Holland’s Spring 2017 Flower Season


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Holland bursts in to bloom a little earlier than the uk, in fact we receive a lot of our cut flowers for bouquets and the like from our Dutch neighbours. They celebrate the first of their tulips on National Tulip Day in just the last weekend of January, whereas in the uk there is ne’ry so much as a snowdrop to be found.

You don’t need to be green fingered in order to enjoy flowers, after a long winter you may be surprised at the pleasure a simple bloom can give you, unburdening and full of promise. These flower displays are a fantastic way to get you out and about, if you’ve had your fill of museums or gastro-tourism these flower shows will get you out in the open air appreciating a bit of natural beauty. They’re a brilliant juxtaposition to the lively nights out that can be had in the urban centres of Holland, you could tack them on to a romantic trip or use them for inspiration to liven up your own garden back home.

In the dying days of March, spring will truly have arrived as the famous Keukenhof gardens open their gates to the public. Keukenhof gardens are only open for a brief period, from March 23rd – May 21st.

The Keukenhof gardens are boasted as ‘the most famous and largest flower park in the world’ what greater praise could we add? Situated just outside of Amsterdam between Holland’s capital and the Hague. You can easily plan a day trip to Keukenhof and be back at your accommodation in time for evening plans or an early one. It’s navigable from nearby cities like Leiden and Haarlem as well.

The major draw of Keukenhof is that in spring the upwards of 7 million bulbs will come in bloom, making the luscious park practically a wonder of the world. If you don’t favour tulips then there are plenty of alternatives to marvel at orchids, carnations, roses, daffodils and much more. They make for an enchanting walk, carefully arranged for maximum impact.

The theme for Keukenhof 2017 is ‘Dutch Design’ a tribute to the great innovators, engineers, artists and designers that Holland has produced and exported to the world.

In Keukenhof’s Oranje Nassau Pavillion a reconstruction of the iconic Piet Mondriaan squares painting comprised entirely of a flower mosaic made up of tulips has been arranged as the centrepiece of this year’s theme. A beautiful animation of the abstract work.

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The Keukenhof gardens are open from 8AM to 7:30PM every day, but the ticket office closes at 6.

During the first weekend of April an event called ‘Get in to the Green House’ will make hundreds of greenhouses both professional and amateur open to the public. Horticulture is big business in the Netherlands and this is a wonderful opportunity for you to learn from the masters, whether you’re after abundance or vibrancy you’re sure to pick up some tips.

This event attracts over 200,000 visitors each year and is becoming a big enterprise that now involves some of the largest names in dutch horticulture. Activities, workshops and events are put on for children and there are talks and tours for adults about everything from growing to eating.

Since the date of Get in to the Greenhouse crosses April Fool’s day we recommend you attend with a certain spirit of fun, since there will be plenty of kids about. In French speaking countries, April 1st is known as ‘April Fish and the given prank involves attempting to attach paper fishes to people’s backs. All done in good humour, but be on your guard nevertheless.

Tulip Festival

We all know Holland is closely associated with Tulips; and we’re sure you could name a few other common tropes. If you want your holiday to the Netherlands to be all about Tulips, bikes, windmills and wooden clogs then the Tulip Festival is where you need to be.

April 14th – May 8th is the official opening time for the Tulip Festival, which is technically a 100km route throughout the country from Noordoostpolder in Flevoland, this is short way from Amsterdam but you’ll find yourself in unfettered countryside, so it is worth it, the sort of countryside that may make you consider purchasing watercolours.

You do not have to travel the entire 100km to get a good feel for the Tulip Festival, there is 19km bike path called the garden route, which will let you see a lot more of the festival than you can on foot. There is also a picking station for you to take some tulips back with you and other goods sold by the people make a living on the flower trail.

It would be remiss of us to ignore all the other major goings on in Holland this spring. The first week of April brings National Museum Week a real treat if you in intend to take a cultural tour of Holland as hundreds of museums will be opening for free and at discounted prices April 3rd-9th.

