Entries Tagged as 'P&O Ferries'

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


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.


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.


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


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!


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.


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.


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.



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

P&O Ferries Party guide to Holland this summer

Unlimited Festival

Summer means party season in Holland. Book your passage from Hull to Rotterdam with P&O Ferries for a fun in the sun trip this summer.

This year’s Unlimited Festival starts July 18 and runs for 6 days. Taking its cues from King’s Day (formerly Queen’s Day) this is an opportunity to let loose in the streets and party from dusk till dawn in your wildest outfit. Unlimited Festival is a new tradition, only 2 years old, it is the result of combining the Summer Carnival parade with the the Dunya festival. This event takes place in Rotterdam, so you can get in to the swing of things straight off the boat, you just have to make it to the inner city to join the fun. The established traditions of this event include an election of the Summer Queen, votes are being cast on social media but you can make it there for the coronation on July 18th by clicking here .

This event is a showcase for international talent in the music and arts industry you’ll find everything from poetry slams and pop up theatre to live orchestras. One of the main events of the Unlimited Festival is the the Battle of the Drums. What was perhaps a way to ignite a party atmosphere has become a major part of the festival. Three steel drum bands begin a march from different points of Rotterdam and gather up a following as they dance their way to the Hofplein podium in the city centre. There the bands put on a show like no other but only one is elected the victor winning a coveted gold drum. If you’re planning to attend Unlimited Festival it’s this event that will truly get you caught up in the atmosphere.
The mission statement of this event is to celebrate cultural diversity; an atmosphere of collectivism is fostered that recognises the importance of each of us as individuals at the same time.

Make your bookings now the ferries making the crossing to Rotterdam for this festival are sure to be lively indeed and accommodation fills up fast! For more information on Rotterdam’s Unlimited Festival click here.

Gay Pride

The first weekend of August is dedicated to Gay Pride. Whether you’re a hanger on from Rotterdam’s Unlimited Festival or a pilgrim of the gay community; Amsterdam will be the beating heart of Europe early this August. Amsterdam is one of the most pioneering cities for tolerant and open-minded attitudes to the gay community. This weekend is a celebration of all that has been accomplished by the community and its strident steps forward in a sometimes less than embracing world.

Everyone is invited to the party, there will be exhibitions and movies as well as workshops and live performances. Above all it is a party; you can join the Canal parade along with an expected 500,000 other spectators to cheer the passing long boats at one of the biggest Gay Pride events of the year.

What’s summer without a good beach party? If you’re going to Holland this year then Bloemendaal’s beach parties are well worth the trip. Bloemendaal is on the coast near Amsterdam and you can get night buses for a woozy return to the capital after a hard night’s rave.

These beach parties began in late May and run each weekend with a different theme all the way through to mid September. For a list of all the different parties click here Take special note some of the themed parties will have strict dress codes and door policies.

The North Sea isn’t what you would normally think of for a beach holiday but the coastline of Holland makes for a fantastic getaway. If you’re staying in Amsterdam the coast is just a short drive away you’ll see the dunes that protect the flat mainland from flooding before the sea comes in to sight and then all you have to do is set up base camp before enjoying your day at the beach.

The coast of the Netherlands is divided in to three parts, Noord-Holland the more inhabited area where you’ll find the parties, bars, clubs and generally more vivacious atmosphere. It should be noted though that there’s also a quieter side of flower fields and picaresque Dutch villages.


Zeeland has to offer a more classical beach experience scenic views, and fantastic sunsets. It’s location has been used historically as a military position so you can explore some of the medieval forts. It’s also a good spot for kiting, surfing and wind surfing.

Finally the Wadden Islands are comprised of more natural beaches. This is an area of great importance to the wider ecosystem as the tide goes out a layer of fertile silt is left across the mudflats attracting wildlife from afar to come feast. You can cross the mudlfats on foot and take a close look at the abundance the sea has to offer. Take a hiking guide with you for added safety and they’ll be able to tell you in depth what it is that makes the Wadden Islands so important.

P&O Ferries offer a pet service if you can’t bear to be parted from your dog or cat. A beach holiday will be made all the more satisfying if you don’t have those nagging doubts about your prized pooch in a kennel back in the UK.

For £17 per trip you can bring your cat, dog or ferret with you on board the ferry. It will have to be in the kennel area for the voyage though you can go with staff to check on your pet, they are looked in on every 2 hours. Certain provisos must also be adhered to such as a pet passport and vaccinations – for more details click here .

