Entries Tagged as 'P&O Ferries'

P&O Ferries Christmas market destinations


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

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

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French Christmas markets

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

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

Lille

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

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

Caen

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

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

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Dutch Christmas markets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Belgian Christmas markets

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

Ghent

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

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

Bruges

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

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

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

Image credit: LenDog64, Ben SJ, johnthrum

Wine tours in France


P&O Ferries: Wine tours in France

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Burgundy

Burgundy and Bordeaux

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image credit: ROGERIOMACHADO , Christophe DESMOTTES

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dunkirk and Saint Omer


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Champagne and Langres


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image credit: Leshaines123, flikkesteph, Reims Tourisme

Mussel cuisine – it’s that time of the year again!


Mussels in europe

Mussel season is upon us again and this year has been deemed a vintage year for mussels. The port cities at which P&O Ferries make berth – France, Holland and Belgium are the acclaimed mussel eating centres of the world. So here’s our guide to getting some of the best mussels this winter.

Although the classic mussel dish is of course moules frites – steamed mussels served with a side of French fries – mussel cuisine is incredibly ancient. Archaeological digs have found evidence that we have been eating them for over 20,000 years old, and in that time mankind has come to the conclusion that, however you cook mussels, they’re going to taste great.

The recipe for French fries is Flemish in its origin. US soldiers in WW1 took a shine to them when they were in Belgium but since the main language there was French that was the name attributed to the fries. So don’t feel abashed if you find yourself in Brussels eating French fries.

The other traditional part of the dish is the moules mariniere. Steaming the mussels in a broth of white wine, shallots, parsley and butter, really gives them a sumptuous taste. In Belgium this recipe varies considerably to the point where the mussels are cooked in the countries home-brewed pale beers. You’ll also be able to try them with garlic which is more common in France and certainly something not to be missed.

Mussel season runs through the cold period of the year, from autumn to mid spring. The old-world setting that Europe has to offer is truly at its best in the winter months, the strongly brewed beers of Belgium rarely seem sweeter than when there’s frost on the panes and the country pubs have a crackling fires. Mussels also make a fortifying meal; they’re high in protein but low in fat so, if you can avoid chocolate and waffles but get some walking in, you won’t feel nightmarish once you get home either.

During mussel season the cities near the coast are best for the very freshest of mussels, places like Bruges and Ghent are in close proximity to the sea and both boast some truly top tier restaurants. Here a couple of our favourites:

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La Dentelliere Bruges

A beautifully rustic restaurant facing the Lake of Love, can you beat that for romance? It’s placed on the old horse road routes, so there’s an antiquated feel to the setting that can only come from the sound of horses’ hooves clopping on cobbles. If the weather’s right then sit outside with a cold beer and a bowl of fresh mussels steamed in white wine – heaven.

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Breydel-De Coninck Bruges

This establishment has been running for over 50 years. It’s an excellent spot to stop for lunch as it’s centrally located in the heart of Bruges. Famous for its seafood, mussel season is the time to guarantee yourself a perfect plate of moules. And if you’re feeling adventurous why not try their Moules Aphrodisiaque – Oh la la!

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De Peerdestal Antwerp

The name translates as ‘The Horse Stable’ and has a 40 year old heritage. It is a great place for moules – although, these being the Netherlands, remember to ask for mosselen – and make sure you try them with curry, delicious. You’d do well to call ahead and make a reservation first though.

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Chez Leon Brussels

Speaking of restaurants with heritage, the Chez Leon dates back to 1893. Their house beer, Léon, is served from the barrel and home-made. This is an impressive venue with two floors and a decor that really captures the sophisticated essence of Brussels; the perfect accompaniment to a bowel of delicious in season moules.

 

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Main-square restaurants tend to do so well because of their prime location. You are guaranteed high quality cuisine and attentive staff but they tend to be quite expensive. Mussels aren’t exactly a delicacy, they’re a food for the masses, market stalls sell them by the bagful and the first hauls of the year are celebrated with street festivals that leave behind vast hills of mussel shells. The locals know how to cook a good mussel, and there are plenty of independent restaurants which offer great value and tasty food.

 

Mussels around the world

The ‘authentic’ Belgian mussel taste is sought after all over the world, there’s even a Belgian Café in Doha, Qatar – that’s how far out man’s taste has stretched for European-style mussels.

France and the Netherlands also have a huge mussel culture. The main farming area on the coast of Holland, Zeeland, is the world’s main exporter of mussels, and a considerable amount of them end up in Belgium. France recently granted moules de bouchet (mussels grown in the bay of Mont St Michel) the appellation d’origine controlee (AOC). This distinction has previously been reserved for wines and cheeses, so it goes to show how much the French think of the mussels here. Moules de bouchot are highly sought after because of their firm orange/yellow flesh and strong taste.

