RV Adventure with France Passion
I found France Passion the way I discover most crazy travel ideas – through Pinterest! While Googling ideas for a French RV trip I ran across this article from Beer and Croissants about staying on farms in a motorhome while traveling around France. I was instantly intrigued. We had toyed with renting a camper van (as they are known in the Netherlands) for our Scotland trip but were worried about driving a large stick shift vehicle on the wrong side of the road. (Read about what we did instead here.) I contacted France Passion about the program and they sent me their expiring guide book to have a look.
Jeff went around to a few local RV rental places to check out the vehicles. Our local place in Delft did not have an RV with enough seats for our family of five, and they were a tad bit rude. Jeff found another place in Gouda, Holland Camper Verhuur, which had a few vehicles for us to look at. At the end of his visit Jeff reserved an RV for our May trip.
France Passion Rules
The “Golden Rules” of France Passion are pretty simple. They provide a list of farms that have a place for your to park your camping car (as it’s called in France) free of charge. In exchange you check out their farm shop. There is no obligation to buy (although we did at every stopover). You are limited to 24 hours at each location and you cannot make a reservation. These farms have no services, so you must be in a fully contained vehicle. This means no tow-behinds.
The guide contains all the information you need to know. Directions and GPS coordinates are provided and we found them relatively easy to find by combining our GPS’s use of the coordinates with the directions in the book. The check-in window is listed. You must be on the farms by a certain time and check-in and check-out with the farmer. If you are not someone who likes to talk with strangers this is not for you.
I was very apprehensive about not being able to make reservations. It was never a problem. Most of the farms have several spots and in late April/early May we were one of two RVs at almost every place we stayed.
There is a France Passion members only webpage to help you plan out your stopovers but it is not very user-friendly. Combine that with our lack of good service on our phones while we were exploring rural France and we found the France Passion website useless on the road. Instead we stuck to the good old map and book provided by France Passion.
There are plenty of farms and very little information to make your decision on. We decided to choose by location. Every farm we stayed at was a win.
Ferme Vautier, Heurteauville
This was our first farm stop after a long day of driving. I had read about this farm on a Cheese-Web post “13 Incredible Farm Stays with France Passion.” We recognized it instantly next to the Harry Potter-Esque, Weasley house. We parked in one of the level gravel spots available.
We landed the closest spot to the Seine, giving us outstanding views of the river from our camping van. We purchased two types of cider and jam from the shop before making a simple pasta dinner in our camper and getting everyone down to sleep. There was one other motorhome at the farm.
In the morning we biked to the free ferry which took us across the river so we could explore Jumieges Abbey, which was visible from our campsite. We also grabbed a quick meal in town before setting off again.
La Pommeraie, Juignettes
This well manicured farm was a bit off the beaten path. It’s hard to miss though with its windmill and baking oven. The typical France Passion spots are up front, but they had just been repaved so instead we headed to the back lot near the farm’s rental house. The farmers were out when we went to meet them, instead we were treated by the grandfather who also bakes the bread. He built the windmill too! When the farmer arrived home she came out to the RV to meet us.
She invited the kids to join her on a farm tour. Off we went – the farmer speaking mostly French with a few English words thrown in. We were able to see all the animals on the farm as she did her nightly routines. We helped her move the baby goats inside, gather chicken eggs and push all the chickens back into the coup, check on the baby ducks and even say goodnight to the alpacas.
In the store we surveyed the wide assortment of goods she had and settled on purchasing some cider, homemade caramel, pasta, biscuits and 12 of the eggs we had helped collect. The Dutch sell eggs in 10s, so it was fun to see a dozen eggs in one container again.
The parking spot had a playground, which had seen better days, but was perfect for our kids. The goat pen backed up to camper van and the kids also enjoyed watching the goats play. We had a lovely dinner at our table and chairs near the playground in the grass before heading to bed. We left early in the morning.
Le Grand Fumichon, Vaux Sur Aure
This is a legitimate French farm manor converted into working farm. The owner literally told us to park anywhere we wanted in the orchard. We picked a shady spot not too far from the farm and out of the way of the farm equipment working in the orchard.
We unpacked our bikes and biked the short distance to the Longues-sur-Mer battery that makes this farm a location winner. (Note the bike ride is more hilly than the Netherlands!) We stopped into the store on our way back to try some Calvados. It’s an apple brandy made in the Normandy region. We also purchased some apple juice, cider and juice-cut Calvados.
Our night here was quiet. We were the only RV. The owner told us to feel free to walk around so we checked out the small sandbox outside the store, the goldfish in the pond, the chickens and the baby cow.