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The King’s Day Parade April 27th sees Amsterdam explode in to a big orange street party that attracts crowds form all over Europe to revel amongst the canals of Holland’s Capital.

Discover Holland at it’s most beautiful when the tulips are in full bloom! Travel with P&O Ferries in Spring 2017 from Hull to Rotterdam.

Image Credit: Howard Lifshitz , Jack Versloot , Antonio Olmedo

P&O Ferries 2017 Early Holiday Guide to Belgium


Welcome to 2017, from P&O Ferries blog. We’re going to discuss why the best way to kick start your year is to plan a trip to Belgium with our Hull to Zeebrugge service.

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January blues are a common discussion this time of year. Festivities are well out of the way, in fact a whole year away now, there’s a good long slog until summer in which a fair portion of the population will be desperately trying to make our ever-exasperating bodies somewhat presentable. Nevertheless, while we are still in the cruel cold palm of winter let us turn it to our own advantage. Instead of struggling with self discipline focus on what’s to come for the year, make exciting plans to look forward to and perhaps you’ll be able to reignite the embers of festive levity to see you through the January lull.

Holidays don’t always have to mean sun, sea and sand however if it is just not a holiday for you without a coastal walk we have a rather unconventional choice. A North Sea holiday in January doesn’t sound like the greatest beach vacation however Ostend has much to offer the more discerning traveller.

As a ‘crossroads of Europe’ Belgium has historically been viewed a country of significance, not just strategically but also diplomatically and culturally. However, it can be said that Ostend has waned a little since the heady days of the 19th century when Kings would holiday there with entourage of the aristocratic elite in tow.

What has been left behind, and survived an occupation or two, is some truly remarkable architecture. Visit the Atlantic Wall Open Air Museum to experience a bit of modern history. The Royal Galleries constructed over a century ago to allow the monarch passage from the beach to the Wellington Hippodrome, a marvellous race track renovated in 2010, however you will have to wait until the end of June for the races to begin in earnest.

What should really draw you to Ostend is the fact that it is the off season. This city is home to some of the finest sea food restaurants in the country, accommodation costs will be down, the local populace will be returning to their work routine so you will be less encumbered by crowds and tourist focused areas will be beaming to have you there.

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We have said it before Brussels is a fantastic city to visit during the winter. You may have missed all the Christmas larks but if that isn’t your thing anyway there is plenty to see and do in this hub of Europe and with heaving political shifts sure to take place in 2017 it may be best to get a look in at Brussels before travel gets more complicated.

Chocolates on Valentine’s Day may sound a bit cliche but if you know your partner, or perhaps just you, is a bit of a fiend then where better to go than the spiritual home of chocolate for a romantic break. You’ll also be that much closer to Paris if you want to make the journey, or simply take a P&O Ferry from Dover to Calais.

We recommend Brussels for your romantic Valentine’s day because from 10th to 12th of February the capital city will be hosting Belgium’s Chocolate Fair as was held in London last autumn. This showcase covers the weekend before Valentine’s day in Brussels’ exhibition hall. You’ll be able to pick up a gift or perhaps have a fun day viewing the artisan stalls and getting a couple free samples.

If you head to Belgium before March 5th the Fine Arts Palace, or BOZAR as it is lovingly called, will be displaying a 60 piece collection of Picasso sculptures on loan from Paris. Certainly something not to miss as a great number of tourists visit France for Picasso but less so Belgium giving you a greater chance to get a good look in. Admission price is €18.

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Belgium is also famous for its beers and this February 4th and 5th will be hosting the Bruges Beer Festival downtown in Market Place. Always a fun event that doesn’t get quite so messy as some beer festivals (we’re looking at you Oktoberfest!). The history of brewing Belgium dates back centuries making events such as these excellent for those who get more inquisitive the more they have to drink, perhaps there’s already a word for it but we’ll go with inebro-curious.