Book now for P&O Ferries Hull to Rotterdam service and spend your summer at the beaches of Holland!

Image Credit: FaceMePLS , Jonny Green

Come to France this Summer and smell the Roses


If you haven’t got plans for your summer holiday then look no further. France offers one of the best climates for fun lively atmospheres, interesting events to go to and just generally warmer weather than we tend to find here. The extended summer schedule means all the attractions of cities will be open later giving you more time to take in France at your leisure.

Festival season is now in full swing so whether you intend to partake or not you’ll be able to take advantage of the abundance of street performances food vendors and live music that resonates through city streets. The warm evenings make it a perfect time for taking in a late dinner or enjoying a bottle with your loved ones at a terrace cafe, essentially calling to mind what every non-Frenchman imagines when they think of Paris, perhaps there’ll event someone playing an accordion?

If you’d like to get a proper taste of French pride then there is no greater celebration then Bastille Day on July 14th. This commemorates the storming of the Bastille, a prison in Paris, which marked the major opening of the French Revolution in 1789. The revolution is a defining moment in western history when aristocratic chains were thrown off and the people of France seized freedom, yeah there was a lot of murder but modern France was born.

This is a great event to take children to, military parades in Paris go on all day you’ll get to see mounted troops as well as infantry and motorised units as they proceed under l’Arc de Triomphe. France’s allies also march in the parade but if you can’t get through the crowd then looking up will suffice during the day highly choreographed aerobatic displays from the airforce will keep you amazed and once night falls a colossal firework display is put on.

Since Bastille Day takes place in mid-July there’s a very good chance the weather will be on your side. The French populace make the most of this national holiday by spending time with family and friends outdoors picnicking, though many of the restaurants in Paris put on their own special menus in honour of Bastille Day.


Just weeks before Bastille Day, Paris celebrates its diversity with their Tropical Carnival. This procession marches through the streets of Paris on July 4th; a colourful conga line like something you would expect to find in Brazil. The Tropical Carnival however has more of a Caribbean slant to it, with steel bands, singers and dancers all fully bedecked in vibrant exotic outfits partying in the streets of Paris, what’s not to like. The carnival goes on for three days from July 4th to 7th. You don’t have to go further than France to get a sampling of island culture.

For something a bit different you could head south the Art of Flying; hot air balloon festival in Annonay. This town is known as the birthplace of hot air balloon flight and marks its heritage each year from June 6th to 8th by celebrating the Montgolfier brothers’ maiden flight in 1783. It’s not just ballooning enthusiasts that like to attend, a huge crowd visits to take in the sights. This isn’t just a spectator event though, people are encouraged to take their first flights, you know you’ll be in safe hands with foremost experts in balloon flights taking control of the event. There will also be talks from fliers as well as historic reconstructions of early balloons.

France is famous for its perfume and summer is great time to get down to Provence to see (and smell) the lavender fields before they are harvested. Lavender has been a valuable crop throughout the ages for its medicinal use as well as perfume and dyes. The lavender festival begins on July 1st and runs through to September, so you’ll have plenty of time to arrange your trip. Perhaps you could even stop off in wine country on your way down or maybe have an extended road trip all the way to the beaches of south France.

Lavendar is a symbol of the region is used today to flavour foods, as part of aromatherapy and much more. The crafts fair on will certainly be worth your time and you’ll get to discover the many uses of Lavendar.

Pays de la Loire

The magnificent Rose Days held in Pays de la Loire

in west France is definitely something not to miss for any flower enthusiast with a weakness for roses. This is no standard rose garden on July 15th 100,000 blooms are cut from the near 7 million bushes that grow in Doue la Fontaine. These specimens are then expertly arranged in the cave gallery that boasts natural crystal formations as well as professional lighting and water features. The showcase opens at 9:30AM and remains open until 7:30 in the evening. The landscape architects are planning to put on a full display using inspirations from French, British and Japanese garden styles. It’s only a 100m meter walk through the Rose Day spectacular but we guarantee it will be fantastic stop on your holiday to France this summer. The rose displays at Doue-la-Fontaine have been a tradition since 1959 and have only grown in popularity as gardeners have found more and more ways to make this exhibition a true wonder.

