French weather and traffic: What is forecast for the long weekend?

Traffic levels are not expected to be bad enough to put people off going away for a three-night break – but the weather might

France’s bank holidays have fallen nicely this year, allowing several opportunities for three-day weekends in May
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For many in France, this weekend is the last easy opportunity to have a three-day break before mid-July.

While the lundi de pentecôte on Monday (May 29) is not a non-working for everyone, a majority will be off.

That means people will have their eyes on the weather and traffic forecasts to help plan their trips.

Here is what we know so far.

‘Heavy traffic’ on Friday evening

France’s official traffic site Bison Futé forecasts heavy traffic at the beginning of the weekend due to the holiday.

All of France has been given a level two ‘red’ warning (for heavy traffic) on Friday (May 26), due to the volume of traffic from those leaving large cities such as Paris and Lyon.

Travel will be most likely of a short and medium distance, to coastal and leisure areas (permitting on the weather), they say, and alongside Friday, some traffic leaving major cities will be present on Saturday (May 27) morning – although it will not be as heavy as the preceding day.

For returning holidaymakers, however, travel is set to be more spread out – medium traffic warnings are only in place in the north-west of France (around Normandy and Paris) on Monday, but elsewhere there are no alerts.

Stormy south, sunny north

Travel plans may be scuppered, however, by the weather.

Although the north of France is predicted to see sunny skies and balmy temperatures (of up to 25C in Paris), those in the south are likely to see thunderstorms.

Weather forecaster La Chaîne Météo is predicting storms in the south and south-east of France on Saturday and Sunday (May 28), before poor weather becomes more widespread on Monday.

Météo France predicts rain in the south-east is expected to continue into well next week, whilst Monday will also see cloudy skies for the north of the country.

Read more: Southern France on storms alert a day after hail hits Gard and Hérault

Is Pentecost a holiday?

As a reminder, pentecôte (Pentecost) is technically a holiday in France, but it is not a universal ‘non-working holiday’.

A 2003 heatwave that saw the deaths of nearly 15,000 people over the Pentecost long weekend instituted a law change that saw France introduce a ‘day of solidarity’ – this means people would work for one day without pay, with their wages going directly to fund programmes to help the elderly, particularly to combat heatwave dangers.

Initially, the law stated this day would fall on Pentecost Monday, converting it to a working holiday as opposed to a day off, but fierce opposition saw the law eventually change to allow the unpaid work to fall on another day.

Alternatively, the amount can be taken out of employees’ pay cheques incrementally (for example, by them working an extra two minutes per day across the year for free).

Many large companies and sectors with strong unions still have the day off as a paid holiday, using one of the above methods to make up the difference in wages, but this is not the case for everybody in the country.

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