Entries Tagged as 'France'

Happy 800th Birthday Reims Cathedral


For those of you who haven’t brushed up on their European Cathedral history, Notre-Dame de Reims is 800 years old, it would have been older had it not burnt down: It had to be rebuilt after fire damage in 1210 AD. The new and improved structure didn’t fare much better with the 100 Years war and successive World Wars in the early 20th century.

Nevertheless the Cathedral is one of the great masterpieces of the Middle Ages. The façade is covered with statues and statuettes, and its history of damage and reconstruction gives it a very definitive and unmatched profile. Celebrations for Reims Cathedral’s 800th birthday have been running since May 6th and come to a close on 23rd of October. Events have included exhibitions, conferences, street performances and lightshows so the public can admire the 81m Cathedral at night.

This structure has been a World Heritage site since 1991 and is a major site of European History. It was host to the coronation of 25 French kings including Joan of Arc crowing Charles VII. To mark such an auspicious birthday, six new stained glass windows have been designed by Imi Knowbel and installed in the apse of the cathedral.

The cathedral at Reims attracts near half a million tourists annually, but in such a special year there is a spirit of celebration which will really allow you to make the most of this magnificent feat of human engineering.

Reims is just a short drive from Calais, P&O Ferries can get you across the channel on their frequent service with a car and the kids you can visit the cathedral that has stood for 8 centuries.

Jump aboard P&O Ferries to explore gothic cathedrals and beautiful landscapes in Picardy

An artificial beach set up in Saint-Quentin town centre

The Picardy province in France lies just south of the Nord-Pas de Calais region in the North of the country, and it is most famous for being the site of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Apart from that, however, today’s Picardy is a very attractive region boasting lovely brick-built villages, champagne vineyards, public gardens and parks and the six cathedrals of Picardy.

The latter encompass pretty much the entire history of gothic architecture, of which it is considered the birthplace. The largest cathedral in France (145m long, 45m high) stands in Amiens and was completed in 1288. Its façade has since been restored, but still represents a great example of the intricacy and splendour of Gothic buildings. Amiens was also the birthplace of Maximilien Robespierre (1758 – 17974), the revolutionary who was guillotined after being accused of dictatorship.

The Quartier St Leu on the Somme riverbank has a fantastic, almost medieval flair and some great restaurants. The old puppet theatres scattered around the town are also worth a look, if only for some nostalgia about 3D-glasses-free entertainment. The hortillonages or floating market gardens going off the small Somme canals are an absolute treat, especially when explored via punting.

In the Aisne department lies Saint-Quentin, a mid-sized city with great weekly markets (Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday), a must-see gothic basilica and a lovely butterfly museum.

Picardy is probably best explored by car, driving from town to town and taking in the scenery and stopping off to enjoy local delicacies such as the almond macarons in Amiens.

To start off your tour around this gorgeous region of France, you can take a P&O Ferry from Dover to Calais, from where it is only 74 miles or an hour and a half’s drive to Amiens.

Image credit: colros

European Heritage Days

France Heritage Day

The 17th-18th of September are dedicated European Heritage Days in France. The European Commission and the Council of Europe have banded together all the signatory states of the European Cultural Convention to open the doors to all National Heritage Sites free of access to the public, including some locations typically closed to tourists. This is an excellent opportunity for you to get some unique sightseeing done on a budget. The open locations include magnificent feats of architecture and coordination between neighbouring regions and countries.

As France has over 16,000 locations listed, you’ll be able to visit historical sites, and monuments, more modern architectural wonders and places of aesthetic appeal. The European Heritage Days of 2011 are dedicated to architects, artisans and curators, in a bid to raise awareness of both environmental and architectural heritage in France. This country has a rich national history and identity that has drawn visitors from all across the world and Heritage sites are hot spots to get a feel for France’s history and development.

This is a great chance to sample the man-made wonders of France and receive an education on its history and preservation. There will be thousands of events to attend including concerts, conferences, exhibitions and workshops for children.

To get to France for European Heritage Days a P&O ferry will take you across the Channel on a service that runs multiple times a day with a low cost for you, the family and the car to cross in to France

For more information visit their website here

Image credit: ell brown

Go grab a bargain with P&O Ferries at Europe’s biggest flea market in Lille

Along with the end of the Summer (might as well face up to it) come the sales and all the frantic bargain-hunting that goes along with it. During the first week of September, however, you could go on a cheeky bargain trip to Northern France, where over a million visitors haggle to their heart’s content at one of Europe’s largest flea market.