Paris is calling for you to make the trip there this summer with P&O Ferries!

Image Credit: irene. , Jody Roberts , Joe Shlabotnik

Make Amsterdam the destination for your Summer 2015


The major events in Holland this year seem to be geared towards getting you outdoors and eating some fine food. That certainly doesn’t seem like too bad an idea, let P&O Ferries’ Hull to Rotterdam ferry take you there this summer to attend some of the fabulous exhibitions and finest foods.

Plan your holiday early and get to Amsterdam for the Tulip Festival. The city itself seems to bloom but if you’d like to get out and see them grow then there are areas surrounding the city with tours in place. In particular it will be worth visiting the Keukenhoff gardens, one of the more famous sites to see tulips grow. While the sun shines you can take a bike tour of the country. The flat landscape makes it easy to get about by bicycle, in fact it is encouraged with handy maps for sale that’ll take you through the landscape from charming local villages through fairytale like scenes of nature. Keukenhoff closes on May 17th so time is running out for you to get there.

They are hosting a family event on the first weekend of the month with picnics in the meadows, a Sesame Street theme Elmo’s birthday and there will also be falconry displays later in the afternoon. For more information Click Here .

The following weekend Keukenhoff will be extending invitations to all the lovers out there. The Romance Weekend promises to be a idyllic setting for any couple to look back on with bliss. Stages are being set up to provide performances of romantic classical music and live dance, you’ll have the chance to take boat trips in the pond and picnic amongst the blooming flowers.


For more outdoor fun visiting Vondelpark is always a great destination for anyone spending time Amsterdam during the summer. Vondelpark is situated in the heart of Holland’s capital near the Van Gogh museum. During the summer months it hosts an open air theatre which is free for everyone, though it’s only polite to make a donation. The showcase will be running from May all the way through to August and shows are put on each weekend starting Friday night. It’s essentially a party every weekend of the summer for all who come strolling in to the park. Live music in all its varieties from classical to jazz and operetta – over the weekend the stages will also show live comedy and children’s theatre too.

For the foodies out there a P&O Ferry to Holland will absolutely be worth your time, there’s food festivals aplenty this summer. To begin with the ever popular Alkmaar Cheese Market is now open, you can attend every Friday right up until September. This market is one of the major attractions to Alkmaar, a city just north of Amsterdam. The cheese market dates back to the 1300s and these days is as much about pageantry as there is cheese. Be warned these people take their cheeses seriously though. This is a serious operation happening once a week, the staff of market and scales masters, throwers, placers and traders are responsible for over 22,000 cheeses – a heavy burden indeed.

This is an event heavy on tradition so to witness some of the ceremonial formalities head to Waagplein, the weighing square, to see folkloric guild pomp at its very best. If don’t delight in being baffled by native customs there are tour guides available to take you through the market to help offer some explanations.


From June 4th-7th Taste of Amsterdam 2015 will have armies of people smacking their lips in delight. If you take pleasure in food, wine and music you will have reached your promise land. The seven day event will be punctuated by live performances of jazz and soul music. Chefs from around the world will be serving up the very finest of cuisines in mini dishes so you’ll be able to make the rounds. Taste of Amsterdam has also invited professional sommeliers to hold talks in the Wine Club helping you to pair vintages with different dishes so you’ll be just a bit wiser the next time you host a dinner party. For fun there will also be a Ready, Steady Cook competition and kids’ entertainment from cupcake and chef hat decorating to foodie quizzes.
If it all gets a bit inspiring then a food market is in place for you to buy all that’s needed for you to try and whip up a meal of your very own. You’ll need to purchase tickets €9,50 per day for more information Click Here .

The days of May and June are reserved for the Holland Festival in Amsterdam. This is one of the largest international artistic festivals to be held in the country and promises to be one of the high points of the calendar year. The Holland Festival has been running annually since 1947 and displays the broadest possible spectrum of art forms. What makes this event so unique is that it’s a paradigm breaker, blurring the lines between high and low art. The program reads ‘The future is with impure art’ there’s no aesthetic elitism here. Though the highest quality performances are sure to be seen you won’t be walking amongst a crowd of ready to sneer critics. The price of entry is just €7,50 and events are being hosted in theatres across Amsterdam.

Let P&O Ferries take you from Hull to Rotterdam this summer and be at the heart of it all in Holland 2015.

