Something French To Declare: low Channel fares; grÿve rail news; Alsatian wanderings

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The Independent Travel

Many cut-price deals on short-sea crossings for summer 2005 are filling up fast.

Bargain of the week: book now for the lowest fares across the Channel

Many cut-price deals on short-sea crossings for summer 2005 are filling up fast. For a snapshot of the best deals, this survey (conducted on Wednesday 12 January) compares rates for peak summer sailings: outbound on Saturday 30 July, returning 13 August, on afternoon departures, for a car plus four people.

Hoverspeed (08705 240 241; www.hoverspeed.co.uk) has adopted the same demand-based pricing system as the no-frills airlines for its Dover-Calais services. It has fares as low as £49 return.

P&O Ferries (08705 20 20 20; www.poferries.com) has a fare on the route of £188. The website of SeaFrance (08705 711 711; www.seafrance.com) quoted a rate of £375, but through the discount agency Ferrysavers (08703 362433; www.ferrysavers.com) this falls by £200.

From Dover to Dunkirk, Norfolkline has a fare of £108, though if you book through Ferrysavers you save £20. Through the tunnel from Folkestone to Calais, Eurotunnel (08705 353535; www.eurotunnel.com) has a fare of £199 for booking made by the end of January.

Warning of the week: grève news on the rails

As part of French public-sector unions' call for members to strike in the coming week, railway workers plan industrial action next Wednesday, 19 January. SNCF warns that disruption to services will start at 8pm on Tuesday; the after-effects will continue into Thursday.

Destination of the week: Alsatian wanderings

The railways of eastern France have pinched an idea from the Germans: cheap trains for leisure travellers at weekends. In Alsace, the départements of Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin offer unlimited rail travel for up to five people for a total of €25 (£18) per day, on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. Alternatively, an individual ticket allows a day's unlimited travel for €12.50 (£9) for an adult (who can be accompanied by a child under 12).

The Evasion pass will take you from Strasbourg in the Bas-Rhin south to Colmar's canals and Mulhouse's museums in the Haut-Rhin. The pass also gives access to medieval wine-making villages along the Vosges mountain range.

The ticket's validity extends to the historic town of Belfort (pictured) and even Basel in Switzerland.

The Evasion Pass is available from all SNCF stations in Alsace. You can use any trains except long-distance Téoz and TGV services. The offer also applies to SNCF buses.

Air France flies from Gatwick to Strasbourg, while easyJet flies to Basel.

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