We spent the night on farms producing everything from bison to wine throughout France with the France Passion program for motorhomes.
Last summer one of the highlights of our 3-month motorhome tour of France was camping overnight on local farms. While it isn’t possible to just pull into a farmer’s field and set up camp, there is an organisation called France Passion that makes it almost that simple.
France Passion connects motorhomers who enjoy getting off the beaten path, eating local produce, and interacting with local people (sound like anyone you know?) with farmers and producers. The producers offer motorhomers a basic, safe, overnight place to park for free. In exchange, campers agree to be respectful, clean, and quiet and, although it’s not mandatory, it’s a nice gesture to buy some of the producers’ goods. For us, the program is an absolute win-win.
Motorhomers pay an annual fee (currently 29€) and receive a guidebook and map of more than 1900 producers: wineries, farms, craftspeople and more. It was honestly the best investment we made preparing for our motorhome trip.
We plan to write more about the ins and outs of motorhoming through France but today we want to feature the farms themselves. We stayed at 13 different farms in the France Passion network (and would have loved to visit more!) Each was unique and memorable and gives a great taste of what the program has to offer.
1. Ferme des Anneaux, Avelin, Nord-Pas-de-Calais
We spent our very first night on the road in France at the Ferme des Anneaux. We had no idea what we were getting into with France Passion; how it would work, if we would like it, if it would be weird parking on someone’s private property. We needn’t have worried.
With the GPS coordinates provided in the France Passion guidebook, we easily found the Ferme des Anneaux, not far from Lille. We weren’t the only motorhome on site, so it was easy to see where to go although it took a bit of negotiating to fit our motorhome, Amelia, into the tight space. Luckily, though, France Passion limits the number of motorhomes at any one site to five, so you’re never parked anywhere crowded.
The farm itself was gorgeous, covered in wisteria and surrounded by a moat. We could see the small herd of happy cows grazing beneath the trees in the distance. The farm shop offered a little bit of everything. We filled our fridge with fresh milk, yogurt, butter, and lemonade for a mere €7.15 – and we had a free, beautiful place to camp overnight. Yes, it certainly seemed France Passion was designed just for us. What a way to kick off our motorhome adventure in France!
2. Les Vergers de Brunembert, Nord-Pas-de-Calais
A few days later, after dealing with some initial motorhome troubles and an unscheduled return to Belgium for repairs, we were back in Nord-Pas-de-Calais at Les Vergers de Brunembert. This cattle farm and orchard was definitely off the beaten path. Andrew was able to test his skills navigating Amelia down some winding country roads. Again, the scenery was stunning.
At the farm, we were joined only by one other motorhome owned by a young French family. We parked under blossoming apple trees and enjoyed a quiet country night.
In the morning, we visited the farm shop. Our stay was a bit more expensive, but only because we couldn’t resist all of the goodies on offer. We bought three bottles of apple juice (apple, apple-pear, apple-raspberry), a bottle of cider, and two types of cheese (mimmolette and a tom soaked in cider). Total price: €17.93. Still far cheaper than any of the campgrounds we stayed at on our trip – and tastier too!
3. Ferme Emouville, St-Vaast-Dieppedalle, Normandy
Because we weren’t working with the tourism board in Normandy at all, we used France Passion for the majority of our stays in the region. Our first was the Ferme Emouville in a small village between Dieppe and Fécamp. This farm was a bit different as the offerings were baked goods.
We parked by ourselves in a gravel parking lot beside a pretty timber-framed house. The house was surrounded by fields of cattle and blooming fruit trees. One side of the house was dedicated to a small catering company where two ladies were busily making savoury tarts and quiches and a variety of sweet treats. Unsure of what to choose, they recommended the wild mushroom tarts and a local dessert that was kind of a caramel rice pudding. We enjoyed both for dinner that evening. We forgot to record the cost, but it was certainly less than 10€ for an excellent meal.
4. Ferme Vautier, Heurteauville, Normandy
If I had to choose one favourite France Passion stay, it may just be Ferme Vautier. For starters, we couldn’t have picked a more fascinating setting, right beside the Seine. We spent quite a while just watching the enormous barges passing right by our window. Across the river, we could see the stunning Jumièges Abbey, which we visited the following morning.
