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Get your art on at the Noorderzon Performing Arts Festival in Groningen


The Noorderzon Festival in Groningen has grown from a small, urban happening celebrating contemporary artists to an internationally recgonised urban festival. Tickets went on sale this week and you could do a lot worse than check it out.

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From Thursday, 18th August Groningen will be turned into a hub of culture and art. For eleven days, an artistic village in the city’s Noorderplantsoen park will host dozens of performances by artists from Europe, Asia and the Americas – about 60% of all performance are international (as opposed to Dutch).

A highlight of the festival will surely be a screening of David Lynch’s classic nightmare-turned-feature film Eraserhead, accompanied by live music from the Amsterdam duo The Moi Non Plus. Lars Von Trier’s latest film, Melancholia, will also be screened, and there will be a sneak preview of Miranda July (Me, You & Everyone We Know)’s new film The Future.

The music line-up is no less impressive: glo-fi pop hero of the hour Washed Out will play a set on the opening night, while guitar-wielding hipsters Smith Westerns will serve up their brand of hazy, half-remembered pop songs on 25th August. The duo 9Bach provide a leftfield contrast with their adaptations of traditional Welsh folksongs.

Japanese choreographer Hiroaki Umeda returns to Noorderzon after first appearing there at 2007. He presents his show 2.repulsion, which features a fascinating take on hip-hop dancing.

For more information about this incredibly versatile and fascinating festival, click here. Tickets are for sale on the same website. You will have to buy tickets for the performances you want to go see – there are no tickets guaranteeing entry to all shows.

To get to Groningen, you can take a P&O Ferry from Hull to Rotterdam, from where it’s only about an hour and a half’s drive to Groningen.

Image credit: fihu

P&O Ferries: Free Disneyland Paris Ticket


Disneyland Entrance

P&O Ferries have a fantastic offer coming up for those of you planning to cross the channel in the next few months. With every car booking to cross between Dover and Calais you will be granted a free adult ticket to Disneyland Paris one day hopper ticket.

The value of this ticket is £51, and the cost of a ferry crossing falls well below this rate, you can book anytime between 29th September and the 31st March 2012, subject to terms and conditions visible on the offers page.

Your free ticket is redeemable right up until the last day of March next year; it will be issued on your day of departure and valid for thirty days. So if you have to flit between England and France a couple of times you can pick up a couple of these free tickets and get a free day in Disneyland with friends or family.

Image credit: wrayckage

P&O Ferries recommends you explore the beautiful Champagne-Ardenne region


Just north of the heart of France, but as representative of French history, landscape, culture and food as a region can be, lies the Champagne-Ardenne. A great place to discover and well worth dedicating a whole P&O Ferries trip to.

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As the name suggests, the Champagne is a fantastic area for wine aficionados. There are plenty of great wine houses that do tastings and tours, and you can’t really go wrong by just ordering whatever local waiters recommend. The Champagne Bauser company, located in the Les Riceys locality, is a particularly worthwhile place to check out. Specialising in champagne and rosé wines, there are English-speaking tours available and the surrounding landscape offers a great setting for a picnic – locally produced cheeses and biscuits are usually of very high quality.

Apart from that, there are over 3,000 champagne producers in the Champagne-Ardenne area – you’ll have to try hard not to come across a producer offering tastings and tours.

For those looking to travel by bike, there’s good news as well. With over 400km of cycle paths in the region, cyclists are well-placed to admire the peace and quiet of the river valleys and vineyards from close up. You could also look into mountain biking in the area.

A good place to set up base during your round trip would be the city of Reims, the largest city in the region. Steeped in WWII history and full of lovely back alleys and cathedrals, it’s also the birthplace of the late, famous, postmodernist philosopher Jean Baudrillard and former Arsenal winger Robert Pires. The Notre-Dame Cathedral (not to be confused with the one in Paris) is one of four UNESCO World Heritage monuments, and, yes, there are plenty of champagne houses to visit and explore. Reims is also just under an hour away from Paris should you fancy a day trip there.

Reims is only a two and a half hours drive away from P&O Ferries’ French port in Calais. Just take the A26 down south.

P&O Ferries: Fort Pampus and the Dutch Line of Defence


Luchtfoto Pampus

If you just can’t get enough of boat trips, once P&O ferries has brought you to the Netherlands why not take another boat out to Fort Pampus. This man-made island will make for a fascinating daytrip; you can either get a tour or wander the battlements of an innovative form of Dutch defence.

Pampus is part of a system of 46 forts that formed the Defence Line of Amsterdam, the idea was to flood the surrounding landscape should enemies get that far in to Holland, making it difficult for the invading army to even approach the fortifications before being rebuffed. It was constructed between 1883 and 1920; however by its time of completion military aircraft had developed enough to make such defences redundant. Fort Pampus is not only interesting from a military and engineering perspective but they also organise pirate treasure hunts for children and other such events and since the fort was closed to the public for so long it has developed an excellent ecosystem for wildlife lovers to see birds, reptiles and small mammals.

The island was formed by pushing 3800 piles of earth into the sea, as a completely unnatural land mass the old fort has a strange air and mysterious feel mixing military architecture, nature and the passage of time all on one island’s battlements that were outdated upon completion.

