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motorway aires[1]
aires on the verdant A89 autoroute

motorway aires: 12
aire de Correze, aire de la Loutre, aire des Suchères and others

Motorways/autoroutes of France, showing the A89 autoroute

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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.

map of the A89

Map of A89 autoroute showing sorties and aires


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                            Map of A89 autoroute showing sorties and aires. [Derived from ASF maps]

the A89 autoroute
(bordeaux to clermont-ferrand and beyond)

The A89 motorway stretches from Bordeaux and the Atlantic coast in the west to Clermont-Ferrand, and then to near Balbigny in central France. It is the second longest autoroute n France, after the A10. The western part of the A89 is now [2011] fully opened, supporting three aires with services and four smaller aires.

From the central motorway crossroads at Clemont-Ferrand, you can travel north towards Paris, or south on the A75 to Millau, the Mediterranean coast, Provence and the Côte d’Azur.

In 2006, the eastern portion of the A89 officially changed its name to be part of the A89. Until the name change, this part was called, from west to east, the A710, the A711 and the A72. [The motorway from Balbigny to St Etienne is still named the A72.]

nicknames and names and labels

The A89 has three nicknames: the autoroute of the presidents, because it passes through the fiefs of both former President Jacques Chirac (Department of Correze - President of France in 2006) and former President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (Department of Puy de Dome); the empty autoroute, because it passes no other major cities between Bordeaux and Clermont-Ferrand; and the Transeuropean, as it is intended to be part of a road artery linking the Atlantic to eastern Europe.

marker at abelard.org

a little history
There had been a plan for about 20 years for a motorway stretching across the middle of France, from Bordeaux and the Atlantic to Lyon in eastern France. The section between Bordeaux and Clermont-Ferrand has been built piecemeal, with the western stretch now finished, if not joined up with the section east of Brive-la-Gaillarde.

The mostly north-south section from Brive to Saint Germain les Vergnes has been abandoned as a motorway project. Instead, the existing roads are being converted to from one to two lanes (D9), or from two to three lanes (A20).

The section between Clermont-Ferrand and Lyon is another matter. This has existed for many years as the A72, with smaller joining sections, the A710 and the A711, just to the east of Clermont-Ferrand. As previously mentioned, these smaller sections and part of the A72 have just been renamed to become A89. Most road atlases will still call this motorway section the A72. However, ASF - concessionary company for the A89 - now uses the new name.

To recap, the A72 from the east of Clermont-Ferrand to the junction near to Balbigny is now called the A89. The section of the A72 from Balbigny to St Etienne remains the A72. The French ministerial wrangling [2] eventually having finished, a last section of the A89 is under construction to go directly between Balbigny and Lyon. This will end having to make the current big dog-leg southwards to St-Etienne and back north to Lyon.

On this page, we shall describe a some of the fully established aires, and their notable features. But first some facts and background.

marker at abelard.org

bridge labelling
The bridges across the autoroute are labelled with seemingly cryptic codes - N89, D27, C8. The labels are further colour-coded: N - red, D - yellow, C - white. But, with the aid of your road atlas, this code is soon deciphered - the labels helpfully mark the name of the road that is going over that bridge. Now, for the navigator it is no longer a matter of keeping a running count of bridges passed since the last exit or aire, in order to tell the driver or restless passengers how far or how long before we reach the next stopping point.

an environmental motorway

large animal crossing over the A89

Crossing over the A89 for larger animals. Image credit: http://membres.lycos.fr/a89/protec.htm There other bridges on this autoroute. Instead of road labels, these have large wooden cut-outs of a running wild boar and a leaping deer. Again, we have deciphered the code - these are crossing points for the local four-legged pedestrians, nature highways to connect two parts of the often deep forested countryside now sliced by motorway.

[Image credit: Marc-Olivier Agnes]

otter crossing - a tunnel under the A89 autoroute Having done a careful study of the local flora and fauna, ASF [the A89 concessionary company] co-operated with various nature organisations to integrate the motorway into the countryside. Many types of crossings were built so that animals would be as little perturbed as possible - passages for the larger animals we described above, water crossings for otters, toad viaducts...

[Image credit: Marc-Olivier Agnes]

Water has been protected by two actions:

  • Making sure it can flow from one side of the motorway to the other, by sending both rivers and streams through tunnels.
  • Ensuring that all water draining off the motorway surface is first cleaned of any pollution such as combustion residues, motor oil, petrol, rubber. The probably polluted water is collected all along the motorway and led to de-oiling basins, also called “Olympic swimming pools” by the chairman of ASF because of their high cost. Thus not one drop of water that lands on the motorway can spread back into the countryside without first being treated. The basins are installed every kilometre.

