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P&O Ferries: Kattenstoet Festival 2012


Once every three years, the Kattenstoet Festival is held in Ypres, Belgium. May 3rd 2012 will see the 43rd rendition of Kattenstoet an all-out feline frenzy with costumes, parades fireworks and one or two obscure traditions that you’ll have to see to believe.

The legend behind this festival originates from centuries back when Ypres was at the centre of Europe’s wool trade (the town’s cloth hall was used to store the year’s harvest). Since this stockpile attracted rodents, the townsfolk of Ypres would gather cats to prevent the damage to their livelihood. However, once the year’s wool was sold, there was an excess of cats. Supposedly the task of ridding Ypres of moggies fell to the town jester who would throw them from the belfry.

The killing of these cats was also seen as a symbolic exorcism of evil spirits since they’re so frequently associated with witches. The annual culling of kitties ceased in 1817, and since then the people of Ypres have drastically changed their treatment of cats.

It’s a strange twist that now Kattenstoet has become a celebration of felines. On this day the people of Ypres revere them, dressing up like cats, witches and jesters. Decorated floats parade through the town with fireworks come sunset. Plush cat dolls are still thrown from the belfry by a jester to keep with tradition, and there’s also a pretend witch burning and fake cat and dog fight.

Since this event is only hosted once every three years accommodation fills up fast so make your bookings early. You can purchase tickets from their website. They cost €14 per head, and festivities start at 11am and last through to 7pm.

Kattenstoet is a light-hearted and time for a bit of general silliness, excellent fun for the family and cat lovers alike.

Ypres is about the same distance from the Belgian port town Zeebrugge as it is from Calais. P&O Ferries can get you to either in time for Kattenstoet.

Image credit: R/V/DV/RS

Frequent P&O Ferries travellers can save money with season tickets


Do you travel across the channel regularly? Do you enjoy the comfort and efficiency of P&O Ferries’ service?

Then a season ticket for either the Dover – Calais or the Hull – Rotterdam/Zeebrugge route might be just the, er, ticket.

Only three return tickets over a specified period of time will qualify you for a season ticket fare of only £35 per trip. If you think you’ll be travelling back and forth between Dover and Calais more than 12 times, you could end up paying as little as £29 per trip.

To check the terms and conditions of this great offer, call the P&O Ferries season ticket service on 08716 646 747.

Travel back to the middle ages with P&O Ferries


The biggest fortress in Europe opens its gates for a colossal festival of medieval culture on the weekend of May 19th and 20th. The festival has gained a reputation for being the major tourist attraction in the Champagne-Ardenne region and promises, now in its 17th year, to feel even more like an authentic time journey to the middle ages.

The fortified castle in Sedan, a town in the North of France, will host a big medieval fair with over 100 exhibitors, who will sell medieval products and clothing and 20 craftsmen will show how to bind books, make glass and press coins in workshops inside the ancient walls.

Hungry visitors can experience medieval feasts and traditional banquets in one of the taverns around the grounds of the festival and burn some calories with a walk through a medieval battle camp. If you ever wondered how those medieval princesses got married, you can even attend a medieval wedding listen to some medieval love ballads.

Make sure that you don’t miss out on the festive procession on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. It will feature medieval music, dance performances, knights in full armour and traditionally dressed monks. Other highlights include cavalry tournaments, crossbow demonstrations, sword duels and if you (or your kids) are brave enough – torch lit night tours of the castle. If you should hurt yourself while trying any medieval combat techniques you can even get a medical herb treatment from the middle ages (depending on the severity of your injuries, you might still want to visit a modern doctor afterwards).

To complete the medieval atmosphere you can witness falconry with the backdrop of the towering fortress or enjoy some medieval entertainment in form of a street theatre performance. Don’t forget to take home a photo of yourself dressed as a medieval maid or monk (or as a more elegant character, if you prefer) as a souvenir.

The festival will run Saturday 10.30am to 10pm and Sunday 10am to 7pm, and the admission won’t break the bank at €5 per person if you buy in advance. For under 12-year-olds, the admission is free. For more information check out the festival’s website.

You can take a P&O Ferry to Calais and drive to Sedan in 4 hours. But if you have a little bit more time, you could stop over in Lille to check out the famous Citadel and have a look at the impressive gothic Cathedral in Amiens (total driving time 5 hours 45 minutes)

P&O Ferries recommends: the Pink Pop Festival


Holland’s biggest open air festival and the longest-running rock/pop festival in the world shouldn’t be missing on any serious festival fan’s itinerary.