The farm itself was a hodgepodge of various livestock, including some curious calves. By this point our fridge was pretty well stocked from our farm stays but when our hostess said she had some fresh guinea fowl available I was intrigued. I had never cooked it before, and it seemed like an interesting challenge. We bought a whole Guinea Fowl and some cream for a total cost of €16.08.
One of the other things I loved about this farm stay was the beautiful neighbourhood surrounding it. We took an evening stroll, and my camera got quite a workout photographing the timber-framed, thatched roofed houses with their pretty gardens. (You can see more photos on CamperCats.) My favourite house was right next door. It reminded me so much of the Weasley’s house I felt we were on the set of a Harry Potter film.
5. Ferme de la Croix Blanche, Vimoutiers, Normandy
We spent the following night at the Ferme de la Croix Blanche, with yet more blossoming trees and cattle – but this time, those cows were producing one of my favourite things – cheese.
Once again we had the farm to ourselves in a very rural setting. However, the campsite was very well maintained and we even had a picnic table for an al fresco dinner.
We were in Camembert country and the next morning we learned our farm sells its milk to the Graindorge cheese factory in Livarot – the very factory I wanted to visit the next day. We, of course, bought some cheese, as well as some fresh apple juice and eggs. Total cost: 9.75€
6. Angora Style, Douvres la Delivrande, Normandy
By this point, we had spent a lot of time on cattle farms and were actively looking for something different. Angora Style wins the award for the most unusual farm we stayed on. As the name implies, this was an Angora rabbit farm, one of the last remaining in France.
We parked that night with one other motorhome on a dirt track overlooking a wheat field. (It was also the evening I tackled cooking the guinea fowl from the Ferme Vautier, which was delicious if I do say so myself.) We woke early and joined our fellow motorhomers for a tour and presentation of the Angora Farm. It was fascinating and truly the most educational of our farm stays. We even watched a short film about angora production in France. (You can read more about our visit to Angora Style here.)
The retired couple who own the farm are passionate about their rabbits and have acquired quite a collection of different breeds, including a Belgian Giant. We even saw some adorable baby angora bunnies. This was our most expensive farm stay, at €38, but only because we chose to purchase some of the gorgeous angora yarn for Andrew’s mom, who is a knitter.
7. Domaine Ostreicole Sebastien, Lestre, Normandy
One of the things we were looking forward to in Normandy was enjoying some fresh seafood. When we saw we could stay at an oyster cultivator our mouths were already watering. While our parking space at Domaine Ostreicole Lejeune wasn’t particularly scenic, (camped in their parking lot) we were steps from the sea, and we had a feast to look forward to.
Stepping into the shop, we ordered up 18 oysters for our evening meal. The lady behind the counter said they’d be ready and waiting for us and told us about a biscuit shop in the nearby village. We enjoyed a lovely evening stroll (including a visit to the biscuit shop) and returned to our oyster feast. As promised, they were shucked and waiting. All for 9€.
8. La Fraiserie, Saint-Martin Le Hebert, Normandy
By this point, we had enjoyed a number of Normandy’s specialties at our farm stays: cheese, cider, and seafood. Our next farm specialised in a French delicacy better known in the Dordogne than Normandy – Foie Gras.
With a name like La Fraiserie, you don’t expect a farm filled with ducks, but this is exactly what we spotted when we turned in the drive. As it turns out, in addition to a strawberry farm, La Fraiserie also has hundreds of ducks, chickens, turkeys, and geese for foie gras, rillets, and the like. The farm shop was like a candy store for carnivores. We spent €21.61 on some luxurious treats and spent a quiet night surrounded by chickens.
In the morning, we had a look around the farm and were happy to see the ducks were entirely free-range and happy, with plenty of space in nature to roam.
9. La Matairie, Villaines La Carelle, Normandy
Our last France Passion farm stay in Normandy was one of the most amusing. Once again, we found ourselves on a poultry farm, but La Matairie doesn’t specialise in chickens or ducks. We were parked by ourselves in a grassy field overlooking a flock of guinea fowl; quite possibly the dumbest birds ever.
Despite buying our first guinea fowl at Ferme Vautier, we didn’t see any of the birds on the farm. Now we sat laughing at Orange, who was fascinated by the large flock of stumpy, black birds running aimlessly back and forth in their pen.
