Stopping off – Villages �tapes


Situated close to motorways, the Villages �tapes offer drivers a place to stop with a range of services and a warm welcome.

Situated close to motorways, the Villages �tapes offer drivers a place to stop with a range of services and a warm welcome.

As well as conventional motorway services and rest stops, France has a growing number of small towns which are signing up to the Villages �tapes scheme, which started in 1989. They’re all villages and small towns of no more than 5,000 inhabitants, close to either toll-free autoroutes or important stretches of dual carriageway which are autoroutes in all but name.

Participating towns agree to provide a certain level of service, including food, fuel, rest areas and shops, and guarantee certain opening hours depending on the season (see for full details). Of course, there are countless towns which fit this description all over France, but as any regular traveller will tell you, it’s hard to know from a glance at the map whether a short detour from the main road will find you a thriving small town with every amenity you could wish for, or a sleepy village with no fuel and a caf� that’s closed for most of the day.

Participating towns, worth hitting the slip road for, include:

• Torigni-sur-Vire on the A84 in Manche.

This pretty market town has plenty of restaurants and caf�s, as well as small shops, supermarkets and a choice of filling stations.

• Pougues-les-Eaux on the A77 in Burgundy.

As the name suggests, this is an old spa town, once famed for its hot springs. Now it’s a quiet but pretty village, accessed from junctions 31 and 32 of the autoroute.

• Ligny-en-Barrois on the RN4 in Lorraine.

Ligny is where the RN4 crosses both the River Ornain and the canal which links the Marne and the Rhine.

All Villages �tapes must provide the following services:

• Shops offering ‘basic’ requirements (baker, butcher-delicatessen, grocer, newsagent)

• A range of eateries giving visitors the opportunity to discover the culinary traditions of each village

• Star-rated hotels

• A tourist office or a tourism information point

• Shaded parking places

• A telephone kiosk

• A shaded picnic area

• 24-hour-accessible toilets

• A cash point

Certain villages can also offer:

• Play areas for children

• A class-rated campsite (open from at least June to September)

• B&Bs and g�tes

• A chemist

• A post office

• Various services (doctor, vet etc.)

• Walks, heritage trails etc

How did it start?

The Villages �tapes initiative was created in the Haute-Vienne d�partement of Limousin in 1989 to develop village services situated close to the A20 motorway. The aim of the initiative was two-fold: to help stop the economic decline of villages situated close to major roads, while also creating new services for road users. Many key members of the community in Haute-Vienne rallied behind the new initiative including mayors, hoteliers, restaurant owners, tourism workers and garage owners. Their efforts paid off and the first Village �tape – Bessines-sur-Gartempe, in the Haute-Vienne – was established in 1995. The Mayor of Bessines-sur-Gartempe, Bernard Brouille, declared, “The alternative was simple: if we hadn’t become a Village �tape, it would have been disastrous for the village. A road isn’t simply a way of getting from one place to another. It must also serve as a means of developing a territory.” Since then the network of Villages �tapes has spread across the whole of France.

A warm welcome

The French Ministry of Amenities awards the Village �tape label to villages that adhere to a strict quality charter in terms of their commitment to guarantee a warm welcome to visitors. Every five years, the villages in the scheme are reassessed to make sure they are meeting the requirements to keep their Villages �tapes label. Find out more

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