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TRAVEL NEWS

How to travel between France and UK without P&O Ferries

If you're planning a trip between France and the UK in the near future, you will have to do without P&O Ferries, after the company suspended all its services. So what other services are available?

How to travel between France and UK without P&O Ferries
Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

P&O Ferries on Thursday suspended all its sailings – including the Dover/Calais route – before its announcement that it has made redundant 800 of its UK-based staff.

The company says that it will not be running any services “for the next few days”, with as yet no timetable for a resumption of services.

Passengers who are booked on Dover/Calais services are advised to go to the port as planned, and head to the check-in for rival ferry firm DFDS.

P&O says on its website that “We will arrange to get you away on an alternative carrier as soon as possible” – although it’s not clear whether this will incur an extra charge.

Even when services restart, many customers are declaring they will boycott the company over its treatment of its UK workers.

So what are the alternatives?

Ferry 

If you prefer to go by sea, there are still three companies offering cross-Channel routes – DFDS, Brittany Ferries and newer addition Irish Ferries.

Brittany Ferries runs services between the UK ports of Portsmouth, Plymouth and Poole to Caen, St Malo, Cherbourg and Roscoff.

DFDS runs routes from Dover and Newhaven to Calais, Dunkirk and Dieppe.

Irish Ferries runs a Dover to Calais service.

Tunnel

If you like to travel by car, the other option is Eurotunnel, running from Dover to Calais with departures every 30 minutes and a 30-minute journey time.

Eurostar

Ditching the car gives you the option of the Eurostar. The train runs a London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord route, but once in France you can also continue to Lille or connect down to Bordeaux.

Services were severely cut during the pandemic, but are now back to 10 trains a day, although the UK stations of Ashford and Ebbsfleet are still not back in use, making London the only UK departure point.

Plane

Airlines have also restarted most of their pre-pandemic routes and this option means that you can head directly to southern France with airports in Bordeaux, Toulouse and Nice all now running UK routes again, as well as – obviously – Paris.

Easyjet, Ryanair, Air France, BA and Hop all offer routes between France and the UK.

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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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