Entries Tagged as 'P&O Ferries'

P&O Ferries: WWI memorials in France this summer


We all know this summer is an important year, commemorating the centenary of the outbreak of world war one. If you’re planning to take a P&O Ferry across the channel to mark this anniversary then we have some key information for the main events to mark this momentous occasion. We’d also advise you to look back at some of our earlier blogs which focus on the major sites and monuments of the Great War.

If, however, you are planning a summer sojourn in France for the family that is more focussed on a fun, escape of environment to explore the new and exciting, or experiment with the strange and perhaps luxurious, then France has plenty to offer.

The major remembrance ceremonies are being held in November to mark the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in memorial of the official armistice. These events will be broadcast across the globe and therefore draw large crowds. If you are the contemplative sort or wish to educate yourself or family on the significance of the battle lines once drawn across Europe then smaller ceremonies and exhibitions will be running from spring for you to visit on your trip to France.

The main summer services include commemorations for the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Arras and Vimy Ridge. Click here for links with details on what’s happening in 2014.

Some may not require a too scholarly approach for their immersion in history. These are some of the events we’ve cherry-picked that will be well worth investigating The Coal Field in 1918: A Devastated Landscape, The Disasters of War in Louvre-Lens and the opening of a new museum in Rue de la Basse Ville The Battle of Fromelles Museum. If you’re visiting the continent this June then keep an eye out for the Europe Run of Unity. A relay run of just over 652 miles, covering the length of the entire Western Front, is passing through Flanders to Strasbourg from the 10th-21st of June.

For more information on the Wilfred Owen Memorial click here.

The list of battlefields you can visit for a guided tour are too numerous to state here but if you have a specific soldier’s story to research the Commonwealth War Graves Commission will help you find graves and memorials for you to book your trip. Walking tours of battlefields will be in high demand but you can certainly pre-book with Visit Battlefield to see the fields where so many gave their lives.

2014 also marks the 70th anniversary of the D-day landings in Normandy on 6th June 1944. The allied landings are to be commemorated with a massive synchronised fireworks display along the 80km beach head from 24 major points of the incursion. There’ll be quite a show for the kids with an air show by the French squadron Patrouille de France and military parades of the vehicles that were used. As well as light shows and concerts and huge picnic on Omaha beach. These events will be held from 1st-15th June so you’ll want to book sooner rather than later. Though the fireworks will be visible for miles around.


The peaceful side of France

Summer is really a time for outdoors when visiting France. Yes there is the Cannes Film Festival (14-25 June) and events like the European Night of Museums, May 17th where museums, galleries and exhibitions all across the continent are open for free until 1am. But when better than summer to glory in the outdoors? Autumn is a time of harvest so if you are visiting the vineyards then you won’t be getting under the feet of the pickers. France’s countryside will be in full bloom and you’ll get plenty of sun should you choose to take to the great out doors.

The International Garden Festival for 2014 begins in June at the estate of Chaumont-sur-Loire Castle. It is essentially a landscape architecture contest but it runs through to September when the winner is announced, the idea being that a garden should be at its most beautiful during autumn. If you’ve got your heart set on a summer holiday the Loire Valley is breathtakingly verdant in the hottest months.

The garden festival is akin to an open air museum/park for landscape architecture. You can take guided tours if you wish to pick up some tips on cutting edge landscaping or just saunter about to smell the roses. The Chaumont garden festival isn’t just about the flowers, you can pay an evening visit during certain summer nights to see the gardens light up. The shapes and shadows cast by the plants at night combined with carefully situated along water features and sculptures gives the castle and gardens an eery transcendence. This year’s theme of nature promises to make for a mythic almost arcane atmosphere.


A holiday to France doesn’t have to mean expensive Parisian hotels and the most dear bottles of wine, champagne and liqueur on the planet. If you are taking the entirely family, or just a trip with a loved one, the best way to cut the budget is to provide you’re own accommodation. Camping holidays are one of the easiest ways to enjoy seeing to France.

