Entries Tagged as 'P&O Ferries'

Holland This August and September


Summer is here, if you haven’t made plans yet don’t worry that sunny season will pass without you having some fun. P&O Ferries have some of the hottest events happening in Holland 2016 for you to have some fun in the sun.

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The major holiday season in the Netherlands runs from April right through to Autumn, but the high point is around July overlapping in to August. There’s no need to be concerned about hospitable climes though some sun screen will certainly help if you’re attending the parades and festivals.

The first weekend of August is all about Gay Pride Especially in Amsterdam this one of the biggest events of the season. What will seem like the entire city comes to a standstill and erupts in to a 48 hour party. This is one of the grandest Gay Pride events around the globe, Holland has long been at the forefront of sexual equality pioneering gay marriage and also monuments for homosexuals. Everyone is welcome to join in the fun, so come along to show solidarity an open heart is all that’s required. Upwards of half a million spectators are expected to view the canal parade that marks the occasion; long boats and floats will travel the canals of the Dutch capital with fabulously bedecked flag wavers of the gay community to fan the flames of Gay Pride in Amsterdam.

On the same weekend just one city over in the Hague the Westland Floating Parade will also be happening. Should you be fresh off the P&O Ferry at Rotterdam’s Port you should absolutely stop by to witness it. The Westland is the third largest economic driver in the Netherlands – the floating parade is opportunity for the spoils of this force to be put on show. With an emphasis on entertaining and amazing, growers of all kinds of produce from flowers to vegetables and fruit invigorate 60 canal boats to amaze crowds reaching up to 300,000 with the glorious abundance of their bounty. You’ll want to pick out your spot in advance, the parade lasts three days passing through the Hague, Delft Vlaardingen and few other locations.

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To get a taste of some the fresh goods floating by in the parade we suggest you stop off at The Hague Market on Herman Coster Street. This is the largest outdoor market in Europe, locals call it the ‘Haagse Mart’ you’ll be able to buy just about anything you can imagine here on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. What makes this market in particular so unique is that it lies at the fault lines between the Hagues two multicultural districts – this gives it such a diversity that they estimate a footfall of around 25,000 people visit it daily. Up to 500 different stalls are set up come hail or high water, you’ll easily be able to get to and from the Market via tram – this is a brilliant way to quickly get the pulse of the city or try or immerse yourself in Dutch society.

Of course if epic markets are the reason you’re taking a P&O Ferry to Holland then we cannot fail to mention the Alkmaar Cheese Market. Just north of Amsterdam in Waagplein, Alkmaar a real testament to mankind idiosyncrasies occurs. The Cheese Market dates back as far as 1365,
Throughout the year from April to September 2nd each Friday between 10AM and 12:30PM cheese hauler and official of the cheese guild ply their wares and showcase the forms of their fathers in cheese flinging displays. A truly staggering sight to behold, and certainly fun. The first and final cheese markets of the year are always worth a visit for the spectacle that is put on purely for the love of tradition and cheese. If you’re a fan of cheese then stop by on your way to or from Amsterdam. For more information about the Alkmaar Cheese Markets click here.

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What better way to bring your summer holiday to an end than with a bang? Scheveningen’s International Fireworks Festival is on between August 12 and August 20th. This is no ordinary display, competitors from around the world come to showcase the latest innovations in pyrotechnics to put on truly awe inspiring displays. Provided the weather holds the fireworks festival runs four nights in a row and there are fairly formal rules for competitors. Each entrant has to assure that 80% of their fireworks are manufactured in their home country and you are granted 11-13 minutes to wow spectators. If you are in Holland this August it will certainly be worth your while to spend an evening in Scheveningen – if you need help finding it, simply look up.

Come to Holland this summer with P&O Ferries, the Hull to Rotterdam crossing is taking bookings now!

