Entries Tagged as 'P&O Ferries'

Looking to the New Year in Belgium


Grand Place, Brussels

Christmas may still be yet to come but soon it will be 2015! P&O Ferries takes a look at all that you can get up to bringing in the New Year in Brussels and what not to miss if you find yourself taking the overnight ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge in 2015.

If you are planning to ring in the new year with a bit of excitement then why not travel to the continent and live it up for one night only in Brussels? The Grand-Place is the place to be – book ahead and don’t get waylaid by the crowds. A big countdown clock is projected on the Place de Brouckere starting at 6PM to start it all off so get there early and pace yourself!

The midnight fireworks will be fired off from Mont des Arts if the crowds at the main hubs (Grand-Place and Bourse) then at least you’ll know which way to be facing. New Year’s always brings high hopes and to avoid having them dashed plan your journey out. The metro and street cars will be available until 2AM and there’s a night bus service from midnight to 5AM so make sure you get back safe.

If you are focussing on Christmas for the time being then you can celebrate in Antwerp. Their Christmas Market stays open until 15th January 2015, you could miss the big day entirely and still manage get in to the spirit in Belgium. The opening part for the Antwerp Market is on Saturday 6th December and you’ll be able to look for festive fun at Groenplaats, Handschoenmarks, Grote Markt and Suikerrui.

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Beginning late January and open until May 17th 2015 the Museum des Beaux-Arts in Mons will be home to an in depth collection of Van Gogh works, letters and sketches. Normally we would recommend a trip to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam but the Mons museum is being loaned an amazing selection of correspondences between Vincent and his brother Theo, some of which hint at the life he might lead as an artist.

The exhibition is called Van Gogh in the Borinage, the Birth of an Artist.

One of Belgium’s main pleasures for winter tourism is the setting itself. As a relatively small country it is steeped in a historical heritage that so well preserved the major cities themselves are immersive to the casual wanderer. We have spoken before the beauty of cities like Bruges in the winter. The winding avenues and canal network perfect for a brisk winter walk only to be topped off in a cafe with a locally brewed ale. Bruges is home to many world heritage sites, a guide book and a sense of adventure will be the making of your trip. Real joy can be found discovering the small churches with long histories. The city itself is postcard like from wherever you choose to cast your eyes adrift.

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The port city Zeebrugge, where your P&O ferry will land mostly comes to life during the summer when the fish markets are in full swing and the beaches drawn in crowds. For winter travellers though this is the ideal opportunity to see the bones the of the city. Travel the roads that the summer crowds love and Belgium in the heart of winter. It’s a thoughtful time of year, a time to spend with the ones you love the most. Cities like Zeebrugge can draw people together because there’s less of the bustle.

P&O Ferries offer a 2 person return deal with a car from Hull to Zeebrugge, Belgium with an ensuite cabin for just £149!

Image credit: Steven Zucker , Katherine , Wolfgang Staudt

A P&O Ferries Christmas in France


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Christmas tourism is all about attending the markets. All the locations P&O ferries can take you to have famous markets. Should you choose to sojourn across the Channel to France this December you’d be hard pressed not to come across a festive fair. France makes for an especially delightful winter getaway whether you want to buy presents, gourmet cheeses, go antiquing or bring back a particularly fine vintage to open on Christmas Day.

One of the largest Christmas markets to attend in France is also the one with the oldest traditions. The Strasbourg Christmas market attracts over 2 million attendees and runs for five weeks from 28th November to New Year’s Eve. It boasts a unique attraction as ‘the’ original christmas market in Europe – dating back to 1570 when Christkindelsmarik ‘the market of the Infinite Jesus’ was first held.

This is a major cultural event – the market is essentially the christmas capital in Europe. 300 chalets spread across 11 locations are open to ply their wares and spread good cheer. 500 separate events are scheduled to keep the crowds entertained and you’ll definitely want to make pilgrimage to the centrepiece a 30m Christmas tree at the very heart of it all!

