Summer Holidays in Holland with P&O Ferries


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At last summer is here, don’t waste a moment of it, before you know it fun in the sun will be on the other side of winter. P&O Ferries is taking a look at all the exciting and unique adventures you can take part in over summer 2017 and beyond with in Holland. With P&O Ferries’ Hull to Rotterdam service the Netherlands will open up to you for a mini-break getaway or long stay family holiday, take a look to see what’s in the Dutch oven this summer.

We will start out with one of things Holland is famous for, no not tulips, clogs or windmills, we’re talking about herring. Early summer is absolutely the best time of year for you to get your herring fix since the season for herring fishing commences on June 17. If you wish to be there for the inaugural day when the first batches are being sold then there’s no need to wander about the port cities asking for herring like some fish junkie. The opening of herring season coincides with Flag Day or Vlaggetjesdag to use the vernacular. Though the celebration is mostly for a good street party there is plenty of local heritage and cultural tradition to be enjoyed, national dress and songs and dance.

To get right in to the spirit of the occasion head to Schveningen in The Hague. Schveningen is one of the big seaside resorts in Holland, think Yarmouth or Blackpool only Dutch. Even if you were planning a city break to one of the main centres of Holland you should still be well within proximity for a day trip to the beach it is a fantastic way to break up a cultural visit if you were mainly planning on visiting galleries and museums.

A little later in the year Schveningen also hosts Holland’s Fireworks festival in the second week of August. It will surely add that little bit of magic t you evening and make summer 2017 one to remember. If you have ever wondered where New Year’s Eve firework’s displays are refined, dreamt up and experimented with a fair portion of it can be attributed to the International Fireworks Festival. Various participating countries get to display fireworks, at least 80% of which need to be produced domestically, and get to thrill the crowd for 11-13 minutes. The festival is held over 4 days on the Schveningen beach and is open to the crowd August 11-19.

But enough of this, let us get back to the important issue of herring. Each year the new season or Hollandse Nieuwe meaning New Dutch Herring become plump enough to eat after spring plankton bloom. You may have though raw fish was the domain of sushi samplers, igloo dwellers, Gollum and castaways but the Dutch also deserve to have their names on that illustrious list. The traditional way to eat herring in the Dutch way is uncooked in a bun with chopped onions and pickles, fabulously tasty and healthy too. With the first fresh hauls being sold buy mongers and stall merchants you should be able to find Herring just about anywhere this time of year. If you’re coming across this post a little late and refuse to let it happen again the date for next years Hollandse Nieuwe is announced in November, and we salute you.

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There was some exciting news for football fans about Euro 2020. We do have a World Cup in between but since the next Euros will be the 60th anniversary the tournament will be hosted across major capitals of the continent including Amsterdam. So if you can’t get a hold of tickets for the matches to be held in the UK then keep an eye out if you want to attend the 3 qualifying games or the final 16 match. All of which to be held in Amsterdam’s soon to be refurbished stadium. Euro 2020 matches will also be played in Brussels, you can get there with P&O Ferries Hull to Rotterdam service If any teams from the UK are going to be playing in these games there’s sure to be a lively party boat atmosphere on the over night crossing.

One of the finer ways to enjoy summer, is in the garden. Of course though a lot of us have very fine gardens there tends to be that niggling doubt that other people have done it better. Had better ideas, or are just fortunate enough to have the right setting and enough time or money to implement maximum garden grandness. Therefore this June in Amsterdam gardens that are normally closed off from the masses by canal houses are opening up to the public.

On the third week of June that’s 16th -18th for €15 you will be granted access to some of the finest gardens in the Netherlands. You will be able to refresh yourself in tea rooms or languish in gazebos. Take inspiration from some of the master gardeners design schemes and plant portfolios.

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Book now for your summer holiday to Holland with P&O Ferries, Hull to Rotterdam will see you in the Netherlands for all the excitement of the sunny season!

