National Ferry Fortnight and balancing time/cost/carbon

National Ferry Fortnight 2017 logoThe Cross-Channel Ferry companies offer special deals during National Ferry Fortnight 14 – 28 April 2020 including:

But how do you decide what is most environmentally friendly and balance time and costs too?

There is something frustrating about the current regime which produces perverse results when trying to compare the various modes of transport from UK to France.

Flying is usually fastest – although not necessarily if you consider city centre to city centre times. Price can be quite low (although remember the cost of extras e.g. getting to and parking at the airport, transfers at your destination etc. But environmentally flying is very costly.

The Train probably offers the best balance – most destinations in France are less than 10 hours away from London – environmentally sound, but can sometimes cost more than flying – although train travel in France and on Eurostar can be significantly cheaper than the exorbitant fares for UK rail travel.

Travelling by car and ferry offers the greatest flexibility, but will take you longer, and depending on the number of passengers the cost financially and environmentally may be quite reasonable. However your journey does not have to start or end in a city centre.

There are clear advantages in cost and environment going by train.
Flying is better than expected – although I would add in the hassle factor of security checks and out of town arrivals.
The car does not come out too well, although of course you can reduce per person costs and carbon costs if you travel with 4 in the car!

London -Nice cost time tonnes per person
TRAIN £59.50 9 hours 0.020
CAR + FERRY £110.00 15 hours 0.125
FLY £71.00 5 hours 0.102

NB fares and timings in 2017!

Go by train – book with Rail Europe and when you have selected your train the website will calculate your estimated CO2 saving versus flying.

See the Carbon Footprint Calculator for you trip

Paris – a new park along the Seine

Parc Rives de SeineOn 2 April 2017 the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, opened a new pedestrianised park on the right bank of the Seine in Paris which together with the existing Left Bank park forms a peaceful and enjoyable space by the river, previously characterised by the noise and fumes of busy dual carriageways to be known as the Parc Rives de Seine

Now pedestrians can now stroll along the river from the Place de la Bastille to the Trocadero/Eiffel Tower.

This is another of the initiatives taken by the Mayor to reduce pollution in the city, e.g. by banning all cars from certain areas of Paris on the first Sunday of the month, as well as making public transport and the city’s bicycle and electric vehicle schemes free for the day.

There is also a scheme to reduce vehicle pollution in Paris, Grenoble and Lyon with the Air Quality Certificate is a secure document issued on the basis of information which appears on the vehicle registration certificate . It certifies the vehicle’s environmental class based on pollutant emissions. The six different coloured Crit’Air (air criteria) stickers indicate the age and cleanliness of a vehicle. Certain vehicles – including petrol and diesel cars registered before 1996; vans registered before 1997; pre-2000 scooters and motorbikes; and lorries, trucks and buses from before 2001 – are banned from the city between 8am and 8pm. And it does apply to foreign registered vehicles too – it costs about €4.00 but the fine for failing to display a sticker could be €68.00!
You can buy a certificate online at

For more about the Parc Rives de Seine see

By Train TGVTGV from London

New Faster TGV line to Bordeaux and Western France

TGVtgv train

From 2 July 2017 the new faster TGV highspeed train line to Bordeaux (TGV Atlantique) will open bringing Bordeaux to just over 2 hours from Paris compared to over 3 hours previously. The new line will also reduce times from Paris to destinations in Brittany, the western Loire Valley and the south-west such as Toulouse in just over 4 hours saving over an hour on the previous journey time.

Fares (2017)

There will however be a slight increase in fares on the new line which has been built to compete with the budget airlines. However, as the timings are from city centre to city centre and with less onerous security screenings/check-in times this looks to be a most attractive option. Fares will range between €32 and €55 depending on the time of day.

For more info see TGV

By Train TGVTGV from London

Black Saturday

Black Saturday – Every summer the major routes into and out of Paris get very congested as many Parisians head to the countyside, mountains or coast AND almost as many head back from their “vacances” into the capital and other major cities.

The 2 worst weekends on 2016 are 30-31 July and 6-7 August 2016 which include a day designated as Black Saturday . These weekends mark the end of the July holiday for many French families and the beginning of the August one for others. is a useful site for French autoroutes, providing links to all the autoroute networks and real-time maps of congestion points, service areas etc

autoroute traffic map fior Black Saturday
… or the Bison Futé (wise Bison) website which suggests alternative routesBison Fute kigi

From the AA:

The drink drive limit for novice drivers (less than three years driving experience) has been reduced to 0.02%, the same level as that applied to bus/coach drivers.