Another historic festive event in France is the Festival of Lights in Lyon. This tradition began on the 8th December 1852 when the townsfolk lit candles at their windows to celebrate the raising of the statue of the Virgin Mary. This is now a major tradition that’s been expanded to delight the attendees of the four day event who come in droves. For four nights light artists present over 70 displays of their craft to illuminate the city. New talents have had their first chance to be put on the grand stage and even if you are new to light art it’s easy to be overwhelmed and astounded.

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The Fragrances if Winter Christmas Market in Amiens is one of the largest in north France. Its focus is mainly on gastronomy gathering the best foods from Frances winter cellars – cheeses, meats and wine galore that alone will make it worth the trip. This market opens at the end of November running through to 31st December.

Amiens is a welcoming city and the festival brings out the best of it all. There, of course, will be plenty to draw you in to the Christmas spirit from illuminations, carolling and ice skating. The kids will also be able to make the most of it at the big fair ground where all the best sweets can be found. In the mean time you can peruse the 130 chalets selling gifts and unique decorations for you to set up when you get back home.

Our third recommended Christmas market is in Arras. It will take a few hours drive through the French countryside but you can bring your car on the Ferry to fill up on festive goodies to make the trip back to Calais less of a chore. The market opens 28th November and runs right through to Christmas Eve.

It will absolutely be worth the trip with one of the finest settings in Europe. Arras’ Grand Place is an architectural marvel – when there’s a chill in the air and a bustling festive crowd you’ll find that Christmas spirit guaranteed. The market will play host to 90 exhibitors with a pedestrian district opened up for Christmas tourism.

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The Arras Christmas market packs in all the fun with fairground rides, carousels, ice skating and live music.

If your planning to spend Christmas in the comfort of your own home but want to get to France come the new year then one of the first events worth crossing the the Channel for is the International Fantasy Film Festival in Gerardmer. This happens once a year during the last week of the month, this year near 35,000 spectators were in attendance for its 10th anniversary.

You need not be concerned if your French is a little rusty, the Fantasy Film Festival is intended to broaden horizons showing a diverse selection of films their original language with subtitles. Its focus is on European and Asian cinema by less well known directors, the meet and greets and talks help with the development of new talent within the industry as well as to entertain the crowd.

There’s lots to see in between shows, the festival attracts a vibrant audience to discuss new ideas and offer a stage for new perspectives. You’ll see everything from street performances and live music to Indie video game trials make-up competitions and a literary salon where writers get the chance to enhance their scripts.

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: Steven Zucker , Tristan Schmurr , Dennis Jarvis

A Winter wonderland in the Netherlands


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Opening this month on October 11th is a unique exhibition highlighting the impact of 19th century fashion on modern day designs as well as the many social implications a persons garb had in the era itself. There will be plenty of fascinating insights in to the era as a whole but the display itself will be a wonder. Familiar costumes from film and television adaptations such as Downton Abbey, Jane Eyre will be there for you to marvel at. It isn’t all counterfeits and costumes though. Some of these articles have been carefully restored to be put on display for the first time. If you would like to take a look back in to the clothing of the past then visit the Gemeentemuseum in the Hague. The exhibition is called Romantic Fashions: Mr Darcy meets Eline Vere open to the public up to 22 March 2015.

Your last chance to be a part of history is coming up. The festivities celebrating the two hundredth anniversary of Hollands independence after annexation by the French will be drawing to a close this November. The Prince of Orange’s originally returned on November 30th 1813 but wasn’t crowned as King Willem I until September 1815. To mark this period of time the Dutch have been celebrating for two years. The people of Holland are celebrating the development of their country over the last two centuries, how its democracy has evolved and the population changed. The Dutch will be championing themes such as ‘unity in diversity’, ‘stable governance’ and ‘international orientation.’

If you would like to get to the heart of this momentous occasion then the Soestdihk Palace is hosting the main exhibition. Soestdijk Palace is in Utrecht and was once the palace of the Dutch Royal Family. Opening hours between 9:30AM and 5:30PM.