The 42nd edition is headlined by The Cure, Bruce Springsteen and Kasabian, with more than 38 other artists performing on three stages in three days. Other reasons to take a trip to the small Dutch town Landgraaf include Paul Kalkbrenner, Mumford & Sons, The Wombats, Miike Snow, James Morrison, Linkin Park and Dutch singer Anouk.

The festival doesn’t owe its name to the original organisers’ love for the colour – in fact, it is a combination of the Dutch word for Pentecost (‘Pinksteren’) and the music genre it was mainly dedicated to. Today, it’s still primarily a place for rock and pop, but the 60,000 visitors per day also have the option to listen to metal, hip hop and electro.

Pink Pop first took place in 1970 as a one-day festival but had to be expanded to a three-day festival due to its massive popularity. In 2007 there was even a spin-off, called Pink Pop Classic, introduced to cater to diehard Pink Pop fans of the older generation. At Pink Pop Classic they can revive their memories together with bands who have previously performed at Pink Pop.

If the festival is not enough to keep you entertained, you can go on a Ferris wheel or a seated crane lift that operates opposite the main stage. The camping site for weekend-pass holders offers the usual amenities of shower blocks and food halls, and if you want to relax in between concerts you can catch a movie at the open air cinema.

A three-day ticket including camping is £144 and day-tickets are £70.

The Pink Pop festival takes place May 26th – 28th in Landgraaf, which is a 2-hour drive from Rotterdam, one of the destinations of P&O Ferries.

Jazz Marathon in Brussels


The Brussels Jazz Marathon gets underway at the end of May, and is considered by enthusiasts to be one of the most popular jazz festivals in Europe. Jazz sprouts everywhere in Brussels with over 125 concerts, most of them completely free, taking place on Brussels main squares and in 50 other venues across the city.

Brussels already enjoys a vibrant jazz scene, with local acts performing live in bars and foreign stars passing through for larger concerts, but the Jazz Marathon transforms the city into the jazz capital of the world for three days.

With 700 artists in less than 72 hours the festival definitely lives up to its title. It almost makes attending all the big bands, soloists and vocalists into an endurance exercise. Special buses crisscross the city and connect all main performance spaces to help visitors with their jazz marathon chase around the city. There is even a group of 20 musicians and 6 comedians onboard the buses to make sure that passengers don’t get bored during their ride.

‘Jazz’ is taken in its widest sense at this festival, catering to all tastes, from funk and latino to blues. Big Belgian names play on the Grand Place or on the other big squares in the city, while rising stars perform in small bars and studios. This makes the Brussels Jazz Marathon a great opportunity to catch up with some exceptional young talents from the land which gave us one of the most important of all jazz ingredients, the saxophone.

Belgian trumpeter Bert Joris and Jean-Paul Estievenart have been among past performers, and other special attractions include workshops for young people and jazzy makeup shows, ice-cream treats, and a mini marathon.

The Brussels Jazz Marathon is the perfect opportunity for Bruxellois and tourists alike to indulge in sweet jazz tunes alongside their Belgian chocolates, and last but not least, the medieval architecture provides an enthralling backdrop for the music.

The festival runs from May 25th to May 27th. Arrive early to the events, as it will be very crowded.

To get to Brussels for a Jazz-Get-Away, you can take a P&O ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge, from where it’s only about an hour’s drive to the Belgian capital.

Foire de Paris – experience it with P&O Ferries


More than a 1000 representatives from over 70 different countries will flock to the Parc des Exposition for the Foire de Paris, one of the world’s leading exhibitions for innovative accessories and household appliances, at the end of this month.

The fair is divided into three sections: home and environment, cultures of the world and leisure time. The Home and Environment section is unequalled in Europe, and draws many people who are interested in redecorating their home or to catching up on the latest technology.

The Cultures of the World section aims to present crafts and local products from all over the world. In addition to this, visitors are also offered mouth-watering samples of international cuisine. Among the highlights will be the Tropic Festival, with music and dance performances from Trinidad and Tobago and Brazil and the Happy Parade featuring a mix of cultures.

