I'm planning to drive from Caen to south of Poitiers. Just wanted to figure out where convenient rest areas (aires) with cafe or restaurant facilities are on the route.

So far I've completely failed to find any online maps that help find these rest areas, let alone ones that differentiate the simple parking areas from those with more facilities.

This question has a really nice answer linking to a website that purports to do exactly this, however no matter what selection I make (restaurant or petrol or toilets or any combination thereof) it shows the route and say no services match my criteria.

Anyone got any clues about how to find this information efficiently?

  • There is no need to use the French word aires (and capitalising it is a mistake). – fkraiem Jul 29 '16 at 11:11
  • I need to use some term that indicates that I want to stop on the route, rather than come off into town, and I think that using the French term is not unreasonable. I see that when reference generically "aire" is not capitalised, I'll fix that. – djna Jul 29 '16 at 11:34
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    As part of the journey will be on vinci autoroutes, you can go here : en.sites.vinci-autoroutes.com and use the interactive map that is displayed. There you can display "aires" and have information about them. – audionuma Jul 29 '16 at 11:42
  • Thank you, audionuma, that's exactly the kind of site I was trying to find. – djna Jul 29 '16 at 12:00
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    ViaMichelin seems a nice tool. Info for your trip: viamichelin.com/web/… -- It does not distinguish the type of rest stop, and, somewhat annoyingly, near intersections with other highways, it includes aires that are close by but apparently not on the route per se. – Michael E2 Jul 29 '16 at 16:23

A basic itinerary from Caen to Poitiers on "autoroute" might use :

The A88, whose website can be found here : http://a88-alicorne.fr/

There's a dedicated page about services available : http://a88-alicorne.fr/index.php?menu_type=2&num=4&id_menu=3&name=LES+SERVICES+DE+L%27A88

The A28, whose website can be found here : https://www.alis-sa.com/index-gb.php

There's a dedicated page about services available : https://www.alis-sa.com/gb/services/services.php

Then, the journey is on vinci groupe autoroutes, there's a dedicated website here : http://en.sites.vinci-autoroutes.com/

The interactive map displayed can display various informations, including aires.

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    Thanks for assembling that information; really helpful. Wish Googlemaps or someone would give a simple consolidated view! – djna Jul 29 '16 at 12:06

Disclaimer: I am French, I have used autoroutes in about all parts of France :)

TL;DR: There's normally no planning needed, the aires are sufficiently close together that you can start searching when you need one and get to a suitable one within 10 min/20 min assuming you're not caught in traffic jams (a real possibility during school holidays, look-up predictions beforehand if you travel Friday-Sunday).

The French "autoroutes" have two types of rest areas (though I had never paid attention to naming them, so I'll reuse @Relaxed names):

  • "aire de repos" are rest areas with parking space, generally some picnic tables, and a toilet block
  • "aire de service" are rest areas with parking space, generally some picnic tables, a petrol station and the station building also generally hosts a little shop (with a toilet inside) and even sometimes multiple shops and a "restaurant"

Both categories of "aire" alternate, and it is entirely feasible to only use "aire de service" which are much more comfortable (and correspondingly generally more crowded).

I am not particular myself, but do be aware that toilet blocks are generally:

  • not heated
  • not too clean
  • and therefore smelly
  • may not have toilet paper or anything to dry your hands (after washing them with cold water)

Being less "friendly" though, they are generally not as crowded, so if time is of the essence they will allow a more speedy "pit stop". It depends which level of comfort you wish for.

On the other hand, toilets in shops are heated, generally quite clean (as it reflects on the shop's image) and generally have toilet paper and something to dry your hands with (after using warm/hot water). They may slightly less clean or not have TP during rush hours.

The shops that come with gas pumps also offer a typical "mini-market" assortment of canned drinks, coffee machines, prepared food (sandwiches, salads, cookies, sweets) as well as various utilities at the very least. They may have, as mentioned, a restaurant for hot meals.

Since a couple years now, some of the supermarket brands have acquired a few of the aires (E. Leclerc, Carrefour, Auchan, ...) whereas only petrol brands had stations before (Total, Esso, ...). The supermarket ones are supposed to offer cheaper gas and services, but I've not found the difference that impressive to be honest: the prices remain much higher that what you'll find outside the autoroute anyway.

So, how do you pick where to stop?

This is a typical sign (from Wikimedia: Autoroute A62 panneau aire des Landes):

enter image description here

Below the name and distance, you can find a collection of pictograms.

First row, left to right:

  • gas available (and even GPL: it's written underneath), it's 24/7 by default with credit/debit card
  • hot drink available
  • ATM available

Second row, left to right:

  • picnic tables available
  • collection area for camping car/caravans dirty water

You can find other pictograms on Wikia, I'll just borrow their restaurant sign for here since it's quite useful too:

enter image description here

  • Merci Matthieu, this overview information corresponds to my experience. However, as you note the aires de service are generally nicer, and for this journey are what I am trying to find. So far, based on audionuma's kind references, I am able to determine that in some cases such aires de service are up to 75km apart. I don't believe that the signs at any one aire indicate the distance to the next one, so I'm a little less sanguine about the frequency of these aires. Hence my idea is to do a little planning so that I know if I'm likely to have a relatively lengthy journey if I don't stop. – djna Jul 29 '16 at 15:55
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    @djna: You are right that the next aire is generally not specified from the current aire. However I would like to note that 75km apart at 130 km/h is 40 min., which is why I say that unless you mind waiting 10 min to 20 min there is generally no need to plan much. That being said, there are some very nice aires (Aire du Mont Saint-Michel on A84 and Aire du Poitou-Charentes) that are worth waiting for if you can plan for them! – Matthieu M. Jul 29 '16 at 16:12
  • Yes, must admit I was thinking in miles ;-) By the way, did you intend to have "TL;DR: There's ..." towards the top of this answer. Pretty sure it's a cut and paste typo, but I'm not permitted to fix it ... – djna Aug 2 '16 at 21:47
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    @djna: It's fully intended. "TL;DR:" stands for "Too long; didn't read" and is used to introduce a summary of the answer. – Matthieu M. Aug 3 '16 at 7:13

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