For full information on this event click here. Entry to the Bruges Beer Festival is free but you’ll want to sample the goods. In order to do so you purchase tokens exchangeable for a 15 cl taste of whichever beer or ale you fancy. Tokens cost €1.80 but you can buy a single package deal that comes with 5 tokens, a complete guide to the event and 2017 Bruges Beer Festival pint glass for €15. If you are going with a friend or partner a double deal costing €30 grants you 11 tokens, 2 glasses and the guidebook. This event is catered but we do strongly advise you book accommodation in advance and ensure you’ve got the travel to and from the event sorted in advance, though we’re sure the good people of Bruges will help you should you need it.

We wish you well in all your endeavours for 2017 and hope to see you on P&O Ferries crossings from Dover to Calais and Hull to Zeebrugge or Rotterdam.

Image Credit: Stephane Mignon , Cristina Valencia , Smabs Sputzer

P&O Ferries guide to 2017 and Holiday deals in France


It is never too early to start planning your holiday for 2017. We are taking a look at some of the best deals and exciting events happening in France early next year, what better way is there to shrug off 2016 than travelling abroad with P&O Ferries to cap off your festive break and start a whole new year with the pleasures of a French holiday?

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For many it is hoped that a new year will bring a new you. Be it new year’s resolutions, starting that new job or opening a new chapter on your life with someone new. Your holiday doesn’t just have to be an escape from the daily grind you can use it to nourish your mind and body. Yoga retreats are not such a new thing however the growing numbers who practice the art of mindfulness meditation has lead to mindfulness retreats. For those who are unfamiliar with ‘mindfulness’ it is essentially a form of meditation that focuses awareness. Though we are all to greater or lesser extent ‘aware’ with meditation this awareness is exercised. It has been used as a means to reduce stress and broaden one’s self. If you consider that the majority of us, for one reason or another spend a lot of time on ‘auto-pilot’ mindfulness is an excellent means of making yourself more present and therefore a little more able to empathise with others as well a capable of responding proportionately to the slings and arrows of modern living.

Your holiday in France can be spent at one of the mindfulness retreats such as Plum Village in Bordeaux. There are also centres situated in the Alpes and south-west France. It would be wise to immerse yourself in the culture before attending one of the retreats just to ensure you know what you’re signing up for.

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We all love a landmark but sometimes the fear of falling in to a tourist trap and wasting an entire day milling around in endless crowds can be can be so great that you’ll forgo seeing something iconic just to avoid queues. It is for this very purpose that Skip the Line has been invented. Since the Eiffel tower is like the hub on which all outside perspective of France rotates, if it’s your first time visiting, you will likely want to visit the tower. It’s estimated that around 7 million people go to see the Eiffel Tower each year by booking a skip the line tour for a little as £50 you can get an 1.5 hour tour. With it you get access to the first and second story for wandering at your leisure as well as, most importantly, access to the summit which with your Skip the Line booking you get without having to line up for hours.

Calling all gourmands! In 2017 for one weekend only on the 14th &15th of January is the Black Perigord Truffle Producer’s Group Truffle Festival or for short, just the ‘Truffle Festival’ at Sarlat. Sarlat le Caneda is right at the bottom of France near Bergerac. If you are just starting to discover the finer things in life or are merely a big fan of truffles then book now for your trip to Sarlat. The two day festival will host talks and workshops on preparing, identifying and appreciating truffles. There will also, of course, be a lot opportunity to sample and shop for locally sourced truffles.

Local restaurants will have their own stands on Place de Liberte where demonstrations from the chefs on how to prepare truffles and samples of ‘Croustos’ a miniature dish tapas-like can be tasted. Finally this event helps out the next generation of truffle eaters by having hosting the Jean Rougie Award for Baccalaureate students, this is a cooking competition using perigord truffles with the winning get the chance for future career advancement. For more information on this event click here

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One of the other major Winter events in France is the City of Nice’s Carnival. Make your way to the south coast for one of the brightest spectacles in Europe this side of Summer. The theme for 2017 is King of Energy what better way to rid yourself of winter’s cobwebs then taking a trip down to the riviera for a bit of mediterranean sun and a festival fun? In 2017 February 11th – 26th a grand parade of floats bursting with colour and music will proceed throughout the city of Nice with thousands of dancers and musicians. To draw you in to the pulsing crowds float rides engage in flower battles’ wherein flowers are thrown at the onlooking crowd raining colour on the whole procession. Absolutely something not to miss for more details go to the Nice Carnival website.