Image Credit: MaxAmy Photography , FaceMePLS , Cycletours Holidays

France 2016 this Summer with P&O Ferries


This promises to be one of the most hectic summers yet for tourists to France and all for the love of the beautiful game. France is playing host to this years UEFA European Championship June 10th to July 10th 24 countries a battling it out to be crowned champs. So you know what that means, a very heavy footfall, so if you wish to make the channel crossing from Dover to Calais make sure you are well booked in advance, this goes for accommodation too!

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If your heart beats for England, most of the group matches for the Lions are between June 11th to 20th even if you can’t get tickets to the match, there are plenty of public screenings for you to attend to support our boys. The P&O Ferries are sure to be lively no matter the outcome, after the group stages are over, all bets are off but we’re sure there will be plenty for England to two in the latter stages of the competition.

If you live and breathe sport then why not combine your trip to the Euro’s with the set of of the Tour de France? On the 2nd and 3rd of July you’ll be in a prime location at the north of France to see the world’s greatest bike race set off. Making this trek will give you some great views of the French countryside. From Cherbourg and Utah beach to Mont St Michel, you’ll get to see some of the great vistas of northern France. It’s a three week bike race so make sure catch a bit of it if you happen to be in France this July.

It will be difficult indeed to avoid the furore that Euro 2016 and the Tour de France brings to France, but by no means is it impossible. With the weather now bearing down us it’s the perfect time to take a country holiday. The northern coast boasts remarkable cycling routes as well as numerous places to camp. If the rustic style isn’t your wont then have no fear the smaller towns make the lion share of their trade at this time of year so you’ll be in good company as you take easy in the north of France.

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The coast of Brittany comes highly recommended for family holidays and short break getaways. It is close enough to the port at Calais so there will be no long tedious journey homewards at the end of it all, you can enjoy the beaches temperatures can pass 18 degrees quite easily. There’s also plenty of local history, from the World Wars to the Corsair past of towns like St Malo, you’ll find castles and museums to explore as well as points of local interest.

For more information on locations such as these we urge you to look up European Heritage Days

. This is a foundation now over 30 years old, which also works in the UK too, that encourages not just tourists but locals as well to really immerse themselves in a countries history and culture. Heritage Days opens up doors to town halls and military sites, private galleries and more that are normally closed off to the public, however on these days you can not only enter, but get a tour as well.

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This summer Disneyland Paris has an outstanding deal for P&O Ferry users. Your crossing will be absolutely free terms and conditions apply but essentially a standard car with up to 9 passengers, so long as one paying adult is in attendance. For more information click here.

If you seek to avoid all the sporting hoi polloi that summer in France has to offer then travel south to the Loire Valley. This region comes highly recommended especially if you fancy yourself as a bit of a foodie or just want to sample French cuisine in a rustic setting. You can avoid the tourist traps that bistro in the country capital might have with inflated prices and sample fresh produce prepared the old fashioned way in one of the most scenic regions of France.

Book ahead for wine tastings or tours of the local abbeys and cathedrals. Take up residence in a grand chateaux and journey outwards in to Loire’s countryside and small towns and villages. The local markets offer excellent prospects for antiquing holidays, cheese connoisseurs and just about everyone in between. The Loire Valley is also an excellent place to bring the kids, there are multiple zoos and safari parks, the natural landscape makes it excellent for animal habitats, and an aquarium as well.

Book now for France’s Summer of Sport with P&O Ferries

Image Credit: Nazionale Calcio , Anne Arnould , Jeremy Thompson

P&O Ferries Guide to Holidaying in France 2016


With the January slump over now is the time to look forward to your travels in 2016. If you are after a short break or full family holiday, P&O Ferries’ Dover to Calais service can get you there. Here we are going to take a look at what you might need to know when booking your trip this year.

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The Port of Dover is a 70 mile car journey from London, using the M20 on to the A20 at Folkestone, from there it’s just a short drive up the coast. There’s also the option of using the M2 on to the A2 which will grant you the option of passing through Canterbury.

