News Digest: Heatwaves, TGV Discounts & the Death of a Franco-British Icon



News Digest: Heatwaves, TGV Discounts & the Death of a Franco-British Icon

A heatwave is sweeping the southeast this week, plus France mourns the loss of its adoptive icon, Jane Birkin; SNCF announces another flash sale, and UK-France ferries are set to suffer yet more delays. Here are the French news stories you need to know about this week.

1. Warmer weather warnings

Although France has mostly escaped the ‘Cerberus’ heatwave that is currently sweeping Spain, Italy, and Greece, temperatures continue rising across France this week.

It’s the southeast that’s being hit by the hottest weather, with 7 départements along the Mediterranean coast on orange alert for heatwaves this week. Temperatures of up to 37°C are being predicted for the départements of Pyrénées-Orientales, Vaucluse, Var, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Alpes-Maritimes, Haute-Corse, and Corse-du-Sud, with the highest temperatures set to hit today (Tuesday).

You can check the map detailing all the different alert levels here, and we encourage readers to check local drought warnings as water restrictions remain in place across much of France.

2. Death of a French-British icon

Franco-British singer, actress, and style icon Jane Birkin passed away this Sunday (July 16th, 2023) at the age of 76. Born in the UK, Jane had long adopted France as her home, rising to fame at the age of 22 when she came to France to film a movie alongside French singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg.

After meeting on set, the pair famously dated for the next 13 years, becoming one of France’s most beloved celebrity couples and having a daughter, actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, together. Along with being a prolific actress, Jane also became known for her style – the inimitable Hermes Birkin handbag was named after her in 1984 – and her singing, most notably the duet “Je t’aime… moi non plus,” which she recorded with Gainsbourg in 1969. She lived in Paris for the rest of her life, became a French citizen, and was affectionately known as France’s “petite anglaise”, beloved for her strong British accent, which she never lost.

The cause of Birkin’s death has not been released (although she had been struggling with health issues recently), but news of her passing has seen a flood of tributes from fans and celebrity peers on both sides of the Channel, among them Brigitte Bardot and Carla Bruni. French President Emmanuel Macron also echoed the sentiments of the country, tweeting:

Parce qu’elle incarnait la liberté, qu’elle chantait les plus beaux mots de notre langue, Jane Birkin était une icône française.

(“Because she embodied freedom, she sang the most beautiful words of our language, Jane Birkin was a French icon.”).

3. SNCF sale

France’s state-owned railway service, SNCF, has announced the latest of a series of flash sales, this time putting 300,000 tickets on sale for as little as €29. The tickets will be for travel over the peak summer period in August – ideal for those looking for a last-minute getaway.

Tickets will be priced at €29, €39, and €49 (there will also be some €1 upgrades to first class available) and will include some of the most popular national TGV and Intercités routes. As with previous sales, the cheap tickets are likely to be snapped up, so put a note in your diary and head over to the SNCF website on July 31st so you don’t miss out.

4. Delays for Brits travelling to France

There’s bad news for Brits travelling to France by ferry this week, as peak summer season gets underway. After a year plagued with delays at ferry ports over holiday weekends, the port of Dover has announced more expected delays over this coming weekend (July 22-23), as schools break up for summer and British holiday-makers surge to the ferry ports.

Delays of up to two and a half hours are expected for cross-channel ferries leaving from Dover and heading over to Calais in northern France. Although other ferry ports have not announced any expected delays, the inevitable surge of travellers combined with the lengthier post-Brexit passport checks will likely slow things down. So, if you’re travelling this weekend, leave yourself plenty of time and make sure you have your passport and all the relevant paperwork handy so you don’t slow down the queue. Our guide… is a good place to start!

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FrenchEntrée's Digital Editor, Zoë is also a freelance journalist who has written for the Telegraph, HuffPost, and CNN, and a guidebook updater for the Rough Guide to France and Rough Guide to Dordogne & Lot. She lives in the French countryside just outside of Nantes.

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