Something French to declare

Bargain of the week

No frills around France

Trains usually constitute the best way to travel through France; Rail Europe (0844 848 4064;
) is one of several excellent agents selling tickets and rail passes in advance. But for long, awkward journeys – such as Nantes to Lyon – it is worth considering a no-frills flight; fares on this easyJet route can cost as little as €20 if you book in advance and fly off-peak. The airline also serves the airports of Basel (in French territory, on the Swiss border), Geneva (ditto), Montpellier, Biarritz, Bordeaux, Marseille, Nice and Toulouse – plus the Corsican cities of Bastia and Ajaccio.

Tip of the week

The West Midlands to south-west France

Flybe (0871 700 2000; ) revealed its latest air link this week: Birmingham to Perpignan, flying on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays from 13 July to 31 August. Fares from £50.

Destination of the week

The Alps, next weekend

Travel on 6 or 7 February, and you can get some excellent-value ski packages. Through Crystal (0871 231 5659; ), prices for Val d’Isère begin at £189 including flights from Gatwick to Chambery, with Brides les Bains priced at £215 with Gatwick-Grenoble flights.

Neilson (0844 879 8155; ), holidays from Manchester departing on 6 February are available for as little as £235 to Chamonix, and £239 to Val Thorens. The company also has a £263 deal to Serre Chevalier from Manchester departing the following day, 7 February. Half-term week for most schools is the following week (beginning 13 February), with demand increased by Valentine romantics heading for the hills.

Warning of the week

Pick-pockets in Paris

On an average day, four British passports are reported lost or stolen in France: a total of 1,932 in the past year. Many of these go missing in Paris. The US State Department is precise about high-risk locations in the capital – starting at the airport: “Reports of stolen purses, briefcases, and carry-on bags at Charles de Gaulle airport are not uncommon. As thieves commonly target laptop bags, travellers are advised to avoid carrying passports in computer bags. Thieves also like to target shoulder bags placed on the floor while travellers are busy at ticket counters.”

If you take the fast rail link (RER) from Charles de Gaulle airport to the city centre, be warned of thieves who “prey on jet-lagged, luggage-burdened tourists. In one common ruse, a thief distracts a tourist by asking for directions while an accomplice steals a momentarily unguarded backpack, briefcase or purse. Gare du Nord “is also a high-risk area for pick-pocketing and theft”.

In the city centre, many thefts occur on Metro line 1, which runs east to west across the capital. “Pickpockets are especially active on this line during the summer”. The most common and successful technique, is the “bump and snatch” theft. |“Be particularly careful when Metro doors are closing, as this is a favoured moment for less-sophisticated pickpockets to grab valuables and jump through the closing doors, leaving victims helplessly watching.”

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office warns about pickpockets operating “in the streets and in the underground” during the Braderie (open-air market) in Lille during the first weekend of September.

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