Standing next to their campervan in a parking lot of a petrol station halfway between Paris and Calais, the Lawfull family – Michelle, 46, her husband Mark, 47, Henry, 14, Mae, 12 -year-old, and Ava, 9, plus a dog, from Chingford – surveyed the wreckage from their summer break in France.
“We took a risk, arrived yesterday,” said Michelle, who works in a yoga studio. “I went to a hotel in Tours last night, saw the news and booked a ferry today. It was £ 160. But we were so stressed that we booked a car, not a van. So now we just spent an extra £ 350 on the shuttle. It was all a disaster.
Under a heavy gray sky, battered by occasional torrential downpours, other families were also distraught. “Why the hell couldn’t they at least have given us until Monday, to spread us out a bit, so that we didn’t have this insane stampede?” asked Felicity Bradshaw, 34. The recruitment consultant was returning from Brittany and said her company had told staff that any quarantine period should be considered unpaid leave. “I can’t afford this,” she said categorically. “So I shortened my vacation by five days. Thanks a lot guys.
Across the Channel, as the news flowed, it sounded like a statement to many travelers that summer was over before it even started.
At the St Pancras Eurostar terminal in London, a few hardy souls in Disney outfits brightened up the chasm the passengers were supposed to be in. (“You don’t feel good about your job prospects when you see this kind of involvement,” one staff member worried.)
Trisha Hansen was one of those who decided to go anyway, taking her granddaughter Lacey to Disneyland. “It is what it is,” said Hansen, who wore a Mickey Mouse mask. “You cannot let the children down. We were gutted when we heard the news. But you just have to make the most of it. Fourteen days is not the end of the world.
The news had arrived so late that not all travelers were aware of it. ” What did you say? Oh no, no… ”said Sonata Kralikaite, who was about to check in for a few nights in Paris with her mother. “Maybe we’ll change our plans. We still have an hour and a half before our train. Oh my God! She threw her head back and laughed. “We’re going to have a conversation, a very serious discussion.” Approached during a tight conference twenty minutes later, the couple said with regret that they had decided to book for Christmas.
Those who returned home were at least spared this dilemma. The first train to arrive from Paris on Friday was not full, according to those who did – even as they suffered from exhaustion and severe financial hardship. Carina Ignatiuc, who had stayed with her two children in Paris with her mother and was to be there until August 21, was one of the few to have had the news in time to book places on 07.43 from Gare du Nord – having no choice but to return for family reasons, she said.
“I saw him online around half past eleven [on Thursday night], ” she says. “And Eurostar immediately changed the prices – within minutes. They were £ 80 then I looked a few minutes later and it was £ 160 then £ 290 a few minutes later. ”
Ignatiuc, whose children happily climbed onto the luggage cart as she spoke, said she was “exhausted”.
“I started packing around one o’clock, then I had to get the kids up at five, and they had no idea what was going on… I was like, ‘Hey girls! We’re going to the train! “”
A Eurostar spokesperson said the skyrocketing costs were simply “driven by demand, and that’s how our prices still work.” And it wasn’t just the train passengers who had to dig deep. British Airways economy class flights from Charles De Gaulle to Heathrow cost up to £ 450 on Friday afternoon.
Emeline, a lawyer, was one of those who bit the bullet and left after landing from Marseille on Friday morning. She was just starting a reunion break with her parents and her French sister who she missed very much.
“It’s been six months since I’ve met anyone, that was a great thing, I was really excited,” she says. “I got there at 10 am, we got home, I was so happy. And then we figured that out at 1 a.m., and I was leaving on the plane at 10.55 a.m. She and her mother cried when they realized she had no choice but to come back. “A 24 hour vacation – for me that’s a record.” It was a record with an additional prize of £ 355.
Back in a crowded Calais parking lot, passengers frantically scoured departure times in search of their own chance to squeeze inside the ever-looming deadline. Bernard Wimmer, 34, a real estate worker in Scotland, had gone to Germany to look for a new dog and left Bremen before 5 a.m.
“I didn’t hear about the quarantine until early this morning,” he said. “I booked the shuttle straight away, but it seems the reservation never went through. So I have to try again – but look… Half, over half of the crossings are sold out now. And the ticket now costs £ 260. “