Candle night, Gouda

Candle Night, ( Kaarsjesavond) this event is a massive candle service illuminating the city of Gouda. This occasion draws crowds in their thousands it is not just special to natives of Gouda. Candle Night is held on the Tuesday before Christmas at the central market square. All the lights are turned off at the Gothic town hall and all the residents and shop owners around the perimeter of the market square place candles in their window. If you are not a Dutch speaker then the Mayor’s speech may be a little lost on you but so long as you cheer once the big Christmas tree is lit at the end then we are sure no one will really mind.

This is a tradition that has been upheld for decades now. Gouda has been a candle making town since the mid 19th century. You may recognise the name from its famous waxy cheese as well. It is an ideal spot made all the more wondrous during the Christmas season with many a quaint walkway, small yet age old churches and Gothic architecture not to mention premium breweries to help spur on that festive cheer.

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Gouda is just an hour train ride from Amsterdam so suitable accommodation won’t be too difficult to find if you plan to make the journey westwards for Candle Night.

Christmas away from Britain will still have a distinctly English feel to it if you make the short trip to Deventer in Belgium with P&O Ferries. The Dickens Festival will be taking over the very heart of Holland at Deventer on December 20th and 21st. Entry is free to an anticipated crowd of up to 160,000 people.

For many, a Dickensian Christmas is the only way to spend the festive time of year. Expect good cheer and a warming setting though winter will truly be underway. Deventer’s Christmas Dickens Festival fills the entire town with over 900 of the 19th century author’s characters from the beloved to the villainous. It has a dramatic literary festival feel to it, you’ll be able to meet all the characters from the reformed Scrooge to the infamous Fagin.

There will be over 200 stands in the main market square, with the sound of choirs and orchestras in the background take a stroll to the scent of English punch (made the old fashioned way) and much on roast chestnuts with a bit of languorous bit of shopping thrown in for good measure.

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New Year’s Eve

So what are you doing for New Year’s? It’s an important question though time is certainly running out if you want to bring in the new year on the continent. Plan early if you want to make it to Amsterdam. As is the case in pretty much every major city on Earth the central squares will be unforgiving to late comers.

The tradition in the Netherlands, besides the customary dose of champagne, is to fill up on oliebollen a deep-fried dough filled with raisins, a wee bit greasy for sure but all the better to keep you steadfast for the long last night of 2014. In Amsterdam the midnight fireworks are best viewed with the atmosphere of the Chinese districts like

Niewmarkt and Dam Square one of the oldest and most important parts of the city.

For a handheld holiday or a wild nights partying take a P&O ferry to Rotterdam.

Image credit: Dennis Jarvis , LenDog64 , Kate Wellington

Autumn events in Belgium with P&O Ferries


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There are some fantastic events lined up for those of you interested in taking a P&O Ferry to Belgium this autumn and winter. The ferry will take you from Hull to Zeebrugge in an overnight voyage and you can choose between standard and premier cabins. The ferry to Zeebrugge is a plush ride with bars and a casino if you want to start your holiday off with a bit of easy living. Alternatively P&O Ferries offer multiple dining experiences if so you can choose between a 3 course meal and something a bit simpler.

This October marks the third edition of the Belgian Beer Challenge which this year is to be hosted in Leuven. Before any of you start polishing your luck tankards this competition is for breweries it’s not an international drinking competition. Over 750 beers from breweries around the globe will be putting their suds to the test. This competition takes place between October 31st and 2nd November. Judgement of the beers falls to a panel of 60 internationally renowned beer connoisseurs (a hallowed position indeed) who at the end of the weekend will award medals for a variety of categories.

Leuven is an oft overlooked location given the renown of places such as Bruges and Brussels; but a beer capital nevertheless. It’s the site at which Hoegaarden is brewed, a worthy site for pilgrimage if ever there was one. For a comprehensive look at all the breweries available to see click here Biking tours are also available. Leuven is a mere 16 miles from the capital of Belgium so it would make it an excellent stopping point even if beer isn’t the entire purpose of your trip to Belgium.