Drivers are prohibited from using headphones and headsets (any device attached to the ear) when driving. This regulation applies to all drivers and riders and covers devices used for phone calls as well as for listening to music/radio etc. Bluetooth or integrated systems in a motorcycle helmet are still permitted.

From January 2016 it will be compulsory for all motorcyclists (two or three wheels) to carry reflective jackets and wear them in the event of an emergency/breakdown.

A Low Emission Zone has been introduced in Paris, initially affecting only older (Euro 1) trucks and buses. Restrictions will be extended to all older vehicles from 1 July 2016 and tightened progressively between 2017 and 2020. More information can be found on

Eating at the wheel

There have been reports of a new law specifically prohibiting drivers from eating or applying make-up at the wheel. In fact this is not new, and there is no specific law to this effect. Eating/drinking etc. at the wheel is already covered under the more general French equivalent of our ‘Driving without due care and attention’ (article R.412-6 of the Code de la Route).

[July 2015] The AA

France to lose overnight sleeper train services

According to the Guardian (10 May 2016) there will no longer be the romantic (but uncomfortable) couchettecouchette sleeper compartments on overnight long-distance trains from Paris after July 2016 – except for those from Paris to Briançon (05 Hautes-Alpes, PACA), Rodez (12 Aveyron, Occitanie) and Latour-de-Carol (66, Pyrenees Orientales, (Occitanie).

High costs and competition from budget airlines are mainly to blame, but it marks the end of an era – and is only following moves elsewhere in Europe.

French Railways now offer the Intercités de Nuit service of Night Inter-City trains:

Formerly known by the name Lunéa, travelling through the night on air-conditioned Intercités de Nuit trains operated by SNCF is a good, though not luxurious, way of reaching your destination while saving hotel costs. Compared to other European night trains, Intercités de Nuit services are quite basic.

With some routes axed in 2016, the surviving network is sparse with trains running direct from Paris to the French Riviera, Briançon in the Alps, Toulouse and the Pyrenees, the Spanish border town of Irun and a handful of other destinations in south-west France. see Intercités de Nuit

For other train services to and in France see Rail Europe

The Michelin Red Guide 2019

In February every year there is great tension amongst the top chefs in France as they await the publication of the new Michelin Guide France –

Michelin France 2019

when they learn if they get or retain the coveted Michelin star which marks their food out from the rest.

MIchelin France 2019Enjoy the best of hotels and restaurants France has to offer, from tiny bistros to luxury hotels, with the MICHELIN Guide France ! This year 4300 restaurants and 4500 hotels have been selected by the team of independent Michelin inspectors for the constant quality of their services. MICHELIN Guide France caters for individual tastes and budgets: Bib Gourmand for an affordable and enjoyable meal or starred restaurants for special occasions…You can also choose a hotel in all confidence from cosy guesthouses to luxury hotels. To add to your Michelin experience, you will also find a lively introduction to big cities, a themed and regional index, detailed mapping as well as information on tourist sights and attractions.

Michelin France 2019

Don’t be fooled into thinking this guide is only for rich gourmets – plenty of other content will be of use to any visitor to France – Good value restaurants and places to stay, good street maps of may cities and other advice for the visitor/tourist. We find it indispensible when the SatNav, smartphone etc fail or have no signal – and there is something very reassuring about taking a printed guide in your suitcase.

Champs Elysees to be car-free

Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris has announced that the Avenue des Champs-Élysées will be closed to cars on one Sunday each month from April 2016 to open the whole road to pedestrians!

Avenue Champs-Élysées – 27 Sep 2015

This follows on from an experiment in September 2015 creating a traffic-free day in Paris – an initiative from the Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo – Journée sans voiture will make the French capital “a pedestrian and bicycle paradise” for one day – see

French Diesel under €1 per litre

The price of Diesel in France is now below €1.00 per litre, and even though the exchange rate for the £sterling has dropped slightly against the €uro, the equivalent price in France is now very attractive especially for those journeys to the ski slopes of the Alps or Pyrenees or a visit to one of the many carnivals and festivals in France even during the winter months.