Image Credit: Rool Paap , JD Hancock , langs de osylaan

Spring 2017 Holidays in Belgium with P&O Ferries


Book your holiday with P&O Ferries this spring for some days of sun on the continent. This time we are looking at what’s happening Belgium 2017 and have made a couple of selections for what might just make your holiday memorable and fun.

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After the fun from last years 21st anniversary of Belgium Pride expect no less joy and vibrancy for 2017. Belgian Pride is a life affirming and joyous event by which the LGBT+ community and its supporters come together to celebrate diversity and affirm their rights. Attendance numbers for this event have swollen since its incarnation in 1996 and it now garners over 100,000 attendees. This LGBT festival will have its main parade on Saturday afternoon, May 20th. The floats this year will be reduced in size so that the procession can party down the streets of Brussels. Belgian Pride Festival is brought you by multiple independent organisers not just one single organisation claiming to speak for a collective.

The theme for 2017 is ‘Asylum and Migration’ with the slogan ‘Crossing Borders’ in keeping the with the community spirit of inclusivity, protection and reception. The goal behind this is not only to assist LGBT migrants but also to find ways to come to the aid of others in their country of origin. Belgium has historically been known as the ‘Crossroads of Europe’ and so what better place to gather for a celebration this May?

It all kicks off at Notre-Dame de Bon Secours 11AM May 20th, where talks about this years theme and the opening of the Village and opening ceremony begins at 2PM. You’ll be able to get refreshments at the bars and food trucks as well as merchandise from stallholders. At 2:30PM the parade will begin in Ravenstein Street and proceed through the city, for a look at the route click here. This should all be wrapped up for a party back in the village from 5PM to midnight -ish.

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Here for its 17th iteration this June is Antwerp’s Beer Passion Weekend or BeerPassie. This is one of the more pedigreed beer festivals that Belgium has to offer. Given Belgium’s long tradition of brewing, the current up trend of micro brewing and the fact everybody is appeased by beer in abundance; there are around 180 breweries in Belgium. Beer Passion is the weekend when the major players in the industry vie for dominance. So if you like beer take advantage of their courtship this June. After the long winter this is the time when brewers unveil their latest batches so you will have the opportunity try some of the new brews for 2017.

Beer Passion is being held in Antwerp on the last weekend of June, so proceedings kick off Friday 26 at 5PM in Groenplaats right in the heart of the city next to the cathedral. The set up for this event is a boxed in beer village, where you will have to pay 5€ entry for your beer glass and tokens, which you can top up for more bevvies at your leisure. A dixie band will be there to liven up proceedings and the traditional brass band will be sharing the aural burden over the weekend.

The second day opens a little later, at 1PM for those who have indulged a little too much the night before and remains open until midnight. There will be talks and a taste along with Ben Vinken in his beer sommelier tent as well as an award ceremony and tasting of eccentric beers.

The following Sunday wraps things up with what will hopefully be a gloriously relaxing day of the finest beers Belgium has to offer in the late spring sun.

For more information on Beer Passion visit them here

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We often recommend city holidays later in the year, when the weather is less clement. This is so that you can take advantage of galleries, museums or gastronomy unique to the area. It is however a misstep to assume that summer means beaches and wide open countryside. You will find that Belgium’s cities Ghent, Bruges, Antwerp, Namur, Leuven and Brussels are all brought to life by the warmer seasons. Pick up a guide book and you could have a cost effective self guided tour of any of these cities marvelling at some of the finest architecture of Europe’s history. If casual hustle and bustle of life starts to weigh on you P&O Ferries are the perfect chariot for a mini-brea. Even the time spent crossing the channel could be considered therapeutic as you travel by sea to whatever adventure awaits you on your holiday.

Visit Belgium this Spring with P&O Ferries, the Hull to Zeebrugge service can get you there overnight!

Image Credit: Miguel Discart , Burnt Rostad , Zoetnet

P&O Ferries holidays in France this Spring with Disneyland deals


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Spring is a fantastic time to visit France, just as nature comes in to bloom it seems like city life starts becoming a bit more vivacious as well. In this blog we’ll be taking a look at some of the events going in the north of France this Spring as well as the special events that you won’t want to miss in Disneyland.

