In France, you pay to travel on most motorways [autoroutes] (there are a few free motorways, around large cities and in Northern France) but there is one benefit that comes with this cost – an immense variety of "aires". Government regulations demand that aires are placed at a maximum of 20 km intervals, so there is one without fail every twelve miles or so.
The aires range from small picnic areas with an emergency telephone, almost open air toilet and wash basins and a few picnic tables/seats, to filling stations with a variety of services including shops, restaurants and often with incredible views.
If you look carefully there are quite often wildlife areas and we stopped last year and sat watching various butterflies hovering over a variety of wildflowers.
The "aires" can get busy during the tourist season but are generally not too busy. The ones in and around the larger cities can be more busy and crowded so if you can plan to stop in the countryside that is probably a better plan.
There is a guide book to these motorway stopovers. This book seems to be aimed at Motorhome owners looking for cheap stopovers but it may also be useful for ordinary drivers. I will try and find out more !
There is also an excellent website with interactive maps of motorway aires at
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