Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for this review. I did not receive any payment and was not required to write a positive review.
We’ve long been fans and regulars users of Vicarious Books’ All the Aires guides, so I was very pleased to receive a new batch from them to review recently — including the latest edition of All the Aires France, probably their most popular and widely-used guide.
All The Aires France (4th edition, RRP £24.99)
Short version: The 4th edition of All The Aires France is simply bigger and better than previous versions, while sticking to the tried and tested format.
Long version: The latest version of All The Aires France includes 2,710 French Aires, every single one of which has been inspected in 2010 or 2012, with user submissions used to ensure that the descriptions of sites not inspected since 2010 are still up to date. By way of comparison, our well-used 2nd edition has just 1,600 inspected sites — so the new edition has a substantial amount of new material.
Each site has at least one color photograph, address, driving directions and sat nav coordinates. The number of parking spaces, any charges and the type of service point (e.g. Euro Relais) are all listed, along with a list of all the facilities on offer.
The aire descriptions also include details of the type of location (e.g. town or coastal) and information about the nearest amenities. LPG filling locations are also listed, with 500 included in this latest version of the guide.
Finally, the first part of the book contains a detailed ‘users’ guide’ to French aires, for British motorhomers who may not have experienced this fantastic alternative to campsites before. A detailed description of the different types of service point is included, along with suggestions as to how aires should be used, time limits and other such information.
All in all, All the Aires France 4th Edition is an excellent and worthwhile update to previous editions, and remains the most comprehensive English-language guide to French aires. It will easily pay for itself in a few nights when compared to campsite fees — and if you are like us, will leave you substantially better off: ever since we first travelled to France by motorhome, we have never used a campsite, so good is the network of aires.
There’s also now an All the Aires Locator Map that can be purchased along with the guide (£2) or as a standalone item (£4.99). A proper maps showing the location of all the aires in the guide is something we always wished we’d had with previous guides and the Locator Map is definitely a welcome addition to the range, although All the Aires France does include smaller regional maps within the book that will do the job, but don’t provide such a clear overview.
Go Motorhoming and Campervanning (RRP £11.99)
If you are relatively new to motorhoming or have just upgraded to your first ‘proper’ motorhome, then you may have some questions about owning, using and maintaining your motorhome — or indeed, about staying on the right side of the law and the local customs when travelling abroad.
Vicarious Books’ guidebook Go Motorhoming and Campervanning has been written to address all of these concerns and more. If you haven’t yet bought a campervan or motorhome, there’s plenty of buying (and selling) advice too, although finding the right motorhome is very much down to experience — there’s no such thing as a ‘forever’ motorhome and your requirements are likely to evolve over time. Ours certainly have.
All the Aires Mountains (reduced to £9.99)
One of the biggest attractions of motorhome touring in Europe — for us, at least — is the chance to explore Western Europe’s two main mountain ranges, the Alps and the Pyrenees.
Despite some impressive scenery in Scotland, there simply isn’t anything on this scale in the UK, and any combination of driving, walking, climbing and skiing in the Alps or the Pyrenees is guaranteed to be memorable and rewarding.
What’s more, whereas driving on high alpine passes might once have meant roughing it on narrow, unsurfaced roads, such is the pace of progress that this rarely the case anymore, especially in the Alps, where well-surfaced, barrier-protected roads are increasingly the norm, although narrow roads and overhanging rocks still require careful driving in places.
Historically, mountain ranges’ impassibility meant that they often marked the border between two countries. This means it is entirely possible to cross between two or more countries in a day when driving through the mountains. If you are looking for overnight parking and motorhome stopovers, this can be problematic — although all the French mountain aires are included in All the Aires France, the aires in Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy aren’t — even though they may be within a short drive of each other.
All the Aires Mountains was produced by Vicarious Books to solve this problem, and it does so quite neatly, I think. It contains 191 aires and 81 campsites spread throughout the Alps and Pyrenees. The guide includes details of facilities, seasonal variations, and the same comprehensive, standardised guide to each aire that is used in All the Aires France.
As it is likely to be popular with winter sports fans, this guide also include a section on mountain driving in winter conditions and advice on adapting your motorhome to deal with low temperatures, as well as keeping it clear of snow and ice when parked up.
The only caveat is that this is something of a niche guide and Vicarious have told us that they won’t be producing another edition, so you may find that this edition is getting out of date — it was researched during the 2008/9 and 2009/10 ski seasons.