Image Credit: suzie tremmel , Barbara Walsh , Rene

Take a trip to Belgium this Easter with P&O Ferries


Fancy an Easter break to Belgium this year? You could do far worse than heading to the heart of chocolate on earth to boost your spirits and have a fun get away while the last of winter is gusted away for the onset of spring and summer 2015.

P&O Ferries’ Hull to Zeebrugge service will drop you off on the sandy beaches of Belgium, to be best enjoyed when the weather is on your side of course. You will, however, only be a short distance from to the historic town of Bruges, a great centre for sight seeing and slightly more sheltered activities if winter decides to linger.

There are events aplenty in Belgium this April and May, whether you’re after a cultural tour, looking to party or plotting a weekend at one of the many beer festivals we are sure you’ll find something to make your holiday perfect.

Tournai celebrates easter each Good Friday by hosting their annual Flower Market. A tradition dating back to 1825, Tournai wakes up early as the stalls open at 6AM. The town’s close proximity to France draws a large diverse crowd of horticulturalists who put on spectacular displays. If you are interested in finding out about new species of plants for your summer garden you’re sure to pick up some interesting tips.

Should your accommodation be self catering you can also buy some fresh produce for your evening meal. The Tournai Flower Market erupts in to sound at 4PM as the Municipal Wind Band of Tournai’s Fire Brigade play a concert for the crowd.

Royal Greenhouses in Laeken

For a short period each year the Royal Greenhouses in Laeken are open to the public. In 2015 they will welcoming visitors from April 18th to May 9th. We highly suggest a trip to Laeken if you are in Belgium over this period. The gardens are an institution and landmark of the country, designed for King Leopold II in 1873. This period was a renaissance for greenhouses, as explorers pioneered across the globe searching out exciting and exotic species to bring back home for sizeable fees.

Laeken’s greenhouses have a lot more to offer than your standard flower show. They were originally plotted to be an orangery but now there is a great variety of fruit bearing trees as well as show pieces and endangered species. The greenhouse itself is one of the largest of its kind, and one of the oldest too. As styles have come and gone over the years a lasting imprint has been left at Laeken, you can see the influences from classical to modern in the royal greenhouses’ multitude of sculptures and diaspora of architecture.

Technically beer festival season never really ends in Belgium. It’s favourable to attend during the warmer months though; since a beer garden in the sun is a terrible thing to waste. Throughout April and May there are plenty of outstanding tastings to go to starting with the Great Belgian Beer Dinner on April 23rd. This takes place in Grote Huidevettershoek in the heart of Ghent. Not just aisles of beer vendors you get a sit down meal to help you maintain stamina whilst sampling the finest beers Belgium has to offer.

Next comes the aptly named Night of Great Thirst just two days later on April 25th in Eizeringen just west of Brussels. This event is held once every two years so if you’d rather not wait for 2017 then book now! It all kicks off at 7PM and attendance is free. The purpose of the festival is to spread awareness for all the locally brewed ales of Belgium and get you to sample a few of their distant relatives so there’s plenty of foreign beers on tap too. This Night of Great Thirst marks the tenth year since the festivals founding, they are encouraging peoples international support for beers so bring a flag to help represent your country. If you need anything else to tempt you there will be a free shuttle from the local train station. For more information Click Here

beer festival season

Also celebrating its tenth year is the return of Toer de Geuze on Sunday May 3rd. Geuze is a lambic beer (a blend of younger and older brews). Producers of this famous blend open their doors and invite you on tours which show how it all works behind the scenes, with many a tasting to be had on the way. This isn’t a one stop shop there many breweries to be seen so consider it an orienteering exercise, except finding your way will be easy, you can take your own transport, if you wish, and at each stop there will be someone serving beverages. Sounds grand doesn’t it?

For the Woodstock of beer festivals you’ll want to head towards Leuven, east of Brussels. in Brabanthal, Leuven on the last weekend of April the titan that is the Zythos Beer Festival will be taking place. This event boasts an attendance of over 100 different Belgian breweries proffering an astounding five different different varieties of beer and attendance costs a token 1 Euro. Essentially if getting to Belgium for a foamy weekend is on the cards this is the event to go to. Zythos opens on Saturday at midday and you can take your fill until 11PM then, if you’re up to it, it all starts again on Sunday 26th from 11AM to 9PM.