Some parting words on moules etiquette. The accepted way to scoop them out is by using the shell of a mussel rather than a fork. You won’t be burnt as a witch for having a preference for cutlery, but it’ll help you blend in to your surroundings a bit better.

Image credit: KwajKid

Europe’s hidden romantic treasures


Paris, Amsterdam, and Bruges- They are known as the most romantic cities in Northern Europe. But there are plenty of  steamy and dreamy places scattered across France, Belgium and the Netherlands that would make for great  getaways too.  Here is a guide to our favourite “hidden” romantic destinations you and your other half should pay a visit to.

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  • Deauville
    Known as “the queen of the Norman beaches” and “the Parisian Riviera”, Deauville is one of the most popular seaside resorts among the French and international upper class. The town services can meet the most demanding needs. A wide choice of luxurious 5 star hotels, glamorous designer shops and a renowned casino make Deauville the ideal destination for hedonist couples in search of the finest worldly pleasures.
  • Nudist village Cap d’Agde
    We’ve all got different ideas of romanticism and, needless to say, whatever makes you and your other half happy makes us happy too. Therefore, if spending endless hours naked is your ideal vacation you’ll love Cap d’Adge’s Naturist Village. Only an hour’s drive from Montpellier, this unusual summer resort has its own rules and traditions, with total nudity being the norm not only on the beach but also in restaurants and hotels. For more information visit the Cap d’Adge Village official website
  • Annecy
    Situated on the lake of Annecy and surrounded by the Aravis mountain range, Annecy is possibly the most romantic city among the hidden French destinations. Rightly honoured with the nickname Venice of Savoie, the city is immersed in a surreal magic atmosphere due to the incredibly well-preserved medieval center and its stunning network of canals. The Italian and Swiss borders can be easily reached by car, so you may also want to expand your romantic holidays beyond France.

Feel like driving to France? Take a look at P&O super fast ferry from Dover to Calais. We run up to 46 crossings a day and each crossing takes only 90 minutes.

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Netherlands

  • Kagerplassen (the Kaag Lakes)
    A small lake district in South Holland, the Kagerplassen tends to be forgotten by some guides, which is a crying shame since the uncountable waterways running through the picturesque villages are a pleasure for the eyes. The area offers a decent variety of activities, such as lake cruising, water sports and walking tours. A must-visit for lovers of inspiringly wild landscapes.
  • Haarlem
    The best romantic alternative to the capital. We love Amsterdam, don’t get us wrong, but Haarlem, the capital of North Holland, has stood in the shadow of its bigger brother for way too long. We can almost guarantee there’s not much you will dislike about this charming city and its amazing cultural sites, such as the Grote Markt and the Tulip Centre. If you’re lucky enough to be around in early spring, you may want to drive through the bulb fields in the surrounding countryside. During spring time it’s filled with an explosion of colours and emotions that will never leave your couple’s book of memories.
  • De Groote Peel National Park
    Europe’s biggest peat-bog, De Groote Peel National Park, is the ideal destination for all lovers of immense landscapes and intense silences. The park is no regular bog: it preserves a uniquely large peat that has survived human cutting which used to be extensive in the past. One of the richest varieties of birds in Europe enriches the network of lakes and heath land with an explosion of colours, which you can comfortably enjoy from the 3km route of bridges and footpaths. Located only a 40-minute drive from Eindhoven, De Groote Peel National Park is an easily accessible and attractive destination.

Driving to the Netherlands has never been easier thanks to P&O Ferries. Our Hull to Rotterdam route will make your romantic getaway the most comfortable experience of your life.

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Belgium

  • De Haan
    This might not be the sexiest place you’ve come across in your life but it offers a quiet life away from the rest of the world, with easy access to attractions at the same time. De Haan offers not much more than peacefulness, gorgeous Belle Epoque architecture and Albert Einstein’s house. We think that’s plenty, but should you get bored, Bruges is only a 30-minute drive away. If you happen to be around in the summer, you have easy access to the whole Belgium coastline as well.
  • Ghent
    Bruges is known for being Belgium’s most romantic city, but why not try somewhere new? We at P&O Ferries recommend Ghent, Belgium’s second biggest city and certainly a great romantic alternative to Bruges. The splendid architecture the medieval architecture of the city alive. Ghent also sports Belgium’s largest car-free area, and its well-signed walking paths will help you to enjoy your visit to the fullest. The city hosts many cultural events throughout the year, and if you love good food, you’ll be happy to hear that a vibrant culinary tradition is well alive. But Ghent is much more than this, which is why we believe you should definitely give it a try.
  • River cruising
    There’s hardly something more romantic than dining under a starry sky on a boat. You can take several different river cruises across Belgium, you just need to choose which suits you best. P&O Ferries recommend you this 5-day cruise in North-East Belgium . Share a boat with six other people and be introduced to Belgium’s hidden treasures such as the castle of Ooidonk St. Martens Latem from a unique barging perspective.

