March 11

A year or so ago I received a message from a guy asking me about the Arras festival. He had read a previous article of mine about my experiences there and so asked me if it is possible to stay for the very last act as normally the trains and buses don’t run after a certain time. Unfortunately, I received his message during a difficult period for me and I couldn’t get back to him. However, because of this I decided to do a “How To” guide for any Brits coming over from England for the festival to answer this question and give advice on your options to be sure you get the most out of the festival.

For anyone that doesn’t know, the Main Square Festival runs every year in the summer, usually the end of June/start of July and runs for 3 days. It is held in Arras, Pas-de-calais (France) and is easy to get to from Lille or Calais, making it perfect for any Brits who fancy a festival abroad. Check this video out to see who is playing this year.

It’s also worth checking out the main site and facebook pages which I’ve linked below.

http://www.mainsquarefestival.fr/

https://en-gb.facebook.com/mainsquarefestival

On their website, there is a lot of information about ticket prices, camping facilities, the line up and basic information about traveling to the festival, so as I said, if you are interested in going to the Main Square Festival it’s worth a look. The information on how to get to the festival is fairly basic (mostly just the amount of time it takes) so from someone who’s made the trip themselves, this article will give you a more detailed guide on what to do and how to get there. For this reason, I won’t be discussing ticket prices or detailed information on who is playing on what day and so on. If you want to know this information, check the main website and you’ll find it there.

To try and make things clear, I’m going to seperate this post into 3 sections: Coming via the Eurostar, coming by ferry and some useful information at the end. If you already know which method of transport you want to take then just skip the section you don’t need. :-) However, please check the end of this article as I will include some useful information there that will help everyone.

Also, I just want to state that in regards to Eurostar trains or ferry boats, I have given advice on which of these you need to take if traveling on the day the festival starts to get there in time for the start so you don’t miss anything. Those who are traveling the day before can obviously take a later Eurostar train or Ferry, but even if this is you, please read the information anyway as the rest of the information can still be helpful to you.

So the guide starts HERE:

EUROSTAR:

When coming for the Main Square Festival via Eurostar, you’ll want to BOOK YOUR TICKETS EARLY! Prices can get high if you book your tickets close to the date you’re traveling. Also, there may be less places than usual due to the festival so it’s worth booking soon. Tickets can be booked online here:

http://www.eurostar.com/dynamic/index.jsp

Just click on the country where you live in the list and get booking!

I have checked myself what trains are available to get you to Lille with plenty of time to get you from there to Arras before the festival starts. And as you can see, when you book your tickets you’ll want to book them to arrive at LILLE. I’m sure you all already knew that but I wanted to pop it in just in case!

There are 2 trains that will arrive at LILLE EUROPE before the regional train to Arras leaves:

Train 1: Leaves St Pancras, London at 6.40am English time and stops at Ebbsfleet International at 7.08am and Ashford International at 7.28am. This train arrives at Lille Europe at 9.30am French time/8.30am English time.

* If you are getting the train from either Ebbsfleet or Ashford, this is the only train available to you as there are no other trains that will stop in these stations in time for you to get to the festival. However, if you wish to travel the day before the festival starts there is a later train that takes you to Lille that stops at Ebbsfleet  and Ashford.

Train 2: Leaves St Pancras, London at 8.04am English time and DOES NOT STOP at Ebbsfleet or Ashford. Arrives at Lille Europe at 10.26am French time/9.26am English time. If traveling the day before the festival starts there are later trains available, but if you are traveling on the day the festival starts then this is the latest train you can take.

** Train 2 does come with a risk. If the train is on time you will only have 25 minutes to reach the regional train station and once there you will have to take your tickets and the queue for tickets will probably be longer than usual due to more people traveling because of the festival. It is doable, as the regional station is not very far, but it might be stressful. Plus, if the train is delayed you might miss the early regional train and may therefore miss some of the festival. So for those catching the train from London, only take Train 2 if Train 1 really isn’t possible for you.