P&O Ferries provide cheap fares for the entire family plus your car, so that all you need to do is decide where to set up camp. For tips on camping abroad look to our blog on camping in the north of France. It’s a fantastic way to squeeze those pennies and so that you can spend a bit more time at Disneyland Paris or treating yourself to the fantastic cuisine that France is famous for.

Book your P&O Ferry from Dover to Calais now a 90 minute ferry runs 46 times a day from England to France.

Image credit: Roland Turner, Jimmy theSuperStar , anjanettew

Spring in Holland

chocolate rabbit

As Spring approaches you might want to start getting back outdoors for some fun. Holland comes to bloom quite early in the year, their tulip festival is held in January. Since there truly is no better way to welcome the turning of the season than getting out there to smell the flowers – we direct you towards the Netherlands for Spring 2014.


Each of the P&O ferry destinations are in the art of chocolate making. France, Belgium and the Netherlands each have dynasties of chocolatiers so there isn’t really a better place to go in the world for Easter.

The Dutch are the ones responsible for making chocolate available to the masses. Their process brought the change from drinking chocolade to eating it in bar form making it a lot more healthier and cheaper to consume. It’s much easier to find a chocolate tour in Belgium but if your desire is Easter eggs then a trip to Holland will give you all the choice you need.

National museum weekend

National museum weekend happens on the first weekend of April each year. The doors to over 500 museums are opened to visitors for no charge whatsoever.

It isn’t just museums that are available, you’ll also have access to castles, theatres and more. Many of these locations host special events to mark the occasion, you’ll find activities for the kids, overzealous tour guides and lots to learn about.

Having such a large scale occasion free of charge is naturally going to draw lots of crowds so it’s best to book early and arrive early if you want to see the more popular sites.

Alkmaar Cheese Market

April brings the return of the Alkmaar cheese market to Waagplein square. This may not be enough for you to spring out of your chair and start packing a bag but the cheese market is almost as old as the city itself. It’s not just stalls with glorious golden blocks for sale: everyone from the throwers and weighers to the marketeers are part of an ancient guild with traditions dating back centuries. Essentially the whole thing is a bit of a show and you get to pick yourself up a bit of cheese at the end of it, not too shabby eh?

The Alkmaar Cheese festival is run every Friday from April through to September starting at 10am. There’s over 2,000 cheeses put on sale and you can take guided tours for the more historic aspects of the market. The market comes highly recommended as there’s plenty to see, smell and taste as well as a vibrant and colourful atmosphere.


Keukenhoff & Flower parade

The Keukenhoff flower gardens open late in March and you only have a mere 8 weeks until they close on May 18th. Keukenhoff offer a unique floral experience with over 7 million bulbs coming to bloom for the pleasure of attendees.

If the weather is right you can anticipate a fantastic day out, the gardens are open from 8am to 7:30 in the evening and you’ll have over 32 hectares of garden to explore. Holland may be famed for its tulips, and there are plenty of them here, but there is also a wide variety of flowers in bloom from roses and daffodils to irises, lilies and orchids. You’ll be able to pick up some tips on growing for your own garden as well as a little something to plant as well.

Each year Keukenhoff attracts around 800,000 visitors, it is well located between Amsterdam, the Hague and Leiden: just a 30 minute drive, so most of the major tourist areas are well within reach. The opening weekend is especially hard going on traffic, one excellent recommendation is to take to cycling for your tour of Keukenhoff. The air itself turns to perfume as you whizz through the bright fields and Holland’s naturally level landscape makes it easy to cross the distance on pedal power alone.

Holland’s Flower Parade is an annual event being held on May 3rd in 2014. The 40 Km stretch of road between Noordwijk and Haarlem will host a grand procession of cars and floats, heavily decorated with flowers, in the 12 hour journey starting at 9 o’clock. The parade is free for all, even the floats are decorated by volunteers!

