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IN PICTURES: Discover the Normandy village crowned France’s ‘favourite’

Every year the French are asked to choose their favourite village from a selection of 14. Here's a look at this year's winner - a stunning coastal beauty in the north west of France.

IN PICTURES: Discover the Normandy village crowned France's 'favourite'
Photo: Manche Departement/Twitter
Viewers of the programme “Le Village préféré des Français” on France2 are asked each year to decide on their favourite village in France out of a selection of 14 contenders.
 
This year Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue, with 1,779 inhabitants in the La Manche department of Normandy has been crowned favourite.  
 
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“I do not know if it will be the favorite village of the French but what I already know is that it is the most beautiful!” Yves Villeneuve, the village butcher, told Le Parisien before he found out the good news. 
 
And the result clearly went down well with the locals, known as Saint-Vaastais. Check out the video in the tweet below which shows the moment they found out their village was the country's favourite
 

 

Located on the east coast of the Cotentin, the village of Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue in north west France is described as a land of sailors, and at low tide, the oyster beds provide a link between the French mainland and another jewel: the island of Tatihou, a unique point of view for painters for more than two centuries.

The traditional Norman boats in the harbour and the picturesque narrow streets, as well as a path to the lighthouse make Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue a wonderful place to visit. 
 

 
The village's famous oysters are sold in France as well as exported.
 
Saint-Vaast is the Norman name of Saint Vedast and Hougue is a Norman word meaning a 'mound' or 'loaf', which comes from the Old Norse word haugr.
 
The village is also home to the Tour Vauban de La Hougue (see photo below) which stands at the entrance to the small harbor and is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
 
 

 
And if you do pay a visit to this year's 'favourite village' you are unlikely to be the only tourist in town, with popular hotels, restaurants and campsites dotted around the village, which has been designated with the official title of 'tourist town' since April 2017. 
 
On top of that, the winner of the title of France's favourite village normally sees the winner benefit from an influx of visitors the following year so the Saint-Vaastais can look forward to a busy year.
 
Map: Google
 
Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue succeeds Cassel, a village just a few minutes drive from the Belgian border, which won the title last year.
 
Previously the winners have been concentrated in Brittany, Alsace in the east and Occitanie in the south west.

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READER INSIGHTS

‘Painful’ – is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Following a survey that said Paris Charles de Gaulle airport was the best in Europe, we asked Local readers what they thought...

'Painful' - is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Recently, Paris Charles de Gaulle was voted the best airport in Europe by passengers.

The 2022 World Airport Awards, based on customer satisfaction surveys between September 2021 and May 2022, listed the best airport on the planet as Doha, while Paris’s main airport came in at number 6 – the highest entry for a European airport – one place above Munich. 

READ ALSO Paris Charles de Gaulle voted best airport in Europe by passengers

Given CDG’s long-standing reputation doesn’t quite match what the World Airport Awards survey said – in 2009 it was rated the second-worst airport in the world, while in 2011 US site CNN judged it “the most hated airport in the world” – we wondered how accurate the survey could be.

So we asked readers of The Local for their opinion on their experience of Europe’s ‘best’ airport. 

Contrary to the World Airport Awards study, users erred towards the negative about the airport. A total 30.8 percent of Local readers – who had travelled through the airport in recent months – thought it was ‘terrible’, while another 33.3 percent agreed that it was ‘not great’ and had ‘some problems’.

But in total 12.8 percent of those who responded to our survey thought the airport was ‘brilliant’, and another 23.1 percent thought it ‘fine’, with ‘no major problems’.

So what are the problems with it?

Signage 

One respondent asked a simple – and obvious – question: “Why are there so many terminal twos?”

Barney Lehrer added: “They should change the terminal number system.”

In fact, signage and directions – not to mention the sheer size of the place – were common complaints, as were onward travel options. 

Christine Charaudeau told us: “The signage is terrible. I’ve often followed signs that led to nowhere. Thankfully, I speak French and am familiar with the airport but for first time travellers … yikes!”

Edwin Walley added that it was, “impossible to get from point A to point B,”  as he described the logistics at the airport as the “worst in the world”.

And James Patterson had a piece of advice taken from another airport. “The signage could be better – they could take a cue from Heathrow in that regard.”

Anthony Schofield said: “Arriving by car/taxi is painful due to congestion and the walk from the skytrain to baggage claim seems interminable.”

Border control

Border control, too, was a cause for complaint. “The wait at the frontière is shameful,” Linda, who preferred to use just her first name, told us. “I waited one and a half hours standing, with a lot of old people.”

Sharon Dubble agreed. She wrote: “The wait time to navigate passport control and customs is abysmal!”

Deborah Mur, too, bemoaned the issue of, “the long, long wait to pass border control in Terminal E, especially at 6am after an overnight flight.”

Beth Van Hulst, meanwhile, pulled no punches with her estimation of border staff and the airport in general. “[It] takes forever to go through immigration, and staff deserve their grumpy reputation. Also, queuing is very unclear and people get blocked because the airport layout is not well designed.”

Jeff VanderWolk highlighted the, “inadequate staffing of immigration counters and security checkpoints”, while Karel Prinsloo had no time for the brusque attitudes among security and border personnel. “Officers at customs are so rude. I once confronted the commander about their terrible behaviour.  His response said it all: ‘We are not here to be nice’. Also the security personnel.”

Connections

One of the most-complained-about aspects is one that is not actually within the airport’s control – public transport connections.  

Mahesh Chaturvedula was just one of those to wonder about integrated travel systems in France, noting problems with the reliability of onward RER rail services, and access to the RER network from the terminal.

The airport is connected to the city via RER B, one of the capital’s notoriously slow and crowded suburban trains. Although there are plans to create a new high-speed service to the airport, this now won’t begin until after the 2024 Olympics.

Sekhar also called for, “more frequent trains from SNCF to different cities across France with respect to the international flight schedules.”

The good news

But it wasn’t all bad news for the airport, 35 percent of survey respondents said the airport had more positives than negatives, while a Twitter poll of local readers came out in favour of Charles de Gaulle.

Conceding that the airport is “too spread out”, Jim Lockard said it, “generally operates well; [and has] decent amenities for food and shopping”.

Declan Murphy was one of a number of respondents to praise the, “good services and hotels in terminals”, while Dean Millar – who last passed through Charles de Gaulle in October – said the, “signage is very good. [It is] easy to find my way around”.

He added: “Considering the size (very large) [of the airport] it is very well done.  So no complaints at all.”

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