Should you wish to get to the Ferry by train then it will take about an hour from London to Dover Priory Station via HS1. From there it is a 25 minute walk to the port, there are taxis available as well as car rental services. The De Bradelei Wharf on the waterfront is a excellent spot for you to pick up any of those last minute necessities or to have a look around before boarding.

If you’re coming a long way a final rest before you make the crossing is easily done. Book accommodation at the Spa, Dover Castle or a Premier Inn, there’s plenty of choice you could even go local and take a room in one Dover’s B&B’s for something a bit more homely. Click here for more information on Dover Port Facilities .

There are five P&O Ferries currently making the 90 minute crossing from Dover to Calais: the Spirit of Britain, Spirit of France, Pride of Canterbury, Pride of Burgundy and the Pride of Kent. They run almost none stop so you can catch one roughly each hour. If your schedule is a bit fluid then consider purchasing a Flexi-ticket which will give you more options should you need to alter your booking.

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P&O Ferry Tickets

Tailor your ticket type to suit your needs. P&O Ferries offer a variety of choices:

Saver: This is for your basic crossing offering the best value, provided you travel as booked this ticket is deserving of its namesake.

Standard/Full Flexi: These tickets offer some flexibility when you travel. Be it traffic, weather or anything else you’ll be well prepared with one of these tickets. The Standard Flexi allows you to make changes to your booking without charge, same with the Full Flexi provided the registered car is the same. Both Flexi Tickets are refundable, the standard version grants you +/-4 hours from your booking time, should you arrive early or late; with the Full Flexi you can depart at your leisure on the date booked. Flexi Tickets also entitle you to 30 minutes free Wi-Fi on one device, more than enough for a 90 minute trip don’t you think?

Premier Tickets: Grant you all the benefits of a Full Flexi ticket with Wi-Fi for the duration and access to the Club Lounge.

Club Lounge: A purchasable addition to your voyage to make things run all the smoother. For as little as an additional £12 you’ll get the best views and seating, a complimentary glass of champagne or soft/hot drink served by one of the stewards. It adds a bit of luxury to your journey, perfect if you wish to unwind or travel without the crowds. Club Lounge clients have access to an exclusive menu as well as priority boarding.

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Once you Arrive

If you and kids have your eyes set on Disneyland Paris then it’s 186 miles, roughly 3.5 hours non-stop by car, most of which is a straight drive south on the A26 then A1. Have no fear this journey is well sign posted as the major route to the French capital.

Those of you in no hurry to head south should take some time to enjoy Nord-Pas-de-Calais. There are some worthy sights, Auguste Rodin’s Burghers of Calais statues have wholly different connotations in France in comparison to standing before casts outside the Houses of Parliament.

The fortress church Eglise Notre-Dame de Calais and Tour de Guet a 13th century watchtower are landmarks so easily missed by many who view Calais as a mere port city, the entrance and exit of France.

Duty Free

When you pay tax on goods in a country like France then there is no requirement to pay tax or duty on it again when it is brought to the UK. Any goods you bring must be for your own use and not used commercially There are guidelines on how much each person is allowed to bring which are best abided by, here’s the list:

3,200 Cigarettes
200 Cigars
400 Cigarillos
3 KG Tobacco
110L of Beer
90L of Wine
10L of Spirits
20L of Fortified Wine

We highly recommend you to stick to these totals and familiarise yourself with HMRC guidelines.

If you intend to use a credit card it’s best to forewarn your distributor since fraud rates have gone up shops are being more careful, if you’re at the till it’s best to know who to call before hand should you run in to difficulty. Wine and beer distributors can easily be found in directories so shop about for the best deals, you can go further afield than Calais, but there’s not much need to if you’re on a P&O Ferry Day Tripper ticket.

Safe travels for 2016, book now for passage to Calais with P&O Ferries!

Image Credit: Ingolf , Nine LaMaitre , Marc Cousin

Take to France this Winter with P&O Ferries


France

What’s the best way to beat those winter blues? Shake things up a bit, that’s how. Whether you are planning a weekend getaway with your partner or the family, want to celebrate Christmas somewhere new or hope to make 2015’s New Year’s celebrations the most exciting yet we thoroughly encourage you to choose a vacation in France as the answer.

