Entries Tagged as 'Belgium'

Mussel cuisine – it’s that time of the year again!


Mussels in europe

Mussel season is upon us again and this year has been deemed a vintage year for mussels. The port cities at which P&O Ferries make berth – France, Holland and Belgium are the acclaimed mussel eating centres of the world. So here’s our guide to getting some of the best mussels this winter.

Although the classic mussel dish is of course moules frites – steamed mussels served with a side of French fries – mussel cuisine is incredibly ancient. Archaeological digs have found evidence that we have been eating them for over 20,000 years old, and in that time mankind has come to the conclusion that, however you cook mussels, they’re going to taste great.

The recipe for French fries is Flemish in its origin. US soldiers in WW1 took a shine to them when they were in Belgium but since the main language there was French that was the name attributed to the fries. So don’t feel abashed if you find yourself in Brussels eating French fries.

The other traditional part of the dish is the moules mariniere. Steaming the mussels in a broth of white wine, shallots, parsley and butter, really gives them a sumptuous taste. In Belgium this recipe varies considerably to the point where the mussels are cooked in the countries home-brewed pale beers. You’ll also be able to try them with garlic which is more common in France and certainly something not to be missed.

Mussel season runs through the cold period of the year, from autumn to mid spring. The old-world setting that Europe has to offer is truly at its best in the winter months, the strongly brewed beers of Belgium rarely seem sweeter than when there’s frost on the panes and the country pubs have a crackling fires. Mussels also make a fortifying meal; they’re high in protein but low in fat so, if you can avoid chocolate and waffles but get some walking in, you won’t feel nightmarish once you get home either.

During mussel season the cities near the coast are best for the very freshest of mussels, places like Bruges and Ghent are in close proximity to the sea and both boast some truly top tier restaurants. Here a couple of our favourites:

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La Dentelliere Bruges

A beautifully rustic restaurant facing the Lake of Love, can you beat that for romance? It’s placed on the old horse road routes, so there’s an antiquated feel to the setting that can only come from the sound of horses’ hooves clopping on cobbles. If the weather’s right then sit outside with a cold beer and a bowl of fresh mussels steamed in white wine – heaven.

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Breydel-De Coninck Bruges

This establishment has been running for over 50 years. It’s an excellent spot to stop for lunch as it’s centrally located in the heart of Bruges. Famous for its seafood, mussel season is the time to guarantee yourself a perfect plate of moules. And if you’re feeling adventurous why not try their Moules Aphrodisiaque – Oh la la!

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De Peerdestal Antwerp

The name translates as ‘The Horse Stable’ and has a 40 year old heritage. It is a great place for moules – although, these being the Netherlands, remember to ask for mosselen – and make sure you try them with curry, delicious. You’d do well to call ahead and make a reservation first though.

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Chez Leon Brussels

Speaking of restaurants with heritage, the Chez Leon dates back to 1893. Their house beer, Léon, is served from the barrel and home-made. This is an impressive venue with two floors and a decor that really captures the sophisticated essence of Brussels; the perfect accompaniment to a bowel of delicious in season moules.

 

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Main-square restaurants tend to do so well because of their prime location. You are guaranteed high quality cuisine and attentive staff but they tend to be quite expensive. Mussels aren’t exactly a delicacy, they’re a food for the masses, market stalls sell them by the bagful and the first hauls of the year are celebrated with street festivals that leave behind vast hills of mussel shells. The locals know how to cook a good mussel, and there are plenty of independent restaurants which offer great value and tasty food.

 

Mussels around the world

The ‘authentic’ Belgian mussel taste is sought after all over the world, there’s even a Belgian Café in Doha, Qatar – that’s how far out man’s taste has stretched for European-style mussels.

France and the Netherlands also have a huge mussel culture. The main farming area on the coast of Holland, Zeeland, is the world’s main exporter of mussels, and a considerable amount of them end up in Belgium. France recently granted moules de bouchet (mussels grown in the bay of Mont St Michel) the appellation d’origine controlee (AOC). This distinction has previously been reserved for wines and cheeses, so it goes to show how much the French think of the mussels here. Moules de bouchot are highly sought after because of their firm orange/yellow flesh and strong taste.