One of the best things about the onset of colder weather is that it means Chistmas Markets. Liege upon the Meuse river is a little bit further in to the country but still well within driving distance of Zeebrugge where P&O ferries arrive in Belgium. The Christmas Market in Liege is one of the oldest and largest in Belgium.

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The market opens between 11AM-8PM remaining open for business up until midnight at weekends. Entry is free to visit the 200 stalls offering seasonal produce and Christmas ware. This year will have a Russian inference from special guest artisans. The skating rink takes pride of place, a wonderfully romantic idea if you are taking a weekend trip away with a partner. For the kids there even promises to be a puppet nativity.

If Liege’s Christmas Market opening in November is a bit too early for you to be feeling festive then wait until December and make your way to Mons. This place has been made well and truly tourist friendly after the World War I centenary. With the approach of Christmas the Mons will bear its ‘Snowy Heart’. It’s slightly smaller than the market at Liege with 50 stalls but there are always plenty of artisan decorated chalets with goods on offer and promises of the perfect gift for that person you never quite know what to get until you see it. It is more than just a market though there’s plenty of entertainment on offer as well. Live music from marching bands will be accompanied by juggling and stilt walkers as well as fire breathing.

If passing awe isn’t enough for you and you want to get a bit active there will also be an ice skating rink at the heart of it all a colossal 900 square metres which is a breathtaking view in itself with all the winter shoppers gliding about between purchases. If you are taking kids along then they should be pleased to know that Father Christmas and Mrs Christmas will also be there getting drawn along in a carriage.

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For a touch of winter wonderment you won’t want to miss the Feeries. A production being put on by the Royal Theatre of Mons. It is a musical event with ballet performances lots of glamorous costumes and rousing music early tickets can be booked for just 25 euro.

Running from mid-September to late December is a season of late night culture. Called Nocturnes, in Brussels where major institutions of learning, museums, galleries and exhibition halls are open until midnight. Last year records were set for the number of people who came to the 54 participating museums during Nocturnes. Brussels is a fantastic city to stroll through during winter, architecture compliments the cold setting making cosiness all the more fulfilling. However after a late dinner it would be a shame to return to your hotel or room and if you didn’t fancy whiling away the night in a bar then a museum certainly offers a novel alternative.

P&O Ferries offer a 2 person return deal with a car from Hull to Zeebrugge, Belgium with an ensuite cabin for just £149!

Image credit: george ruiz , Huhnerauge , glasseyes view

Events in France from late summer to Autumn


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As late summer descends P&O Ferries have drawn up a few recommendations for getaways to France this August and September. The commemoration services for the centenary of World War I continue so be aware that some events will make it difficult to find accommodation. This goes double for the areas around the major sites of the conflict and traffic will be busy close specific services and ceremonies.

Let us first remind you that this will be your last chance to get to the gardens at the estate of Chaumont-sur-Loire castle. Thirty landscape artists have made the gardens around the chateau a picturesque scene indeed but the true skill of their craft shines given the clever way in which the landscapes appeal to the eye throughout the year. The onset of autumn means these gardens will be in transition from the bright colours of June and July to a verdant fruition, welcoming the oncoming harvest.

This year’s garden festival has the theme of nature. The crowds it has drawn vary from professional horticulturalists to nature lovers and those looking for ideas for their own gardens. There is more to it than an idle stroll, it has been described as an ‘open-air contemporary landscape art museum’. The gardens at Chaumont-sur-Loire have been bedecked with sculptures and other works which blend nature and art giving the gardens an almost Shakespearian feel – faery like. This is complemented come dusk as the gardens illuminate from thousands of LEDs to truly transport you to an ethereal plane.

Guided tours are available until late September, if you wish to get an all-encompassing understanding of just what is trying to be accomplished in Loire. The Loire valley on it’s own is an area of outstanding natural beauty if you wish to appreciate man’s attempt at a natural garden then you can easily find settings to juxtapose it with by straying beyond Chaumont-sur-Loire’s borders.

