Travel: Pique season in Calais

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The Independent Travel
ON MY last two journeys through Calais, as I reported recently (Independent Traveller, 26 February), I was stuck in long queues for passport control (having never had my passport inspected in more than 20 years of using the port). A spokesman for the Calais Chamber of Commerce said that my trips must have coincided with 'long-term investigations into illegal entry and possibly drug smuggling'. He added darkly: 'This is more common on the other side than one would suppose.'

If I suffered bad luck, so did other readers, including Nigel Washington-Jones of Ashford who was also delayed last month at Calais. 'There weren't enough of us to make a real, August-style, long, dragged-out meal of it. But they did their best to hold us in our unnecessary lines. Eventually, we passed the booth; nothing happened, of course. I go between 10 to 20 times a year and no one ever checks. I hope that you receive enough support from your readers to be able to write to the head of immigration at Calais and say 'Hey, there's a tunnel coming; smarten up your act.' '

There have been other complaints about the poor state of the ferry terminal at Calais - and the poor treatment of customers. Maggie Hollysworth of east London had two hours to spare at the port, so went to the terminal for a meal. After queuing for 20 minutes, she and her family sat at a table - only to hear a Tannoy message telling the people booked on their ferry to return to their cars. 'Not wishing to hold others up, we jettisoned pounds 20 worth of food into the waste bin and led two protesting children back to the car.' Their traffic line was then moved 200 yards to a point just beyond French customs - and halted again. Here they waited for another 90 minutes.

Craig Kettlewell of Cleveland complains about Calais's ferry check-in's, which are housed in 'tatty portable cabins' and a terminal building where the cafeteria and other shops close at 10pm.

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