P&O Ferries hopes to see you in 2017 whether to take the Ferry from Dover to Calais or if you’re travelling to Holland or Belgium ferries depart multiple times a day from the port in Hull

Image Credit: gckwolfe , anne arnould , Carnaval a Nice

Christmas in the Netherlands with P&O Ferries


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The season of good will is upon us. If you’re looking to try something a bit different this year or are looking for a bit of an adventure during what Andy Williams, and yours truly, would refer to as ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ then hop aboard with P&O Ferries and spend Christmas in Holland.

The way Christmas is celebrated in the Netherlands is not all too different to how we do it in the UK, but there are a few additions which you will not want to miss. For starters the weather won’t be much different, provided we don’t have yet another ‘unusual’ winter you’ll be looking at averages of 6 degrees, there’s slightly less rainfall than in the UK too. So ‘pack warm’ really goes without saying.

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If you aren’t acquainted with Dutch customs one of the major distinctions is that in Holland, the traditional figure of Sinterklaas has a position of eminence in the season. Sinterklaas meaning ‘St Nicholas’ has been amalgamated in to Santa Claus, however the Dutch have him too, as a separate entity. As you can see by the picture of Sinterklaas he is confusingly dressed in very similar attire to the bloke from the north pole but the two characters are very different.

Sinterklaas arrives in Holland every year by boat, from Spain, and has a grand parade in a different city each year, which is televised all across the country. This year Sinterklaas is arriving in Amsterdam on Sunday13th November. He doesn’t come alone, the parade boats should span up to a kilometre bedecked with ‘Zwei Piet’ or ‘Black Peters’ something like Santa’s elves, only a bit more contentious. The onlooking crowd gather along canals to wave in Christmas and are thanked in turn by the float riders with treats and sweets. Definite fun for the family, for more information click here.

Another part of Christmas in the Netherlands that you just won’t find here is the Mid-Winter Horn Blowing, don’t let this catch you by surprise. Take accommodation in the east country and you’ll find throughout the days of Advent at dawn some of the locals will draw out huge horns made of elder and let them call out above wells as has been done throughout the ages. Many attribute this as a Christian tradition but some of the symbolism involved has its roots in pagan theatrics.

Whereas Boxing day in the UK tends to be, for a lot of us, dedicated to digestive intensive care in Holland Christmas is celebrated over two days including December 26th. It’ll mean carol services are a bit more accessible as the crowds can spread over both nights.

Should you find yourself missing a bit of traditional British Christmas fare during your stay in Holland then stop by Deventer on the weekend before Christmas for their annual Dickens Festival. You’ll find Deventer due east of Utrecht just as short drive from the capital and a straight shot off the ferry in Rotterdam.

The purpose of this festival is to bring the pages of Dickens to life, everywhere you turn you’ll see famous and infamous characters as well as some of the smaller but equally beloved roles. For some of us it just doesn’t get more Christmassy than Victorian era Dickens. There will be stalls a-plenty to do some shopping as well as vendors for a Christmas bowl of smoking Bishop, Bob!

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If all this talk of Winter, and Christmas is getting too much for you then there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Whilst everyone else is regretting their midwinter indulgence or abstaining this January, you could book yourself a get away for the latter half of the month and reign the true Dutch New Year with the opening of the new Tulip Season. Rather than prancing about in revelry, which is, of course, perfectly acceptable in moderation, celebrate the new year in a more soulful way, by appreciating some of the first flowers of 2017. Tulips are big business in Holland, come National Tulip Day on January 21st you won’t want to be anywhere else other than Dam Square in the country’s capital. Tulip growers assemble a huge garden comprised of the blooms outside the Royal palace of Amsterdam that’s completely free for anyone to come and pick. Tulip season lasts until the end of April, the transformation of a central in the Amsterdam to a vibrant colourful garden in the midst of winter is truly something to behold.

For traditional New Years Eve revellers, be warned Amsterdam is party central so get your bookings in early lest ye be disappointed.

Book now with P&O Ferries for your Hull to Rotterdam trip this winter, this season tends to get a bit hectic, so plan ahead!

Image Credit: Jason Popesku , Michell Zappa , Lennart Tange

P&O Ferries Winter Holidays in Belgium 2016


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Not all holidays have to mean sun, sea and sand. P&O Ferries have the perfect midwinter getaway opportunities for you to take advantage of this festive season. If you are after a romantic weekend, or family fun or even a cultural tour of discovery you’ll find just what you are looking for with a holiday to Belgium this winter.

It’s undeniable that once we pass Halloween, Christmas rears its terribly splendid, tinsel wreathed head and attempts to drag us all out of our shells for a bit of merry making. If you require a bit more prompting than anxiously awaiting a certain fizzy drink advert to get in to the spirit this year then try something a little different and pick up a bit of festive spirit on the continent.

Belgium is an excellent choice for winter travel. As a crossroads of Europe, you’ll be able to connect with any friends you may have in neighbouring countries, Germany, France, Holland and Luxembourg. The country itself has great ‘return value’ by which we mean that even though it is considered a relatively small country, such is the wealth of what it has to offer, that you are bound to forgo something your heart really wants to see, leaving you with that ‘one day I’ll come back’ mentality. It is, therefore, best to plan carefully and squeeze as much as you can in to your visit.

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The cities of Belgium are steeped in history, the architecture in Bruges and Brussels dates back to the 13th century, much of the iconic gothic buildings there were finished in the 15th century. What we’re getting at here is, you don’t necessarily need to seek culture to enjoy your time. You are spoiled for choice in a place like Bruges, but Antwerp and Ghent also have a similar make up. A walk down the canal will lead you to courtyards and shops, small cafes and bars thrum with business and laughter. With the sun setting early at this time of year it’s difficult to believe the night is still young. It is the off season for tourism, though museums are open late which still draws a ponderous few. The chill in the air encourages you to wrap up warm and seek comfort in crowds or holding the hand of your loved one. The soft orange of streetlights and christmas decorations set a cosy scene, the spires of churches in the background with the sound of laughter and delighted conversation permeating the air each time a door opens to new custom.

A good winter holiday is all about feeding the soul and what could possibly be more nourishing than treating yourself to a bit of retail therapy. The Christmas Markets of Belgium face steep competition with their neighbouring countries but you’ll find them unique and enthralling all the same.

The major Christmas Markets are to be found in Brussels, named ‘Winter WonderLand’ and in Bruges. Brussels’ Winter WonderLand opens on November 25th and can be found at the Grand Place in the heart of the city right through to the New Year. Brussels’ Christmas market is the main attraction for the season, it comes complete with giant ferris wheel and ice rink. The market covers up 2km worth of shops and stalls throughout the city centre. By night the place is lit up like something from a child’s fantasy, there are of course, food and drink stands as well as live music too.

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For the Bruges Christmas Market, which is also open from November 25th, head to the Market Square and Simon Stevinplein. It’s attractions are similar to the Brussels Market but such as the ice rink, however since Bruges isn’t the capital the crowds won’t be quite so busy.

For more information on Belgium’s Christmas Markets click here. You’ll find plenty of information on all the other markets of Belgium including some of the newer additions to the roster, such as the one in Ypres.

The other major event, besides Christmas, is New Years Eve. Accommodation will be thinly stretched in Brussels by this time, but there will undoubtedly be some spaces available. Last year’s fireworks were cancelled however hopefully this year the party will be all the bigger with crowd ready to rein in the New Year with renewed gusto.

Belgium may have an unwarranted stigma as a sleepy place, but you don’t have to resign yourself to quiet nights at a tavern or early nights at your lodgings, if you don’t want to. Besides the late night museum hours you’ll also find a vibrant nightlife in most cities. One suggestion we’d like to call to your attention is Bonnfooi, a jazz club. Comes complete with dance floor and DJ sets, but also hosts live bands five times a week. Bonnfooi means ‘by chance’ so see if you can stumble across it whilst out at night in Brussels, head towards Music Street, for a good night.