When most people think of winter holidays to France their mind immediately springs to the slopes of the Alps or perhaps Pyrenees. Worthy holidays though they may be you can get more out of France if you don’t isolate yourself to the mountains. The city streets are where things really come alive. You may run the slight risk of having the weather work against you but bear in mind Paris is one of the cultural capitals of the world there’s much to see indoors. Since tourists are less likely to be holidaying during the festive season queues at the major locations – the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre Dame Cathedral will be shortened considerably.

With Christmas on the horizon you won’t want to miss the seasonal markets that are popping up all over France. If you are just making a short trip to France before 2016 then the closest markets to Calais where P&O Ferries will be dropping you off and picking you are listed here.

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As you may expect there is a huge Christmas market in Paris and the celebrations in Lille are also considered to be some of the grandest in France. You might also want to consider hopping the border to Belgium to take advantage of some the great markets in Brussels, Lieges or Bruges. Alternatively you could catch a P&O Ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge – it’s an overnight voyage but you’ll land straight in Belgium which will place you perfectly for day trips to both France and Holland.

If you wish to tour the northern coast of France the City of Caen is host to a sizeable Christmas market with upwards of 50 stalls, it opens late December running straight through to the new year. So you could make it a part of your New Year’s celebration and make a triumphant return to the UK for 2016. Caen is just a short way away from Mont St Michel, an historic strategic location that’ has been fortified, it has a long religious history and is listed as an UNESCO world heritage site. It’s well worth a visit and though there isn’t a Christmas market there’s plenty of shopping to be down there. It is decorated for the Christmas season though you’ll find that Mont St Michel is illuminated at night all year round.

The capital of Normandy, Rouen is also a holiday favourite for this time of year. Rouen is famous for being the site of Joan of Arc’s death in 1431 – they begin Christmas celebrations at the start of December with Christmas markets (Marche de Noel) opening in the shadow of the grand Cathedral Notre Dame of Rouen. It’s a perfect place to visit whether you wish to embrace the spiritual side of the holiday, want to do some Christmas shopping or hope to keep the kids entertained with the skating rinks.

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The major christmas market to visit in north France is in Lille – there are around 3900 in this city, if you can’t find the perfect gift here then you simply aren’t trying hard enough. This city lights up in December with an 18m ferris wheel, ice-rink and dozens of specially erected Christmas chalets built up in the city centre. Each of these chalets is meticulously designed and laid out by the provender, the overall effect of this market will bring a smile to every face. The sights and smells of Christmas along with the copious amounts of carolling and festive feasting make Lille a true centre of the Christmas spirit.

If, however, your intention is to get to the beating heart of the season and sup deep of the good cheer that vibrates across us all then the place for you to be this Christmas is Strasbourg. The city is close on the border to Germany, and therefore has a fantastic cultural mesh, Christmas unites and at Strasbourg you’ll find it seamless.

This year the markets in Strasbourg open on November 27th and are open through to New Year’s Eve. It has the honour of being the traditional city of Christmas markets since it was the site of the very first seasonal event way back in 1570. It was then known as Christkindelsmärik or ‘Market of the infant Jesus’ and it has been growing ever since. As well as the traditional tree you’ll find it hard to miss the extensive light displays, ferris wheel three hundred square meter ice-rink. Entry is free for children and the market opens from 10AM to 8PM every day. This is one of the largest Christmas events in Europe with an anticipated footfall of 2 million people all in all, there are 300 chalets established for the sale of goods and they’re all in fierce competition with each other to be the most festival stalls at the market.

Weather this winter in France with P&O Ferries, the Dover to Calais service will get you their to celebrate Christmas on the continent!

