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motorway aires: 14

Click to go to 'the highest, longest: the viaduct de Millau'
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motorway aires[1]
aires on the motorway to Spain - the A9 autoroute

the fort de salses, catalan village, fitou, la palme, sigean and others

Motorways/autoroutes of France, showing the A9 autoroute

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Click to go to 'the highest, longest: the viaduct de Millau'

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Carcassonne, A61: world heritage fortified city

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Interactive map of the A9 autoroute, with featured aires marked.
interactive map: hover with your mouse,
clickable areas change to a hand icon

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.

the a9 autoroute (eastern spain to orange)

The A9 motorway (La Catalane) runs from the Spanish border just south of Perpignan, going up the Mediterranean coast until it becomes La Languedocienne, then turning a little eastwards to pass Narbonne, Montpellier and Nimes on the way to Orange. A main artery from Spain to the industrial zones of the Rhone Valley and Marseille, as well as a main tourist highway, means that the road carries a fairly continuous stream of goods vehicles, heavy and otherwise.

catalan village

the Catalan Village : the plaza with shops on a dull dayThe first themed aire to be built by the Autoroutes du Sud de la France [ASF] company, this extensive aire includes shops, a café and a hotel [web page in French], as well as vast amounts of parking. With its theme of Catalonian architecture, this aire provides either a taste of Spain to come, or a reminder of places visited, depending from which direction you access this aire.
Click on the yellow link above to see the full page for the Catalan Village aire.

marker at

spoilt for choice

On the way north (up) from Spain and along the Mediterranean coast, before the A61 autoroute junction, you will be spoilt for choice as to where to stop for a break, a distraction, a picnic. After the grotty little layby aires that are the Spanish contribution to motorway travelling, you will be encountering automotive wonders as you progress up the coast to Perpignan and beyond. The wondrous aires include Château de Salses, Fitou and Sigean. The aires going south are mostly not quite as interesting, though some have a tunnel connecting to the northbound aire.


château des salses [1]

This deceptively big aire overlooks a large former frontier fort on the coastal plain below which can be reached from the aire after a short countryside walk.
Click on the yellow link above to see the full page for the Château des Salses aire.

Click on thumbnails for larger versions
View from the ceramic plan of the Fortresse de Salses to the fort itself. The entrance gates to the Fortresse de Salses.
Wildflowers near Chateau de Salses fort
From top left, going clockwise:
View from the ceramic plan of the Fortresse de Salses to the fort itself. / The entrance gates to the Fortresse de Salses./ Wildflowers / Chateau de Salses fort.
Chateau de Salses fort

marker at


Panoramic view of Etang Leucate, from north to south
New translation, the Magna Carta Here at Fitou, there is a truly panaramic view from north round to south, from France round past the Étang Leucate and the Mediterranean Sea, and then towards Spain.

As well as the spectacular view, the aire has possiblilities for walks and shelters for picnicking away from the prevailing wind.
Click on the yellow link above to see the full page for the Fitou aire.

marker at

la palme

A commercialised aire with fuel, café and and large restaurant area, with lots of parking areas stretching down the hill. There are views of the Mediterranean and the Étang Leucate. There are many olive trees and cypresses, which with the vineyards in the distance give a very Mediterranean feel to this aire.

Cypress and olive trees, with vineyards and the Med. beyond.

marker at

View from the Sigean aire.sigean

This is a quiet aire that stretches a long way beside the autoroute. Like other nearby aires, Sigean is on a slope. You descend log-edged steps to reach wooded terraces with a variety of picnic tables amongst the Mediterranean forest of mediterranean pines and fig trees. These tables have become fairly isolated one from another as the vegetation has grown up about them.

On the lower level, not much visited, there are views through the edge for the forest to vineyards and the great whirling windmills that have been installed in the last few years. Here, it is quiet enough to hear the birds singing.

This is a mature aire, once the trees did not hide much of the view to the Mediterreanean. It is also rather down on its luck, being unfortunately not well cleaned after yobbish visitors have dropped their rubbish.



earth marker

tavel nord

The Nef Solaire from the north, showing the scale of the monumental Tavel sundial.The southbound Tavel aire is dominated, not by the service station, shop and café clustered at the base of a small hill, but by the structure visible from the motorway : the asymmetric, futuristic yet mathematical and educational monumental sculpture - an enormous set of sundials, the Nef Solaire : the Solar Ship or Nave.

Click on the yellow link above to see the full page for the Tavel Nord aire.




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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. The ‘Chinese hat’ accent on some French words is called a circumflex. It does not have any effect on the pronunciation on the accented word. It is an indicator that in times past, the word included a letter ‘s’ just after the letter with the circumflex, in this case the letter ‘a’. Thus, once the French word ‘château’ was spelt chasteau. Another common word with a circumflex is fenêtre, or window. Here you can see the Latin root of the French word - in Latin, ‘window’ is fenester.
on first arriving in France - driving motorway aires, introduction
travelling by rail to and within France individual aires                                             
A75 autoroute from Clermont-Ferrand to Béziers and its aires Les Pyrénées, A64 Poey de Lascar, A64
A89 autoroute from Bordeaux to Clermont-Ferrand and beyond - aires Pic du Midi, A64
Hastingues, A64
Dunes, A62
Mas d’Agenais, A62
A7 - aires on the busy A7 autoroute from Lyons to Marseille Pech Loubat, A61
Port-Lauragais, A61
Mas d’Agenais, A62
Garonne, A62
A9- aires on the motorway to Spain Ayguesvives, A61
Renneville, A61
Catalan village, A9
Tavel, A9
A62 - aires on the autoroute of two seas three aires on the canal du midi, A61 Lozay, A10
Poitou-Charente, A10
A65 : the autoroute de Gascogne, from Langon to Pau Carcassonne, A61 Les Bréguières, A8
A64 and A61 - aires on the other autoroute of two seas  
A83 motorway in Poitou-Charentes - aires A63: the French Wild West, Bordeaux to the Spanish border - formerly the N10
A837 motorway in Poitou-Charentes - aires A20 - aires on the Occitane autoroute, from Brive to Montauban
A42 and A40 motorways - aires from Lyon to Switzerland and Italy A87 motorway and its aires in Poitou-Charentes

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