2017 is a special year for Disneyland Paris, the park is now 25 years old. So naturally there will be plenty of new and exciting goings on for you to treat your kids, and yourselves, for a scintillating silver anniversary.

Since these milestones only come around once every so often the good folks at Disney like to put on a bit of a bash. Therefore you will want to book ahead and fortunately a special early bookers discount is available well in to next year for you to take advantage of. For starters, if you make your booking this month, before the 26th, you will be viable for a 30% discount off your hotel, park tickets as well as a free half board meal plan for the whole party.

If that’s just a little too short notice, then try the Early Winter Booking a similar deal which covers late 2017 and early 2018. You need to make your booking prior to October for at least three days in one of the Park’s hotels. Kids under 7 years of age receive free board and you are also gifted two days and nights at the hotel absolutely free, with this deal you could turn a weekend trip in to a week long vacation. This deal is available over all half term holidays as well as the major Christmas break as well, naturally the footfall at Disneyland picks up a bit during these periods so book ahead lest you be disappointed.

If you do find that your window for visiting Disneyland is all booked up then have no fear, the advanced bookings offer (2 nights free added on) is viable for Summer 2018 dates as well.

For the 25th anniversary Disneyland will be pulling out all the stops, with Stars on Parade, a procession of all the major beloved, and perhaps a few of the more notorious, Disney favourites. The evenings will be enchanting with the Illuminations Show a blend of fireworks, lasers, music and pageantry to turn night time in to a real celebration. There is also to be a special showcase from the Disney Princesses. At the Royal Castle stage favourites like Belle, Aurora and Cinderella are hosting a ball for a Starlit Princess Waltz a spectacle that will dazzle more than just the little ones.

For more information on the goings on at Disneyland this year, click here.

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France is famous for its cuisine but your average tourist who is open minded and interested in sampling the countries wares my have a hard time finding an authentic dining experience. Nobody wants to come back from France only to answer the question ‘What did you eat?’ with ‘Well we mostly wound up in chain restaurants like we have back here’. You don’t have to spend hundreds per head in a world famous multi-michelin star restaurant, nor be overpriced and underwhelmed in a bijou Parisian tourist trap. An excellent and cost effective way to find good food in France, which isn’t tremendously difficult, is finding one of their food festivals.

Early this April 7-10 is Coulommiers’ International Cheese and Wine Fair, this year celebrating its 50th anniversary. You could consider it a farmers market, much of the produce is being sold by its maker. Livestock is also put on display and a competition to guess the weight a cow named Marguerite is open to all comers adding a certain charm to the event.

This fair runs for four days attracting around 60,000 attendees. If you don’t want to leave France without sampling something truly French what better choice than wine and cheese?

For information on how to get there, click here.

In close proximity to Calais where your P&O Ferry will deliver you is the Abbeville’s Bird and Nature Festival April 8-17 this event draws a good crowd since it began back in 1991. For those of you travelling to France for its rural charms this is surely an event worth attending. If your goal is a camping holiday this will seamlessly augment your trip opening up avenues to explore France’s waterways, horseback treks cross country or woodland hikes to hear birdsong. You can also see the young seals of this season at Picardy’s Bay, though this must be supervised.

An artistic bent to this festival will exhibit sculptures and paintings as well as talks for conservation and natural aestheticism.

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Towards the end of May commemorations for the Normandy D-Day Landings are also held as a tribute to all the soldiers for their actions on June 6th 1944. A broad programme of events is planned including parachute drops, bagpipe marches, fireworks, re-enactments. Talks will be hosted and vintage vehicles for attendees to get an up close look will be available.This is an occasion of great importance and therefore draws a large crowd so book your accommodation and P&O Ferry passage well in advance.

Visit France this Spring with P&O Ferries, multiple channel crossings daily from Dover to Calais.

Image Credit: David Jafra , Vanessa Lollipop , McButh

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.

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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

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