Image Credit: Panoramas , LenDog64 , Mike Norton

P&O Ferries’ guide to the Festive Season in Belgium


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The time is now to sort out your winter holiday. Accommodation starts to fill up fast the closer to Christmas and New Years’ we get so don’t delay! P&O Ferries run from Hull to the port city, Zeebrugge in Belgium for you to brighten up your winter.

An urban tour of Belgium is really best suited to the winter months. The streets are less hectic and if you are fortunate enough to have timed it right, a light dusting of snow in places like Bruges will get even the staunchest Grinch in the Christmas mood. The spirit of Belgian cities such as Antwerp and Brussels is communicated through its architecture. Places with such long histories and so many stories to tell have the ability to really make a holiday enticing, you can fall in love with such places simply by walking down the street. To help you arrange your getaway this winter here is our run down of some of the most scenic parts of Belgium to be admired whilst wrapped up warm, as well as some dates for the Christmas Markets this December.

Both Belgium and France are prime locations for Christmas shopping. Whether you want to spend the whole week gift shopping or intend on a quick weekend getaway then you’re sure to find that perfect something for your loved ones. In Belgium some of the Christmas Markets open in late November and they can remain focal points for tourist shoppers as well as locals in to the new year. Cities such as Bruges and Belgium have cobbled streets and narrow avenues that are perfect for window shopping. Chocolatiers and cafes do their best to outdo each other with tantalising window displays hoping to lure in travellers seeking succour. However with an open market you get to stand shoulder to shoulder with your fellow Christmas reveller, barter for heartwarming bric-a-brac, hear jaunty christmas music, with ringing bells in the distance. A city like Bruges has a truly magical atmosphere come the early evening, swaddled in scarf and gloves both kids and couples will be enthused with a sense of romantic wonder as you bask in glow of fairy lights explore the old town’s of Europe.

Winter Wonders

Brussels’ christmas begins with the opening of Winter Wonders which has its grand opening on November 27th, you are welcome to this Christmas fairly land right through to January 4th. Over this period shops stay open all weekend in the hope that the market stalls won’t draw away too much of their custom. The streets are really the place to be though, as the capital city of Belgium the display of Christmas lights is a sight to behold. You can get a sweeping panoramic view of the city by taking a ride on the specially set up ferris wheel which will probably help you find the ice skating rink set up at Place de la Monnaie so you can get a little time on the ice before retreating for hot chocolates or maybe something a bit more fortifying. The only true centrepiece of Winter Wonders is the Christmas tree, a gift donated by the city of Riga, the capital of Latvia, this magnificent fir tree takes pride of place and you’ll definitely need to see it when it’s lit up at night during the Christmas Parade.

Ghent is a less talked about attraction in Belgium, it is overshadowed by the fame of Bruges and the magnitude of Brussels. If you have, however, already seen Brussels at Christmas then it will be worthwhile to try a change of pace in a different city. It lies between Bruges and Brussels so consider a stopover especially since it will put you in good proximity to cross the border and give a French Christmas a try at the markets of Lille. In Ghent you can expect upwards of over 50 different market stalls spread across the city, they do a roaring trade in traditional gifts such as candles and decorations, but there will also be food vendors spreading good cheer with chocolate and waffles as well as a healthy supply of gin to keep things festive.

Ghent boasts some of the finest religious architecture in Belgium with Sint Baafs Cathedral and the Belfry which will be holding special Christmas masses this year. It would also be well worth your while to stop off at the major museums of the city which are holding late night openings as the sun starts to set a little earlier at this time of year. Then is also just a short drive from the P&O Ferry port at Calais, if you would prefer to have a shorter time on the water or just live closer to dover then take advantage of the dover Calais crossing and get to Ghent through the France.

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Your perfect Christmas is just a click away, book now for a Christmas like no other with P&O Ferries Hull to Zeebrugge service.
Image Credit: Rodrigue ROMON , Matt Barber , Darla Hueske

Holland is all aglow with Vincent Van Gogh


Keukenhoff

With winter just around the corner now is the time to plan your late holiday for 2015. P&O Ferries’ Hull to Rotterdam will keep your spirits lifted as the cold weather descends – take a look at our guide to vacationing in Holland this year.