P&O Ferries have a convenient daily ferry that takes you from Hull to Zeebrugge overnight.

A guide to the best events in Belgium summer 2012


Brussels Flower Carpet

Brussels Flower Carpet

Most European cities can be deadly quiet in August, so we want to be sure that you’ll have loads of fun during your holiday in Belguim. Therefore, we’ve made you a complete list of our favourite upcoming events in Belgium’s main cities. Enjoy it.

BRUGES

  • Klinkers (July 27 – August 8 ) One the most popular events among Bruges’ youth, Klinkers open-air festival, has a lot to offer tourists too. Enjoy the magic of an entire day immersed into superb live music, films and comedy shows in amazing venues throughout the city centre. We at P&O Ferries can assure you it won’t be a let down.
  • MA Festival (August 3-12) If you’re hungry for knowledge then you’ll be happy to know that a wave of culture is about to invade Bruges. The MA festival will turn your holidays into a memorable cultural journey thanks to an incredibly wide variety of events such as nocturnal concerts, lectures and international organ and instrumental ensembles.

Do you want to attend any of these events? P&O Ferries have convenient ferries to Zebrugge, which is only a 30-minute drive from Bruges.

BRUSSELS

  • Maypole Festival (August) If you’re a fan of out-of-season extravaganza you’ll probably enjoy this one. For centuries, a maypole (or Meyboom) has been raised in Brussels every August to commemorate a wedding that took place in 1213. Even if you’re not into maypoles you’ll certainly enjoy the costume parade that accompanies the pole to the Grand Place. It’s one of the most popular events among locals, and guaranteed fun!
  • Brussels Flower Carpet (August 14-19) Every two years an unusual carpet made of flowers covers Brussels’ most beautiful square, Grand Place, which is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nearly a million colourful begonias are set up over a 19,000 sq ft. area to portray beautiful scenes from Belgian history and folklore. A must see (and smell) for both adults and children.

Brussels is a short journey from Zeebruggee port , one of P&O Ferries destinations.

ANTWERP

  • Navigaytion/Gaypride (August 6-12) No matter where you are, Gay Pride is one of the most extraordinary manifestations of human tolerance and, let’s face it, loads and loads of fun (and often drunkenness). But in Antwerp, Gay Pride has a unique meaning. Here the gay community is particularly vast and well integrated, a reason why the programme makes the most of the venues throughout this beautiful city. Get ready for art exhibitions, dj performances, parades, street parties and much more.
  • Rubensmarkt (August 15) While some countries are busy celebrating the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Antwerp keeps its feet on the ground and commemorates the greatest Flemish painter of all time, Sir Peter Paul Rubens. For this occasion the area around the Grote Market goes back in time and fills with market stalls recreating Rubens’ beloved Antwerp. Lovers of vintage shopping will be in heaven.

Only 40 minutes away from Brussels, Antwerp can be easily reached by car from Zeebrugee too.

A guide to the best events in France summer 2012


paric beach

A beach in the heart of Paris

Travelling around France in the coming weeks and not sure what to do? The period between late July and early August is not the busiest as most French people take their holidays then. But no need to panic, here is a list of events you may want to attend on your French holidays.

PARIS

  • Paris Plages/Paris Beaches (July 20-August 19) Let’s hope for sunny weather during your Parisian holiday. For the tenth year in a row, the Seine banks and many other spots across the whole city turn into full-fledged beaches. The incredibly extensive programme offers activities that will certainly entertain both adults and children: beach volley, water sports, aqua gym classes and evening concerts are just some of the ingredients for a memorable tropical holiday in the heart of Paris.
  • Tour de France (July 22) If you’re a fan of cycling, you can’t miss this one. On July 22 the 99th Tour de France, the world’s most prestigious cycle race, finishes on the famous Champs Elysees. Strong emotions are guaranteed for the final stage, a moment that will certainly make for an unforgettable holiday. Get your handkerchief out and watch the cyclists pass the finish line.
  • Rock en Seine (August 24-26) Just outside the Parisian borders in the Domaine National de St. Cloud, Rock en Seine is France’s biggest rock music festival. Enjoy three days of superb rock music immersed in a melting pot of spectators and get ready for this year’s big names: Green Day, Placebo, Deus and The Black Keys.

