The Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption

We flew from Bristol to Bordeaux 2 days before the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in Iceland started. The whole of Europe is disrupted by the volcano and the enormous ash cloud covering the air space. We are due to fly back next Sunday, April 25th. In between, we have driven up to our house near La Roche-Bernard borrowing my mother-in-law’s car. With the easing of restrictions we think that we will be OK to fly back on Sunday. However, the situation has been far from clear for the past 3-4 days. In fact, it has prompted us to consider several alternatives for our return to the UK. None of them are particularly palatable!

A rather unusual journey home…

Mother-in-law's car We have to go back to Bordeaux on Saturday to return both mother-in-law and car.

If we cannot fly back then, we will need to:

  • Hire a car and drive to a channel port to get a ferry. Avis quoted us €165 for their smallest car to go from Bordeaux to Caen. That’s a 1-day hire cost! Having shopped around we found a company we hadn’t heard of before: Auto Escape. They offered us the same for just £68 (and had a “no cancellation fee” policy). Whether we use them this time or not I will certainly consider them in the future.
  • Once in Caen, take a ferry to Portsmouth (£114 for 2 foot passengers and a cabin with my Brittany Ferries property owners club discount). This is a reasonable price I think.
  • Then, find a way to get from Portsmouth to Bristol (which is where our car is parked). This is a tricky route, but at least we should be able to use National Express or the rail service. I expected to find something similar to National Express in France, but strangely enough, there doesn’t appear to be an option. Someone did mention that there is some competition law operating in France: it prevents any coach company from offering prices that are more competitive than SNCF – is that right?

Was anyone else disrupted by the volcano?

Would be interested to know how others might have dealt with this situation. Staying longer in France would not normally be a problem for us. However, this time we need to get back to the UK on Sunday (or Monday/Tuesday latest).

It has been interesting to see the additional search queries that have brought search engine users to this website over the past week. Many search terms, such as “ferry port near brittany“, “the easiest way to brittany from england“, and even “how many hours does it take to drive to poole from manchester“, may well be the result of people looking for options to get to (or from) this part of France as a result of the Volcanic disruption.

Let us know if you have had a similar experience. How are you dealing with it? Any tips?

Update, August 2019

Since writing the above article, things have changed in France. SNCF no longer has the monopoly over internal travel within the country. There are now coach companies such as Flixbus and Ouibus  (soon to become BlaBlaBus) offering very competitive prices for domestic travel.

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