Latest French Fuel prices as of September 2020
based on an exchange rate of £1=€1.12 euros
super unleaded (98)(€1.38)£1.23GBP/litre
unleaded (95)(€1.4


Ouistreham Seafood Festival

Ouistreham (14 Calvados, Normandie) is known to many as the port of arrival/departure for Brittany Ferries cross-channel crossing from Portsmouth to Caen. Yet it is worth a visit, not least for the Ouistreham Seafood Festival (Fête de la Coquille & de la Gastronomie) 19 – 20  October 2019.

The following week the nearby resort of Villers-sur-Mer (14 Calvados, Normandie) – about 20 miles along the coast to the east) also holds a Seafood Festival (fête de la coquille Saint-Jacques et des fruits de mer26 – 27 October 2019 – see

ouistreham_brittany_ferriesFête de la Coquille & de la Gastronomie

There is a farmers’ market, stands selling scallops and other local delicacies, sea-shanty singing, cookery demonstrations, fish-smoking and exhibitions of photos and paintings of marine subjects, models of ships – plus the chance to visit some of the boats or go on a guided tour of the ships and the lighthouse!

There are some great beaches nearby and the town has a good selection of hotels and restaurants. World War II sites for the Normandy landings and the Pegasus Bridge are close by, and the city of Caen is only 20 minutes away!

For more on the Ouistreham Seafood Festival see

Stay in the Hotel de la Plage – a charming old villa which features a beautiful summer garden, close to the beach and the centre of Ouistreham, Riva Bella and the port.
Ouistreham is the ideal seafront destination for a weekend or a longer holiday in Normandy.

Ouistreham, on the Côte de Nacre coast, is the ideal destination for a family seaside holiday or a relaxing weekend for 2 in Normandy.

Hotel de la Plage

For more info and to check availabilty at this Ouistreham hotel see Hotel de la Plage

For a hotel right by the cross-channel ferry port see Ibis Styles Ouistreham

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Take to your bike and leave Caen, heading for the canal that runs along the banks of the Orne towards Ouistreham – a pleasant way to reach the beach without taking your car.

If you’re looking for an action-packed holiday, Ouistreham offers a range of activities for the whole family: land yachting, catamaran sailing, sea kayaking, kitesurfing…

And why not indulge in a moment’s respite at the Thalazur thalassotherapy centre in Ouistreham. The centre, and its adjoining hotel, couldn’t be simpler to locate: immediately opposite the beach.

Ouistreham was liberated by British troops during the Battle of Normandy. The 4th Commando Museum and the Atlantic Wall Museum, located inside a bunker, tell the story of its liberation.

The Top places to visit in France

French TV Channel France 2 has published a list of the Top places to visit in France as voted by the French! (see map at bottom of page)

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Wine and Eels at Gruissan

The coastal town of Gruissan (11 Aude, Occitanie) is near Narbonne and is part of the Corbières wine appellation.

Gruissan Wine Harvest poster
Corbieres wine route20

The wine harvest festival is held over the weekend of 20 October 2019. The day offers opportunities to visit and taste wines in the cellars of local vignerons. The Corbières wines made here are quite different from those made further inland in the hills of the Haut-Corbières.  Gruissan is on the wine route of the lagoons and sea from Gruissan to Fitou (la route des étangs et de la mer) – for more info on the wine festival see

On 13 October 2018 the Brotherhood of the Eel (Grand Chapitre De La Confrerie De L’anguille) holds colourful parades, serious ceremonial rituals and plenty of opportunity to taste eels! The local eels are fished in the water of an inland sea – a lagoon fed by freshwater rivers.

for more info on the Festival of Eels at Gruissan see

Nearby is the Canal de la Robine, voted by the French as one of the top places to visit in France (France2 TV). This is part of the canal network which links Narbonne to the Mediterranean and the Canal du Midi. The oldest part, constructed in 1686  is the gently winding Canal de la Robine that passes through Narbonne northwards to the River Aude. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage SiteUNESCO World Heritage site and brings a touch of the sea to the heart of Narbonne.

For more info on the Canal de la Robine see

Try Le Loft De La Robine, a modern self-catering apartment right by the canal in the heart of Narbonne.

Loft de la Robine



For more info and to check availabilty at this modern canal-side apartment see Le Loft De La Robine

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Paris Honey Festival

fete des jardins poster

Paris is proud of its gardens and hosts an annual Garden Festival Fete des Jardins 14 – 15 September 2019 with events across the city.