The legal requirements for noise state that the road and its traffic must not be louder than 60 decibels during the day and 55dB at night. Firstly to ensure this, a route was chosen to avoid as many habitations as possible. Then earth embankments were constructed and if that was not enough, acoustic baffles were also built. If there still problems, ASF offered sound insulating the building; while in extreme cases, a building can be bought in order to compensate the owners.

After a landscaping competition, the A89 has been engineered to fit well into its environment. The landscaping included, for example in the section between Ussel and Le Sancy (exits 23/24 and 25) :
105,000 deciduous trees, 46,000 conifers and 117,000 shrubs.

aires on the A89

Western section (Bordeaux to Brive-la Gaillarde) - in process of research and development.
There are not so many aires on the western section of the A89 motorway. Here is one worth a visit on your way.

aire des vignes

This small aire is well worth a visit, each side having different features meriting walking around to take a look.

As the name belies, being in the Bordeaux wine region, and not so far from the wine Mecca of Saint-Emilion, the aire’s theme is vineyards and grape growing. The westbound side has a mini-vineyard, complete with an entrance and walling worthy of any Bordeaux region winery.

Access to Les Vignes aire vineyard.
Access to Les Vignes aire vineyard.

By the gateway is a decorative and descriptive plaque of the Bordelais vineyards. (For a translation and the French text, go to this end note.):

decorative and descriptive plaque of the Bordelais vineyards

abelard.org visited this aire during a quiet time in the autumn. The formal, hilltop garden was readied for winter, while the vines, to the distance and the right of the photo below, had taken on autumnal hues.

It is possible to walk beyond the confines of this side of the aire, if you wish to explore or walk further.

Formal garden with vines beyond, during the autumn
Above: formal garden with vines beyond, during the autumn
Below: close- ups of grape-laden vines
Close up of grape-laden vines    Close up of grape-laden vines

The eastbound side has a handsome, long étang to walk or sit by as part of your recharging before driving onto the hurly-burly of the Bordeaux rocade (ring-road) complex.

Lake at Les Vignes aire, A89
Lake at Les Vignes aire, A89

Located between sorties [exits] 11 and 12, Les Vignes aire is accessible from either direction. However, there is neither bridge nor tunnel connecting the two sides of the autoroute.

Google satellite view of Les Vignes aire, A89
Google satellite view of Les Vignes aire, A89

The eastern section of the A89, until recently the A72, has several aires worthy of a pause on your journey.

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aire de Correze

Symbol of the Aire de CorrezePart of the region of Limousin, the Département of Correze is the family home of the Chirac family. Jacques Chirac, President of France at the time of this autoroute’s opening, was born here. His wife Bernadette, was much involved in local politics, having been a deputy mayor (of Sarran, location of the Chirac Museum) and then a member of the departmental council. She also has some local ancestry.

Accessible as you travel east towards Clermont-Ferrand, this aire reflects these connections, with sumptuous interior woodwork and avery well-endowed multimedia display, including a multi-screen show (in French) that alternates between describing Correze and recalling the role of the local resistors against the occupying Germans during World War Two.

This display is supported by touch-screen displays showing pictures of local places and a projected map, again with interactivity. The rest of the building is, of course, well-kept and well-appointed.

The sculpture (left) seen on the motorway as the aire is approached is a model of the motorway’s shape around this aire, which is in the centre space on the actual road.

Inside the Correze motorway aire on the A89
above: inside the Correze aire building

interactive map of the Departement of Correze Multiscreen information display
multiscreen visual display multiscreen information display
Top left: interactive map of Correze. Top right: multi-screen display about Correze
Bottom: multi-screen display on Correze during the Second World War

aire de la loutre

Accessible as you travel east towards Clermont- Ferrand, this apparently ordinary small aire has a secret: an easy and attractive walk alongside a river and then back through a small deciduous wood. Of course, once through the gate to the riverside, the walker can choose to go either direction, or settle on a seat or the grassy riverbank.

Approaching the riverside walk at the aire de la  Loutre

La loutre is French for ‘the otter’. Although you are unlikely to see these shy animals, this river is an ideal home for these handsome amphibians.

