Friday, 27 April 2012

What's the cheapest way to get home?

From Le Mans, there are a number of ways to get to London: I can drive; I can fly; and I can take the train, The first is out of the question since I don’t drive in France and neither do most language assistants. Many assistants will prefer to use the second option, to fly, as it appears to be cheaper. After all, an Easyjet ticket can have a base price of €35 (and rises to about €45 after the additional card fees, discounting an extra €10 if you buy luggage space in advance).

Yet the train journey to one of the nearest cities with an airport (and then the extra journey) will cost at least €30 if you’re lucky, leaving you paying a minimum of €75 to travel back to England. We’re still missing one more factor though, as the airports that Easyjet fly from are generally in random locations, leading to extra costs in petrol. For example, I would fly to Luton and for my father to drive to the airport, and then back again, would probably cost him a minimum of €25. Total cost by flight: €100.

While the train in France is usually exorbitantly expensive, if you have a look on the SNCF website about a month in advance, you can sometimes find pretty impressive deals. To give you an example, for my return trip to England, I found an offer that will cost me €55 to travel from Le Mans to London St. Pancras (which also allows me to carry as much luggage as I can hold). Then we add on the €5 it’ll cost me on the London Underground to get home. Total cost by train: €60.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Warning about taking the train to Charles de Gaulle

If you’re travelling from north-western France, it is quite likely that you may wish to fly from Charles de Gaulle at some point during your stay (either to fly back home or to commence new adventures) as Easyjet often have cheap flights.

Yet if you are flying from the Nantes direction towards Lille (via CDG), take caution!  The journey is rather odd and at the Le Mans station, two trains (coming from different directions) will join, leading to a rather irritating delay – especially as the second train generally arrives five minutes after the trains should have left! With this in mind, you will almost always arrive at the airport 20-25 minutes late. Considering check-in closes 35 minutes before the departure on an Easyjet flight, it is easy to imagine that one hour before you flight would give you enough time to check in. Do not make that mistake, just take the earlier train and read your Kindle while you wait.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Has the baker asked if you want worries with your baguette?

After you’ve ordered something from a bakery or butcher, you’ll often be asked: “Et avec ceci” i.e. Do you want anything else? The reason I’m writing this post is because I initially had a lot of trouble with this question, with just trying to figure out what they were saying. Avec soucis? With worries?  The safe bet seemed: Non, merci. I did not want worries with my food…

So the best way of answering? Ca sera tout, merci. That’ll be all thanks. You’ll often have very irritating shopkeepers who’ll repeat that back to you to confirm that you don’t want anything extra (for a second time). You learn to live with it (or, like me, you’ll find a better baker).

Saturday, 21 April 2012

France 2012: The road to Élysée

With the French Presidential elections' first round tomorrow, I thought it might be handy for those interested in French politics to have a breakdown of what's happened so far. It's a pretty detailed piece - and I believe my first Feature article for The Student Journals - but that's because these elections, while perhaps a little dull, could have great significance to Europe.

If, as polls suggest, François Hollande does indeed win the elections, France would see its first Socialist President in two decades. The Left Front candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon has also been the candidate with the most supporters at his rallies and his supporters will be demanding of Hollande. Marine Le Pen has of course been stirring up the crowds through fear tactics, spewing the typical xenophobic and Islamophobic remarks we have come to expect of her.

That leaves incumbent President, Nicolas Sarkozy who continues to go further right-wing to capture Le Pen's supporters and is resorting to desperate tactics. With over 10% between him and Hollande in polls for the second round, he claims his best chance is in a national television debate between the two rounds. Hollande's lack of government experience may be telling or, instead, his witty humour may shine through, knocking Sarkozy out of the running for good. Tomorrow will reveal (almost) all.

Do let me know your thoughts under the piece.

So here you go: