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motorway aires: 19

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motorway aires[1]
in poitou-charentes
- the A83 autoroute

 

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the A83
Aire de la Vendée
Aire de Sainte-Florence
Aire de Grissay
Aire de Chavagnes en Paillers
the Marais Poitevin -Poitevin marshes
end notes


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Motorway aires are designed to provide a suitable environment for relaxing, refreshing and recovering during the long, hard journeys. As well as facilities of often dubious nature, picnic tables and seats, a telephone kiosk, there are often optional extras such as a play area or a display related to some local interest or event.

 

A83

This motorway is lined by marching windmills on the flat, agricultural expanses. They are not the biggest, but are beautiful in their arrays of five or six. Note that there are several sound-break banks alongside the motorway which, while they protect locals from noise, also protect travellers for views of the surrounding countryside.

Windmills beside th A83

We travelled mostly from south to north, but many of the comments apply in the southward direction as well.

The aire most replete with distractions, the aire de Vendée, is huge, providing many facilities for an extensive stop.

 

Aire de la Vendée

On the northbound direction, between junctions J6 and J7, there is a quiet service station, complete with a Wifi point. Go under the motorway by the road tunnel and there is the rest of the aire, including lots of parking.

Here, on the south side of the motorway is a very large and dispersed aire, connected by decking and paths.

orientation plan for Aire de la Vendee

There is an extensive picnic area,

Part of the extensive picnic area

children’s play areas

children's play areas

and a mini Vendean marais (marsh). this is part of the exhibits showing the way of life in the Vendée marais (marshes).

mini Vendean marais (marsh)















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Then there is the ‘museum’, open every day during July and August. It has many fairly realistic dioramas of water birds, local people from former times and their daily work, as well as a 3-D model of a farm. Note the building’s floor, which is a glassy green, evoking the water of the canals that help drain the marshes.

Decking walk, with museum and exhibition buildings to left and right.
Decking walk, with museum and exhibition buildings to left and right.

cafés

Cafes at Vendee aire, A83

and a large gift and local products shop.

large gift and local products shop

Local products include the Vendée brioche and caramels [fudge] made with butter salted with Île de Ré salt,

Local products: bonbons, flavoured salts, honeys
Local products: bonbons, flavoured salts, honeys

and even Vendée cola!Vendee cola

 

aire de sainte-florence

As well as the large aire de Vendée, with its features, cafés and shops, there are several smaller, quiet aires de repos - rest areas - on the A83. Sainte-Florence, on the northbound carriageway, going towards Nantes is one. It is so quiet, you can hear birds trilling and chattering to each other above the background whoosh of the motorway traffic.

Every second picnic table and bench area is covered, so visitors are sheltered from any rain (from above at least). If you want less action and more peace, this is a good place to come. And here there are places where those with too much energy can plough through the long grass.

A87

aire de grissay

And going south, facing the aire de Sainte-Florence is the Aire de Grissay. This aire has a very similar layout to Sainte-Florence, with a picnic area on a loop of road away from the parking for the sanitary area and telephone. Like Sainte-Florence, this aire is very pretty and very quiet.

Now a little gastronomic diversion. Go to a supermarket beforehand, and buy some supplies for your picnic. As well as fresh baked bread (pain aux céreales is tasty) and seasonal fruit, try the locally available cheeses. From Vendée are several tasty cheeses, try fleur d’aunis, misotte or herbillette (made from goat and cow’s milk). We also encountered bleu de causses, one of several good blue cheeses available. Bleu de causses is better than most stiltons!


aire de chavagnes en paillers

Going further north on the A8 is Chavagnes en Paillers. This aire includes a filling station, with a similar layout to other aires on this motorway, though not quite so pretty. It is substantial, so you can easily find more than adequate places to pause away from lorries and other travellers.

Then there is Remouillé est, small and empty except for the lorry park at the aire’s entrance. When we visited, the honeysuckle was better than at the other aires!

 

the Marais Poitevin - Poitevin marshes

The Poitevin marshes originally were covered by sea - the Gulf of Pictons. As the sea retreated, it left a marshy area that evolved, over more than ten centuries and with human help, into a mosaic of landscapes. The marais covers over 970 square kilometres, and three départements: Vendée, Deux-Sèvres, and Charente-Maritime. These marshes are only second in area to the Camargue, part of the Rhone estuary.

Map showing extent of the Marais Poitevin

Feudal lords donated parts of the marsh, from the seventh century, to local abbeys. The monks developed this land for crops, livestock, salt production and fisheries. They dug canals, channels and ditches to drain the area. This drainage and improvement of the land, with its development mostly for farming, has continued to the present day.

There are ‘dried’marshes, in the west and nearer to the sea, used for farming and animal breeding. To the east are the ‘wet’marshes, a patchwork of islets intersected by picturesque canals, nicknamed The Green Venice (la Venise Verte), the canals being filled with grren duckweed. Visitors can have a pleasant outing on the canals, hiring a traditional barque (type of punt) from one of several embarcadères, or piers.

The natural history of this region is very rich. There are over 250 birds that live here or who visit, over 80 species of butterfly, 38 fish species, otters, bats and 126 plant species, of which 78 have protected status. (Of course, what you may see depends on the season.)

Poitevin marsh. Image author: Gilbert Bochenek

 

end notes

  1. aire: in this context, an area —
    aire de loisirs: recreation area;
    aire de pique-nique: picnic area;
    aire de repos: rest area;
    aire de services: services , motorway (GB) or freeway (US) service station.

  2. We have used the letter J, signifying the English nomeclature of junction for access points on motorways/dual carriageways. The French name is Sortie, exit. However, as this would lead to using an unfamiliar (to Anglophones) letter S, in this instance we are remaining English.

  3. Bleu de causses originates from the Tarn valley and it production extends from Lot to the Aveyron and Lozère.
on first arriving in France - driving motorway aires, introduction
travelling by rail to and within France Les Pyrénées, A64 Poey de Lascar, A64
aires on the A75 autoroute from Clermont-Ferrand to Béziers Pic du Midi, A64
Hastingues, A64
Dunes, A62
Mas d’Agenais, A62
aires on the A89 autoroute from Bordeaux to Clermont-Ferrand and beyond Pech Loubat, A61
Port-Lauragais, A61
Mas d’Agenais, A62
Garonne, A62
aires on the busy A7 autoroute from Lyons to Marseille Ayguesvives, A61
Renneville, A61
Catalan village, A9
Tavel, A9
aires on the motorway to Spain - the A9 autoroute three aires on the canal du midi, A61 Lozay, A10
Poitou-Charente, A10
aires on the autoroute of two seas - the A62 Carcassonne, A61 Les Bréguières, A8
A65 : the autoroute de Gascogne, from Langon to Pau
aires on the other autoroute of two seas - A64 and A61 the French Wild West, Bordeaux to the Spanish border - the N10 and A63
in Poitou-Charentes: motorway aires on the A83 aires on the A20 - the Occitane, from Brive to Montauban
in Poitou-Charentes - aires on the A837 motorway in Poitou-Charentes - the A87 motorway and its aires
from Lyon to Switzerland and Italy - motorway aires on the A42 and A40

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