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Easter travel to France: What services are up and running

The Easter holiday is traditionally a busy time for travel between France and the UK - but this year several issues have combined to make travel tricky. Here's what is up and running if you have a trip booked.

Easter travel to France: What services are up and running
Several UK airports have been hit by delays and flight cancellations. Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

Flights

Companies including EasyJet and British Airways have been cancelling a high number of flights in recent days, because many of their staff have Covid.

More than 1,100 flights have been cancelled over the past week, including some 200 EasyJet flights to popular European location

If your flight is affected, you will be contacted directly by your airline.

Airports

If your flight is running as scheduled, be aware of issues at several UK airports.

Airports including Heathrow, Manchester and Birmingham have been hit by disruption because of staff shortages caused by Covid, affecting everything from airport security to luggage handlers. Passengers risked missing their flights because of lengthy delays, according to reports in the UK press. 

Passengers have been advised to make sure they are at the airport as early as possible to allow for delays, and unions have warned that the disruption could last for some time.

In the case of Manchester, the advice is to arrive three hours early.

Ferry services

P&O ferries may not resume cross-Channel services until “after Easter” – traditionally one of its busiest periods as holidaymakers look to make the most of the two-week school break – after its controversial decision to lay-off 800 members of staff in the UK, according to the RMT union. 

National secretary of the union, Darren Proctor, told KentOnline: “The information we have is that individuals have tried to book crossings between Dover and Calais and the earliest they are being offered is April 19th.”

P&O has not confirmed the union’s claims – but they will not be welcomed for thousands of holidaymakers looking to get to France and elsewhere over Easter. And it has been reported that one of its ships, the Pride of Kent, failed a safety inspection, and services on the short crossing are not expected to restart for several days, at the earliest.

This has, obviously, had a knock-on effect on other cross-Channel ferry services.

DFDS is putting on additional services, but has warned it will be operating at close to capacity over the busy four-day Easter period. P&0 has previously said that booked who had booked tickets should go to the port as planned, and head for the DFDS check-in.

However, DFDS has said that it cannot not take any more P&O passengers from April 8th to April 10th – a situation likely to expand into the bank holiday weekend for return journeys.

Eurotunnel

Eurotunnel is experiencing more traffic than it has since 2019, as cross-Channel passengers and freight have been switching to the undersea service since the start of the P&O crisis. On Monday, one of its freight trains broke down en route to Calais, and needed to be repaired in the tunnel before returning to Folkestone, leading to additional temporary delays. 

Normal service resumed later the same day, but – like ferry operator DFDS – Eurotunnel is operating close to capacity. Existing bookings will be honoured, but don’t assume that you will get a crossing if you book at the last minute.

Eurostar

Services are running as normal and there are no reported delays at check-in. Easter is usually a busy period for the rail operator, but while some services are already fully booked, there are plenty of trains still available between Paris and London. Masks are compulsory for the duration of the journey.

Health rules

The UK is now on France’s green list, which means that vaccinated travellers only need to show proof of vaccination to enter France. NHS certificates are accepted. Non-vaccinated travellers will need to show a negative Covid test at the border – full details here.

There are no Covid-related requirements to enter the UK.

Masks are required on all public transport in France and in transport hubs such as airports and stations. For services running from the UK to France, check the policy with your operator.

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READER INSIGHTS

Readers reveal: The best beaches and coastal resorts in France

The Local asked readers for their top tips for places to visit along the French coast and we were overwhelmed with suggestions for beautiful beaches, off-the-beaten-track villages and lively resorts.

Readers reveal: The best beaches and coastal resorts in France

The Local has been seeking out France’s best coastline in recent weeks, after a disagreement on an episode of our Talking France podcast where Editor Emma Pearson defended La Vendée as home to the best (and most underrated) coastline in the country, while journalist Genevieve Mansfield fought for Brittany. 

To settle the debate, The Local asked its readers to share their favourite place to go on France’s shores, and the results are in, along with exclusive recommendations:

Brittany wins

Almost half (48 percent) of those who responded to The Local’s survey about the best part of France’s coastline voted for Brittany. 

Where to go

Several people recommended the Morbihan département.

Angela Moore, said her favourite part of this area was the islet between Vannes and Lorient, which is home to romanesque chapel and the Etel river oyster, a delicacy in the area. 

Others chose the Morbihan for its “lovely little coves, wonderful beaches and seafood,” as well as for boat rides in the gulf. Meanwhile, some pointed out Carnac, as a spot to visit, as the town is known for its prehistoric standing stones.

