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Mounting losses for Channel Tunnel operators as travel bans and Brexit hit business

Getlink, the operator of the Channel Tunnel link between France and Britain, reported on Thursday deepening losses in the first half of the year as Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic hit traffic flows hard.

Mounting losses for Channel Tunnel operators as travel bans and Brexit hit business
Photo: Christophe Petit Tesson/AFP

Revenues came in at €326 million in the first six months of this year, a drop of 12 percent from the same period last year when Covid-19 first hit. That is a 38-percent drop from the pre-pandemic level in 2019.

Net losses swelled to €123 million, compared to €88 million in the first six months of last year.

That also surpassed the €113-million loss it suffered in 2020 as a whole.

The company said the results reflected “the effects of the pandemic as well as by the new administrative formalities for Brexit.”

It said traffic by high-speed Eurostar train service was “severely disrupted as a result of government travel restrictions” as were other passenger services through the tunnel.

Eurostar services suffered a 96 percent drop in traffic from the 2019 pre-pandemic level to just over 200,000 passengers.

Eurostar had been teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, but secured a €290 million bailout in May.

The decline in car traffic was 78 percent and coach traffic 87 percent.

Meanwhile, the company said lorry traffic, which was “impacted over the first three months of the year due to stockpiling before the end of the (Brexit) transition period at the end of December and the adaptation to new administrative formalities, picked up in the second quarter.”

Lorry traffic dipped by just 3 percent from the level in the first half of 2020, with a 21 percent drop in the first quarter followed by a 23 percent gain. It was still down 20 percent from the pre-pandemic level in the first half of 2019, however.

The company said it was impossible to provide any performance forecasts “as long as the governments fail to take a stable long-term position on international travel restrictions”.

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TOURISM

What to know when visiting France’s lavender fields this summer

Known affectionately as 'blue gold,' France’s lavender fields are a popular tourist attraction every year. Here is what you need to know about visiting them:

What to know when visiting France's lavender fields this summer

Lavender is the “soul of Provence,” the French region where the fields can be found. Like wine, lavender was brought to France around 2,000 years ago by the Romans. The flower is the emblem of ‘Haute Provence’ regional identity, though the fields stretch from just outside of Nice almost all the way up to Valence, and they are not fully exclusive to France.

Even the washerwomen, those whose job it was to clean clothes and linen, were referred to as les lavandières in France. 

The flowers, which can be found mainly in two species in Provence, have several uses – as oils for cooking and bathing, as a perfume for soaps, and even as an antiseptic for healing wounds and scars.

The lavender essential oil that comes from Provence is even an AOP (L’Appellation d’origine protégée) in France. 

When is the best time to see the fields?

Typically, the lavender flowers from around mid-June to early-to-mid August. However, depending on the weather, especially if there is a drought or hotter temperatures, the lavender might flower sooner than normal, which is likely the case for this year.

This is unfortunately also a side effect of climate change, which might be pushing up the lavender flowering season.

Where should I go?

The Valensole plateau is perhaps the most famous place to go for lavender fields. Speckled with several small Provencal towns, the area is beautiful, with a mountainous backdrop in the distance. If you go here, you might also be able to see the sunflower fields too.

Sault is perhaps a bit less known, partially because due to its altitude, the lavender typically flowers a bit later.

It is still a great place to go see the fields, and every year the town hosts a Lavender Festival in August. Walking (or cycling) between the villages (Aurel, Saint-Trinit and Saint-Christol) is very manageable.

This is not too far from the Sénanque Abbey, a medieval 12th century abbey which is surrounded by lavender fields. You might notice some small stone houses called bories in the fields, which were historically used for field workers.

Luberon Valley is another location that comes highly recommended. In the area, there is a regional national park, home to rosé wines, castles (chateaux) and charming villages, like Gordes, a stunning hilltop village.

Here you can also find the Musée de la Lavande, if you are looking to learn more about harvesting, producing and distilling lavender, its industry, and some interesting regional history.

How to get there?

You can take a TGV train to Aix-en-Provence or Avignon, or rent a car. With a car, you can also enjoy the several scenic routes that allow you to see the fields from the roads.

What else is there to do while in the region?

The area is also known for its rosé wine, so you could take the opportunity to go visit some vineyards or spend some time wine-tasting. 

In the summer months, the south of France can get quite warm. If you are looking to go swimming or enjoy the water, the Gorges du Verdon are not too far away. Though a bit of a tourist hotspot, the canyon is a beautiful and a wonderful place for paddling along in a canoe.

If you’re a fan of hiking, you can always go for a (light) hike along the Ochre Trail near Roussillon. Here, there are two marked paths that will take you through sunset-colored red and yellow cliffs in an old quarry.

Words of Wisdom

Unless you have been given express permission, do not pick the lavender, as this is the farmer’s livelihood. You can always buy a bouquet from nearby souvenir shops for your photo shoots! 

Also, stick to the paths that exist to avoid trampling any crops, and of course do not litter in the fields. 

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