Some parting words on moules etiquette. The accepted way to scoop them out is by using the shell of a mussel rather than a fork. You won’t be burnt as a witch for having a preference for cutlery, but it’ll help you blend in to your surroundings a bit better.

Image credit: KwajKid

Europe’s hidden romantic treasures


Paris, Amsterdam, and Bruges- They are known as the most romantic cities in Northern Europe. But there are plenty of  steamy and dreamy places scattered across France, Belgium and the Netherlands that would make for great  getaways too.  Here is a guide to our favourite “hidden” romantic destinations you and your other half should pay a visit to.

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  • Deauville
    Known as “the queen of the Norman beaches” and “the Parisian Riviera”, Deauville is one of the most popular seaside resorts among the French and international upper class. The town services can meet the most demanding needs. A wide choice of luxurious 5 star hotels, glamorous designer shops and a renowned casino make Deauville the ideal destination for hedonist couples in search of the finest worldly pleasures.
  • Nudist village Cap d’Agde
    We’ve all got different ideas of romanticism and, needless to say, whatever makes you and your other half happy makes us happy too. Therefore, if spending endless hours naked is your ideal vacation you’ll love Cap d’Adge’s Naturist Village. Only an hour’s drive from Montpellier, this unusual summer resort has its own rules and traditions, with total nudity being the norm not only on the beach but also in restaurants and hotels. For more information visit the Cap d’Adge Village official website
  • Annecy
    Situated on the lake of Annecy and surrounded by the Aravis mountain range, Annecy is possibly the most romantic city among the hidden French destinations. Rightly honoured with the nickname Venice of Savoie, the city is immersed in a surreal magic atmosphere due to the incredibly well-preserved medieval center and its stunning network of canals. The Italian and Swiss borders can be easily reached by car, so you may also want to expand your romantic holidays beyond France.

Feel like driving to France? Take a look at P&O super fast ferry from Dover to Calais. We run up to 46 crossings a day and each crossing takes only 90 minutes.

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Netherlands

  • Kagerplassen (the Kaag Lakes)
    A small lake district in South Holland, the Kagerplassen tends to be forgotten by some guides, which is a crying shame since the uncountable waterways running through the picturesque villages are a pleasure for the eyes. The area offers a decent variety of activities, such as lake cruising, water sports and walking tours. A must-visit for lovers of inspiringly wild landscapes.
  • Haarlem
    The best romantic alternative to the capital. We love Amsterdam, don’t get us wrong, but Haarlem, the capital of North Holland, has stood in the shadow of its bigger brother for way too long. We can almost guarantee there’s not much you will dislike about this charming city and its amazing cultural sites, such as the Grote Markt and the Tulip Centre. If you’re lucky enough to be around in early spring, you may want to drive through the bulb fields in the surrounding countryside. During spring time it’s filled with an explosion of colours and emotions that will never leave your couple’s book of memories.
  • De Groote Peel National Park
    Europe’s biggest peat-bog, De Groote Peel National Park, is the ideal destination for all lovers of immense landscapes and intense silences. The park is no regular bog: it preserves a uniquely large peat that has survived human cutting which used to be extensive in the past. One of the richest varieties of birds in Europe enriches the network of lakes and heath land with an explosion of colours, which you can comfortably enjoy from the 3km route of bridges and footpaths. Located only a 40-minute drive from Eindhoven, De Groote Peel National Park is an easily accessible and attractive destination.

Driving to the Netherlands has never been easier thanks to P&O Ferries. Our Hull to Rotterdam route will make your romantic getaway the most comfortable experience of your life.