Some preferred travelling further north in Brittany, and they recommended the Finistère départment.

Rebecca Brite, who lives in Paris’ 18th arrondisement, said she loves this part of France for the overall atmosphere. Her top recommendation was to “Go all the way to the Baie des Trépassés and stay at the old, traditional hotel-restaurant of the same name. Pretend you’re in the legendary kingdom of Ys, swallowed up by the sea on this very site.”

The other part of Brittany that came highly recommended was the Emerald Coast (Côtes d’Armour) – specifically the Côte de Granit Rose.

The Mediterranean coastline

The Mediterranean remained a very popular vacation spot for readers of The Local, with almost a third of respondents claiming it as their favourite part of the French coastline. From sailing to cliffs and architecture, the Mediterranean had a bit of everything according to The Local’s readers.

Cassis and the Calanques were among of the most popular responses for where to go and what to see in this part of France.

One respondent, Gini Kramer, said she loves this part of France because “There’s nothing like climbing pure white limestone cliffs rising right out of the sea. The hiking is spectacular too.”

Some counselled more lively parts of the riviera, like the old port in Marseille, while others suggested the quieter locations.

David Sheriton said he likes to go to the beaches of Narbonne: “It’s a gentle slope into the sea so great for the (grand)children.” He said that the area does have a “few bars and restaurants” but that it does not “attract the party crowds.” 

In terms of beautiful villages, Èze came recommended for being home to “the most breathtaking views of the French coastline,” according to reader Gregg Kasner.

Toward Montpellier, Dr Lindsay Burstall said that La Grande Motte was worth visiting, for its “coherent 60’s architecture.” Burstall proposed having “a chilled pression au bord de la mer while watching the world go by…”

Meanwhile, three readers listed locations near Perpignan, and all encouraged visiting the area’s “pre-historic sites.”

Sally Bostley responded that her favourite areas were “between Canet-Plage and Saint-Cyprien-Plage” and she advised visiting “Collioure, Banyuls with the aquarium, Perpignan, nearby prehistoric sites, Safari Park, Prehistory Park.”

Other parts of the coastline

Though these locations may have received less votes overall, they still stood our in the minds of The Local readers:

Normandy did not receive as many votes as its neighbour Brittany, it is still home to unique attractions worth visiting. The WWII landing beaches “plages de débarquement” came highly recommended, along with cathedrals and abbeys in the region, like Coutances in the northern Manche département.

Reed Porter, who lives in Annecy, likes to go to Êtretat when he visits Normandy. He had several recommendations, starting with “les falaises!” These are the dramatic cliffs overlooking the ocean.

Porter also suggested visitors of Êtretat head to “the glass stone beach” and the “old town” for its architecture. If you get hungry, there are “oysters everywhere all the time.”

Basque country was also highlighted for its proximity to the Pyrenées mountains. Maggie Parkinson said this was the best part of France’s coastline for her because of “The long views to the Pyrénées, the pine forests, the soft, fresh quality of the air, the many moods and colours of the sea – gently lapping aquamarine waves to thunderous, crashing black rollers churning foam onto the shore.”

A huge fan of the area, Parkinson had several recommendations ranging from cuisine to “cycling the many paths through the tranquil pines, visiting Bayonne, the Basque Country and the Pyrénées or northern Spain (for wonderful pintxos).”

She said that she loves to “[chill] on the endless, wide sandy beaches or [rest] on a hammock in the park” or “[catch] a local choir sporting blue or red foulards singing their hearts out to traditional or rock tunes.”

Similar reasons were listed in favour of Corsica as France’s best coastline, as it is also home to tall mountains with beautiful views over the water.

If you are looking to visit Corsica, Paul Griffiths recommends “having a good road map” and then “just [driving] quietly along the coast and over the mountains.” He said that this is “all easily doable in a day” and along the way you can “find beautiful beaches, lovely towns with good restaurants – especially Maccinaggion and Centuri – to enjoy one day after another.”

Finally, the preferred coastline location for The Local’s France Editor, Emma Pearson, also got some support by readers, with one calling La Vendée an “unpretentious” and “accessible” place for a vacation.

Respondent Anthony Scott said that “Les Sables d’Olonne and Luçon both epitomise the spirit of Vendée.” He enjoys the “inland serenity and historic sites, beautiful beaches and inviting seashores” as well as “traditional appetising meals.” He also noted that the area is “not too expensive.”

READ ALSO Brittany v Vendée – which is the best French coastline?

Many thanks to everyone who answered our survey, we couldn’t include all your recommendations, but feel free to leave suggestions in the comments below.

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