The Braderie de Lille is legendary for the huge number of stalls (more than 200km) and visitors (around 1m) it attracts every year. This year, the Braderie occurs on 3rd and 4th September. Lille is the capital of the Nord-Pas de Calais region and only a short drive away from Calais, P&O’s French port.

Among the city’s squares, pavements and the many Flemish buildings and cathedrals, there will be hundreds of stallholders offering their wares, and bargain hunters from all over the world to inspect items, haggle over them, and walk away either cursing themselves or whistling with the knowledge of having secured a gem in the shape of an antique rug, a handbag or a shirt.

Of course, there will also be a plethora of different foods available to sample, most notably the piles of mussel shells fresh from the sea, whose contents are served with chips (“moule frites”). There will also be live music as well as a half-marathon which takes place on Saturday morning.

Local shops will offer some serious discounts on their stocks, but other city districts will be filled with second-hand stalls where you’re guaranteed to find something to take home. Antiques, for example, are mainly traded on the Esplanade alongside the Deûle canal, whereas in the Old Lille district designer stores rub shoulders with private residents’ stalls.

The Braderie de Lille takes place on 3rd and 4th September, starting at 2pm on the Saturday and ending at 11pm on the Sunday. To get there, you can get a P&O Ferry to Calais, from where it is only an hour’s drive to Lille.

Image credit: vacation2

Cannes Russian Art Festival

Russian Culture

A mixed display of Russian culture heritage will be on display in Cannes for five days this month. The Russian Art Festival will run consecutively from the 23rd to the 27th of August 2011, attendees will get a true taste of Russian cuisine as well as feast their eyes and ears on classic Russian dance, cinema, music, opera and more. You will also get the opportunity to view Russian arts and crafts as well in one of the largest events exhibiting Russian identity in Europe.

The Russian Art Festival is produced by the Foundation for Russian Culture, the town of Cannes and Cannes’ Festival. Cannes is historically a town well acquainted with Russian monarch’s, notable aristocrats and artists also ventured into France and shared fashion, ideas and culture. This festival is a celebration of Franco-Russian relations, and not just a display of a single culture but also its interactions, notably those with the French in Cannes, as you might imagine.

Here is a brief look at the itinerary courtesy of French Riviera-tourism

Exhibition: traditional art from Khassia – free
23 August Folk dances from the Caucasus
24 August Dinner & show “Russian Night- a Journey across Russia”
25 August Russian Film Day (with subtitles)
26 August Khakassian Symphonic Orchestra and traditional song + dances
27 August Helikon theatrical opera from Moscow “The Tsar’s Fiancée”

Image credit: SPakhrin

To get to Cannes for the Russian Art Festival catch a P&O ferry from Dover to Calais, running 46 times a day, approximately 90 minutes.

Enjoy a quick getaway in Burgundy, France via P&O Ferries

The Burgundy region is famed for its wines, but, as almost all of France, it offers much more – great local food, historic sights aplenty, and gorgeous landscapes. Burgundy lends itself equally well for a longer tour and a short break.

Abbaye de la Bussière, Burgundy

Only a few hours’ drive away from Calais, Burgundy is close enough to Britain to warrant a cheeky visit, but unique enough to represent a clean break with whatever is keeping you down in Blighty.

A great starting point for any jaunt in Burgundy is Dijon. Apart from giving its name to a kind of mustard, Dijon is a lovely mid-sized city, combining reliably impressive French cathedrals and museums with a vibrant, student-y charm. The Place Darcy for example is almost Parisian in its quaint elegance, and is the site of the Porte Guillaume arch. The Art Museum in the Dukes’ Palace is also worth a visit, and if the weather is nice you can enjoy some splendid walks or bike rides along the river Seine.

Dijon also lies within the wine-producing region in Burgundy, so you’ll be able to sample a fair few locally produced wines (notably the famously delicious Chablis) in the many great restaurants. There are also a couple of excellent vineyards around the city that make great trips. One particularly recommended wine-related activity is provided by Authentica Tour, who offer wine tours through local wineries and vineyards.

To get to Dijon, you can take a P&O Ferry from Dover to Calais. From there, it is about a three-hour drive to Dijon.

Image credit: Jespahjoy

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.


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.

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