Secluded part of the river bank, ideal for otters The wooded walk (river to the left)
the parking and facilities at the Loutre aire. Motorway in the background.
Going clockwise: Secluded part of the river bank, ideal for otters; the wooded walk (river to the left); the parking and facilities at the Loutre aire, with the A89 motorway in the distance.

viaduct de Chavanon

This viaduct has been chosen by abelard.org because … well just look at it:
twice piercing the sky, with its richly-coloured cables, as the motorway snakes across it and the Gorges of Sioule, then into the Augverne landscape. The nearby aire is basic, being mostly parking encircled by the access road. Go just cross the access road and drink in the view, while other travellers picnic.

Viaduct de Chavanon

some facts and figures on the Viaduc de Chavanon

  • Suspension bridge: monocable across A-pylon towers
  • Construction completed in 2000, after three years of work
  • Cost: 24.4 million €
  • Total length: 360 metres
  • Widest span: 300 metres
  • Angle of pylons: 20°
  • Height above the Chavanon valley: 100 metres
  • Deck width: 22 metres
    deck height: 3 metres
    deck construction: box made of a mixture of steel and concrete
  • 61 vertical strands from 2 cables
    43 pre-stressed anchor ties embedded in the rock
  • Architect: Jean Muller
  • Material used:
    Concrete: 10,000 m3
    Steel: 2,530 tonnes
  • The only suspension viaduct/bridge in Europe where the central span is supported solely by the cables attached to the two A-shaped concrete pylons. The 30 m side spans and their cables give no support to the central span of the road deck.
  • The first suspension bridge built in France since the Tancarville and Aquitaine bridges, built over 30 years previously.
  • Road deck was built by the innovative and appropriately named Tarzan Method.
    This is a segmental construction using temporary cable-stays, with span-by-span in-situ casting on standard falsework (temporary shuttering used as a mould for the deck’s concrete structure). The deck is suspended like Tarzan as he swoops between trees on long rope-like vines.

viaduct de Sioule

The Sioule viaduct on the A89. Image credit: structurae.de
Image credit: structurae.de; photographer: Jacques Mossot

The Sioule viaduct is very close to motorway junction 26, Pontgibaud. From here, above 12 km (8 miles) along the D941 is Vulcania, the highly recommended educational theme park on volcanoes and geology.

Motorway sign forwarning of the gorges of Sioule
View to a (dead) volcano near the Vulcania theme park
Left: Motorway sign forewarning of the gorges of Sioule
Right: View to a (dead) volcano near the Vulcania theme park

some facts and figures on the Viaduc de Sioule

  • Cantilever bridge: hollow box, haunched
  • Construction completed in 2005
  • Opened in January 2006
  • Cost: 47, 386, 835 €
  • Total length: 990.5 metres
  • Widest span: 192 metres
  • Height of pylons: 135 metres
  • Height above the the Sioule valley: 150 metres
  • Deck width: 19 metres
  • Cable-stay length: 15.5 metres
  • Architect: Berdj Mikaelian
  • Material: concrete especially designed for this viaduct containing smoked silicon and CHRYSO®Fluid Optima 175. Concrete resistant to water while still fluid, and resistant to frost when set, qualities needed for the severe conditions during construction.
    • Concrete: 49,000 m3
    • Steel: 6,500 tonnes
    • 1,200 tonnes pre-stressed concrete
    • The gravel came from the Duron quarry and the sand from the plain of the Allier.

Les Pins and Le Lac aires

These two aires are virtually opposite each other, although there is no access between them. However, this does mean whether you are travelling east or west, you can stop at an excellent aire about 36 km from Clermont- Ferrand.

going east - les Pins aire (and away from Clermont- Ferrand)

the spacious, green Les Pins aire on the A89 autoroute, going east from Clermont Ferrand
The spacious Les Pins aire on the A89 autoroute, going east from Clermont- Ferrand

Play area at Les Pins aire,on the A89 autorouteYou may have only left Clermont- Ferrand 36 km (22 miles) beforehand, but this lovely, open and empty aire is well worth a visit. When abelard.org visited, at 11am in the peak summer season, the aire was very quiet.

Les Pins aire may not be one of the largest aires, but it is very substantial. It is also very green, with many trees (not just pines) providing welcome shade in the summer sun.

There is a smart, new-looking play area for children and, as so often, some ‘refreshing and cooling showers’.