If you miss the parade or just want to get another look then the floats are on show in Haarlem until five o’clock the next day.

kings day

King’s Day and King’s night

What used to be called Queen’s day is now known as King’s Day, celebrated on April 27th rather than on the last day of the month. For many this is the major party event of the year in Holland. Cities proudly orange up and what seems like the entire country takes to the streets to celebrate the Dutch monarchy.

You’ll want to book your accommodation early, the party atmosphere in major cities like Amsterdam and the Hague draw a lot of crowds so you’ll be hard pressed to be close to the action come the end of the month.

During the day unregulated markets and bars are erected down the streets of Amsterdam. There’s also a parade down the canals of waving, brightly coloured orange figures. Live music is performed at Museumplein and the main Amsterdam market takes place in Vondelpark.

King’s night is taken to most enthusiastically by the wilder partiers. Street parties run late in to the night, dotted all over Amsterdam and only seem to come to an end once the markets start opening again in the morning.

For a handheld holiday walking through Dutch flower gardens or a wild nights partying take a P&O ferry to Rotterdam.

Image credit: nyaskovic, Fairuz Razi Zakaria, lewishamdreamer

P&O Ferry day trips in France


Planning a short trip to France to breathe a little life in to the tale end of winter? Whether you want a hotel break or just to venture forth for some duty free and see something new, there’s plenty of ground to cover around Calais, here are some suggestions for where to go.

The Burghers of Calais

The Burghers statues are spread out across Europe and have a fascinating story behind them originating in Calais where Rodin’s original bronze statues are.

When Edward III laid siege to Calais after the battle of Crecy in 1346 the town was forced to surrender because the people were starving. The King demanded that 6 of its leaders submit to him, presumably for execution, wearing nooses around their necks and bearing the keys to the castle.

One of the richest town leaders Eustache de Saint Pierre was the first to volunteer followed by 5 other burghers. Burgher is a medieval term for citizen mainly denoting a member of the bourgeoisie or intelligentsia.

Edward’s wife, moved by this show of self-sacrifice, asked for mercy to be given since it would be a bad omen for her unborn child and the burghers were spared.The nobility of these men in the face of crushing defeat, willing to give up their lives in order for Calais to be spared, is now remembered in the form of Rodin’s sculptures.

Rather than set the burghers up on pedestals he has given them true human form, exhibiting the fraility and despair that the burghers must have felt. He felt it important that they not be raised up too high because it is their humility that has immortalised them. The statues are located at the front of the town hall of Calais, it was Rodin’s wish that a passersby could come across them almost unawares and feel a certain solidarity with the once saviours of Calais.


Calais beach

If you’re stopping off in France for some duty free and a day by the sea then there really is no reason to go beyond Calais.

The main road running parallel to the beach Route Nationale is lined with places to stop and have a bite to eat, or indulge in an idle bit of window shopping. The sandy beach front may not have the appeal of a tropical island but a beach is a beach. It’s always nice to recline before lapping waves and perhaps dream about what the summer will hold.

If the day isn’t quite warm enough for you then nearby is Les Baraques military cemetery. Since 2014 marks the centenary of WW1, a visit to one of these memorial sites will be a truly moving experience. As a port city Calais became a necessary supply depot with hospitals set up there for troops to be treated before being sent home. Standing amongst the uniformly positioned stones marking military graves makes for truly sobering experience which will make your stay in Calais all the more memorable.

Wilfred Owen war memorial

One name you’re sure to be hearing plenty of this year is Wilfred Owen. His memorial is located not too far inland in the village of Ors in Nord-Pas-de-Calais. The world war one poet has a suitably stark yet powerful memorial.

The bone white structure stands on a green hill completely isolated, unlike other memorials where you’ll often find statues, tanks or planes you enter the memorial with nothing to distract you. Inside there is nothing but the poem Dulce et Decorum Est carved into glass covering the four walls. The handwriting is taken from Wilfred Owen’s own manuscript kept in the British Library. Resounding about the walls is Kenneth Brannagh’s voice reading six of Owen’s most famous poems.

