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Red summer traffic alert on roads across France this weekend

Last weekend was officially the worst of the summer holiday period on France’s roads - but this weekend is forecast to be almost as busy, with numerous red traffic warnings on place.

Red summer traffic alert on roads across France this weekend
Heavy traffic on the A7, near Pont-de-l'Isere. (Photo: Jean-Philippe Ksiazek / AFP)

The country’s roads monitor Bison Futé has rated travel on Saturday as ‘very difficult’ (red) across most of the country in both directions of travel, rising to ‘extremely difficult’ (black) in the south east of the country.

While traffic levels on Friday and Sunday are less problematic, Bison Futé expects some issues, labelling travel ‘difficult’ (yellow) on both days.

Specifically, the watchdog advises the following on Friday:

Image: Bison Futé

Outward journeys

  • leave or cross the Île-de-France before 12noon;
  • avoid the A13 between Paris and Rouen, from 4pm to 8pm;
  • avoid the A10 between Orleans and Tours, from 12pm to 8pm, and around Bordeaux from 4pm to 9pm;
  • avoid the A8 between Aix-en-Provence and Nice, from 3pm to 8pm;
  • avoid the A20 between Limoges and Brive-la-Gaillarde, from 3pm to 6pm;
  • avoid the A62 between Bordeaux and Toulouse, from 3pm to 9pm;
  • avoid the A61 between Toulouse and Narbonne, from 6pm to 8pm.

Return journeys

  • avoid the A13 between Rouen and Paris, from 5pm to 7pm;
  • avoid the A63 between Bayonne and Bordeaux from 5pm to 8pm;
  • avoid the A61 between Narbonne and Toulouse from 5pm to 8pm;
  • avoid the Mont-Blanc tunnel in the direction of France from 3pm to 7pm (waiting time greater than 1 hour).

On Saturday, Bison Futé recommends:

Image: Bison Futé

Outward journeys

  • leave or cross the Île-de-France after 12noon;
  • avoid the A13 between Paris and Rouen from 12am to 5pm, and between Rouen and Caen from 11am to 5pm;
  • avoid the A11 between Paris and Le Mans from 11am to 4pm;
  • avoid the A6 between Beaune and Lyon from 9am to 1pm;
  • avoid the A7 between Salon-de-Provence and Marseille from 1pm to 6pm;
  • avoid the A71 between Orléans and Clermont-Ferrand from 9am to 12pm;
  • avoid the A75 between Clermont-Ferrand and Montpellier from 11am to 1pm.

Return journeys

  • return to or cross the Ile-de-France before 2pm;
  • avoid the A11 between Le Mans and Paris from 3pm to 5pm;
  • avoid the A10 between Bordeaux and Poitiers from 12pm to 4pm;
  • avoid the A7 between Marseille and Salon-de-Provence from 9am to 2pm;
  • avoid the A75 between Montpellier and Clermont-Ferrand from 12h to 14h;
  • avoid the Mont-Blanc tunnel in direction of France from 3pm to 7pm (wait more than 1 hour).

And, on Sunday:

Image: Bison Futé

Outward journeys

  • Avoid using the Fleury tollgate on the A6 in the direction of Provence from 9am to 12pm;
  • Avoid the A6 between Beaune and Lyon from 10am to 1pm;
  • avoid the A8 between Salon-de-Provence and Marseille from 3pm to 10pm;
  • avoid the A20 between Limoges and Brives-la-Gaillarde from 3pm to 6pm;
  • avoid the A71 between Orleans and Clermont-Ferrand from 11am to 3pm;
  • avoid the A62 between Bordeaux and Toulouse from 16h to 21h.

Return journeys

  • return to or cross the Île-de-France before 2pm,
  • avoid the A8 between Nice and Aix-en-Provence from 10am to 2pm;
  • avoid the A71 between Clermont-Ferrand and Orléans from 11am to 3pm.

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DISCOVER FRANCE

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.

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