Cherrie de la Huberdiere, Liesville Sur Douve
This cheese farm was a relief after three nights of hard cider. We checked in with the farmer in the shop and purchased some cheese. They also offer a farm tour in the evenings, which we had just missed. (Given in French not English.) We were offered a gravel or grass spot and decided the large grass spot was perfect for us. We let the kids spread out and play around while we made dinner. We were alone until, while putting the kids to sleep, another RV pulled up and parked right next to us in this big open lot. (Our American need for space was sorely offended!)
There is a train line that runs behind the field, which was a bonus for our train-loving kids. There are goats on the farm to view as well.
Chateau du Coing, Saint Fiacre Sur Maine
We actually had our sights set on a farm closer to Nantes, until I spotted the picture in the France Passion book. This was our favorite stop of the trip. The chateau was calling our name. You enter down a long dirt road that winds through the vines and finally arrive at this stunning chateau. Once we arrived we walked around the property looking for the tasting room. Much of this property is under a much needed renovation that is sure to draw crowds here. It’s already a lovely event space but they appear to be doing lots of work to up the ante.
The tasting room is through the large brown doors that face the front. It is modern, clean and lovely.
Our kids sat on the floor while we tasted a variety of white wines and ended up walking out with six bottles including two from 100 year old vines from the property. They were running the bottling and corking machine in the back and we were able to watch it run, which was fascinating.
The parking is right out front of the chateau. One side of our RV faced the chateau while the other looked onto the vineyard. At 6pm everyone goes home and we were left alone on the property to explore. The chateau sits on the banks of a tributary to the Loire River and is just stunning. Waking up in the vineyard was a great way to start our morning. Enjoying our tea while looking over the grounds was unique. We were sad to move on and waved to the workers as they arrived for work and we headed off for the day.
Château d’Epiré, Savonniers
Now that we had the chateau bug we sought out this one near our next day destinations. Our host, Luc, spoke excellent English. He runs the winery here and was pleased to inform us that although we had found them through the book many people find them because they are “quite famous.” I would have shrugged this off as French pride, except their wines are excellent. We left with quite a few. The tasting room is nestled on the basement level of a 12th century church.
The parking here is adjacent to the old church which is now used to house the winery’s barrels. The shale prevents sellers from being dug so when the church came up for sale after the completion of the town’s new church Luc’s great grandfather bought the church, sealed it up and used it to store wine bottles.
The parking spot overlooks the ground of Luc’s family’s chateau. His brother lives in the chateau while he lives in the Orangerie. We could not freely wander the grounds as we had the previous night, as the gardens are privately owned. Instead we took a walk around the adorable town. It’s only a few blocks long but is cute as a button and covered in wisteria. Luc also gave us directions to get to the family vineyards just up the road so we could walk around in the fields.
Chateau de Nitray, Athee Sur Cher
Yep. A third chateau. This one was a bit bizarre in that we could never find anyone actually inside the chateau. A couple who lives in one of the houses on the chateau property told us where camping cars typically park. We parked on the large grassy field across the street from the chateau among the grape vines. We made several attempts to find someone at the chateau and ended up leaving them a note to say hello. Another RV showed up and parked on the opposite side of the field about an hour after we arrived so we knew we were in the right place.
The chateau is quite established. They have tours of the property as well as wine tastings. Our parking spot was one of our most level! We experienced the best weather of the trip, so we spread out the outdoor carpet to enjoy dinner and some outside play time with the boys before bed.
Our only regret was not getting to taste the wines!
Champagne A. Lété, Damery
This place had amazing reviews on the France Passion webpage and it was so close to where our day ended up. We arrived and found the black gates closed, but the next set of gates open. We checked the book and it said it should be open, so we drove the RV into the back and parked in the well worn spots. This stop has a full bathroom with showers and water hook up available. The France Passion signs are posted everywhere.
A distraught looking man approached us telling us “Fermee.” Our French is quite poor so we agreed with him, but he grew more agitated. Turns out the farm was closed for labor day (again, not noted in the book). He went and found the owner who was happy to let us stay.
Later in the evening when we decided to go for a bit of a walk we found that all the gates were locked. It’s a good thing we didn’t have some sort of emergency that would have required us to leave since we couldn’t!
In the morning the vineyard owner showed us around. We bought some delicious champagne and the kids got to watch the workers assemble boxes and package up wine. We walked into town and picked up bread at the town’s boulangerie before heading out for the day.
Ferme Auberge Chantereine, Vernville
Our final farm stay was all about location. We had decided to head into Luxembourg City on our way back home and this farm was perfectly positioned. The farm is seated on a 13th century former convent. RV parking is in the front of the farm between the house and the fields. The farmers spoke French and German and we purchased a ton of jam. They also have a restaurant on holidays and weekends that looks amazing.
We walked around the farm and spent some time looking at the chickens and horses. About 100 meters from the farm there is a German war monument, which was fun to go see.
This farm was the perfect way to end our France Passion trip. I highly reccomend checking out France Passion if you are planning an RV trip. It is a wonderful way to experience France.
This post is linked up with: