There we were, in Germany, with our newly purchased campervan, Vinnie the Van, trying to figure out the quickest, and most beautiful way to get to the north of Spain. We knew we would have to drive through France, but we couldn’t decide which way to take — do we just speed through the country on the highways, or do we take the scenic route past Switzerland and down the south of France? Well, all the super fast highways in France are tolled, the degree to which is astronomical (we paid €27 for driving 200km!*), and driving past Switzerland and through the Alps along those winding mountain roads in a 1997 Ford Transit didn’t sound like my idea of a good time.
That’s when we discovered a third option — France Passion! France Passion is a program that’s been running for 25 years. Members are able to stay for free with farmers across the country. There are thousands of farmers taking part in the program. We purchased our year-long membership for €25, and it gave us access to an online guidebook that allowed us to plan our route according to length of the drive in between, and the kind of produce they made. It was the best way we could have imagined to get across France (I proudly say this without any sort of compensation from the company).
One of the “Golden Rules” of France Passion is that campers are not obligated to buy anything from the farm, but really, how could we not? What’s a few euros for a fresh snack from those who made it, especially when you aren’t paying for accommodation? France Passion is the ultimate cheapskate solution. As I mentioned, we mapped out our trip based on the food and goods we wanted to buy, so it wasn’t even a question if we would buy anything. We began our stops with Beaujolais wine (€12 for two bottles), enjoyed some charcuterie in Montregard (€4 for jar), and then followed the Route des Fromages (yes that’s a real thing!) to a farm that made the most delicious cheeses (€7 for two blocks!). We decided to try something new and drove to a fois gras farm (€10/ tin), and then finished our trip with a private vineyard tour of a winery in Bordeaux (€13 for two bottles).
If you are driving across France, in an RV or campervan, the average cost of a campground is €20-€25. Do yourself a flavour (haha!) and sign up for France Passion. For the same cost, you can stay for free at thousands of farms around France, and taste the sweet, sweet goods from the farmers themselves.
*Not only did we pay €27 for about two and a half hours of highway driving, but also, the highways are not picturesque, and the gas prices are crazy high! When we switched to toll-free driving using Google Maps, we saw way more of the countryside, drove past beautiful little villages and towns, and paid a solid €0.25/Litre LESS for fuel. Take it from a cheapskate, unless you are desperate to make it through France in a day or two, avoid those toll roads, they just aren’t worth it!