Book now for the Hull to Zeebrugge crossing and warm your hearts to get rid of the chill this winter with P&O Ferries!

Image Credit: Vincent Brassinne , Carlos Andres Reyes , Carlos Andres Reyes

A very French Autumn with P&O Ferries


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Summer is all but spent and now is the time for the savvy holidayer to make the best of a not quite ‘off season’ sojourn in France with P&O Ferries.

The kids are suitably unhappy about the end of the summer holidays and it will seem, to them, like a long hard slog until Christmas. It doesn’t have to be this way though, a family break during half term, or even a long weekend could be arranged. P&O Ferries’ Dover to Calais service runs multiple times a day so you can travel at a time best suited to you. It only takes 90 minutes to cross the channel, you won’t be confined to either carriage or cabin and get panoramic ocean views, you can stretch your legs, do some shopping and the kids have designated play areas and arcades too.

Kids under 7 years of age can stay at Disneyland for free in their hotels, provided an adult will be accompanying them per room. You’ll need to book before October 3rd, a stay of 2,3 or 4 nights will reward the entire party with a up to two nights extra free as part of Disneyland’s Magic Breaks special offer.

You’ll find a journey to Disneyland far more rewarding via ferry than the alternative methods. It is just a 2.5 hour trip from the port of Calais to Disneyland’s gates, take your own car and be their in no time or book accommodation elsewhere to suit your needs.

Disneyland’s Halloween festivities run throughout October to November 2nd, so there is plenty of time to book in a half term slot, though be warned they do get competitive the closer to Halloween you leave it to book. At this time of year Disneyland is given a spooky makeover and you’ll find events from parades of favourites like Mickey to musical numbers and performances from Disney’s dastardly villains.

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Autumn is a brilliant time for short trips, while whatever lingering heat from summer remains you can still get brilliant days out in the country or the city. Those of you not chained to the school holidays can easily find cheaper prices, less crowded attractions and even a more authentic atmosphere. As the holiday season draws to a close, Paris itself becomes a bit more French, the average clientele sees fewer tourists so you get more of a Parisian’s experience of the capital than that of a day-tripper .

The further away from city centres you intend to go the more you’ll feel the end of the travelling season. Many businesses only make a profit through tourists, so it’s better to shut up shop for the off season. This, unfortunately, includes some attractions and landmarks including heritage sites like cathedrals. A positive of this is that the businesses that are open have passed a sort of litmus test, proving themselves robust and therefore good quality. After all, what’s the point of dining out in France if you aren’t sampling the finest of French food?

France isn’t just a destination for families, before winter sets in and seasonal obligations start taking up your time, plan a mini-break with the one you love. Romantic holidays in France don’t have to mean bank breaking hotels, a discrete cottage in the country, or chalet with a view could do much for your relationship, or just as a treat for the sake of it.

With the change of season, France’s countryside has a real burst of colour, travelling with your car is easy with P&O ferries, so if the weather turns against you, it won’t be too much trouble to see the country by car. However if you’re fortunate with the weather, and wish to get out and about in the country a rambling journey will also do you the world of good and help you make fond memories.

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There are plenty of resources to look to if you’re planning an outdoorsy holiday, walking around France allows you to set the tone, do as much or as little research as you feel is required. You can challenge yourself using the maps to take you beyond the reach of the modern world as well as discover little seen landmarks and old abandoned structures from bygone days.

Late summer and early autumn is also wine season. If you are partaking in a walking holiday it will be well worth your while to trek to the major wine regions of France. Get there early for some of the years first Beaujolais or if you fancy it, a hearty Burgundy. When travelling back to the UK you’ll be nearest to the Champagne region, what better way to remember your holiday than to have a little bit of it bottled for a special occasion, or perhaps New Years’? Be forewarned the picking season is serious business, so through you might get a few samples once the work is done, tourism is not the priority of vineyards during harvest season. But don’t be dismayed, you will find a booming zeal for gastronomy. As the weather starts to chill, dining habits will shift from summer grazing to heavier more satisfying stews, fresh baked bread, cheeses (and of course wine). Think bourguignon or bouillabaisse and dream of France.