The festival season my be drawing to close but there’s always a party somewhere in the Netherlands. This year the Dutch have been celebrating the life of their most famous artist Vincent Van Gogh to commemorate the 125th year since his death. Though we now approach the dying months of the year there are still plenty of events left for you to attend in order to pay tribute to one of the grand masters of the art world.

Witness the last bit of floral grandure for 2015 at Keukenhoff’s renowned flower gardens. This year’s theme is Van Gogh’s 125 years of inspiration. The last of the dutch tulips for the season can still be beheld, arrangements inspired by the Vincent’s impressionistic style melding motion with emotion, bright colours meshing the vibrancy of life with the sorrow of its inevitable decline. One of the most iconic Van Gogh pieces Sunflowers has been re-envisioned with the Dutch nations favourite flower the tulip.

For that last glimmer of lush plant life before the barren winter you would do well to visit the gardens of Appeltern. This is one of the biggest open gardens in Holland it has been open to the public since April but now is your last chance to get a look around before they close up for the off season.

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There are over 200 model gardens on display, you’ll need more than a single day to fully appreciate them all but it would be a grand idea to look about for ideas for the coming spring. Appeltern is a great venue to bring the kids, especially if you want to encourage them to have green fingers, there’s also a hedge maze, gnome path and treehouse to explore. If you take your plant life seriously then the Whisper Tour, sign posts and audio recordings, allows you to find out all about the plants and offer you tips on how to grow them as well as navigate the expansive park.
As part of this year’s tribute to Van Gogh 10 garden designs have been specially arranged to commemorate the artist and his work after being specially selected from dozens of landscape architects. Appleton is due east of Rotterdam and just short from the country’s capital Amsterdam.

The final flower celebration of Van Gogh may is a little sooner than you’d think. If you’re trip to Holland is just around the corner then be sure to keep an eye out for the Zundert Flower Parade. The town of Zundert is near Antwerp, the hamlets there each try to build the best float and parade them through the streets. This year’s parade is on September 6, traditionally it is done on the first Sunday of September. Naturally the parade is Van Gogh themed, the whole of Zundert tends to make an appearance for the event and they pull out all the stops to be the very best of hosts with live entertainment and food and drink aplenty.

Eindhoven light festival

Our next event is set right in the heart of Holland, a bit of a drive but well worth it. The Eindhoven light festival GLOW is set to start on November 7th running for the entire seven day week. The city centre truly comes aglow this winter, as the days become shorter you’ll find that night becomes all the more vibrant. If you’re spending time in Holland this winter we can’t recommend highly enough that you take advantage of the winter light installations. For night time strolls they really can’t be beat, you’ll get to see the transformation of casual street during the day to an ethereal faery like place. The light displays are dreamed up by artisans from across the globe and they’re designed to really evoke a sense wonder at the urban world we live in. Each year GLOW is given a theme for its light displays and this year’s is, you guessed it, Vincent Van Gogh. So you know the designers behind these displays will have done there best to take you on a journey as you explore Eindhoven under the magnificent lights of GLOW.

If you can’t be in Holland for GLOW then don’t despair at the end of November from the 27th right through to February 2016 Amsterdam is holding its own Light Festival. Each year The old canals and rivers of Amsterdam are decorated with more than your casual christmas fairy lights. Light engineers and artists cooperate to transform the city each night in to a wondrous a plane of the imagination. These installations, as with the GLOW festival, make for memorable romantic twilight and midnight walks, you will want to be hand in hand with your loved ones strolling through the streets of Amsterdam to really make the most of this event. As a canal riven city Amsterdam offers boat tours at night so that you can drift by the installations and admire the craftsmanship and imagination that has gone in to making them.

The crossing from Hull to Rotterdam for you cultural tour of Holland is open for bookings, why delay?

