Frodo the Brave

Well, brave may be a bit of an overstatement; adventurous may be nearer the mark.

Prior to leaving on this trip, Francine discovered another chain of places for Camping Cars [the French term literally meaning Camping Bus] to stay overnight: Camping-Car Park. It cost a mere €5 to join so she went for it. Why not, another string to the options bow? ‘T was a bit close to the day of our departure when she applied online but impressively the membership card arrived from France in a matter of days. (They claim within 72 hours but if you’re really worried, you can arrange to pick your card up at one of the sites rather than having it sent.)

The system is entirely automated. Entrance to and exit from the aire (it’s effectively a chain of aires de Camping Car) is barrier controlled. You load money on your card and your contactless card opens the barrier to enter, then again to leave. Money, typically €12-13 a night, is deducted from your card. There is an electricity hook-up and a service point for waste, water and chemical disposal. You can use them just as a 5-hour car park or service stopover for just €5, if you want.

We had decided to hang a right and head for the Basin d’Arcachon to the west of Bordeaux in a bit of a quest for oysters. Francine found a CCP about half way there which would allow us to break the journey and try this new-to-us system out. This site had 16 spots and there’s a handy dandy app that shows you everything you need to know including how many spots are currently unspoken for. You can reserve a spot of the day, if necessary, for free or can pay ~€27 a year for the privilege of booking in advance. Our site was showing 11 or more spots free so we just went for it.

On arrival, we found out how to operate the system; drive up to the barrier over the vehicle sensor, offer up the contactless membership card and, if you have money on your card, the barrier opens. If you don’t have money on your card you can load more via the app or at the entrance (if you don’t have roaming courtesy of bloody Brexit and aren’t connected). You can even become a member at the barrier and get your card immediately.

PXL_20230906_132928814-01-01We were in. Several of the spots had those clever concrete latticework blocks laid out that allow grass to grow through, the remainder were simple gravel. Clearly this somewhat utilitarian and is not somewhere that you’d stay for a long period but it is a useful addition and was fun to try. We reversed Frodo in to get the sunshade opening in right direction and got settled.

We were just outside a village, Jurignac now rebadged as Val-des-Vignes [the marketers have been at it] and went to investigate. There was a small, essential alimentation food store but in all honesty there was very little there and it very small. A farmer was driving repeatedly up and down the road with a humongous tractor and trailer harvesting something. He was about the only sign of life that we saw.

Roosting StorksIt doesn’t show but Frodo was facing one of the marketers vineyards. On top of the rise within the vineyard was a series of masts upon which a group of seven or so White Storks had chosen to roost. They hadn’t nested there since there was no nest in evidence so my suspicion is that this was just a rest stopover for them on their migration back south. Just imagine sleeping balanced on spikes like those. Amazing.

Just four of the available 16 spots had been taken overnight.

In the morning we used the service point which had obviously been purposely designed. The taps, push-button controlled, were threaded to take a standard hose pipe adapter – France frequently has awful presmatic taps which no hose fits and which keep cutting off, which is the point of them, of course – and the vidoir [chemical emptying point] was very sanitized for those of a gentile disposition having a wide spout down which to pour the unmentionables without actually seeing anything. I’d never seen the like before. Excellent.

There are free aires, it’s true, but if you want guaranteed facilities with a bookable spot, these seem a reasonable approach. They’re not for longer term camping, though.

The Storks were the most interesting life that we saw.

Posted in 2023-09 France

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.