As previously stated there are beer festivals a plenty in Belgium 2015 we’ll update you later in the year for all the other festivals coming this summer.

P&O Ferries run an overnight service from Hull to Zeebrugge, book now for your Easter break to Belgium

Image Credit: Andre Mouraux , Ajuntament de Vilanova i la Geltrú , (vincent desjardins)

Holiday with P&O Ferries this Spring


Visit France early in 2015 and you can take advantage of the off season, have a great holiday and remain within your budget. There’s still plenty to see and do but it’s best to plan ahead so you can be there for carnival season when towns and cities that seem asleep for the winter months explode in to colour and celebration for the onset of spring. There may be a bite in the air but that’s what keeps costs down and the queues short. As spring and summer approach there will be a lot more holiday makers about which might lessen that personal touch that you can only really get with a winter trip.

Take a P&O Ferry from Dover to Calais this February and you’ll be able to make it in time for the Mardi Gras festivities. In England we mostly just call it Shrove Tuesday, eat a pancake and then go on with our lives – there’s so much more to it across the Channel. As there is a strong Roman Catholic tradition in France the observance of religious traditions still has a firm foothold.

Historically the 40 day fast meant a denial of all meat and dairy products, in a time when it wasn’t easy to store meat, which was expensive at the time, the approach of Lent meant an occasion to clear out the larder with a feast. Perishable dairy goods were mixed to make crêpes and in lieu of the forty day fast citizens would make the most of eating what they wanted while they could. Mardi Gras festivities are famous in the United States but the tradition of partying in the run up to Lent has its roots in France. The major centres to visit are in Dunkirk, Cholet, Nantes, Cherbourg and Mulhouse to name just a few but the most famous is in Nice where the first carnival was held. Time is running out to book a P&O Ferry and be at the heart of it all for Mardi Gras on February 17th 2015!

Perhaps you’re taken with the carnival spirit but need a little more time to get your affairs in order? The famous Dunkirk Festival spans months from January to late March, so you’ll have plenty of time to get there. This carnival has its origins in the the 18th century, when fishing crews would go out on long dangerous expeditions northwards in search of cod. So naturally the days before departure were filled with much merrymaking and the tradition still holds.


As a tourist you might be a bit overwhelmed by the strong spirit of the occasion; those of you who don’t speak French might not get the finer points of the songs but we’re certain the atmosphere itself will have you grinning from ear to ear. The premise of the festival is parading bands of fishermen confronting each other with song, garbed in outrageously insane regalia. The fishing bands compete against each other in various games and sports to win the approval of onlookers. These bouts last the length of the parade, about 5 hours from 3PM to 8PM. The crowd is rewarded as they follow the parade where hundreds of kilos of kippers are thrown from the belfry of the town hall. By all means to try to make sense of it – but it’s more important that you enjoy it.

For your Easter Break there is yet another festival for you to attend, France celebrates Mardi Gras at the beginning of Lent but the small northern town of Cassel marks the breaking of fast (Easter Monday) with their very own special celebrations. The festival at Cassel draws a crowd of around 10,000 people, it’s the last major event of the Flemish festival season so there’s a great ‘last chance’ atmosphere. Everyone is quick to laugh, there’s plenty to drink and to top it off costumed pageantry is the name of the game.

The key figure of the festivities is called Father Reuze a character designed by a local artist Ambroise Bafcop in 1827. He is a giant figure of a man dressed as a Roman legionary, who is head of the ‘Reuze family’ along with Mother Reuse and the four sons. A band of flutes and bagpipes kick up a cacophony of rhythmic tunes to which the family of statues leads the town of Cassel in dance. At the end of the night to the crowds dismay the family Reuze is carried back to the the Flanders museum to rest up for another year.

If you wish to witness the Cassel Carnival then take a P&O Ferry to Calais and Cassel is just a short drive onwards.

Sometimes, dancing frenetically in a costumed crowd late at night in a modest sized village in the north of France just isn’t what you’re looking for in a holiday. If this is the case then do not despair. Events such as the International Kite Festival at Berck-sur-Mer and the Orchid exhibits at the Cistercian vaults of Vaucelles will undoubtedly be of interest.