ROUEN/ NORMANDY

  • Les Musicales de Normandie/Normandy Classical Music Festival (June 16 – September 2) Over the summer, Normandy fills with classical music thanks to Normandy Classical Music festival. The aim is to promote local architecture through concerts in churches and abbeys. The festival honours some of the greatest orchestras in France and voices such as Sophie Marin-Degor, Chantal Santon, Magali Léger and Marie Gautro. You can download the full programme here.
  • Les Terrasses du Jeudi Festival / Terraces on Thursday (until July 26) Scattered across some of the most beautiful spots in Rouen, Les Terrasses du Jeudi offers great quality rock, jazz and hip-hop performances by regional and national musicians. As the name suggests: If you don’t want to miss the fun, be there on Thursdays.

CHAMPAGNE

  • Medieval summer at the Sedan castle (July-August) While on a family trip in the Champagne area you probably want to avoid wine tasting sessions as kids and a hangover isn’t exactly a good combination. Instead, why not spend the day at the Sedan Castle, the largest castle in Europe? During the summer, there are tournaments of chivalry open to the public, which include spectacular fights between medieval knights trying to knock off their enemies with lances and swords. Great fun for the whole family!
  • Troyes Street Festival (July 20-August 26) Troyes Street festival is a great opportunity to discover the local millenary history from an original perspective. The festival offers an attracting variety of theatre performances with a special focus on local heritage, a must see if you’re hungry for knowledge.

Driving to France is super easy thanks to P&O Dover-Calais ferry and its 25 daily crossings.

Amsterdam events and more Dutch fun this summer 2012


amsterdam gay pride

Planning to travel around Holland this summer but panicking over what to do? No worries, we’re here to help. We’ve examined Holland’s top festivals and celebrations and here’s the definitive guide to the best upcoming events for summer 2012.

AMSTERDAM

  • Gay Pride festival (July 28 – August 5) There is something to experience for everyone at the Gay Pride festival and, needless to say, Amsterdam’s edition is no exception. This year’s program is incredibly extensive, including sports and numerous cultural initiatives, but the climax of the Festival is the canal parade on the 3rd: a powerful and slightly naughty celebration of diversity and fun across Amsterdam’s stunning network of canals.
  • Comedytrain International Festival (June 27- 4 August) Laughter is the cornerstone of any memorable summer trip, which is why P&O Ferries suggests you to visit the Comedytrain International Festival, possibly Europe’s largest stand-up comedy event. Performances are in English and the organizers have managed to get some of the world’s best comedians booked, such as Adam Hills (Australia), Eddie Bannon (Ireland), Adam Bloom (UK), Paul Provenza (US) and Ron Vaudry (Canada).
  • Hartjesdagen/Little Hearts Days (August 17 – 19) For one weekend a year Amsterdam’s men and women experience the true meaning of being soul mates, literally ending up in their partners’ clothes. According to folklore, the origins of this cross-dressing festival go back to a time of the year in the Middle Ages when plebeians (yes, that’s you) were allowed to hunt deer, an activity normally reserved for nobility. The connection with today’s extravagant celebration is hard to see, but still, we believe you’ll have lot of fun with this one.

Amsterdam is just a one-hour drive from Rotterdam, one of P&O Ferries’ main destinations.

ROTTERDAM

  • City Racing Rotterdam (August 26) Every year in August the City Racing Festival breathtaking demonstrations by top international race car and F1 drivers to the heart of Rotterdam. This year’s special guest will be first-class F1 driver Nico Rosberg from Mercedes GP team.  A must-see for all petrol heads.
  • Zomercarnaval (July 28) One of the largest parties in Europe, Zomercarnaval will add a tropical flavour to your Dutch holidays. Every year Rotterdam’s summer carnival is peacefully invaded by more than one million people from all over the world. We recommend the Battle of Drums, a music event where over a hundred percussionists try to, literally, beat each other into submission.
  • Day of romantic music (August 12) If you’re visiting Rotterdam with your other half you don’t want to miss one of Europe’s most romantic moments. If you dedicate an entire day to relaxing at Het Park, you‘ll discover numerous concerts scattered across this renowned venue. Expect to see and hear everything from classical and popular romantic music to arias and gipsy folk.
  • Pleinbioscoop (August 15- 21) Have you ever watched a movie under a starry sky? Well, in Rotterdam there’s a first time for everything: enjoy the latest hits from the world cinema right in the heart of Museumpark, a venue well-known for its unique atmosphere.

P&O Ferries has a convenient overnight ferry from Hull to Rotterdam: only £189 each way for 2 people with a car and your own ensuite cabin.

DUTCH SUMMER CARNIVAL

Wherever you’re staying in Holland this summer get ready for out-of-season carnival! For the 22nd year in a row between June and August De Parade theatre festival travels though Holland’s major cities filling public spaces with dance and theatre performances, fine restaurants and DJ performances. Kicking off in Rottterdam’s Museumpark, De Parade’s summer extravaganza passes thorugh Demn Haah (6-15 July), Utrecht (20 July – 5 August) and Amsterdam (10-26 August).

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