Passion in France
and pictures Donna Garner
Imagine my dilemma;
I have discovered an organisation that provides free
overnight motorhome stopovers, in some of the most
beautiful and tranquil locations in France. Do I share
it with the wider motorhoming fraternity? On the other
hand, do I keep this information to myself, in the
hope that these wonderful stopovers remain quiet?
My Husband and I first discovered France Passion when
planning our summer tour of France and have since
stayed at nearly two dozen vineyards and farms. All
were good but a few stand out in our minds.
Our first France Passion site was a farm at Saint
Croix de Marieul, in the Dordogne. As per the suggestion
in the France Passion guidebook, we followed the 'camping
car' signs (French for motorhome) to the parking
area and went in search of the owners to say "bonjour". We found two teenage boys who abandoned their Play
Station game for long enough to convey to us that
their parents would be around "ce soir" - this evening. We settled quickly in the peaceful
rural surroundings and enjoyed the wonderful view.
Dozens of butterflies entertained us as they flitted
around the motorhome and flowers. We relaxed all afternoon
and evening then had a good night's sleep.
I am quite a heavy sleeper and rarely need to count
sheep to send me off, but even I awoke next morning
when a thundering noise started about 15 feet from
our motorhome. We quickly opened the blind and were
quite surprised to see a flock of 50 sheep hurtling
past our camper on their way to their pasture! This
slightly earlier start meant that we had time for
a leisurely breakfast before we packed up our motorhome,
said "au revoir" to our hosts
and carried on our way.
Our second France Passion site was listed in the guidebook
as a vineyard and was in the town of Chateauneuf-de-Charente,
in the Charente region. The owners were on holiday,
but a neighbour told us it was fine to stay anyway
and showed us where to park. Unfortunately, the vineyard
turned out to be just the 'yard' and no
'vin', which was a shame as we'd
been looking forward to a little tasting session!
Nevertheless, we had a lovely afternoon, ambling along
the banks of the River Charente and partaking of a
little of our own 'vin'. You can see that
there is a pattern emerging here, as all went well
until we were ready to leave the following morning;
someone had locked the gates, with us on the inside!
After a few minutes of panic, we managed to find another
neighbour, who looked puzzled to see us there, but
let us out.
Our next few France Passion sites were just as relaxing
but without any traumatic reveille: a vineyard (with
actual vines, this time) on the Ile d'Orèlon;
a poultry farm at Saint Gervais; vineyards at Drain
and Juigne-sur-Loire, all with friendly and welcoming
owners. In Dampierre-sur-Loire, we stayed at the Domaine
de la Cune, where Jean-Luc took great pleasure in
explaining to us just how we could purchase our very
own row of vines: what a wonderful Christmas present
for the man or woman who has everything!
At Saint-Joachim, we shared the field with free-range
chickens and turkeys (no offense to turkeys, but aren't
they ugly?!) and a German couple with a small campervan
and two young children. We sat in amazement as they
started unloading vast quantities of gear from their
camper; how they managed to fit the children in, I
really don't know! This also made us feel a
little uncomfortable because the France Passion code
clearly states motorhomes and campervans must be self-sufficient
and forbids camping activities. There was an opportunity
to take a trip on a flat-bottomed boat known as a
chaland on the Brière marshes that
has a wealth of flora and fauna to see. We did not
go, but the German family did, and said it was excellent.
We started another motorhome tour of France in the following April and stayed at a France Passion site at the first
available opportunity. This was in Jurançon,
approximately 50km from the Pyrenees. That afternoon,
I sat in my reclining garden chair, glass of wine
in hand, in a field full of dandelions in puffball
mode, listening to the frog chorus and looking out
over the snow-topped Pyrenees; all was well with the
As our French is still quite basic, probably more
Franglais than French, we sometimes look out for those
France Passion farms or vineyards where the symbol
shows that the owners are English speaking. This was
the case at a vineyard at Campsas in the Tarn-et-Garonne,
but unfortunately, the English speaker turned out
to be Madame, who at that time was on holiday; Monsieur's
English was even worse than our French! Not to be
deterred, we arranged for an early evening wine tasting
and with the help of a bit of sign language and a
drawing, had the wine growing and bottling process
explained to us. So pleased were we all with our new-found
fluency, Monsieur first took us to his cherry trees,
where we ate cherries fresh from the tree, then to
have a look at his 12 day old frizzle chicks; they
were so cute!
Unfortunately, we had to cut our summer motorhome
trip short but we are looking forward to next summer, when we hope to extend our Passion stopover
experience. Italy and Germany are top of our wish
list now and I cannot wait!
France Passion has been providing motorhome stopovers
in France since 1992. France Passion's 1915 host properties are primarily vineyards and a wide
variety of farms producing local produce such as honey,
cheese, beef, sausages, salamis snails, and fruit.
Some of the stopovers are at restaurants and some
in the gardens of 'camping-caristes',
French motorhome owners.
When you buy a France passion invitations guide (£24.99
in 2016), you become a guest and can stay at a host
farm or vineyard, free of charge, for one night. The
peculiarities of French law allow only fully self-sufficient
campervans and motorhomes to use these French stopovers.
The host farmers are not required to provide camping
facilities though a small number of hosts do provide
water, dustbins, even showers. Many of the hosts offer
vineyard and farm tours and tastings; although there
is often a wealth of products available to buy, we
have never felt pressured to do so. Some hosts speak
English, some do not, but even with our rather basic
French and a few hand signals, we have enjoyed conversations
with our hosts about a variety of subjects, from vine
trimming to the care of 12 day old frizzle chicks!
Farm and vineyard stopovers are also available in
other countries, namely Spain, Germany and
Italy, although I have not yet had the pleasure of
visiting those sites. Guides for all these stopovers
are available from the UK agent, Vicarious