French Culture Awareness #4 : Travelling to France
Updated: Jul 30, 2020
I know it is not that time of the year but I am going on holiday to France! I am very much looking forward to it because it's been a while since I haven't been to France on my own. When we go to France over Christmas, we don't usually have time to do anything or see anyone apart from sitting at the table and eating for hours on end. So this time I will be able to see the people I love and enjoy their company :)
Before leaving, I wanted to write a quite article about how you can get to France and how you can travel within the country.
So, I hate flying. Absolutely hate it. I am really afraid of being on a plane and every time there is an odd noise (which is ALL THE TIME when you're a nervous flyer) I imagine the plane crashing and all that it involves. However, that being said, it is quite quick and easy to fly to France. You can easily fly to Paris but also to my hometown, Tours. There is a direct flight from London Stansted to Tours so if you live in Cambridge it is really convenient. The flight is run by Ryanair only and, although it is not the best company, you can have tickets as cheap as £10! (disclaimer, no I am not working for Ryanair!). Next time you want to have a weekend away, why not try and fly to Tours rather than other big cities?!
I usually take the Eurostar, not because it's easier (I have to take a train from Cambridge to London then the Eurostar to Paris Gare du Nord then the metro to Paris Montparnasse and then the train to Tours...) but because I enjoy being on a train much more than I enjoy being on a plane! Also the Eurostar is a lot more expensive than flying but when you're scared it doesn't really matter... I would definitely recommend taking the Eurostar if you just want to go to Paris though as it ends up being quicker than having to go to the airport and wait for your flight. Plus, you are directly in the city centre which is a lot more convenient if you are going for a weekend away.
We used to go back to France by coach every year for Christmas before everything was so expensive and fully booked. If you're a French expat living in the UK and you want to go back home for the holidays, it's a real nightmare and you usually need to book transportation six months in advance, whenever possible. So the cheapest and easiest solution was to go back by coach but it's a 10-hour drive and you take the ferry most of the time which means that you need to leave the coach to be on the ferry. Because we didn't want to waste a full day travelling we would usually leave London in the evening and reach Paris very early the next morning. That meant being on the ferry around one or two o'clock in the morning... I don't have fond memories of travelling by coach but I have to admit that it is a good solution if you are stuck and have no other cheap options. The French company Ouibus is a bit better than National Express.
For me, this is now the best option because we have a - lovely - dog and this is the only way we can get him across the border because the Eurostar and coach companies don't allow dogs on board and it's very difficult to fly with a dog (and so stressful for them) so driving all the way has become better for us. It is sometimes tiring but the Eurotunnel is not that expensive and we have a stop over around Calais for the night so we can drive for longer the day after. If we leave right after work, we are home the day after in the early afternoon. Another good thing about driving to France is that we can bring back ALL.THE.FOOD. Which, let's be honest, is the main reason why we drive to France...
A lot of people are carpooling from the UK to France - and the other way around!- because some people go back to France on a regular basis if their partner still lives there or if they want to see their family more ofren. Carpooling is not that popular in the UK but it is really popular and convenient in France, mostly because train can be a bit chaotic and expensive in France. Most of the time you meet nice people and you save money but it can sometimes lead to some awkward situations...!
I haven't tried it yet but Google Maps says it will take 101 hours from my home in Cambridge to my parents' home in France... Maybe I'll give it a go if I'm really desperate!!
If you have any questions on nice places to visit in France, feel free to leave a comment :D