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Why France’s Covid-rule change is good news for Americans

The latest change to France's Covid rules means the end of two major problems that had led many Americans to cancel or postpone trips to France. Here's why the changes are good news for people travelling from the USA.

Why France's Covid-rule change is good news for Americans
Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP

France’s rules around vaccine passes and booster shots have created problems for Americans, to the point that the US Embassy in France issued a formal warning against booking trips before carefully checking all the rules.

There essentially have been two problems for visitors who were vaccinated in the USA.

The first is that US vaccination certificates do not carry EU-compatible QR codes, so all new arrivals had to head to a participating pharmacy in order to obtain a code that would allow them to use the vaccine pass.

The pass is currently required for a wide range of venues, including long-distance trains, so this was a particular problem for people who had booked a flight and then a connecting train to take them to their final destination.

Once in France, the pass is required for a wide range of venues including restaurants, cafés and tourist sites, so holidaying without one isn’t really an option.

The second concerns booster shots.

A Covid vaccination booster shot isn’t required to enter France, but it is necessary in order to get a vaccine pass, and French rules stipulate that if more than four months has passed since your second dose, you need a booster.

The problem is that many US States do not offer a booster shot until six months after the second dose, leaving many Americans unable to fulfil the criteria to get a French vaccine pass.

In desperation, many readers even contacted us to ask if they could become ‘vaccine tourists’ and get their booster shot in France.

Others simply cancelled or postponed their trip.

But there’s good news – from Monday, March 14th the vaccine pass is no longer required to access any venues in France.

A health pass – which can include a negative Covid test – will remain required for medical establishments and nursing homes.

Mask requirements are also relaxed on March 14th – find all the new rules HERE.

Travel rules, however, do not change.

The USA is on France’s orange list, which means that fully vaccinated people can come for any reason and do not need a Covid test in order to enter France.

But unvaccinated people can only travel if their journey is essential – you can find the full list of accepted reasons HERE but it does not include holidays, family visits or visits to second homes.

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about travel between France and the USA

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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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