Book now for your getaway holiday this Autumn with P&O Ferries, just 90 minutes across the channel from Dover to Calais!

Image Credit: Henry Ngo , Yann Coeuru , Cristian Bortes

P&O Ferries: Autumn Holidays in Holland 2016


Now is the time to be looking ahead, how will you spend what little is left of 2016? The summer months are flying by all too quickly but when there’s a plan for autumn and winter there is no cause to mind quite so much. Here we have some grand ideas for you to sneak in a little (or not so little) holiday to the continent for the dying months of 2016. As the seasons change you’ll find plenty to do in Holland during temperate weather. The countries capital is also a fine sight in autumn as the leaves change over the canal you won’t need to speculate over the nation’s obsession with orange.

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Amsterdam’s Markets

One of the great benefits of going on holiday with P&O Ferries, is that, should you choose to, you can take your car. This means there’s plenty of room to bring stuff back with you (provided you’re not the type to pack everything but the kitchen sink). You’ll find Europe’s markets draw a lot of tourists at this time of year, they tend to multiply as Christmas approaches. And well they should, it’s a perfect arrangement if you choose to spend the festive season avoiding the mad dash that is travel at Christmas, take a trip a few months early, and perhaps even get some presents in.

The most likely shopping hubs you’ll see in the Dutch capital, if Saturday’s night time excursions don’t get the better of you, are the Sunday markets. We’ll start off with:

Pure Markt: A fortnightly Sunday market starting at 11AM open until 6PM. Pure Markt can be attended at Amstell Park on September 11th or Park Frankendael later on September 25th. If you are self catering, this market is a great opportunity for you to experience local produce, fresh and in season; perhaps with some helpful advice on how to serve it as well. There are also music and food stalls, to keep you occupied & it’s also a good spot to pick up Dutch keepsakes if you’re bringing back souvenirs.

Early next month on September 4th, is the monthly Sunday Market at Westergasfabriek, an old gas works that has now become a cultural hub. This market is open from midday to 6PM. If you are in to fashion, art or design then there’s no better place to be on a Sunday in Holland. A vibrant crowd, live music and plenty of food and drink to keep you buoyed.

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If Sunday market is a little too early in September, you’ll get another chance to visit Westergasfabriek, on the 17th and 18th for NeighbourFood & Flea Market. On the Saturday Neighbourfood will be dishing up all the best local produce and on the following day a sprawling flea market opens up. Those of you with a keen eye can quite easily pick up a bargain with authentic Dutch fare on sale, it may be second hand but that old world charm cannot be reproduced any other way.

The other major flea market of September in Amsterdam is IJ-Hallen which is to be held the weekend before Neighbourfood, on the 10th and 11th. This is one of the larger markets held in Amsterdam at the NDSM-wharf, sure to be filled with with curios, bureaus and all other manner of so-and-so.

Anyone taking a cultural tour of Amsterdam, you’d have to try quite hard not to imbibe some form of culture in Amsterdam, will find themselves gravitating towards Museumplein. This is the large square in centre of Amsterdam where you’ll find places like the Van Gogh museum & other galleries, notable churches and places of interest. On September 18th, Museum Market will be open all day and is sure to draw a big crowd. This is an arts and crafts market, which will be great for anyone who is good with their hands, but also inspiring for kids. You’ll have close proximity to all the nearby galleries and museums as well as live music and food, heaven.

And finally just because it wouldn’t feel right to neglect such an auspicious occasion on a post about Dutch markets. The Alkmaar Cheese Market will be drawing to a close at the end of the month on September 30th. If you haven’t experienced the cheese market, then it does come recommended, being steeped in history, ceremony and healthy love of cheese.

Markets are not hard to come by in Amsterdam, for more information on them click

Book now for your last chance to holiday in Holland in 2016, P&O Ferries’ Hull to Rotterdam service can get you there!

