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Travelling home through France on the last weekend in August

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Aug 18th, 2013, 02:08 AM
  #1
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Travelling home through France on the last weekend in August

Hi all!
I'm presently on holiday near La Rochelle with my delightful wife and two children. This is the first time we have taken the ferry and then driven down through France to our charming countryside rental. So, I'm a complete newbie to French traffic, roads etc, etc. Consequently, I was completely taken by surprise when after a pretty smooth run from St Malo that started at 8.30am, we hit Nantes and had the most horrific crawl around the periphique for two hours. Afterwards, fine and shot through to our destination. However, on talking to a local who heard that we are travelling back on Saturday 31st August, he mentioned that this was the last day of the holidays and the whole country would be on the roads. We have to catch a ferry from Le Havre and need to check in by 4pm latest. I had previously thought that leaving at 9am would be fine! I am now wondering whether I should inflict a 4am rise on my family to be on the road by 5am before the masses descend and clog everything up. Or will everyone have the same idea? Will it really be so bad?

Any suggestions as to the best way to make sure I don't miss our ferry?

Many thanks in advance.
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Aug 18th, 2013, 03:47 AM
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The roads in France can be expected to be crowded every weekend in August and August 31st will be the worst.

I would leave very early to catch your ferry. In fact, why not go the day before and stay overnight in Le Havre? It would alleviate the stress.
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Aug 18th, 2013, 04:47 AM
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I too would leave a day early and find somewhere in or not far from Le Havre. It doesn't take much to gridlock French roads on days of mass migration - not only the French but also a lot of British will be heading home that weekend.
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Aug 18th, 2013, 04:50 AM
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Use this website it is what the French use
http://www.bison-fute.equipement.gou...l.do?langue=en

look at the forecast area by day especially

In terms of "everybody" they are mainly thinking Parisians so stay well away from those roads. Nantes traffic is always horrid so stay well away from that anyway
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Aug 18th, 2013, 07:16 AM
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I definitely agree that you should 'eat' the last night at your rented house and drive most of the way that evening. Stay near or at least nearer to Le Harve.
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Aug 18th, 2013, 07:31 AM
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This is interesting. On two occasions we stayed at a gite in the Dordogne starting the 3rd Saturday in August. Both times there was very light traffic around the region. I've witnessed horrific traffic going south from northern France on several Saturdays in July, and I assume the same hoards are heading north on late August - but I was told that by the 4th week in August, most people had already headed out.

However, with a "deadline" of 4 pm for check-in, I agree with the others to head out a day sooner.

Stu Dudley
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Aug 18th, 2013, 04:50 PM
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Thanks for your advice, everyone. Really helpful.

A final question. If we do start travelling at 5am, will the roads still be busy, or can I rely on 2-3 hours of painless travelling before before it gets bad. By that time I'd be half way to Le Harve, and possibly out of trouble with 8 hours to cover a mere 180 miles, which in normal conditions would only take around 4 hours max. So, four hours in hand! And it would save us the cost of a hotel in Le Havre.

Or would that be folly!

Otherwise, I guess we would head off after lunch on Friday.

So, what's everyone's vote? Option 1; head off a day early and accept the extra cost. Option 2; a fiendishly early rise to hit the road at 5am, giving 11 hours to make the 330 mile journey.

Votes very much appreciated!!
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Aug 18th, 2013, 06:11 PM
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I would start by getting a second & third opinion from a local to determine what the traffic would be like on Aug 31.

On the way to your rental, if you hit Nantes on a work day - the bad traffic was likely commute traffic - which would not exist on Aug 31 - a Saturday.

ViaMichelin says that you can go from La Rochelle to Le Havre in 5 hrs 37 mins. I have found that you can often beat this time if you are willing to drive 10-15K/hr faster than the speed limit, and don't have to stop for gas, pottie, lunch, the always unavoidable "deviation", toll booth, or traffic back up. A big IF. I would budget 6 1/2 hrs for this trip if you had no "end of vacation" traffic. So if you left at 9 you would get to le Have at 3:30pm. That doesn't leave much time for getting to your departure point and ready for the boat trip - but you have already done that once.