On the same weekend there is an annual honey festival in ParisFête du Miel au jardin du Luxembourg 26-27 September 2015

The Luxembourg gardens in Paris can offer a welcome and peaceful respite from the frenzy of the great city, covering some 34 hectares of carefully laid-out gardens with a pond and theatre.

Fete du miel poster

Many apple varieties grow in the orchards on the south side, and bees have produced honey in the nearby Rucher du Luxembourg (apiary) from the 19th century. The beehives have been in the garden since 1856. And as expected in Paris, the hives are fit for a queen. Each wooden hive has its own copper roof. The bees even have their own fountain to quench their thirst. The French capital has been pesticide free for over ten years now. So not only are these bees happy to be surrounded by acacia trees, lavender and chestnut trees, they are healthy too. You can get a diploma in bee keeping at the apiary school located in the garden.

The gardens surround the Palais du Luxembourg, built in the 1620s for Marie de Médici, Henri IV’s consort. Since 1958 the palace has been the base for  the Sénat , the Upper House of French Parliament.

paris metro logoMetro: RER B : station Luxembourg-Sénat 6e arrondissement.

For more on the Paris Garden Festival see Fete-des-Jardins-a-Paris

For more info on the Paris Honey Festival see

You could stay at a Champagne-inspired hotel near the Luxembourg gardens – Hotel Les Bulles De Paris – with designer rooms with champagnes from around France as well as the hotel’s exclusive champagne. A sweet and savoury breakfast buffet is taken in the dining room that features a sparkling chandelier. (Bulles = bubbles)

Hotel les Bulles de Paris

For more info and to check availabilty at this Paris Hotel see Les Bulles De Paris

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France by bus

As a result of changing European legislation the market for long-distance bus/coach routes is being de-regulated and the network is now growing across France.

One new operator is the nationalised railway network SNCF who are introducing the OuiBus!


Explore Europe on SNCF’s OUIBUS! Travel at low cost and in comfort and enjoy a fun journey through France, Italy, the Netherlands and many other top destinations. Also, enjoy more seats on new double-decker buses between London and Paris!


  • Every day, for each destination, there are places available at the lowest price.
  • Book early to make sure you get the best rates. But if you need to make a last minute booking prices remain competitive.


  • Free WiFi and at-seat sockets
  • Fully adjustable, comfortable seats
  • Day and night travel
  • A bilingual driver (English and French)
  • Hold luggage and hand luggage is included in the price

For more info see OUIBUS

Paris traffic restrictions

As from 1 July 2015 the city of Paris has imposed a ban on the most polluting vehicles from the centre of city:

traffic_parisCoaches, buses and lorries registered before 30 September 2001 are banned from central Paris.

But this does not apply to the Perpherique, the ring road that encircles the city centre.

Much like London, it is seldom worth taking a vehicle into the centre of Paris as the traffic congestion and difficulty and costs of parking make it a very unattractive option. A better option if travelling by car would be to park at one of the metro stations in the suburbs and take the train into the city centre. Many of the stations have good parking facilities, such as La Courneuve 8 Mai 1945 on line 7, to the north of the city.

See the Paris Travel website – www.ratp.frratp logo

Festival of the Camargue

The Camargue celebrates its unique wildlife habitats with the Festival of the Camargue (Festival de la Camargue et du Delta du Rhône) 3 – 9 May 2019


The Camargue is a natural region located south of Arles (13 Bouches-du-Rhone, ProvencePACA), between the Mediterranean Sea and the two arms of the delta of the Rhône. It is home to more than 400 species of birds and is one of the few European habitats for the greater flamingo. The marshes are also a prime habitat for many species of insects, notably some of the most ferocious mosquitos to be found anywhere in France. Camargue horses roam the extensive marshlands, along with Camargue cattle.

The festival includes an exhibition showcasing the Wildlife Photographers of the Year,and films and exhibits highlighting the conservation work that is being undertaken. There will be numerous wildlife trails by foot, bike, horse, boat etc, which can take you into parts of the Camargue usually off-limits to visitors

And in the evening there will be “gipsy”music and dancing including some flamenco music reflecting the strong ties of this area with Spain.The centre for the Festival will be Port Saint Louis.

For more info see or the Parc Naturel Regional de Camargue.

