Travel: Something French To Declare

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Trouble spots: summer bookings for French Motorail trains

Dozens of readers have contacted the travel desk of The Independent after strenuous efforts to book cars and families on services from Calais to Italy and the south of France failed.

Rail Europe (0990 848 848) is still refusing to take bookings for August and September, owing to what it says are "problems with our computer systems". The company now says that bookings for August will be taken from 26 April. An announcement about September bookings will be made in the week commencing 3 May. Therefore people hoping to travel out in August and back in September may have to book in two stages.

Rail Europe says that it has tripled the number of staff answering calls, but a check call yesterday was abandoned after 20 minutes of listening to the Housemartins' greatest hits at eight pence a minute.

True or false: for the finest Breton food, visit London

True, this week and next. Starting today, Harrods' food hall and restaurants stage a Breton promotion featuring the region's delicacies.

From 21 to 27 April, Covent Garden market hosts a celebration of the region's culture and cuisine. A tasting tent will be open, 10am-7pm daily.

A likely eclipse story: `Astronomers have predicted that this area will be one of the best locations in Europe from which to view this spectacular celestial occurrence'

This claim, made in the northern France tour brochure issued by Blue Chip Travel (0131-226 6157), is typical of the assertions being made to promote destinations in advance of the total solar eclipse that will sweep across Europe on the morning of 11 August.

The astronomer and eclipse expert I contacted yesterday said the weather prospects for every location between Cornwall and the Alps were broadly similar: "pretty mediocre" seems to be the consensus.

From the Alps through Austria, Romania and Turkey, conditions steadily improve, reaching a 95 per cent likelihood of clear skies by the time the eclipse reaches Iran.

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