The range of products and exhibits include anything from kitchens, electrical gadgets, DIY products to home decor and fashion accessories. It promises to cater for all personalities and interests. One pavilion is dedicated to artwork, covering everything from graphics and paintings to designer tableware. There will also be lots of tasting and craft workshops to participate in.

The Fair, which has been running since 1904, was set up after the World Exhibition of 1900 to create an annual event dedicated to innovation in Paris. It functions as a showcase for over 500 independent inventors and entrepreneurs. They compete for the prestigious prizes in innovation, Concours Lépine and the Grand Prix de l’innovation.

Past winners include the ballpoint pen, the artificial heart, and a cooking pot that allows the preparation of a three course meal at the same time.
Half a million people are expected for the 2012 edition with the slogan “Y’a d’la joie!” roughly translated, “There is joy” and indeed few events can compete with Foire de Paris’ avalanche of innovative new ideas, designed to make our lives more easy and enjoyable.

The Foire de Paris will take place April 27th to May 8th. Tickets can be purchased online and P&O Ferries Dover-Calais service is a 90 minute journey, with up to 46 crossings every day.

Helmut Newton Retrospective at Grand Palais in Paris


This spring Helmut Newton’s provocative work is honoured with a retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris. The City of Lights is definitely an appropriate choice for an exhibition by the German- born photographer, who spent his most productive years in Paris.

The exhibition consists of more than two hundred photographs covering various styles from Polaroids to Vintage Prints, press records and his main themes of experimental nudes, portraits and fashion. The exhibition also features a film about Helmut Newton made by his wife and collaborator for sixty years, June Newton, who also designed the exhibition. Quotations by Helmut Newton himself throughout the exhibition aim to bring out the man and artist behind the name.

Helmut Newton liberated women visually through his depictions of powerful, seductive and dominant women. He revolutionized fashion photography in the 20th century with his work appearing in all major titles from Vogue to Harper’s Bazaar but he also worked for Playboy and published numerous books. Born in Berlin in 1920 to a Jewish family, he had to escape Nazism and lived in Melbourne and London before settling in the Marais district of Paris in 1961.

The retrospective seeks to show the versatility of Helmut Newton’s work and portray him as much more than just a fashion photographer. Visitors can expect to explore less known aspects of his work like his quirky still life of a chicken torn apart by diamond bejewelled hands.

One of the most controversial and successful image makers of the 20th century, he broke taboos, forms and codes of photography and offered a unique vision of the female body. Kate Moss, Liz Taylor, Claudia Schiffer and Margaret Thatcher were among his subjects.

Be prepared to arrive early or queue for the tickets as this exhibition surely will draw crowds.

Are you thinking of visiting Paris this summer? P&O Ferries Dover-Calais service is a 90 minute journey, with up to 46 crossings every day.

Image Credit: Helmut Newton, YSL, French Vogue, Rue Aubriot, Paris 1975 (dressed)
© Helmut Newton Estate

International Festival of Fairground Entertainment


This May the streets of the Namur in Belgium will erupt into a carnival of merrymaking as the International Festival of Fairground Entertainment or ‘Namur in May’ returns.

Over 300 acts from across the world will roam the streets performing their art for the wonderment, laughter and entertainment of the carnival crowd. Namur in May will be held over the Ascension weekend 16th-20th May this year.

Namur is a relatively central city in Belgium; it stands at the confluence of the Sambre and Meuse rivers. It’s a mostly French speaking town with aspects of grand architecture and a wealth of culture and history for you to enjoy as well as making the most of the fairground festival.

Tickets have been on sale since the start of May and though this is a city wide event and so unlikely to sell out you may want to pre-purchase for safety’s sake. The town centre in Namur will be closed off to cars so be warned when getting about, you may wish to book a hotel in the city rather than drive and park each day.

This festival has been running since 1996 and draws a host of creative and awe-inspiring acts. This would be great fun for the family or a unique romantic getaway, Namur is definitely a city for hand-in-hand walks.

Each day of the festival ends with a Fairground Cabaret, half of the events at the festival are free and there’s a spirit of gaiety as the street performers try to outdo each other. The aim of the festival is to celebrate the wittiest and merriest performers, with clowns tightrope walkers acrobats and carousels you’re guaranteed a good time in Namur this May.

Namur is a rather central province in Belgium, if you take a P&O Ferry to the port city Zeebrugge you can get to Namur via train from Brussels or take a roadtrip down to the festival.

Image credit: doegox

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