Image Credit: Daviddje , Jos Dielis , Ferdi De gier

P&O Ferries top picks for Belgium Holidays late 2016


Already looking forward to those autumnal retreats, sneaky weekends away and half-terms abroad? We don’t blame you in the slightest, here is a selection of choice events happening in Belgium later this year.

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We all know Belgium is famed for two main things, rather unfairly we’d just like to say there’s so much more going for it. Nevertheless titles such as beer chocolate capital of the world have been hard earned and well deserved so let us first impress upon you the serious and important business that is the Belgian Beer Festival.

Not such a messy affair as Germany’s Oktoberfest, but certainly just as much fun, you can find a top quality beer festival in Belgium at just about any time of year. Though the art of micro brewing has caught on in a major way in the UK, the Belgians have a long established tradition and some of the oldest breweries in the world. So any discerning beer drinker knows full well, you can’t whack a good Belgian ale.

A great start for anyone new to beer festivals or if you want an established and easy festival (not that any of them could be called ‘difficult’) is the tried and true Belgian Beer Weekend. In 2016 you can attend this event from 2-7th September right in the heart of Brussels at the Grand Marche. This could be called one of the more official Belgian Beer Festivals as it’s hosted by the National Federation of Belgian Brewers, how much more authoritative could you get?

This event is held every year at the first weekend of September, you’re still likely to get that good beer garden weather but it isn’t so hot to be uncomfortable or quickly heat up a pint of the good stuff. Given the prime location of the event you won’t struggle to find it or find your way back to your accommodation which is excellent all things considered. Belgian Beer Weekend is more than opportunity to over-indulge, it’s a competition amongst the breweries to find the best amongst them. After the critics have made their choices theirs even a Knighting ceremony. Arrive in time for the opening ceremony and you’ll get to witness numerous speeches, which may not be so great if you aren’t brushed up on your Dutch, but there’s also traditional garb to admire and a parade of historic beer carts as well a lively fanfare to keep everyone peppy.

Belgian Beer Weekend is as much a networking opportunity for businesses as it is for the general public. It opens for visitors at 6PM running late in to the night, you purchase a glass and then roam the stalls sampling the goods. Heaven.

As we mentioned there is always beer festival going on in some corner of Belgium, usually the further afield you have to go the finer you’ll find the brew is. So keep an eye out for those Trappists Abbots, Pales, Reds, Browns, Blondes, Stouts and just about everything else – and remember to take care.

Here’s a list of some of the Beer Festivals you can attend in 2016.

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Now for a tradition dating all the way back to 1982, it’s Dinant’s annual Bathtub Regatta. Yes we assure you, it’s not made up there are videos to prove it. Each year Belgium’s most persevering competitors congregate on the River Meuse in Dinant to race one kilometre in just a highly decorated bath tub – the only rule, there are no rules: except no sinking other tubs or using a motor. This highly onerous occasion happens in mid August, so there is no time to lose booking your P&O Ferry to Zeebrugge.

The Regatta is free for spectators, simply a fun day out watching people succeed and some circumstances succeeding not so well.

Belgium is steeped in military history and bears many scars and memorials to battles of the 20th Century. At the close of August this year Mons is hosting Tanks in Town to celebrate the 72 year since Liberation by the 83rd US Armed division. There are more details on the events webpage here. This is always fantastic event to help keep history alive, you’ll get to walk amongst the tanks and other armoured equipment used in nearby battlefields, a humbling and amazing experience.

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Christmas comes early to Belgium so if you’re of a mind to see Bruges, Antwerp or Brussels before it’s prematurely bedecked for winter festivities then be sure to book now lest you risk catching the Christmas bug far far too early. That said it never is too early to start thinking about how you’re going to spend Christmas and New Year’s. Prime spots on P&O Ferries for crossings during the festive season do tend to fill up fast so start making your plans now to avoid disappointment.

Take the overnight P&O Ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge and enjoy the last remnants of Summer in Belgium

Image Credit: Tim Samoff , Edward Russell , Russell Trow

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