Your Eurostar train will arrive at the Lille Europe train station. From there you will have to walk to the regional train station, Lille Flandres. Here is a map to show you the route:

Lille Europe to Lille Flandres

As you can see, it’s not far and an easy walk. When you exit Lille Europe, you just walk straight until you come to some traffic lights, cross those and it’s right in front of you! You can’t miss it!

Once at Lille Flandres, you’ll want to take a ticket to go to Arras. You can do this either at the ticket booth (although you’ll have to speak french!) or at a machine; there are many dotted around. At the moment there is only the normal timetable of trains. In a everyday situation you would take this train:

Train TER No. 848904 – dirction Rouen - leaving at 10.51am French time (9.51am Eng time)/arriving at 11.29am French time (10.29am Eng time).

Just check the screen on the platform to know what number stop Arras would be. This would give you plenty of time to get from the station at Arras to the festival. However, there may be more trains available due to the festival but we won’t know this until we’re closer to the actual date. I will keep an eye on this, and update my blog with any new information as soon as there is any.

Once at Arras train station you can either walk to The Citadel (La Citadelle) where the festival takes place or catch a bus. At the moment there is no information on the bus services yet as additional buses will be available for the festival (at the moment it just says coming soon) but again, I will keep an eye on this and as soon as I know a timetable I’ll update this post with the information. However, you will most likely have plenty of time to walk to the festival if you would prefer to take your time and enjoy the area. Arras is really beautiful so it would be worth it! If you’d like to walk, I have a map here for you to show you your route from the station to The Citadel:

Arras train station to La Citadelle/ The festival

The festival usually starts between 1-3pm french time, depending what day it is, but when I know for certain I’ll let you know. Anyway, this should get you there before it starts and gives you a bit of room for any train delays or things like that.

 

FERRY:

If you love boats and the sea you can always take the ferry from Dover to Calais and make your way from there. You can make your booking at P&O ferries here:

http://www.poferries.com/

Technically, there are 2 boats to get you in france before your train to Lille leaves but one of them only leaves you 30 minutes to reach the train station which isn’t enough time, so really there’s only 1 ferry to take. The ship is the Pride of Kent - leaving at 6.40am English time/arriving at9.10am French time (8.10am English time.)

From the port you’ll need to get to Calais train station. You should have 1 hour 20 minutes if the boat was on time. You can choose to walk or take the bus. If you choose the bus, it will take you just in front of the port terminal where the car park is and there should be one every 40 minutes. From what my boyfriend remembers, the cost of the bus ticket is 2 €. At the time when my boyfriend was using the ferry you could pay in pounds but we’re not sure if it’s still possible. However there is a bureau de change in the terminal if you need it. The driver can’t give change though so try to have the exact amount.

Anyway, if you take the bus the stop for the train station is the one next to a river after leaving the town centre, the 2nd or 3rd stop perhaps. But you can’t miss it, and there will probably be a lot of people going there anyway.

However, if you want to take the time to walk from the port to train station, here is the route for you:

Calais port to calais train station

When you arrive at Calais train station you’ll obviously need to take your ticket to Lille Europe either at the booth or at one of the machines. You might wonder why you have to go to Lille and then Arras instead of direct to Arras. Well that’s because the train to Arras will take you a couple of hours because of the route they take which will mean you will miss some of the festival. So yeah, you want to take a train to Lille Europe. Additional trains will be added to the normal timetable so there will be other trains that you can take if you miss one. As soon as I’ll know the new timetable, I’ll update this post with the information. However, going from the normal timetable, the train you’d take would be this one:

TER No. 67546 – direction LILLE - leaving at 10.32am French time (9.32am English time)/arriving at 11.01am French time (10.01 English time). 

For some strange reason, your train will take you to Lille Europe which is the station in Lille where the Eurostar arrives. You’ll have to walk to the regional station, Lille Flandres, but it’s not very far. I have a map here to show you your route.