There is a little more to see, a walkway leads you down in to a cramped and dank room that’s been little changed since Wilfred Owen left it to die a week before the Armistice was signed in 1918. It was shared with the other 29 men in Owen’s Regiment, and you can hear a reading of the letter he wrote to his mother the night before he met his fate.

This is a singularly powerful memorial to one of the greatest war poets to have lived. It will certainly draw a lot of crowds in 2014 so if you wish to see it it’s located by the Camp Militaire, a little way off from Cambrai, open everyday except Tuesdays between 2 and 4 o’clock.


Louvre Lens museum

When people think about the Louvre, images of The Da Vinci Code, a massive glass pyramid and Paris spring to mind. The Louvre-Lens museum doesn’t quite have all that going for it but it shares the same rich artistic reservoir with its sister gallery in France’s capital.

The goal of the Louvre-Lens Museum is to spread France’s artistic heritage out of the main cities to revive some of the more provincial areas. Lens hasn’t had an easy history, it was destroyed in WW1 then occupied and subsequently bombed again in WW2. Originally it was a mining town but the last mine was closed in the 80s. It is, however, very well situated for tourism. A one hour drive from Calais and well within reach of the borders of Belgium and the Netherlands you could visit Louvre-Lens in a single day trip if you wished.

This museum has something for everyone, whether your interest peaks with the ancients, middle ages or modern artworks. The layout is also jawdropping, in total Louvre-Lens covers a space of 3000 square metres and it isn’t encumbered with partitions. Art from around the world is exhibited side by side in chronological order. So you are effectively following the steps of mankind through art history: beginning with Mesopotamia and ending with 21st century works. Louvre-Lens is truly remarkable when you look at the scope of what it offers the public.

Make the most of your P&O ferry trip from Dover to Calais and see more of the north of France.

Image credit: Ivan Pik , jpellgen, Tourism Pas-de-Calais

P&O Ferries Christmas market destinations

There is no better way to get in to the spirit of the season than wandering through a Christmas market. The smell of chestnuts, and twinkling fairy lights, mulled wine and plenty to delight the senses.

Mid-winter breaks are a fantastic way to keep your spirits up when the temperature's low and fortunately P&O Ferries can take you to any of three countries on the continent that love a Christmas market just as much as we do.


French Christmas markets

As the closest destination to England a quick trip to France is the most hassle free choice. As renowned cheese and wine exporters you'll be able to find some fine produce to stock up on for the festive season.

The markets you'll want to consider are between Lille and Paris, but the closer to Germany you get the more teutonic the celebrations – if you fancy something a bit different then head east to Strasbourg.


The main Christmas market is the closest you'll find to the port of Calais and you'll likely get everything you want out of a Christmas event here. The Place Rihour area transforms in to a real winter wonderland with chalets turned in to christmas cottage type shops and outside of each door is yet a different stall. The city of Lille itself is home to nearly 4000 shops.

Lille is an historic city and you'll be able to look over it in all it's festive wonder by taking a ride in the 50ft Big Wheel that sticks out across the skyline. This market is open everyday in December except for Christmas Day. There are plenty of hotels or flats to use for your stay but it's best to book early as market draws a lot of custom.


If you like your Christmas presents to be just a little more special than the average gift giver then take a trip to Caen. The Christmas market there specialises in craftmanship. For handmade goods you really don't need to look any further, there's also an international element so you're not limited to stock French figurines.

Craftmanship isn't limited to carvings there is also a fantastic culinary element to this market. So pick up some gingerbread as you idle you're way through the Christmas crowd. The Caen market will offer you a truly authentic Christmas experience it focuses on the traditional and religious aspects of the holiday with 53 Christmas stalls selling the famous Santon figurines for Christmas mangers.


Dutch Christmas markets

Amsterdam is the centre for Christmas markets in the Netherlands. It hosts around 26 individual markets spread across the city so be sure to familiarise yourselves with the tram network.

The most anticipated Christmas market happens on the 23rd December, called the Winter Market. This may be a little too close to the big day itself, travelling on Christmas Eve is not or the easily flustered, but then again this is the season of good will so a bit of a Christmas adventure will surely make it all the more special.