Stu Dudley
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Aug 18th, 2013, 08:04 PM
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Start a day early. It could be horrendous. There are sometimes backups of 500 km on the autoroutes.

August 31 is legendary for traffic in France. I wouldn't mess with it.
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Aug 18th, 2013, 11:13 PM
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To be BLUNT: taking that "really helpful" advice will endear you to your family if nobody else.
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Aug 19th, 2013, 01:58 AM
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OK. Looks like all the advice is go the day before. Don't particularly want to stay over in Le Havre itself as it's not the nicest place to spend time. Honfleur looks lovely. Would a French gite be the cheapest way for the family to crash for just one night? If I can avoid blowing my holiday budget to kingdom come, that would be a bonus!

Any recommendations? Doesn't have to be Honfleur if someone knows of a gem somewhere else!!

Suggestions greatly appreciated, and many thanks to you all for helping me out of this hole!!
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Aug 19th, 2013, 02:08 AM
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Ah! Just googled gite. I thought it was a cheap French inn but it looks more of a self catering number! So, that's out! So, suggestions as before greatly appreciated!
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Aug 19th, 2013, 04:08 AM
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Honfleur is lovely if you can find something available. We have stayed at Hotel La Cascade, which is right near the Old port and they do have quads (we stayed in a room with a lit matrimonial and bunkbeds. It is has a lot of charm factor but is not modern.

Otherwise, we have stayed nearby in Cormeille, a delightful Norman town. We stayed several years ago at this Logis de France hotel which does have quads. The restaurant was very good but maybe not for an at-the-end-of-the-vacation budget. But there are plenty of excellent eateries on this main street.

http://www.booking.com/hotel/fr/logi...49fbe09;dcid=1

Again, cute with rooms that were "family" oriented though a little dated but it fit in our budget, was clean AND if you have a car, the parking is right in front of the rooms and off the street (kind of like an American motel)so we felt pretty secure leaving stuff in the trunk.

Oh, yep, I'm one for leaving the day before...having sat for hours in a French traffic jam, and yes, I do feel it's the worst day to travel.
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Aug 19th, 2013, 04:17 AM
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Here's La Cascade on booking. The site states they are "sold out", but if you really are interested, I would call the hotel direct. I don't remember them speaking English too well but maybe enough to inquire about a quad. A lot of times the hotel actually does have rooms available; it's just those allotted to websites are taken or at times on these sites with no/minimal cancellation fee there are a lot of last minute (3-4 days prior to your stay)cancellations from people who had double booked at several hotels til they made up their mind.

http://www.booking.com/hotel/fr/les-...782ead42ccddX1

Good Luck and Happy Travels
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Aug 19th, 2013, 08:34 AM
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Many thanks, sir. You are a gentlemen!
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Aug 19th, 2013, 08:49 AM
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And a huge thank you to the rest of you who pitched in. Would buy you all a drink if it was possible in virtual space! After all, they have 3D photocopying now! My round!!

Cheers all!
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Aug 19th, 2013, 09:06 AM
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I'll have a Pimm's
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Aug 20th, 2013, 12:04 AM
  #18
 
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The only "glitch" with all the advice here will be finding a room anywhere near the ferry on the night of August 30th. Do not travel without a reservation somewhere!
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Aug 20th, 2013, 03:30 AM
  #19
 
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I know that I am a bit late to the party but just wanted to add another thought especially if you are finding problems booking accommodation for the 30th.

Have you considered contacting DFDS to see if you can change your ferry crossing either to the Friday or to one of the Dieppe crossings? Dieppe is about the same distance from La Rochelle and their very early morning crossing might save the hassle of finding rooms.

Enjoy the rest of your holiday - it is a lovely part of France.
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Aug 20th, 2013, 06:14 AM
  #20
 
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I'd start early Friday. Friday pm is busy, too !

The traffic forecast is here :http://the-languedoc-page.com/phpBB3...&hilit=traffic
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