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Belgium

  • De Haan
    This might not be the sexiest place you’ve come across in your life but it offers a quiet life away from the rest of the world, with easy access to attractions at the same time. De Haan offers not much more than peacefulness, gorgeous Belle Epoque architecture and Albert Einstein’s house. We think that’s plenty, but should you get bored, Bruges is only a 30-minute drive away. If you happen to be around in the summer, you have easy access to the whole Belgium coastline as well.
  • Ghent
    Bruges is known for being Belgium’s most romantic city, but why not try somewhere new? We at P&O Ferries recommend Ghent, Belgium’s second biggest city and certainly a great romantic alternative to Bruges. The splendid architecture the medieval architecture of the city alive. Ghent also sports Belgium’s largest car-free area, and its well-signed walking paths will help you to enjoy your visit to the fullest. The city hosts many cultural events throughout the year, and if you love good food, you’ll be happy to hear that a vibrant culinary tradition is well alive. But Ghent is much more than this, which is why we believe you should definitely give it a try.
  • River cruising
    There’s hardly something more romantic than dining under a starry sky on a boat. You can take several different river cruises across Belgium, you just need to choose which suits you best. P&O Ferries recommend you this 5-day cruise in North-East Belgium . Share a boat with six other people and be introduced to Belgium’s hidden treasures such as the castle of Ooidonk St. Martens Latem from a unique barging perspective.

P&O Ferries have a convenient daily ferry that takes you from Hull to Zeebrugge overnight.

A guide to the best events in Belgium summer 2012


Brussels Flower Carpet

Brussels Flower Carpet

Most European cities can be deadly quiet in August, so we want to be sure that you’ll have loads of fun during your holiday in Belguim. Therefore, we’ve made you a complete list of our favourite upcoming events in Belgium’s main cities. Enjoy it.

BRUGES

  • Klinkers (July 27 – August 8 ) One the most popular events among Bruges’ youth, Klinkers open-air festival, has a lot to offer tourists too. Enjoy the magic of an entire day immersed into superb live music, films and comedy shows in amazing venues throughout the city centre. We at P&O Ferries can assure you it won’t be a let down.
  • MA Festival (August 3-12) If you’re hungry for knowledge then you’ll be happy to know that a wave of culture is about to invade Bruges. The MA festival will turn your holidays into a memorable cultural journey thanks to an incredibly wide variety of events such as nocturnal concerts, lectures and international organ and instrumental ensembles.

Do you want to attend any of these events? P&O Ferries have convenient ferries to Zebrugge, which is only a 30-minute drive from Bruges.

BRUSSELS

  • Maypole Festival (August) If you’re a fan of out-of-season extravaganza you’ll probably enjoy this one. For centuries, a maypole (or Meyboom) has been raised in Brussels every August to commemorate a wedding that took place in 1213. Even if you’re not into maypoles you’ll certainly enjoy the costume parade that accompanies the pole to the Grand Place. It’s one of the most popular events among locals, and guaranteed fun!
  • Brussels Flower Carpet (August 14-19) Every two years an unusual carpet made of flowers covers Brussels’ most beautiful square, Grand Place, which is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nearly a million colourful begonias are set up over a 19,000 sq ft. area to portray beautiful scenes from Belgian history and folklore. A must see (and smell) for both adults and children.

Brussels is a short journey from Zeebruggee port , one of P&O Ferries destinations.

ANTWERP

  • Navigaytion/Gaypride (August 6-12) No matter where you are, Gay Pride is one of the most extraordinary manifestations of human tolerance and, let’s face it, loads and loads of fun (and often drunkenness). But in Antwerp, Gay Pride has a unique meaning. Here the gay community is particularly vast and well integrated, a reason why the programme makes the most of the venues throughout this beautiful city. Get ready for art exhibitions, dj performances, parades, street parties and much more.
  • Rubensmarkt (August 15) While some countries are busy celebrating the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Antwerp keeps its feet on the ground and commemorates the greatest Flemish painter of all time, Sir Peter Paul Rubens. For this occasion the area around the Grote Market goes back in time and fills with market stalls recreating Rubens’ beloved Antwerp. Lovers of vintage shopping will be in heaven.

Only 40 minutes away from Brussels, Antwerp can be easily reached by car from Zeebrugee too.

Tripel Dagen in Bruges: A three day belgian celebration


brugge trippeldagen

Summer in Bruges is synonymous with music. There are several music festivals throughout the summer months, but our favourite is definitely the Bruges Triple Days, or the Brugge Tripel Dagen as it’s called in Flemish.