The grandest market in Amsterdam is Albert Cuypstraat it promises a bustling and jovial affair where you can pick up everything from clothing and souvenirs to festive food, toys and just about anything else.

Since nobody wants to be alone at this time of year a trip with your loved one to the city centre markets will give you so much more to do than just shop. They have ice rinks and stalls and fair rides for the kids too.

The Bloemenmarkt or Flower market, will give an air of romance to your holiday, you can pick up Christmas trees there but we won't promise you'll be able to get it back home. We are sorry if that dissapoints you but there is the alternative of purchasing some excellent decorations for you tree back home.

The Funky Xmas market is an offshoot of Amsterdam's Funky Sunday Markets, you'll be able to find it at the Westergasfabriek. This event is being held on the weekend of 22nd and 23rd of December, again worryingly close to Christmas day itself, if you haven't already done all of your shopping. This promises to be a brilliant place to add a little bit of quirk to the festive holiday. A free spirited and lively market crammed with colour and music as well as delicious food and objet d'art to make your Christmas an unique one.


Belgian Christmas markets

Belgium is one of the best places to visit over the holidays. It's our opinion that during winter there are few countries with so many cities that get the Christmas season right. Cities such as Brussels and Bruges are made all the more enjoyable when wrapped up tight with a woolly scarf. You can wander for hours before stopping in at a cafe in the early evening for bite and something warm or just a large mug of ale.


The Ghent Christmas market makes for a fantastic family pilgrimage. It begins on 11th December running everyday throughout the month to New Years Eve. There is a traditional element to it with Christmas carols providing the soundtrack through live performances by city choirs.

Since you are in Belgium and ‘tis the season, you should prevail upon yourself to try the chocolates and waffles – if you need something to warm you then there will certainly be mulled wine and cider near at hand. If your kids are not so easily impressed by the winding cobbled streets then the atmosphere is ever changing with live jazz and folk performances as well as a bit of Christmas rock thrown in to the mix.


Bruges' Christmas market held in the main market square is open from November 23rd to January 2nd. With canal routes, cobbled streets and age old architecture you'd be hard pressed to find a city that gets more scenic throughout the Christmas period – especially when it snows.

As well as the inevitable appearance of Santa Claus, Bruges also promises a large ice rink for some handheld skating. The market is host to a snow and ice sculpture festival, so iif you tire easily of shopping, there will be some astounding carvings for you to marvel at as you join the merry gathering of Christmas revellers in Bruges this year.

Take a P&O ferry to France, Belgium or Holland for the Christmas markets of 2013

Image credit: LenDog64, Ben SJ, johnthrum

Wine tours in France

P&O Ferries: Wine tours in France


The French have a special claim to wine production. Many of the new world vintages are growing vast followings and, it has to be said, make some very good wines. However the world really does look to France first for wine so so why not start your education there?

France has an ancient tradition of wine making, the notion of old world vintages from vineyards whose produce has been supped by Popes and Kings is a heritage that’s surely insurmountable. If you’re goal is to learn about wine your fist stop really should be France.

Whether you consider yourself a connoisseur, aspire to become one or are just interested in finding some good wines, autumn is an ideal time for you to tour France’s wine country.

Naturally with the harvest going on the pickers will be at their busiest so it’s probably best not to get underfoot too much, especially if you don’t know the language. Taking a tour is one way to assure you avoid this.

The main areas to visit for wine in France are: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and the Loire Valley. Each offers a unique guide to French wine making and you can book tours with companies or just take a trip by car or bicycle through the open country to each vineyard. There are a variety of wine tasting tour companies which vary in method from hotel arranged pick ups to deluxe VIP tours from companies such as French Wine Explorers. The latter specialises in taking guests to the exclusive and hard to reach vintners, giving you a bespoke tour to best suit your interests.

Romance does not abide in Paris alone, the French landscape itself can stir the soul and make a couple’s holiday seem all the more special.

