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motorway aires: 14

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motorway aires[1]
Fitou, A9


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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.

Brick location map of sights, with  the 'white' Etang Leucate beyond.

Brick location map in five parts, with the ‘white’ Étang Leucate beyond.
The Mediterranean is just discernable beyond the strip of seaside resorts running along the eastern side of the Étang.

fitou aire

Here, there is a truly panaramic view from north round to south, from France round past the Étang Leucate and the Mediterranean Sea, and then towards Spain.

A high-backed stone seat gives an excellent view over the étang, as well as shelter from the prevailing wind.

A high-backed stone seat gives an excellent view over the étang, as well as protection from the fierce prevailing wind.

As well as the spectacular view, the aire has possibilities for walks,going down the hill towards the Étang. If you are feeling very intrepid, you can naughtily climb a gate, and cross a road and a railway to play in the marshes at the edge of the Étang. Remember this is not a recommendation. All naughtiness is done at your own risk.



180 degree panoramic view of Etang Leucate, from north to south


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180° panoramic view of Etang Leucate, from north to south

étang de leucate and its surrounds

  • This large étang between the motorway and the Mediterranean is called Étang of Leucate or of Salses - Étang de Leucate ou de Salses. You might see pink flamingoes, as well as other wading birds.
  • Leucate is from the ancient Greek for white, the shallow étang is much lighter, almost white in the sun, compared to the nearby, generally blue Mediterranean Sea.
  • Fitou aire is on the route of the ancient Heraclean Way (12 BC). Hannibal passed this way on his way from Spain to Italy.
  • The nearby Mediterranean was the maritime motorway in ancient times, serving the exploratory trading fleets of the Phonecians, Greeks and Romans.
    The ancient influences show in many local place names:
    Leucate, Greek for white;
    Salses < Fons Salsulae [Salty source, 2nd century AD];
    Collioure < Caucoliberis;
    Porte-Vendres < Portus Veneris;
    Roussillon < Ruscine, the main town of the people of Sordones - the origin of Perpignan.
  • In 1963, the band of land between the Étang and the Mediterranean was expanded and developed to support several seaside resorts, built specifically for tourists. These towns include Leucate Plage, Port-Leucate and Port-Barcarès.

the fitou appellation d'origine contrôlée wine

In 1948, the first Languedoc-Roussillon “Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée” wine certification was given to the Fitou Cru. This red wine is is only produced in nine small communes in a territory that covers 2,600 hectares around the village of Fitou on either side of the Corbières massif. The appellation communes are Fitou, Leucate, Caves, La Palme, Treilles, Cascastel, Paziols, Tuchan and Villeneuve. On the 4th August every year, one of the nine apellation villages holds a Fitou Cru fête with a parade, prize giving, a market.

The grapes used are Carignan (at least 40%) and Grenache, together with a small percentage of Syrah and Mourvèdre. These are combined to make the characteristic rich flavoured and full red wine of Fitou.

The Fitou AOC territory and its vineyards benefits from shaly and argilocalcareous [clay and chalk] soils, and lots of sunshine. The sun, combined with the local and frequent high wind - the “Cers”, gives a very dry climate. This wind is also called the le vent de diable et vent d'ange - the devil and the angel’s wind. It was tiringly strong and persistant when visited the Fitou aire, even if it is appreciated by the many vines that can be seen from the aire .

Sketch map locating the Fitou aire

sketch map locating the Fortesse de Salses aire

The eastern Fitou aire is only accessible from the north-bound side of the A9 motorway, when driving from Perpignan and Spain. The south-bound aire has somewhat less impressive views and, of course, no access towards the étang.

The Fitou aire is in Département 66 - Pyrénées-Orientales.


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. Appellation d’origine contrôlée [A.O.C., AOC]
    indication of controlled origin; a French system of certification for certain food products.
    This means that there is a a guarantee of the product’s geographical origin, as well as strict supervision of its production methods, ingredients and manufacture recipe (if relevant). This ensures that an A.O.C. product is consist over time, and keeps its individuality, particularly to its place of origin.

    There are currently over 474 A.O.C. appellations recognised for wine, liqueurs and spirits (Calvados, Cognac and Armagnac). This is about 45% of French production and involves 75,000 concerns.

    For milk products, there are 45 appellations for cheese, 2 for butter and one for cream.These appellations involve about 28,000 producers. The largest quantities for cheese are Comté, Cantal, Roquefort and Reblochon.

    There are 39 other A.O.C. categories recognised:
    13 for olives and different olive oils, 7 meats, 2 honeys, 1 fish product , 1 condiment, 1 animal fodder, 1 essential oil, 13 fruits and vegetables. (Our source does not specify these other AOC classification products.)

    Of further interest: 2% of French agriculture is classified as ‘biological’. 11,402 concerns are producing, and close to 5,000 companies are involved in the transformation of bio products. Of the producers, 34% are for milk and suckling cows , 40% fruits and vegetables; 16% vines. 43% of the bio producers sell their products directly.
    [Information from INAO, June, 2007]



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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