Image Credit: Robert Lennon , Olga , Lennart Tange

Autumnal France with P&O Ferries: what to see, what to drink


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As the summer heat begins to abate now is your best chance to taste the delights of France. A country famous for its gastronomy is by far one of the best places to visit now that the season of plenty is upon us. P&O Ferries makes multiple crossings from Dover to Calais each day so come with us across the channel to taste the delights of France.

To begin with it’s important to note that wine tours in France don’t have to be as expensive as they sound. Of course there are luxury tours and even cruises which may be what you are after but if you don’t won’t your trip to France to break the bank then there are some perfectly affordable options listed below.

Your best options when travelling with P&O Ferries are to stick to the Loire and Champagne regions, as they are most northerly; though you could reach Burgundy with just a little more time spent on the road. Depending on how long you intend to stay in France the other famous wine regions of France are further south such as Bordeaux,Cotes-du-Rhone and Savoie.

We would recommend you book ahead rather than show up at a winery hoping for the best, though it’s likely you’ll still be accommodated. You can book tours which pick you up from outside your hotel or selected locations and then bring you back. With the whole day planned out well in advance you have nothing more to do than enjoy it, especially if you’re going by coach and don’t have to worry about driving back.

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The Champagne region isn’t quite as closed off to the public as you might expect. The large international brands closely guard their secrets, in fact most wine producers have some closely guarded secrets. Some of these vineyards are centuries old and they all put out a fantastic product which you can sample with a tour of the facilities for a mere €20. Though there is plenty of competition in the sparkling wine industry with Prosecco growing in popularity from Italy and Cava in Spain the popularity of Champagne as a brand is undimmed. It can only truly be made in this region of France and therefore it’s a must see for anyone hoping to tour France for its produce.

The other major wine region in north France, the Loire valley ends its tour season towards the end of October since the busy season of harvesting bottling and exporting is just around the corner. You can take tours that vary in length from half days to four day tours with groups such as Loire Valley Tours . Who offer tours for groups of up to 8 people, these include tastings a show around the bottling facility and the vineyards themselves. Loire exports white, red and rose wines – you’ll be sure to find something to tantalise your palate and bring home to enjoy over the winter months.

September is an important time in France for the annual grape harvest. The internationally known brands are the namesake of most of the wine regions but actually you’d be hard pressed to find a part of France that doesn’t produce wine of some variety. A holiday to the french countryside is best done in Autumn, since grape picking can quickly become dull work the atmosphere whipped by local pickers is cheering indeed. In some towns the population grows vines on their own property compiling their harvest to create a local vintage. If you are touring the smaller villages late this September we highly recommend you stop by and try out the locals vintages.

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For a taste of something different one the largest beer festivals in Europe is taking place this year in Mulhouse. Right in the heart of Europe where France borders with Germany you can attend the beer event of the year this September from Thursday 17th right through the weekend ending Sunday 20th. For more information look up Mondial Beer of Mulhouse it is not just a large drinking event there will be exhibitions on the craft of beer making, award giving ceremonies to the best brews of the year and workshops on beer and cheese making.

The festival takes place at the Mulhouse Exhibition Park where over 100 breweries both national and international will proffer their wares and around 400 beers will be available. The close proximity to the German and Swiss border has some input on the event last year there were cooking demonstrations of sauerkraut in all its varieties as well as chocolate and cheese stands. Entry is free if you just wish to look about but a glass will cost you €4 giving you the option to taste whatever you please form the brewers for a €1 tasting coupon. Mondial is a weekend long event expect plenty of live entertainment and a lively atmosphere to go along with it. Accommodation for this festival will fill up fast but you’ll be in the heart of Europe so shop about to find the right place for you.