We chatted with our hostess who explained they had switched from an industrial poultry farm about ten years ago, to small-scale, free-range and haven’t looked back since. It was clear to see the birds have a good life and plenty of space. We restocked our fridge with a variety of goodies from the farm shop including cheese, butter, duck breasts, and strips of duck meat. (She was sold out of guinea fowl until she butchered again.) Total cost: €25.89
10. Javoy Winery, Mezieres Lez Clery, Centre
From Normandy, we moved on to the Centre region of France and into our epic stretch of back-to-back press trips. Before our marathon began, we had one last peaceful night on a France Passion farm, the Javoy Winery. Yes, after several weeks in France we were finally going to get our hands on some wine.
Javoy et Fils also wins our award for the most picturesque France Passion stay of our trip. We spent the night overlooking vineyards, fields of wheat, and millions of brilliant red poppies. We watched hot air balloons soar overhead and witnessed a spectacular sunset. It was perfection.
In the morning, we wandered over to the winery and asked our hostess if it was too early for a tasting. FYI it’s never too early for a wine tasting in France. She talked us through their fine wines, and we chatted about everything from the difficulty of winemaking in France to our travels.
When we learned they sold wine in bulk, we asked if she could fill one of our collapsible water carriers. She laughed and told us she couldn’t guarantee they would keep the wine fresh but agreed to give it a try. It worked, and we enjoyed her delicious red for the next few weeks. We ended up with 13 litres of wine for €35.10 (or €2.70/L). At just over €2 per 750mL bottle we had ourselves a great, cheap table wine.
11. Bisons de Poitou, Valdivienne, Poitou-Charentes
Angora Style wasn’t the only unusual farm we visited on our travels. We spent our first night in Poitou-Charentes at Bisons de Poitou, a bison farm. It’s quite odd to see a vast herd of bison in rural France, but the giant animals looked quite at home.
Being spring, it was baby season and one field held the new-born calves and their mothers. The little ones were fuzzy and adorable, but I definitely wouldn’t want to mess with the mamas!
The family who runs the farm was busy setting up for an upcoming festival. Apparently they host one of the largest Wild West festivals in France each year. That would explain the wooden statue of a Native American beside our campsite…
Our visit to the farm shop netted us some bison sausage, pate, and steaks for €18.10. Who says eating fresh, local produce is expensive?
12. La Ferme De Turnac, Domme, Aquitaine
I made a very conscious decision when I chose to stay a night at La Ferme de Turnac, in the Dordogne. The region is famous for foie gras, a specialty I love that is steeped in controversy. My feeling was if I was going to be ok with eating foie gras, I wanted to see for myself how it was made. (You can read more about our foodie experience in Dordogne here.)
After spending time touring this incredibly well-run, organic foie gras farm and seeing the happy, healthy geese, I decided organic, free-range foie was the only kind for me. These birds have a much better life than any factory-farmed chicken, and I had no issue enjoying the products sold in the farm shop. We spent €26 on foie gras and duck confit and had an evening of discussion about the ethics of food production in a pretty parking spot surrounded by roses.
13. Chateau de la Mothe, Vicq, Auvergne
Our final France Passion stay wasn’t a farm at all. In fact, we spent our night in Vicq, Auvergne in the shadow of a castle. The Chateau de la Mothe is a moated castle, dating from the 12th-18th centuries. When the current owner, M. Pelletier, offered us a private tour, we couldn’t resist. (The tour cost €6 each making our total spend €12).
Pelletier is passionate about his chateau and has created scenes with mannequins throughout the castle, dating from different periods. The chateau is a hodgepodge of different eras and styles and makes for a quirky visit. Chateau de la Mothe also hosts art exhibitions and is available for weddings and other events.
Our camping space for the night felt like a mini-campground overlooking cattle fields which we had entirely to ourselves. It was a unique way to wrap up our discovery of France Passion properties.
It is possible to visit most of these farms and buy the produce directly from the producers even without a motorhome. However, we loved the connection staying overnight gave us to the local area. We hope to return to France in the future and discover more of the France Passion farms.
Just in case you were wondering France Passion didn’t sponsor us in any way. We just truly loved the experience of staying on the farms and meeting the producers. We highly recommend this service if you are motorhoming in Europe.
If you are interested in more details about our motorhome adventures, check out CamperCats.com, our site dedicated to motorhoming, where we are slowly adding all of the stories of our travels through France and beyond.