Lille Europe to Lille Flandres

Once at Lille Flandres you’ll want to take your tickets, this time to Arras. Again, more trains will be added to the usual timetables closer to the start of the festival to accomodate the increase in passengers so when I have this information I’ll update my blog. However, in a normal, everyday situation you would take this train:

TER No. 843908 – direction Amiens - leaving at 11.56am French time (10.56 English time)/ arriving at 12.34pm French time (11.34am English time).

Once you arrive at the train station at Arras you can take the bus to The citadel (La Citadelle) where the festival is held or you can choose to walk. At the moment there isn’t any information as to the bus services for the festival, but I will keep my eye on this and will update my blog as soon as I know. If you prefer to walk, I have the route here for you, from the station to the festival:

Arras train station to La Citadelle/ The festival

The festival usually starts between 1-3pm french time, depending what day it is, but when I know for certain I’ll let you know. Anyway, this should get you there before it starts and gives you a bit of room for any train delays or any other problems.

 

Useful Information and other things!

First of all, I want to say again that as soon as I have information on how the train and bus timetables will be for the festival I will update my blog. So PLEASE check this post closer to the festival dates and check them out.

Accomodation:

So I said at the start that I would answer the question on what to do to make sure you don’t have to miss the last acts. The festival runs for 3 days but you have the choice to pay for just 1 specific day or for all 3 days. If you are coming for all 3 days or just 1 day and you hate the idea of camping then you will need to take a hotel in Arras so you don’t have to worry about buses or trains and can walk back after the last act. If you’re doing this though, stay with your group and don’t go home unaccompanied!

There are no trains or buses running after the time of the last act so even if you’re coming for one day, you’re going to have to stay overnight. And when I say take a hotel in Arras, I mean Arras! It’s no use taking one in a close town when there’s no trains to take you there. Take a look at this to see some hotels in the area and their prices:

http://www.google.fr/hotels/?gl=FR&sdp=true#search;l=Arras,+France;q=hotels+arras;d=2013-07-05;n=1;si=

If you want to enjoy the camping experience, or you just don’t want to spend the money to go in a hotel, then you’ll have to go camping! If you’re only going for 1 day of the festival then you can camp for just one night for just 8€. You can camp for 3 nights for 20€ or 4 nights (the night before the festival starts as well) for 25€.

Also, READ THE WEB SITE FOR THE FESTIVAL CAREFULLY!

There’s a lot of things to know before you go, such as what items are and aren’t allowed. Check it before you go as you don’t want any of your things to be confiscated.

And finally, a section for those who don’t speak French! Here are some useful French phrases to help you in case there’s every anything you need to ask or you’re in trouble! ;-)

USEFUL FRENCH PHRASES:

  • Je voudrais un ticket pour Arras/Lille… I would like a ticket for Arras/Lille…
  • Quand est le prochain train/bus pour Arras/Lille/La Citadelle?  When is the next train/bus for Arras/Lille/The Citadel…
  • Quel quai est-ce?  Which platorm is it?
  • Désolé de vous déranger, est ce que c’est le train/bus pour Arras/Lille/La Citadelle?   Sorry to bother you, is this the train/bus for Arras/Lille/The Citadel?
  • Pouvez-vous l’écrire pour moi s’il vous plait? Je ne parle pas français… Can you write that down for me please? I don’t speak French. (Perfect for understanding train times!)
  • Pouvez-vous m’aider? Je suis perdu! Ou est la gare de Lille Flandres/Arras/Calais?  Can you help me? I’m lost! Where is Lille Flandres/Arras/Calais train station?
  • Ou est la citadelle/l’arret de bus? Where is The Citadelle/ the bus stop?
  • Ou sont les toilettes?  Where are the toilets? (Very important that one!)
  • Ou est l’hotel (give name of hotel)…. Where is the blah blah hotel?

That’s all I can think of at the moment. If I think of any more I’ll add it :-)

So that’s the whole huge guide done! I hope it will help any of you fellow Brits who are thinking of coming to the Main Square Festival this year.

Happy and safe travels! :-)