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TRAVEL

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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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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