I love the BBC and am extremely grateful to be able to tune into BBC 1, 2, 3 and 4 through a free-sat receiver here in France.
I rarely look further than the beeb’s listings when planning a night-in in front of the box and to keep up with the news I join Bill and Sian on most mornings. I do however feel that sometimes they get the wrong end of the stick especially when reporting on comparisons between the UK and France because I reckon I know better!
Today (it must be a slow news day) they are discussing the expense of holidaying in the Euro-zone and I suppose that they may have a point when looking at the prices of eating out in say Venice or many of the Mediterranean resorts. Here in the Pas de Calais however, it is very different. Our local shops and restaurants are not in it for the fast buck to be made during a short 8 week season they cater to an all year round trade which seems to make for good value for money.
I must admit that when sterling fell against the Euro around 3 years ago I started to “do a shop” when passing Tesco or Sainsbury’s on my way back from the occasional visit to the UK and I must admit that for around 18 months I considered I was a few quid in. After that I began to notice that what used to cost around £80 was creeping up to 90 then it nudged 100 and finally on my last trip I shelled out £120, it was then that I actually started to make proper comparisons. Of course there are things that I just can’t get in France, baked beans and Marmite to mention just two but for those items that I can substitute or if I can get the same thing here I am back to confining my shopping to our French supermarkets.
Wine, cheese, pate croissants and bread are cheaper, better and tastier in France. A simple baguette is subsidised by the state so will cost you only around 50 pence and French wine is still a bargain, if you search the supermarket shelves you will find a very decent tipple for next to nothing. I have discovered in our local branch of lntermarche, a palatable Muscat Sec for just 1 Euro 80 centimes.
General tourism wins hands down too, entrance fees to most tourist attractions compare very favourably with those in the UK and if you’re visiting a city for culture and sight seeing, remember, in France you don’t have to negotiate heavily congested roads. You just glide through the picturesque countryside of France until you reach your destination then joy of all joys parking is easy and usually free or cheap.
For a short time petrol seemed cheaper in the UK but now prices are a bit lower here and if diesel is your vehicle’s tipple you will find it well worth waiting to fill up in France. Which brings me to crossing the water, whichever carrier you chose I am absolutely sure that it will be more enjoyable than the usual “airport experience”, it’s cheaper too and even helps with your carbon footprint.
I think what sums it all up for me is that the top hotel in Fort Mahon, Hotel La Terasse, which has an excellent restaurant, offers a 3 course menu for less than 16 Euros and in most cafes you can sip an excellent coffee for a little over one Euro. Yes France is a great place for a family holiday or a break for couples it’s easy to get to and will not break the bank – so what are you waiting for an invitation from Sarkozy?