Areas like the Loire Valley are immensely beautiful. A handheld tour with your loved one under autumn foliage, down secluded waterways with the scent of vineyards in the air will surely bring out the romantic in you. Of course a decent bottle of wine and countryside lodgings will help you make the most of your holiday as well.

There is much more to do than just drink in these regions, for our post on the scenic beauty of the Loire Valley follow this link. As mentioned in July’s post Champagne also offers more than it’s bubbly namesake. Beers have crossed the border from Belgium and the north of France has an intriguing array of locations, not to mention events that would help make your French holiday all the more memorable.

If tasting the wine is more important to you than getting a feel for the environment and the process of French winemaking, you can remain in the capital for a tasting session.

Where better than the hub of France itself to get a masterclass in the very best wines that France has to offer? These tasting classes begin at €50 and you can take your pick from drinking as you drift down the Seine to the scented cellars of the Parisian wine aficionados or something a little more modern like taking to a roof top restaurant.


Burgundy and Bordeaux

Some of the most famous French wines come from the Bordeaux and Burgundy regions. If you favour a glass of red then these more southerly areas are for you. Unfortunately this would mean quite a journey from the ferry port in Calais.

In Bordeaux, wine tasting summer courses are available, priced at €35 a head. This is quite a good deal considering that the workshops will school you in everything from tasting, to a course in how the wine is made.

These are a great idea for any budding vintist, connoisseur in the making or perhaps restauranteur who really wants to get to grips with subtleties of the different vintages.
If attending classes isn’t to your taste then all you really need do is find a decent guide to get you about your preferred region.

One of the recommended sites for doing just such is Saint Emilion. This is an UNESCO world heritage site right in the center of Bordeaux. This small medieval village is quite far off the beaten track, yet remains near to the vineyards so you’ll get good exposure to the wines of the region without falling in to a massive crowd of ‘wine tourists’.

Burgundy has a better proximity to central France so you can get tours of the vineyards that pick you up from your hotel in Paris. If you’re taking a city trip an urban night is better offset by spending the day out in the French countryside, particularly if it’s a bright sunny day.

Tours run by companies such as Authentica have a great reputation for hospitality, and their tour guides will give you tips on the best places to stop for lunch in Dijon. The best part of these trips is the warmth and interest of your guide. Wine tasting has an air dignity and sophistication to it but vineyards are places of energy and enthusiasm. Wine making may be a slow process however the love of the craft is a beautiful thing to behold in an authentic French setting.

If authenticity is what you strive for then a vineyard cycling holiday is definitely what we recommend. Logistically these are far simpler then you’d believe. A 6-8 day tour of the Cotes de Rhone, Provence, Burgundy or the Loire Valley will take you down beautiful waterways and across sprawling vineyards. You can stop to recuperate in the small towns and pause at the wineries to sample the good stuff. With hotel bookings arranged before hand you can sojourn, seeing or tasting whatever sparks your curiosity.

While the good weather lasts you can end up at the coast for a dip and then take a rapid transport through France and back up to Calais in time for the ferry home.

Image credit: ROGERIOMACHADO , Christophe DESMOTTES

North by northeast; a P&O Ferry’s guide to holidaying in France


If you are planning your summer retreat from the UK why trade one bustling city for another? Make your destination the north of France.

With a P&O Ferry from Dover to Calais you can take your family for an exciting week or two of exciting activities but still be in reach of the must-see-spots of France like the Eiffel Tower and Disneyland Paris.

For most people the port city of Calais is just the entry point to France. Once through everybody quickly darts south for warmer climes. Since the weather is finally turning in our favour the beaches of north France will serve you just as well for a bit of a dip, a boat ride or brisk coastal hike.

Calais is in close proximity to the Parc Naturel regional des Caps et Marais d’Opale this huge park encompasses Boulogne-sur-Mer so you can drive along the coast to get there. Boulogne-sur-Mer is a common tourist destination due to the appeal of its local markets. An excellent spot to get in a bit of shopping for some local produce as well as the necessary vittles to keep everybody happy.

