Entries Tagged as 'P&O Ferries'

Come to France this Summer and smell the Roses


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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.

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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


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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.

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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.

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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


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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

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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


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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.

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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.

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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


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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.

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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

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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

Looking to the New Year in Belgium


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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

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