For three days every year, the beautiful city of Bruges celebrates the country’s national day (July 21st) with music, events and good natured fun.

The event features local artists and the theme is simple: To celebrate Belgium’s national day with fun, music and beer. Parents usually let their children as young as 7/8 run around freely at the festival, while they enjoy good music with a pint firmly in their hand.

The festival has been going steady since 1975 and this year is the 38th consecutive year of the festival and takes place on the market square in the middle of the city. With more than 20,000 visitors annually, it’s a great event for both young and old.

There’s plenty to keep you busy: Beer tasting, gigs, tourist attractions and a very popular Flanders sing-along at the end of the third day. It’s the highlight of the festival, with the whole of Bruges gathering to sing old tunes like “Hey Jude” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” together on the square.  Don’t worry if your singing isn’t up to scratch, just shout as loud as you can.

If you’re planning to go to Bruges this summer, we urge you not to miss out on the fun! Plan your trip around the triple days and you won’t regret it. There will be plenty of local artists and musicians, livening up the market square and several events and exhibitions for both young and old.

Bruges is only a short bus ride away from the port in Zebrugge, where a ferry takes you overnight from England.

Image credit: Tom Leentjes

Brussels goes Medieval, OMG! Ommegang!


Ommegang

For nearly half a millennia the Grand Place in Brussels has erupted in to a festival of pageantry in the first week of July to commemorate the ‘Joyous Return’ of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V to Belgium.

This year Ommegang will take place over 3-5th July. Since it’s held in a public place you’ll be able to see some of it for free, but naturally if you want good seats in the stands then you will have to book ahead. You’d do well to bear that in mind when thinking about planning your accommodation too, it’s likely the city will fill up.
On the 4th July, a pavilion is set up in the square and you can attend shows for jousting and falconry. A display of swordsmanship is put on as knights battle it out in Grand Place, and there’s a medieval fair of crafts and various other acts from jesters to magicians.

This is one of the oldest traditions in Belgium, Ommegang is a general term used in central parts of Europe for medieval pageants, but the one in Brussels is by far the largest and most famous. Over 1400 performers will make up the procession, they form an impressive sight garbed in traditional attire showing off feats of horsemanship and the choreographed dances of days gone by.

The people of Brussels go all out for Ommegang. The procession will be backed with live music from professional tenors Sebastien Romignon Ercolini and Dominique Corbiau, as well as an expert light show from director Giles Daoust. This promises to be one skilfully produced procession and a great evening’s entertainment.

The procession runs from 9PM-11PM and finishes up with a novel battle-royal of stilt-walkers. Great entertainment after the pomp and precision of the Ommegang pageant, a number of stilt walkers get in to a brawl trying to trip each other off of their 5m stilts until just one man remains.

Ommegang does run quite late in to the night, but the early stages of the procession will be well worth taking your kids to see. They promise a bit of historical splendour to encourage a greater appreciation of the cultural heritage of Belgium. Adults will be able to enjoy themselves too; this is Belgium after all, so expect a healthy stock of ales for you to sample.

Belgium is just an overnight ferry-ride away, you’ll pull in to the port at Zeebrugge and from there it’s just a short journey to Brussels

Image Credit: David Spender

Heading to Rotterdam? Check out the Electro- Containerfest 0.1


What is a containerfest? Containerfest 0.1 is a new dance music festival in Rotterdam and the opportunity of the summer to get to know the best of the Dutch Electro scene. The festival’s name springs from Rotterdam’s relationship with its port and the eight stages will actually be built up from dozens of shipping containers.

It takes place in the Schiehaven of Rotterdam, a part of the actual port, which will be transformed into 6 dance areas and will make for the perfect setting for an electro festival. Expect a hedonistic festival with different styles of progressive electronic music styles, performance art and breath-taking visuals.

12 Rotterdam music collectives have joined forces to host the festival and spin the finest Dutch Electro on offer. The festival will be headlined by Classified+ Blendits, a Rotterdam-based Drum & Bass collective, who gained mainstream recognition through MTV and TMF, along with Dutch rappers Redrum/Deformer. There are also loads of international acts, such as the English underground rave DJ, Scamp and New York record label owner, The Horrorist. The Line-up is quite UK-influenced with the techno producer Luke Slater, dubstep duo 16bit, and Aphrodite, one of the longest serving drum & bass producers around. Germany and the Ukraine will be represented too but the focus of the festival is definitely showcasing the local talents from Rotterdam and the rest of Holland.

