One of the greatest things about motorhome travel in Europe, for me, is the aires system.
Aires have different names in different countries, but the principle is always the same – approved overnight parking for motorhomes where you can cook and sleep. Some aires also provide service points (fresh water, waste water and toilet disposal) and some even provide electric hookup. Cost ranges from free to hourly pay-and-display parking, but it’s usually pretty cheap compared to a campsite.
In some countries, finding a suitable aire for the night is as easy as driving into a reasonable-sized town and following the signs – German stellplatze are particularly well signposted, for example. However, some of them can be much harder to find and having a comprehensive guide that allows you to plan overnight stopping places is very useful.
In the UK, a company called Vicarious Books has pretty much cornered the market in this area, importing well-known guides from Europe and publishing its own series of books called All the Aires… This article is a review of the three All the Aires guides that we own:
- All the Aires France
- All the Aires Spain & Portugal
- All the Aires Benelux & Scandinavia
Each book follows the same format. The area covered is divided into geographic regions and each aire is listed with its GPS coordinates, brief (but accurate) driving directions for people using maps and a comprehensive list of all of the facilities and characteristics of the aire. Facilities can include toilet and waste water disposal, fresh water, electric hookup and characteristics include whether the pitches are flat, suitability of access for larger motorhomes and so on.
The vast majority of the aires have been visited and checked by the Vicarious Books team and the descriptions are usually correspondingly accurate, although details can be out of date as these municipal facilities sometimes change from year to year. Many also have photos showing the aire and surrounding area – very useful.
The books are all in a convenient A5 format that slips easily into a door pocket and is always to hand when necessary.
All the Aires France
This is the original All the Aires guide. Billed as an alternative to the French Le Guide Officiel Aires de Services Camping Cars, All the Aires France focuses only on true Aires de Camping Cars, omitting other French facilities such as municipal campsites and France Passion stops. This works for us but some people prefer the more comprehensive French guide (which is in French).
We spent a couple of weeks in the south-west of France in May 2010 and found the All the Aires France guide invaluable. There were occasions when certain details (usually minor) were out of date, but this is inevitable and did not cause us any problems. The guide certainly enables you to find aires you would not otherwise come across and the driving directions are usually pretty accurate, meaning that you do not require a sat nav to find the aires.
All the Aires Spain & Portugal
In 2009, we spent four weeks in Spain and Portugal. During this time we used our All the Aires Spain & Portugal guide to find somewhere to stop almost every day. Although some areas of Spain and Portugal are better served with motorhome facilities than others, the guide proved pretty accurate and extremely useful, especially for locating service facilities where we could empty the toilet and so on.
As with the French guide, each location has been visited and reviewed and a list of facilities, driving directions, GPS coordinates and photographs are provided for each aire. Very useful.
All the Aires Benelux & Scandinavia
All The Aires Benelux and Scandinavia appears to be the odd one out in the Vicarious Books stable, disappointing us where the other guides have been excellent to use.
We have so far only used this book in Norway but were very disappointed with it. Compared to other guides in this series, it appeared poorly researched, out of date and incomplete. See my full review here for more details.
Find Out More
Most Vicarious Books publications are only available direct from the company’s website although some can be found on Amazon. Visit www.vicariousbooks.co.uk to learn more. A preview facility is available for some books, allowing to you see a few pages of each book before you decide whether to purchase it.