This April, hopefully on the most blustery day of the year, Berck-sur-Mer hosts one of the largest kite flying festivals in the world. Over half a million attendees look up in wonder as the very best kite fliers mankind have to offer do battle in the air exhibiting their prowess. Teams of professional kite fliers from across the globe will display choreographed shows for the onlookers. It’s not just slick competition though there’s plenty of novelty kites and most people attend for the sheer joy of getting to pilot their own kite amongst all the others.

The Vaults of Vaucelles near Cambrai has been the home of one of the major European orchid festivals since 1900. Though this event draws many of that curious breed ‘the orchid afficianado’ anybody with the slightest interest in horticulture can easily succumb to the charms of orchids. What makes this event so remarkable is that the orchids are notoriously fussy plants and yet they grow quite comfortably in the bowels of an old Cistercian abbey. The display is open from 15th-19th March, going to see these exotic flowers will keep your mind on the tropics those summer holidays are still a long way off.

Take P&O Ferries Dover to Calais service running multiple times a day for your holiday to France this spring!

Image Credit: evriels venefice , Niels Linneberg , Laura D’Alessandro

P&O Ferries: An early look at Holland in 2015


If you are pining for Spring already, well we can’t blame you. Plan ahead for a trip to the Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse opening March 20th. Holland is famous for its tulips and Keukenhof is a very good reason why. The winter months are sure to drag on so make your P&O Ferry booking from Hull to Rotterdam and get to Lisse when the flowers finally bloom.

Up to 7 million bulbs are planted to create a vast carpet of tulips spanning the 32 hectares of open land. This is a hot spot for people planning towards Easter. There’s plenty to do there, Keukenhoff has it’s own hedge maze and petting zoo. Cyclists (who don’t suffer from hay fever) are in their element the flat country and scenic surroundings make it an ideal spot for a family bike tour. More events will be announce later in the year – the gardens stay open until May 17th.

If that’s all a bit too far ahead then we have good news. The Netherlands will be celebrating National Tulip day on January 18th. Tulip growers transform Dam Square in to a island of vibrant horticultural beauty. This is just the tip of the iceberg an anticipated 1.7 billion Dutch tulips will be brightening up the homes of flower fans everywhere this year and the gardeners of the Netherlands like to kick things off right. If you can make your way to Amsterdam this January then you’re allowed to pick a free bouquet of tulips.


Since you’ll be passing through Rotterdam anyway when your P&O lands there take swing by the Kunsthal Rotterdam gallery. They have had Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style on display since late 2014 but the exhibition closes on February 8th.

Kunsthal Rotterdam houses 25 exhibitions annually so check in whenever you’re planning a trip to Holland and there’s bound to be something of interest on display. There’s no one particular type of exhibition at Kunsthal they vary it from the most avant-garde to traditional art of classic appeal.

‘Designing 007′ is an amalgam of all the best Bond imagery that we love the most. Dating right back to the first appearance of Connery in 1962 to Daniel Craig flying the flag in Skyfall James Bond is one the titans of the film industry. It therefore has had a massive effect on social trends, fashion and even technology. This exhibition displays the treasure trove that is the Bond archive – you’ll be able to get up close to all the gadgets and vehicles, admire the wardrobe of not just tuxedos but ball gowns and outfits of the numerous Bond-girls.

This exhibition is open from 10AM-5PM all week except Sunday when the the opening hour is 11AM


For those of you planning to rush out of Rotterdam on to different parts of the Netherlands we’d suggest you stop for a moment to take in the sights of Rotterdam. It doesn’t have to take long, have a ride up the Euromast. It’s the Dutch equivalent of the Eiffel tower – sort of. Spanning over 100m it commands an excellent view of the city and harbour. It’s a fantastic way to start off you holiday – by looking far afield at a new country to explore.

The European Fine Art Fair, lovingly known as TEFAF, is now in full swing. You may not be an art critic but the chance to get an up close look at some of the articles for sale at TEFAF draws a large crowd. Maastricht will be hosting this event until March 22nd.

Attendees vary from critics and dealers to academics and students, craftsmen attend to get an eye for the prices that certain pieces go for and trends can be set accordingly. All of articles are looked over by quality control experts so if you were looking to get involved then trust can be assured. Objects from around the globe and varying historical periods can be found everything ancient coins to medieval manuscripts and turn of the century jewellery can be found at TEFAF.

P&O Ferries run an overnight service from Hull to Rotterdam, start your new year with a holiday to the Netherlands!

Image credit: Leszek Kozlowski , FaceMePLS , zoetnet

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