For more on the Loire valley click here

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Time is running short to make bookings for Lille’s long anticipated Flea Market. It will be open to all on the last weekend of August Saturday 31st to September 1st open from 2PM to 11PM. The flea market at Lille is steeped in tradition dating back to medieval times when valets were granted permission to sell off their masters cast off clothes and unwanted belongings.

The market has since grown to record breaking proportions. Last year welcomed over one million visitors. Lille is made in to a pedestrian zone with a 100km space open for people to sell their wares. It’s not just a large garage sale, though members of the public are welcome to turn a profit – craftsman from around France flock to the market to set up. You’ll be able to purchase anything from clothing to home made soap. France is famed for its gastronomy so of course there will be plenty to tantalise your taste buds. If you’re interested in the local traditions then the custom is to window shop over a plateful of Moules-frites that is steamed mussels and chips to you and me. Naturally there will be plenty of alternatives if that isn’t to your liking France is, after all, a country of cheeses, brasseries and of course wine.

One good tip is to pick up a Pass’Braderie for just 4.70 euro giving you access to all public transport over the two day period. As we mentioned Lille becomes a pedestrian haunt so it is advised to plan ahead with public transport.

On a different note entirely; if you’d rather go farther afield and want to do something a bit eccentric then the town of Agen in the south of France could have something right up your alley. From the 29th-31st August they are the proud hosts of the Big Prune Show. To celebrate the tasting of the first prunes of the year. French gastronomy has a very proud tradition but if you frequent France for it’s cheese and wines why not sample the prunes this time. C’mon they’re good for you!

This has been an annual event since 2005 and assuredly has a great family atmosphere along with a gourmet market concerts and regional produce.

This time of year also brings the wine harvest. If you fancy yourself a bit of a connoisseur then the last major tours of the year are available between October and November. To avoid disappointment book ahead. Of course there is never really any shortage of wine for tasting in France but it does make a fantastic trip to see the vineyards whilst laden with grapes.

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To take a more mainstream trip this autumn a family holiday to Disneyland Paris is sure to keep you on your toes. From October 1st to November 2nd the park will be going all out for Halloween. The streets will be littered with pumpkins – if you’re sensitive to the shade of orange then it may be best to take sunglasses. The villains will be taking pride of place as the most haunting time of year draws nigh but there’ll be plenty of chances to catch all your favourites in parades and lots of costumes to bring a spooky atmosphere to the park.

The Musical Water Show at Versailles will be closing come October 26th so this is your last chance to get there. A truly transportive experience the vast gardens and many statues and fountains of Versailles have been given backing music. The baroque stylings of Andre Rousset will give you a unique stirring as you strut the gardens of Versailles – one couldn’t be blamed for daydreaming of joining the aristocratic elite of days gone by.

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:jean-louis Zimmerman ,Jeanne Meni,Olivier Bacquet

Holiday to Belgium this summer with P&O Ferries


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Fancy a trip to Belgium this summer? P&O Ferries can get you and the family their with their Hull to Zeebrugge ferry. The cross channel ferry is decked out with plenty of entertainment, even a cinema and casino for you to really get in to the holiday spirit before landing at Belgium’s port city.

There’s plenty of exciting and interesting events on this summer in Belgium. It’s true the mussel season has just about come to a close but gastronomers will have plenty of traditional fare to keep themselves sated.

The chocolate industry of Brussels is world renowned, for information on chocolate holidays look here. As any true foodie would know Belgium is famed for it’s waffles and is the birthplace of French fries (mistakenly named by Tommies in World War I). So there really is little need to fear that the food won’t pass muster. To cap it all, Belgium boasts some of the finest beers with the oldest brewing traditions in Europe with it’s close proximity to the fine wines of France there’s little excuse not to keep spirits high.