With more than 60 acts over 6 areas in 11 hours there will hardly be any time to get bored. The festival is all about THE next thing, extending beyond music with robot street theatre and light installations.

Tickets can be bought online for just €25 (£20). And while you’re counting the days until July, you can sample a few tracks at Soundcloud.

The Containerfest takes place on July 21st from 12pm- 11pm in Schiehaven, Rotterdam. P&O ferries have a convenient overnight ferry from Hull to Rotterdam and why not relax from the festival with a road trip along Holland’s seaside afterwards?

P&O Ferries recommends: Pack your dance moves and head to the Cactus Festival


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No, it’s not a place where middle aged women in floral skirts show off their prize winning plants. The Cactus Festival is all about music.

It attracts thousands of people from all over the world every year. If you’re an avid festivalgoer, this international music festival in Bruges should definitely already be circled in on your calendar. If not, we recommend you do it immediately.

Previously both Paul Weller and Kate Nash have headlined at the festival. This year, it’s Razorlight’s, turn to do the honour. The line up also includes baroque folk-rockers Yeasayer, rock icon Chris Cornell and the electro band Shantel whose gigs usually end up with stage diving and crowd surfing. With genres ranging from jazz to reggae and rap there should be something for every music lover at the Cactus Festival.

Situated in Minnewater Park in the middle of Bruges, its location couldn’t be better. The city is a UNESCO world heritage site so the beautiful scenery itself should be enough incentive to drag yourself over there for a festival weekend.

Being in the middle of Bruges has its advantages. There are plenty of hotels and hostels to shack up in nearby and if you want the real festival feel, bring your tent along and camp in the official camping.

The Cactus Festival takes place on the 6-8th of July, perfect for a weekend away. Check out the rest of the line up here.

Sounds like your cup of tea? Catch one of the P&O ferries from Hull to Zeebrugge, only a short bus ride away from Bruges.

Beer Passion in Antwerp


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It seems that summer is well and truly upon us, and after complaining about British weather throughout the cruel winter, now is the time to enjoy a bit of sun – somewhere else.

At the end of June, Antwerp will be hosting its thirteenth annual Beer Passion weekend. Belgium is famed for its beer, be it a cool and light ale enjoyed in the sun or a darker heady brew, the staunchest of allies in trying times. At Beer Passion you’ll be able to sample them all – over 200 beers from 40 Belgian breweries. Each variety of Belgian beer will be represented, from Trappist and Abbey ales to strong blond beers, red beers, brown beers, wheat beers and many more.

Beer Passion runs for three days from June 29th to July 1st. Entry is free but a courtesy €3 Beer Sommelier tasting glass (20 cl) should be bought at the reception tent for use during the festival, and they make great souvenirs too. You also need to purchase tokens (€2 apiece) at the reception tent which can be redeemed for beer and food.

Antwerp’s Beer Passion festival is being held at Groenplaats, an historic town square bordered with cafes and restaurants. If you need help finding it, it commands an excellent view of Antwerp’s Cathedral of our Lady, so just head towards the steeple.

The spirit of this festival is an enjoyment of beer in all its diversity. You’ll get the chance to meet the brewers to learn about what you’re drinking, and it is custom for them to bring along new beers to try out on the crowd. If you intend to try every beer there, then we salute you, but a sustained drinking of 66 and half pints per day is likely to kill you, or at the very least get you thrown out of your hotel. You will, however, be able to buy a few crates of beer to enjoy back home.

It’s likely that accommodation will fill up fast so try to book early. There are plenty of hotels for you stay in in Antwerp, and if you want to be first in line at the festival then there’s a Hilton on Groenplaats Square.

Antwerp is a little over an hours journey from the Belgian port city Zeebrugge, you can take an overnight P&O Ferry from Hull to get to Beer Passion 2012.

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