If you don’t think that’s enough to fill up one day, then you could always pay a visit to Muiderslot, a medieval castle that is one of the country’s best preserved fortresses from the Dark Ages.

The ferry between mainland and Fort Pampus runs three times a day between July and August, so now is the season to go, the island caters for lunches and group tours.

To get to Holland in order to visit Fort Pampus now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, P&O ferries can get you to the Netherlands via it’s Hull to Rotterdam service

Explore the Brittany region in France with P&O Ferries


Considering it’s so close to Britain and has one of France’s most gorgeous landscapes, it would be a shame if you missed out on Brittany during your next trip across the channel.

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Brittany is located on the end of France’s ‘right arm’ reaching into the Atlantic. The Main cities in the region are Nantes, Rennes and Brest, which are all places worth visiting for their largely ungentrified, rustic-french feel, but for some peace, quiet and beautiful surroundings, you could engage in some island-hopping.

One of the most highly recommended places toc heck out is the Île-de-Bréhat archipelago. It’s accessible by a ferry service from the northern coast of Brittany, and well worth the trip. Its pink granite rocks and unique vegetation will make for a lovely daytime stroll.

On the other side of Brittany, a few kilometers off the coast from the city of Lorient, lies the island of Groix. Probably the most tourist-friendly part of the island are the sandy, inviting beaches on its south coast, but those with a geological bent might find it interesting that there is a high number of different minerals to be found on the island.

For a rewarding walking trip culminating in a village pub with a local pale ale, you could take a trip to the Crozon peninsula just south of Brest. There are nice beaches to lounge about on, but there are about 25 miles of marked trails across the peninsula. During these walks, you can admire the tiny villages and the multi-faceted flora unique to Crozon.

To explore Brittany and its many beautiful islands, you can take a P&O Ferry from Dover to Calais, from where you can take a train to Brest station (around seven hours).

Image credit: Alain Feulvarch

Antwerp’s Culinary Festival


belgium food

Food lovers and people who enjoy Belgium in August will already be aware of Antwerp’s Culinary Festival, this annual event is returning for the fifth time this year, at the small cost of €1 per food ticket you can get full access to this four day food extravaganza.

From the Thursday 18th to Sunday 21st this August you’ll be able to spend your days and nights sampling professionally made local and international dishes cooked up by well-seasoned chefs. You’ll also have the chance to check out the young talent as the next generation of master chefs display their craft and give you the chance to sample tantalizing gourmet dishes.

The opening of the Culinary Festival is at 6PM on Thursday, it runs right through to midnight so you can have an excellent evening meal and wander amongst the stalls, if you have work the next day you may want to call it in early. Don’t worry the festival lengthens from 4-12 the next day and over the weekend it lasts from midday to midnight, so make an excellent day of it and try some new foods or old favourites for lunch, a mid afternoon snack and dinner.

The Belgian Gastronomy battle is a cook off between chefs that will masterfully show you how to prepare exquisite food in a hurry, a great opportunity to pick up some gourmet tips and there will also be a discussion of some of the meals available at Antwerp’s Culinary Festival.

For full details check out the website but it is easily discoverable by bus, tram or riverside walk.

The Great Market Square will play host to 25 of the best chefs from some of the finest restaurants in Europe, they will provide international dishes and a local presence will be serving proffering some of the dishes Belgium is famous for. The British expat population in Belgium makes it a more readily accessible event for English attendees, so ask about and get some tips, and don’t forget this is Belgium ladies and gentlemen so yes, there will be chocolate, waffles and beer aplenty.

To get to all the culinary delights of Antwerps food fest this August take a P&O Ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge and then your well on your way to all the fun and food that this event has to offer.

Image credit: Smabs Sputzer

Amsterdam Canal Parade


Canal Parade

Amsterdam’s Pride celebrations get nautical on the 6th of August, around 100 boats, barges and crudely formed rafts bear a costumed party celebrating gay pride. As part of a series of events including street parties, parades and club nights between the 5th and 7th the canal parade will be at the heart of it all, this tradition started in 1995 becoming ever more popular.

It all sets off at 2PM with cast off from Westerdok, a veritable armada of bright costumes, music and dancing sails down the Prisengracht canal and Amstel before landing at Oosterdok, with crowds cheering all the way.

We strongly recommend you book your hotel soon if you intend to go to Amsterdam Gay Pride 2011, the best accommodation is snapped up fast and you’ll want to be at the very heart of the celebrations this year.

Catch the Hull to Rotterdam P&O ferry to get to Amsterdam for the Pride celebrations of 2011.

Image credit: Vincent Teeuwen

English Channel hit by earthquake


The English Channel experienced its strongest earthquake in a few hundred years today, the British Geological Survey (BGS) said.

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The quake struck at around 8am, and had a magnitude of 3.9. Its epicentre was just south of Portsmouth, according to the BGS. Local residents said they could feel buildings shake for a few seconds, but no major incidents have been reported.

David Kerridge from the BGS said it was the largest earthquake in the English Channel area for almost 300 years. “This is the largest earthquake in this area since a magnitude 4.5 event in 1734”, Kerridge said.

“Historically, there have been two other significant events nearby a magnitude 5.0 earthquake in 1878 and a magnitude 4.3 earthquake in 1750.”

(Via the BBC)

Image credit: Avia Venefica

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