5 Glorious France Passion Stopovers
Not familiar with France Passion? Allow me to enlighten you… France Passion is the self-proclaimed “official supplier of small paradises”. Simply put, it is an amazing membership scheme which enables campervan or motorhome owners to stop overnight safely for free at a choice of over 2000 farms, winegrowers, cheesemakers and other producers of local delights… Yuuuuum!
If you own (or would maybe consider hiring) a motorhome then this really is something you need in your life! It’s super easy to join and allows you to enjoy your time in France safe in the knowledge that you’ll never struggle for somewhere beautiful to stay.
You pay for membership, which at the time of writing costs a mere 30 euros for one year (which is less than the price of one night at many campsites in the UK!) and this gets you your window sticker, membership card, guidebook, access to the online members area, and of course, opens the door to these glorious stopovers and a little piece of French heaven. (Just so y’know, I am not affiliated with France Passion in any way, I just REALLY love it as an idea!)
The guidebook is updated each year and is available from March onwards. It details all the potential stopovers, giving you a brief overview of what is made there, how many vehicles can park (usually between 2 and 5) what languages are spoken, whether there are toilets, bins or water available, whether the site is accessible for large motorhomes, what time to arrive by and if/when they are closed (vineyard stays are often closed during grape harvesting for example). Some of the hosts also offer meals, which it is recommended you book in advance. We haven’t taken advantage of this, so can’t speak for the quality, but I’d be willing to bet it’s top notch based on the places we have seen!
We’ve been members of this scheme for the past 2 years, and I simply can’t stop raving about it to anyone who will listen and may potentially visit France in a camping vehicle of some sort. Hands down some of the most beautiful places we have ever stayed have been found via France Passion, and we have met some amazing people along the way too!
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Peace and quiet…
You are pretty much guaranteed a peaceful and tranquil stay as spaces are limited to a small number of vehicles (5 max) – at the majority of places we have stayed we have been the only campers there! Every place has been different and every place has wowed us in one way or another. Our hosts have always been friendly and usually enthusiastic to show us around or invite us to taste what they have on offer (the rules state that there is no obligation to buy, but you’ll probably want to!)
Here are our top 5 France Passion stays:
1) Chateau Arnaud de Jacquemeau – St Emilion
This was a real gem! Whether because of its locality, situated just outside of the beautiful town of St Emilion, or by reputation, this place was BUSY by France Passion standards, and the usual rule of 5 sites maximum was being bent a little with 7 or 8 motorhomers present by the time dusk fell. But what a spot! The parking area was a neat grass area sandwiched between vineyards on either side, with views of further vines stretching out as far as you could see.
As we were getting set up and assembling dinner (always thinking with our stomachs…) a wonderfully wizened old French gentleman hobbled over to inform us that there was the possibility of a tour in the morning and we would be there at 10 am. This appeared to be an order, so we assured him we would be there, and returned to a wonderful evening of food, drink and stargazing in a picturesque setting.
The next morning we dutifully assembled awaiting our guide, who introduced himself as Monsieur Dupuy. His passion for his craft was evident, and the love he clearly felt for the vines and the wines they produced was palpable as spoke to us at speed in a fabulous mix of French and English. Monsieur Dupuy led us on a fascinating tour, talking us through every single step of the winemaking process (often we have found that tours will show you the huge stainless steel vats they make the wine in and very little else, here we were walked through the entire procedure from start to finish) and pointing out things of particular interest he thought Thing 2 might like to photograph, seeing the camera she carried.
The tour ended in the almost church-like air of a rustic tasting grotto as we were ceremoniously schooled in the EXACT art of wine tasting, given demonstrations and then invited to copy as M. Dupuy assessed our skills. He even insisted on pouring out samples for the kids, much to my 7 yr old’s horror! (he did tell them to smell only, not to drink it!) I loved this guy so much!
2) Chateau St Ahon – Blanquefort
This place felt really grand and imposing when we arrived, but was actually super friendly and down to earth.
The parking area is located at the edge of a pretty woodland area with views overlooking the vines. There is a nice self-led tour following information signs around the grounds, which tells you about the winemaking process. The signs are informative and cheerful, set out in a way that also makes them interesting for children, with some fun facts about wine, but also the animals you might see as you explore. The walk culminates at a play area in amongst the trees, so the kids really liked this one!
Our hosts inquired as to whether we would be exploring the local area and even provided us with useful pre-printed bus times and directions on how to get to the bus stop. We enjoyed a day trip to the beautiful city of Bordeaux, before returning and sitting out in the moonlight listening to the crickets sing. Blissful.
3) Le Fief Saint-Mars – Port Saint Pere
Beautiful and simple site, out in the countryside, essentially a large field, with lots of trees around the edges providing shade. Despite arriving just as they were closing up shop, we were cordially invited in for a wine tasting. The cold, crisp, dry white went down an absolute treat in the intense heat! Great for nature spotting, we heard owls here and saw a deer strolling at the edge of the field in the early evening, along with all manner of bugs and beasties. Also, there is a rather lovely resident dog (Guinness) who played with the kids for ages! 🙂
4) Le Champs du Trefle – Erdeven
Another popular stop, 6 other motorhomers pitched up here, but the parking site being a very large field adjacent to the fromagerie there was more than enough room. Another warm and cheerful reception from our host despite our poor French and his not speaking English – I find these are always some of my favourite exchanges when abroad – successfully managing to hold a conversation using body language and gesticulation alone always somehow highlights our similarities more than out differences for me! We parted having bought a couple of cheeses and a bottle of local organic cider, all of which were delicious. A real farmyard feel, with chickens, donkeys, horses, and goats to see.
5) Les Grands Thibauds – Saint Laurent d’Arce
This was a beautiful, tranquil and picturesque stopover, a grass parking area with picnic benches with vineyards one side and trees the other, away from the entrance of the winery, so you felt really cocooned and nestled in the beauty of the place. One of the best evenings we had on this trip, setting the table with all the random bits of food we had accumulated, a bottle of wine purchased from our host and a beautiful sunset.
France Passion just plain rocks my world and is a scheme I will undoubtedly use again whenever we are visiting this beautiful country, I urge you to check it out!
Related reading … Campervan France on a Budget
This is INCREDIBLE! I think that France Passion is a worthwhile investment completely! 😃
Kath | The Life Spotters
Thanks Thinker! (and I couldn’t agree more!)