This July is the annually anticipated BrewFest 2014, if you’re struggling to find information about the event it’s very simple – show up in Antwerp on July 5th and make your way to Adriaan Brouwerstraat. Essentially there’s going to be a huge street party complete with DJs live performances and it’s all to be catered by Belgium’s own authentic breweries.

Antwerp is just a short drive from the port in Zeebrugge where your ferry will make berth, one of the great conveniences of a holiday to Belgium is that it is such a compact country that that you can really see it all in just a short time. The more historic sites such as Bruges are deserving of more of your time but if you find yourself in Belgium this July then letting loose on the streets of Antwerp will definitely serve to liven your holiday up. Belgium isn’t all Gothic architecture and canals!

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As well as the centenary of World War I, 2014 is also the 200th anniversary of the birth of the creator of the saxophone, Adolphe Sax. Who was born in Dinant a small city south of Brussels, it’s a remarkably scenic place resting on the River Meuse. You can actually visit Sax’s house if you find yourself down that way, there are hourly trains running from Brussels to Dinant.

To mark the anniversary of the saxophone, the Musical Instruments Museum in Brussels is hosting an exhibition entitled SAX200. This will be a groundbreaking display, the largest public collection of saxophones will be open to the public with contributions from museums all across the world, London, Paris, Leipzig, Amsterdam, New York and more.

Adolphe Sax created various musical instruments as well as some medical tools as well – the display began this February and doesn’t close until January 2015. To book now click here.

One great way to fill an evening on your trip to Belgium is to take the ghost walk at La Roche the castle of Ardenne. You get fantastic walking tour of the castle and learn a bit about Belgian folklore.

Reported sightings of the ghost of Berthe, daughter of the Count of La Roche in the 10th-century are said to be prevalent during the summer months. La Roche is situated to the south of Belgium so if you find yourself that way prepare yourselves for a spooky evening.

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A Titanic Exhibition

A major attraction for British tourists in Belgium this year is the Titanic Artifact Exhibition. Which opens it’s doors on May 31st and runs through to the close of September 2014 at the Brussels Expo. Everyone is familiar with the story of the Titanic but this exhibition will really draw out your imagination. The cruise liner was the very pinnacle of early 20th century affluence, in a time before the world wars had left their scars across society.

Through rigorous preservation techniques and chemical restoration a large collection of rare and fragile artefacts are to be displayed. These vary from scented vials and porcelain to the machinery of the ship itself, cutting edge in it’s day when technology really began to take a turn for the modern.

You can book ahead for tickets, since queues are to be expected. Your tickets give you an allotted 30 minute window to enter the exhibition without having to line up, so make sure you are prompt. Family tickets cost 50€, 15,90€ for adults and 12,90€ for children, under 4 year olds get in free.

Since the exhibition is in Belgium the stories of the crew focus on the Belgians who were aboard. You’ll get to see the luxury of first class cabins compared with second and third. Mementos and forensics of the final hours of the ship should certainly prove sobering.

There’s also a lot of information about the recovery of these artefacts and the reconstruction and preservation of the ship. The effort that’s gone in to bringing this exhibition about itself is a thing to wonder at, given that the wreck was only rediscovered back in 1985 and many of the preservation techniques that are now common practise were not yet invented.

To finish this post we’d like to draw special attention to one of the WWI exhibitions in Belgium this summer. The FotoMuseum Antwerp: Shooting Range – since this war was the first war to be documented on film it’s unique as the earliest experimentation with photography. Cameras were used for strategic reconnaissance as well as propaganda and anti-war protest. This exhibition presents authentic original film with a contemporary lens so you grasp the full scope of the conflict as a turning point for man.

There’s plenty for you to discover in Belgium over the summer months, many more war services are being held, or you can take to the great out doors and visit the scenic towns such as Spa, the birthplace of fictional detective Poirot!

P&O Ferries offer a 2 person return deal with a car from Hull to Zeebrugge, Belgium with an ensuite cabin for just £149!

Image credit: iris, Don LaVange, Michael

P&O Ferries: WWI memorials in France this summer


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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.

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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.

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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


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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.

Easter

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

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

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