We mention that we’re staying on an aire from time to time. I’ve taken a quick video of one at Morella in the Valencia region of Spain to give an idea what they look like (although they do differ quite a bit in terms of size, proximity to the town, cost and facility standard). The network of aires in Spain is patchy, but we’ve found a few gems away from the coast, Morella was one of them.
Aires are usually provided by the local authorities, in an attempt to draw motorhome tourists. There are almost none of them in the UK, but France and Germany are peppered with them. The best database we’ve found is campingcar-infos.com (in French) and the best English resources are the Vicarious Books, All the Aires series.
Aires are perfect for motorhomes (caravans and tents are forbidden) as we’ve no need for the showers, toilets and sinks provided on campsites. We do need to dispose of used washing water (grey water) and loo waste (black water) and take on fresh water. Most aires provide these facilities. Some are better designed than others! As you can see in the video the grey water point at Morella is a poor design; the best are grates concreted into a flat area which slopes in from all sides by at least a meter.
The aires in Spain and Portugal tend to be proprietary affairs, knocked up by local workmen. You have to guess how some work, a recent one required grey and black waste to go in the same drain, which is really unusual. Ones in France are generally professional service points, even taking credit cards for payment.
We can highly recommend aires to anyone who is used to campsites. They save us a small fortune, making us more willing to spend money in local shops and restaurants. They do have some constraints though: you can’t get tables or chairs out, awning etc (officially), you can be parked close to other vans (often no closer than a campsite), few provide electrical hook up (we use little electricity, have a 100W solar panels and drive frequently so our leisure battery is always charged quickly), they’re first come first served (we’ve not found a full one yet, but have been travelling only outside of season) and there is no security provided (apart from the unofficial neighbourhood watch scheme of fellow vanners).