Why this weekend might be a good time to fill up your car in France

Ahead of the busiest weekend of the year on the French roads, some supermarket chains are offering discounts on fuel.

Why this weekend might be a good time to fill up your car in France
A client fills her car with gas at a petrol station in Ciboure, southwestern France (Photo by GAIZKA IROZ / AFP)

The chassé-croisé is upon us. It is the weekend when vacationers heading off to enjoy their holidays in August share the roads with those coming home from their July trips. This year, like years previous, there will be heavy traffic on French motorways, particularly on Saturday.

Luckily, there are a few options for drivers to save on fuel amid the long traffic jams – or simply take the chance to fill up locally if you’re not planning on travelling.

Fuel prices remain very high and France – and would be even higher without the government’s 18c per litre discount – on Tuesday average prices stood at €1.93 a litre for diesel, €1.91 for unleaded (SP95) and €1.85 for E10.

The grocery store chain E. Leclerc will be foregoing some profits this weekend by offering its fuel “at cost.” The discount will be available for customers at all Leclerc filling stations – of which there are about 600 –  from Thursday July 28th until Saturday July 30th. Keep in mind the discount will no longer be in effect on Sunday, July 31st.

READ MORE: French Expression of the Day: Chassé-croisé

The offer is intended to help consumers counter rising cost of living and inflation, particularly on one of the biggest driving weekends of the year. 

In terms of savings, motorists should not get too excited, however. A litre of fuel might be around €0.02 to €0.10 cheaper at participating stations.

You can find a station near you HERE

READ MORE: MAP: Where to find the cheapest fuel in France

The discount plan for consumers comes as France’s parliament debates the current fuel rebate, which could be increased from €0.18 to €0.30 per litre of gasoline from September 1st.

Head of E. Leclerc, Michel-Edouard Leclerc, has also announced that this may be the final ‘at-cost’ operation, arguing that such operations will no longer be possible when the new climate law takes effect on August 22nd. The law will regulate advertising related to the environment, including a ban on the advertising of fossil fuels. 

Leclerc is not the only supermarket chain to offer fuel discounts. The Casino group will continue offering its discount until the end of August. As it stands, consumers can benefit from from a voucher card after spending €120 at the Casino store. The voucher can be picked up at the reception desk of any participating Casino store, and allows customers to get one litre of fuel at the price of €0.85. 

The TotalEnergies group has also announced they will apply a fuel discount of €0.20 starting in September.

If you are looking to save on fuel, you can also use this map to avoid soaring prices.

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Mine-riddled French island becomes unlikely walkers’ paradise

Every year, thousands of day-trippers make the short boat journey from France's northern coast to the island of Cezembre, marvelling at the spectacular maritime views and flourishing wildlife.

Mine-riddled French island becomes unlikely walkers' paradise

But they better tread carefully and stick to the path, as almost all the island remains perilous due to unexploded munitions from World War II.

Cezembre opened to visits only in 2018, over seven decades after the end of World War II, after extensive de-mining efforts allowed the opening of a marked path for visitors.

However, the area safe for visitors makes up just three percent of the island, which experts say was the most bombed area of all of World War II in terms of the number of hits per square metre.

“It’s magnificent!” enthused Maryse Wilmart, a 60-year-old visitor from the southwestern town of La Rochelle, contemplating the sandy beach with turquoise waters and looking out to the ramparts of the port city of Saint-Malo beyond.

Tourists pass by signs reading “no trepassing – Danger” on Cezembre Island, Photo by Damien MEYER / AFP

“But when you see all that behind us… Can you even imagine what happened here?” she asked, pointing to the barbed wire and signs warning “Danger! Ground not cleared beyond the fences!”

A visitor needs to go back 80 years to understand what happened on this usually uninhabited rocky outcrop.

In 1942, the occupying Nazi German army seized the strategically important island and installed bunkers and artillery pieces.

On August 17th, 1944, Saint-Malo was liberated by the Americans but the Nazi commander of Cezembre, leading some 400 men, refused to surrender.

There then followed a devastating bombardment from the air by the Allies.

“It is said that per square metre it sustained the greatest number of bombardments of all the theatres of operation of World War II,” said Philippe Delacotte, author of the book “The Secrets of the Island of Cezembre”.

A beach on Cezembre Island, off Saint-Malo’. Photo by Damien MEYER / AFP

“There were between 4,000 and 5,000 bombs dropped”, some of which contained napalm, he said.

On September 2nd, 1944, the white flag was finally raised and some 350 exhausted men surrendered.

“Some survivors claimed it was like Stalingrad,” Delacotte said. The island was completely devastated, to the extent that its altitude even dropped because of the bombs.

After the war, the island became the property of the French ministry of defence and access was totally closed, with the first de-mining efforts starting in the 1950s.

It was handed over to a public coastal conservation body, the Conservatoire du Littoral, in 2017.

The path of about 800 metres lets visitors wander between rusty cannons and bunkers, with breathtaking views towards Cap Frehel and the Pointe de la Varde.

Since the opening of the path, “there has been no accident” even if “there are always people who want to go beyond the authorised section,” said Jean-Christophe Renais, a coast guard.

Over time, colonies of seabirds have reappeared, including seagulls, cormorants, razorbills and guillemots.

“Biodiversity is doing wonderfully, everything has been recolonised and revegetated, birds have taken back possession of the site,” said Gwenal Hervouet, who manages the site for Conservatoire du Littoral.

“It’s just a joy.”

Because of the focus on restoring wildlife, the trail was partially closed in April “to maximise the chances of success and the flight of peregrine falcon chicks,” said local conservation activist Manon Simonneau.

Some walkers say they hope the trail will be lengthened to allow a complete tour of the island, but according to the Conservatoire there is little chance of this — the cost of further demining would be astronomical, so it is now birds and nature that are the masters of Cezembre.