The are many holiday accommodation options for visiting the Camargue, including Arles or there is  The Mas de Calabrun, a hotel on a private estate in the Camargue Regional Park or –Hotel Les Arnelles – in the heart of the Camargue Natural Regional Park, with an outdoor swimming pool, a garden and a terrace ideal for horse riding.

Hotel Les Arnelles

For more info and to check availabilty at this Camargue hotel see Hotel Les Arnelles

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Top attractions in France

EU citizens under the age of 26 get free entry into most of France’s national monuments and museums, and many museums are free for the first Sunday of each month. UNESCO World Heritage SiteSome are classed as UNESCO World Heritage sites!







New flights from Bristol

logoAirline BMI Regional has announced new routes to France from Bristol;

  • Bristol – Nantes (44 Loire Atlantique, Pays de la Loire) from July 2015
  • Bristol – Paris Charles de Gaulle (75 Paris, Ile de France) from April 2015

These routes could be great news for people in the South West and offer an attractive option for getting to Paris and western France without having to tackle the ordeal of using London or Birmingham airports.

The Nantes route opens up access to the Loire Valley, Brittany and the Atlantic coast including la Rochelle

Petrol under £1 a litre in France

pumpsWith an exchange rate being the highest since 2008 (as at mid Jan 2015) you can now find unleaded petrol at under £1 /litre – diesel is even cheaper at £0.80/litre.

You’ll not find it on the autoroute or on the major oil company forecourts, but some supermarché petrol stations will offer these prices, whilst the exchange rates and the price of oil remains at current levels or better – see Fuel Prices in France

Latest Exchange rate


Image result for cherbourgThe town and port of Cherbourg (50 Manche, Normandie)sits at the top of the Cotentin Peninsula in Normandy and is an important cross-channel ferry port with crossings from Poole and Portsmouth with Brittany Ferries

The town was seriously damaged in the Second World War, being strategically important to both sides. It has a rich maritime history – including as one of the first places that the Titanic visited on its fateful journey. There is a Titanic exhibition in the famous Citè de la Mer (‘City of the Sea’), which is also home to the La Redoubtable, the world’s largest submarine open to visitors, and the Musée de la Libération (‘Liberation Museum’) inside the 19th century Fort du Roule that crowns the summit of the Montagne du Roule.
The coast around Cherbourg feature dramatic cliffs and between sandy beaches along the Cotentin Peninsula, producing a magnificent coastline. The Cap de la Hague, in particular, offers spectacular rugged cliffs and a rustic moorland landscape.

Cherbourg has lots of good restaurants and is a great place to try some of the tastes of Normandy, a region famous for its apples, cider, mussels and rich butters and cheeses. A visit into the heart of the Old Town will take you to the fresh fish market at Le Vieille Ville, or you can wander through the grand markets of the Place de Gaulle, for fresh produce, delicatessens and flower stalls.

Cherbourg Carnaval

an important and long-established Carnaval with a festive tradition theme

Marine Hotel, Cherbourg

There are plenty of options for accommodation in Cherbourg including B&Bs, self-catering and hotels such as The Marine Hotel situated right on the waterfront overlooking the marina, yet close to the town centre.

Dunkirk Celebrations and Operation Dynamo

2015 marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Dunkirk and Operation Dynamo. To commemorate the event, the Association of Dunkirk Little ships (ADSL) announced the return of more than 50 boats, escorted by the RNLI and the Royal Navy will take part in the Return.Over the weekend of 21-25 May 2015 various events will be taking place in Dunkerque (59 Nord, Nord-Pas-de-Calais)
ADSL logoThe programme includes a display of period military vehicles, marching bands and official ceremonies. Special exhibitions will also be organised on the occasion. An exhibition on the theme of Operation Dynamo and the battle of Dunkirk can be seen at Salle Dany Boon in Bray Dunes (dates to be confirmed). the Dunkirk Port museum is planning to organise an exhibition on the pocket of Dunkirk, both in 1940 and in 1945, when the town was held by the Germans while the rest of France had been liberated. see MAP
To find out which ships are involved, visit the ADLS web site: – See more at: Dunkirk Tourist Office
DFDS Seaways operate on the Dover-Dunkerque cross-channel route with a journey time of about 2 hours.

All Suites Appart Hotel Dunkerque

There is plenty of accommodation in Dunkerque including hotels, B&Bs and self-catering apartments such as the All Suites Appart Hotel Dunkerque, slef-catering apartments right on the waterfront!