30 years of free overnight stays
It all began with a wine editor who, 30 years ago, noticed a new type of visitor in the French wine regions. It was the campers he noticed. He also noticed that they often had to look for safe places to spend the night. The idea was born: Why not offer the motorhomes to park at the vineyards? Let them be allowed to spend the night, taste the wines, and maybe they bought something with them on their further journey. He put the idea into practice, and from the first year brought "several dozen" winegrowers with him to organize the network we know today as France Passion. Over the years, many farms have joined the network.
In 1994, the Vignerons Indépendants de France (organization of independent winegrowers) joined an expansion of the network in Alsace, Bordeaux, Champagne, Burgundy, Jura and the Loire Valley.
Three years later, the fruit, cheese and honey producers joined the network as a result of a collaboration with the Chambers of Agriculture and the "Bienvenue à la Ferme" network. Today, there are over 2100 farmers, artisans and inns across France that offer a free stay of up to 24 hours. The wine farmers it started with are still the dominant group in the network in the 30th season. Our first visit to a vineyard in a motorhome is also the one we remember best. Here, wine is tasted straight from the barrel in the farm's cave. Photo: Ellen Randem.
This is the concept
The concept is only for motorhomes, you only get a place to park, you basically get no service and must be 100 percent self-sufficient. The host is not a camping host. In return, you get close to the authentic aspects of the country, can buy the farm's products and experience the local area. You can park on the farm for 24 hours for free. In theory, you can park for free all year round at various farms if you plan well. The language? Remember that the French are proud of their language. The advice is not to take it for granted that you can speak English with them. Many have a command of English, but they also like you to try a few words - even if the attempt is never so poor.
We have used France Passion for many years. The pictures in the article are from some of these visits. There is a big difference between the hosts. Some have a serviced outlet, some are very commercial, but it is usually most pleasant to meet those who welcome you in informal surroundings. In most cases, you will be the only visitor in a motorhome - even in July, while at other times you can meet nice people out on the same errand as you. It depends a little on who you choose to visit. Some may have ten motorhomes visiting, but as a rule there are no more than a couple visiting at a time.
Spread to other countries
France Passion was so successful that country after country has created their own networks based on the same concept. The concept barely came to Norway last year under the name Nortrip. A couple of years before, it came to Denmark under the name Pintrip. Sweden has had its SwedeCamp for a few years. All over Europe there are such networks. They collaborate on their concept and Bobilverden.no has written about them here. There you will also find links to the various countries' networks where you can buy the membership which is the key to this offer. Catalogue, maps and apps cost about the same as an overnight stay would cost at a campsite.
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