark with about 200 vans on it but its magic was the location – right on the beach. At 10 euros per night, it was the most expensive aire we came across but it was worth it just to be able to go for a swim in those warm waters just two minutes from the van. Stunning weather helped us to enjoy our two days at this site. To boot, a boulanger called every morning with the croissants and bread and the town of Capbreton was about a 15 minute walk away.

Why would anyone want to stay here?

Why would anyone want to stay here?…..

..... this being just two minutes from the van is why!

….. this being just two minutes from the van is why!

France Passion, Gironde 33. Lovely quiet stay on a wine producer’s farm. The dogs had a wonderful time with the host’s young black labrador who decided to adopt us. Wonderful views.

Lovely site - just us again

Lovely site – just us again

France Passion, Charente 16. Simple parking outside of a Cognac producer’s farm. Just us at first, then joined by two vans from Slovakia. As always, a quiet, peaceful area.

St Jacques des Blats, Cantel 15 (Camp Municipal des Blats). A little gem of a site. Half empty, even in August. Lovely little hedged pitches among trees. A real treat. And no charge for the dogs!

Great site, wonderful area

Great site, wonderful area

St Pourcain sur Sioule, Allier 03 (Aire Communale). This is an example of how different the aires can be. This one was set beside the river, with marked pitches, flowerpots, showers … and free! There was a feeling of being very welcomed. We arrived at 4 pm and had plenty of pitches to choose from but, by dusk, it was filled to capacity. It was just beautiful and town was around 10 minutes walk away. Fabulous.

A real gem of an aire

A real gem of an aire

Autun, Saone et Loire 71 (Aire Communale). Busy aire on lakeside of very beautiful town. Lake walks from the aire can be extended into the hills. Autun old quarter is just stunning – roman theatre, ramparts and beautiful cathedral. Well worth a visit.

Giffaumont-Champaubert, Marne 51 (Aire Communale). Largest man made lake in Europe provided the backdrop to this aire. Lots of spaces for parking due to the large holiday park. Camping cars welcome to park anywhere – on the grass areas, in the parking areas. Very good. Restaurants available in the holiday village and swimming beach close. The only downside was the monster thunderstorms – the first bad weather we’d come across in the whole of our travels.

Soissons, Aisne 02 (Aire Communale). We stopped again at Soissons – it just happened to be on the route back to Calais. This time, we stayed on the aire on the quay. Space for four vans (admittedly a little sloping!) and free! Perfectly positioned for the Saturday morning market. If we’d needed water, however, we’d have had to pay 6 euros which is quite pricey. A note of warning, however – we stayed there on a Friday night and there was a lot of drunken noise well into the early hours. Avoid Friday and Saturday nights if a good night’s sleep is needed!

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11 Responses to “Where we stayed with the motorhome”

  1. Cushla Lamen says:

    We joined French Passion before travelling last year, but we didn’t use it as I was too worried about asking about having 3 dogs (will be 4 this year) with us. Have you ever had anyone refuse you a space due to the quantity of dogs?
    Thank you!

    • Editor says:

      We have never had a problem with France Passion re the number of dogs we have. Always welcoming and friendly. 🙂

  2. gizmo says:

    is there any one out there who has toured the aires sites with a caravan im
    im looking for very cheap sites in the north
    east of spain and through france farmyard
    type sites many thanks.gizmo

    • Editor says:

      I’m sure others will be able to give advice re Spain but, as far as France goes, the non-autoroute aires, ie those in towns and villages, are for motorhomes only (and clearly signed as such). Practically speaking, most aires just don’t have the space for a caravan outfit to move in and out. France Passion is also exclusive to motorhomes – again possibly for the same space reasons as most are very small often with difficult access. I think that, in France, caravans are expected to stay in campsites. You should head for small out of the way municipal sites, some of which are as little as 7 euros a night off peak. Buy the Caravan Club european campsite guide – it’s brilliant and gives price indications on each campsite entry.

  3. sharon says:

    we are going over to france mid august for 2 weeks in a 30ft rv and a little bichon frise.
    Iv never taken a pet on holiday before and iv been worrying about the return vet visit, but reading your blog has put me at ease a little.
    We are heading down to monoco, do you have any advice about sites as our van is pretty large.

    • Martin says:

      The Caravan Club european campsites directory is very good. Comprehensive write ups and directions to hundreds of campsites and often gives warnings if unsuitable for large outfits. That and the All the Aires guide are our travel bibles. You’ll need to take care with aires as many won’t have enough space for parking/manoeuvring a big van like yours but there are plenty of big aires. Happy travels! Enjoy!

  4. roberta says:

    You must be congratulated on your excellant blog, we too have changed from caravan to motor home in the last couple of years. Having recently retired we have acquired the dog we always promised ourselves, so the information you have given is great. I am interested though about these small aires etc, we tow a small car behind the “bus”, how are these aires for accommadating that combination?

    • Editor says:

      You will have a problem in the smaller aires in peak times and you won’t be popular if you’re seen to be taking up two spaces! It will be largely trial and error but the All the Aires guide from Vicarious Books has pics and general info on hundreds of aires which will give you a better idea of which ones to go for.

  5. Paul says:

    Hi I am staying in the Gironde 33 with French passion with our lab could you give me the name of the wine producer’s farm you stayed at sounds like the kind of place we are looking for.
    Many thanks

    • Editor says:

      Yikes sorry we haven’t replied until now re this – couldn’t get internet access for a while. Sadly, this FP winemaker doesn’t appear to be part of the scheme any more as they don’t appear in the 2013 directory. Shame.

  6. Lynda Plant-Wells says:

    If anyone is travelling through South East France there a really good campsite called Domaine De La Bergerie at Vence (east of Grasse.)St Paul de Vence is a beautiful hilltop town with cobbled streets and lots of artists shops. The campsite is large and well equipped with a good shop, lots of shower blocks and a nice restaurant. I stayed there in 06 and again last year. I will be camping there this year with my Cavalier.
    On the subject of White Knuckle roads – I travelled from near Chambery to the South down the Route Napoleon in a VW Camper last Summer. I wouldn’t like to experience it in a large motorhome – despite the amazing scenery!

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