The Parc Naturel is an often overlooked destination as people speed through with their sights set on Paris or even further inland. It offers camping sites as well as primely located chalets and cottages. If tranquility is what you desire then you can spend your time on the rivers trout fishing, sink a few holes on a golf course or just spend the afternoon strolling through the woods.

The landscape is perfect for rambling about with the family or your loved ones with it’s many campsites and small towns to make basecamp in and then go out exploring.

The park also has arranged kids activities with Passion Adventures. This will give them a chance to try everything from zip lining to quad bike rides; or as a family you could take a cross country horseback ride or bike tour.


Dunkirk and Saint Omer

The other main inhabited area in Parc Naturel is Saint Omer. This is an idyllic commune with a wealth of architectural history from the 13th century cathedral to 17th century fortifications. If you find that you’ve taken in enough of the great outdoors a day trip to this quaint town will certainly give you the chance to sample some fine restaurant food and do a bit of sightseeing.

Saint Omer gives you a feel of what it’s like just across the border. The canal areas have the feel of Holland about them and though France is famed for it’s wines you’ll also be able to get some masterfully brewed beers this close to Belgium.

Eastwards of the Parc Naturel lies Dunkirk, should you choose to follow the coast, or you can go inland towards Lille. There are plenty of package holiday deals for history buffs wanting to pay homage at the beaches of Dunkirk. Where better to educate you’re children on the evacuation and battle of Dunkirk? This doesn’t have to be done in the museums, you can take guided tours and even boat trips along the beaches for a more tactile experience.

To the south is Lille, a medium sized city that boasts a vibrant nightlife due to its large student population. Taking a guided city tour is the best way to see all the major attractions. The main sights such as La Vieille Bourse, the grand square at the heart of Lille and Cathédrale Notre Dame de la Treille command some truly excellent views.

If you wish to absorb a little culture then Lille is home to Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille (Lille Palace of Fine Arts) the largest gallery in France outside of Paris. The building itself is a wonder to look at and housed inside are masterpieces from the Renaissance to modern works by greats like Picasso.

Lille also has a great selection of markets in particular you can find some excellent antique furniture to bring back home. You can find a selection of the different markets here. There are general markets on Saturdays and Wednesdays, Flea markets which are a larger occasion for the city and Art markets too.


Champagne and Langres

The other major region in north east France is Champagne. It’s a slightly more affordable place to pick up a bottle of something special. The breweries of the area host tours so naturally there will be some free tasters to help you make your mind up. Breweries also produce beer and cider which, despite their quality, are often overshadowed by the sparkling wines that make the regions namesake.

More information about tourism in Champagne can be found here. There’s a wealth of things to see and do from theme parks to day spas. Champagne has a beautiful countryside, you can even tour the breweries by horse drawn carriage.

A stay in north France will be made all the more special this year with a visit to the fort city Langres. 2013 is a special year celebrating the tercentenary of Enlightenment philosopher Denis Diderot, a native of the city.

Langres will be holding festivals and special events until October of this year so you can easily take in one of these spectacles during your trip to France. A stay in Langres will give your tour of north east France a level of authenticity. There’s no risk of falling in to a tourist trap there and you’ll never be shy of something to see and do.

For organised fun you should consider joining a family holiday camp. Companies like Eurocamp will set you up with a place to stay and you can pick and choose activities. They even have kids clubs so children can socialise and explore together to give their parents a little peace.

We’d recommend touring the north of France by bike. The shifting landscape from coast to farmland to woods and lakes is really best seen by bike. If you don’t wish to take your bicycle with you then there are plenty of places to hire them, Bike Hire Direct will even deliver your bikes to you.

Book now for P&O Ferries Dover to Calais service, you can take the car and up to 9 passengers.

Image credit: Leshaines123, flikkesteph, Reims Tourisme

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:


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.


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!


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.


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.



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.


  • 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.



  • 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.



  • 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.

Add me to Twitter
Follow the authors on Twitter