A possibly unexpected sensation at this aire is that it is relatively cool, the result of being about 700 metres (about 2275 feet) above sea level. [Remember that each 1000 metres you go above sea level is equivalent to going back a month in weather terms.]

marker at abelard.org

going west - le Lac aire (and towards Clermont- Ferrand)

view at Le Lac aire, A89 autoroute, going west 
      towards Clermont Ferrand
view at Le Lac aire, A89 autoroute, going west towards Clermont- Ferrand

This aire has two, no, three parts. First there is the treed and grassy area with picnic tables, down the slope from the motorway. Then there is the lake, walled where there is access, and wooded where there is not. finally, up in the woods beside and beyond the lake, there is a walk - for fitness, and for education. There is a variety of trees and some are labelled with large wooden boards, with the tree’s name, as well as more picnic tables. [Note that abelard.org’s photos were taken after an unexpected Spring snowfall.]

Part of the fitness walk at Le Lac aire on the A89 autoroute. A tree labelled on the fitness walk at Le Lac aire on the a89 autoroute. Picnic table on the fitness walk at Le Lac aire.

aire de suchères

            The fallen column at Sechères aire, A89.            

Accessible as you travel west towards Clermont-Ferrand, this aire has an extraordinary artwork, well worth walking up to and alongside.

But it is not all. There is a substantial play area and, concealed down the slope and amongst the screen of small trees, are wood-topped picnic tables and more places to walk.

            play area, with snow-topped wooded 'mountains' behind  
  picnic area amongst the birch trees, downhill from the motorway.  
  Above: the play area, with snow-topped wooded ‘mountains’ behind
Below: picnic area amongst the birch trees, downhill from the motorway


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. A sketch map of a proposed A89 motorway running to Lyon, with a short commentary/description in French is available here. The text translates as:

    Looking forward to a horizon of 2010-2015 - improving the link between Bordeaux and Lyon.
    marker at abelard.org From Libourne, a direct link is being studied in order to relieve the load on the Bordeaux ring road, while giving a direct access to the direction of Paris.
    marker at abelard.org Faced with the foreseen overload of the A20 at Brive (to which the A89 is grafted with a bypass north of Brive, as a un-tolled part of the A20) this section will have to be built.
    marker at abelard.org Finally, the State foresees the prolongation of the A89 from Balbigny to Tarare, then constructing a 2 by 2 lane motorway to Lyon. It is noted that more than five years of studies have been lost by the querying of the project by ministerial decisions. The new study ordered has come to the same conclusion as ... the previous one! That is to say the need for a motorway-standard link between Balbigny and Lyon. On the map, the evidence jumps to the eyes. It is abnormal that a Clermont-Lyon journey goes by way of ... St Etienne!

    Also in French, a short summary of the Senatorial discussions on extending the A89, with links to relevant documents.

  3. The plaque near the entrance to the Les Vignes vineyard could be translated as:

    The Bordelais vineyards
    “The Bordeaux region vineyards are the oldest and the most noble of all fine wine vineyards in the entire world. More than a thousand years and 120,000 hectares.

    “The wines of Bordeaux are grouped in fifty-seven appellations which can be communal, sub-regional, or regional.

    “The Bordeaux and Superior Bordeaux appellations, that belong to the regional classification, they alone represent 55% of the land under wine production.

    The land
    “The land, an essential component of quality wines, is the conjunction in a place of an earth, a climate and man’s intervention.

    “The remarkable lands are distinguished by the Appellations d’Origin Contrôlées [Namings of controlled origin]. The geographical limits and the production conditions are administered by the National Institute of Appellations d’Origin Contrôlées (INAO). Here you are within the Bordeaux and Superior Bordeaux Appellations.”

    Original French text on the plaque:
    Le Vignoble Bordelais
    “Le vignoble Bordelais est le plus ancien et le plus grand vignoble de vins fins du monde. Plus de mille ans et cent vingt mille hectares.

    “Les vins de Bordeaux sont classés dans 57 appellations qui peuvent être communales, sous régionales ou régionales.

    “Les appellations Bordeaux et Bordeaux Supérieur qui appartiennent à cette dernière catégorie représentent à elles seules 55% de la surface en production.

    “Les terroirs
    “Le terroir, composante essentielle de la qualité des vins, est la conjunction en un lieu donné d'un sol, d'un climat et de l'intervention de l'homme.

    “Les terroirs rémarquables sont distingués par les Appellations d'Origine Contrôlées. Leur délimitation géographique et les conditions de production sont administrées par l'Institut National des Apprellations d'Origine Contrôlées (INAO). Vous êtes ici dans l'appellation Bordeaux et Bordeaux Supérieur.”
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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the address for this document is https://www.abelard.org/france/motorway-aires12-a89.php

Aire de Correze Aire de la Loutre Sioule Viaduct Viaduc de Chavanon