Book now for your get away to France this Autumn, P&O Ferries can get you there with its Dover-Calais crossing

Image Credit: Didriks , anne arnould , Hans Splinter

The lesser known side of Belgium


Belgium

We’ve come up with a brief guide to the less talked about locations of Belgium. Most people are familiar with the major cities of the country like Antwerp, Brussels, Charleroi and Bruges but there’s so much more to Belgium than that. Backpackers and almost anyone who’s spent time in Belgium will recommend you try out some of the less publicised locations.

As the summer heat lingers you’ll notice the crowds around the major attractions such as Brussels’ Grand Place tend to become somewhat of a tourist trap. Part of the attraction of Belgium is the atmosphere, how the locale can make you feel – it’s hard to build a real connection and make lasting evocative memories if your sweaty and bustling for elbow space to take a simple snapshot. So step off the beaten track – get your beer, chocolate and waffles elsewhere; Belgium has far more to offer!

Mechelen

This city is fairly central in Belgium, if you intend to see as much of the country as possible during your stay (and why wouldn’t you?) it would be a good idea to choose Mechelen for your accommodation. The area has been a site of civilisation since the age of Romans and one of it’s most notable features the Cathedral of St Rumbold dates back to the 13th Century. So if you’re hoping to find a hotel with a decent view of the city you shouldn’t be hard pressed, as with a lot of Belgium there are some fantastic examples of architecture to get you up in the morning ready to seek out more. There are over 300 listed heritage buildings in this small city alone.

Mechelen is a great city to visit for its atmosphere. Students of its Carillon School are often practicing bell ringing they also hold weekly one hour concerts. It is home to one of the oldest breweries in Belgium; Het Anker where Mechelsen Bruynen is made a beer said to be favoured by Charles V. The shops are spaced between cafes allowing you to while away your evenings in the dying sun sipping local beer listening to ringing bells in the distance.

Belgium

Each Saturday in Mechelen an open market is held, allowing you to buy local produce. At the end of August Maanrock a free music festival is to be held. This starts late in the day with DJs spinning from dusk till dawn on multiple stages. For a quieter time boat tours of the city are by far the most relaxing way to see the city and they only cost around €6. Mechelen is just a 25 minute train journey to Antwerp and Brussels so even using public transport you’ll be able to efficiently get around Belgium.

Spa

A favourite for some, if you’ve spent the summer in the sun then where better to rejuvenate your skin than the birthplace of all modern spas? This small town was originally host to royal clientele after Henry VIII attested to the curative powers of the natural springs just outside of Lieges.

Spa is famed for its waters and if you can’t wait to get there then you can buy bottles of it here in the UK. There are around 200 springs in the area, whilst we can’t assure you of their restorative nature the journey and environment will certainly do wonders for your soul.

The facilities available in Spa vary from the deluxe centres to more wallet friendly packages. They even have a mother-baby institute if you feel able to travel, they take children up to 6 months old for both parents and babies to get some cleansing relaxation in.

For a completely different experience of Spa this year’s Belgian Grand Prix will be racing in the small forest town late this August. You may also wish to visit the Casino at spa which could offer a bit of excitement in a place geared more towards relaxation.

Belgium

Namur

An hour journey from Brussels, Namur is well worth the journey. This once well fortified town may no longer have the strategic importance it once had but for tourists it is still a bastion of intrigue.

Namur is situated on the Meuse River, it’s battlements date back to the 13th century but originally it held one of the great European Citadels of the ancient world. The battlements are now open to the public and so don’t miss out on the chance to be afforded some of the best views in Belgium.

Namur boasts some great historical architecture and public art as well. Though the weather should still be with any holiday-makers you shouldn’t forgo the museums particularly the Museum of Ancient Art. This displays some truly breath-taking pieces including medieval stained-glass windows, baptismal fonts, textile and armour. Namur also has works from the renaissance period and the 19th Century a museum dedicated to Felicien Rops, contemporary of Baudelaire, who’s influences on the art world are not fully recognised.

There’s lots more to Belgium that we have yet to cover, but you can always go exploring for yourself with P&O Ferries!

Image Credit: Niels Broekzitter , Stephane Mignon , photophilde

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