Entries Tagged as 'Uncategorized'

Summer in Belgium with P&O Ferries


PIC 1

Royal Greenhouses at Laeken

If you are a botanist, gardener by trade, green fingered or just a big fan of plants then a wonderful annual event is about to happen in Belgium and you can be there if you book with P&O Ferries.

For just 3 weeks each year in spring the Royal Greenhouses at Laeken are open for the public to enjoy. If you miss this opportunity it won’t come around again for another year, so don’t miss out. April 15th – May 6th you have you have your window, the green houses are closed Mondays but for 2.50 euro and free to under 18s you can peruse the greenhouses at your leisure.

To the uninitiated this site is a remarkable feat of engineering, built in the late 19th Century under King Leopold II to compliment his castle at Laeken. Greenhouses are quite commonplace these days but at the time using only glass and metal as your construction tools was as revolutionary as the construction of the first skyscrapers. The architectural style was an inspiration to the art nouveau movement, modernising classical forms such as domes and turrets so that they contrast but fit together with King’s royal seat at Laeken Castle.

Once you are finished marvelling that a building so innovative could be centuries old, you can realise that there are even more treasures within. The reason why Laeken is shut off for roughly 95 percent of the year is that the botanical treasures within are just as amazing as the glass house that nurtures them.

PIC 2

It’s well worth the trip even if you have a passing interest in plants. The gardeners have strived to keep the thematic presence of the greenhouse as similar to their original intent as possible, it is essential a time capsule back to the days of King Leopold II court. Many of the original plants and their descendants still grow at the original site. The greenhouses at Laeken also boast a wide variety of some of the rarest and endangered species of plants in the world, indeed some no longer live in the wild. So short of mounting an expedition deep in to the wilderness you’re never likely to see such species in life, surely worth 2.50 euro and a bit of wander?

It’s a first come first served basis, you cannot book tickets or tours in advance, for more information click here.

Getting to Belgium

The P&O Ferries crossing from Hull to Zeebrugge is roughly a 12 hour trip departing from the North Sea Terminal in the UK at 1900 hours. You must check in 90 minute prior to departure so be sure to plan ahead for your trip.

Passage over night in the Ferry can be as vibrant or relaxed as you wish. You can opt for a formal meal with table service or convalesce in your cabin or at the bar. There’s also on board entertainment should you choose live shows, cinema or on board music, or even try your luck at the casino.

If you aren’t planning a long holiday a quick trip at sea can be just as much fun as a stay over in Belgium. P&O Ferries offer Mini-Cruise tickets, letting you voyage over night with all the amenities that the ferry has to offer and coming back the very next day after a brief jaunt on shore in Zeebrugge. For more information on P&O Ferries two for one deal just £79! Click Here. These include stop overs in Bruges, Ypres, Ostend, Ghent and more.

PIC 3

For a bit of history come to Bruges for May 5th to see the Procession of the Holy Blood . Tickets can be booked now if you require a seat other than that be sure to book in advance. The ceremony dates back to the early 1300s and displays the arrival of a phial containing Jesus’ blood to the city. The relic can be seen on this day, history itself come to life with all the pomp and ceremony that 8 centuries of religious tradition will accrue including a re-enactment of the crucifixion and resurrection in the centre of Bruges. Tens of thousands come to attend indeed it is considered a pilgrimage by the religious. A vast parade of thousands make their way through the city on one of the holiest days of the calendar in Bruges.

For completely different type of holiday to Belgium this Summer you might want to live it large at the Ostende Beach Dance Festival. Running for two rampant nights July 9-10 the beaches of northern Belgium will become the thumping heart of Europe. Don’t forget the Sunday will also have all the fallout from the Euro 2016 football Final so bear in mind the P&O Ferries crossing from Hull to Zeebrugge and Amsterdam will be lively indeed. Ostende’s Beach Dance Festival will have a large screen up for all the footie fans to gather around. Once the match is over commiserations and celebrations abound will surely make it a night too remember.

To book tickets for what’s surely going to be one of the best nights of the year book your trip now with P&O Ferries

Image Credit: OliBac , Martin Lindstrom , Brian Ledgard

Hull To Holland with P&O Ferries


PIC1

Spring is here at last! P&O Ferries have some great deals of you to take advantage of if you want to mix things up a bit and get out there for something exciting this Easter. In this post we’re bringing you the latest offers for P&O Ferries trips to Holland in 2016. Everything you need to know about the Hull to Rotterdam crossing is right here, so let’s get to it.

P&O Ferries’ Hull to Rotterdam crossing is an overnight service, that will get you to your destination in style. The company currently holds the 2016 Globe Travel Awards for ‘Best Ferry Company’ and ‘Favourite Ferry Company’. This isn’t the first time P&O Ferries has taken such prestigious accolades, they have also claimed the title for ‘Best English Ferry Operator’ for the past 8 years. So have no doubt that you’ll be in safe hands.

Since the channel crossing is so well-esteemed it might suit you to book a mini-cruise. P&O Ferries have a brilliant deal on for overnight travel if you’d like to do something different for a weekend getaway or spontaneous escape. The Mini Cruise deal allows you to sail overnight on the Hull to Rotterdam crossing, returning the next day on the same ferry, or you can stay on in Holland for an extra day.

This offer is an excellent choice for couples since P&O Ferries currently offer a £79 two for one deal – both people travel but only one pays £79. This deal also holds for the Hull to Zeebrugge ferry if a taste of Belgian chocolate is what you fancy come Easter.

Pic2

P&O Ferries likes to keep its travelers well entertained for their crossing have no fear that your overnight trip will be spent abed or gazing at the sea, though you are welcome to of course.

Each Ferry is well equipped to keep you, and the kids entertained. You have a choice venue for eating, either a full meal fine dining at The Brasserie which offers table service and fresh courses prepared on board. You can book ahead for a table with an open view of the sea to help you wash down a vintage from the specially selected wine list.

The alternative dining area on board is called The Kitchen this is the less formal option, a simple all you can eat buffet, you also get a discount for booking in advance. To take a look at The Kitchen’s menu click here. On board you’ll also be able to find a Starbucks as well as bars to nourish you during your voyage.

Let Us Entertain You

It would be a terrible way to start off your holiday by trapping bored children on a ferry, have no fear P&O Ferries have got you covered. The ferry has an on board play area, if your kids are at that tumbling stage then they’ll be able to tire themselves out, for summer vacationers an on board Junior Crew Kids Club for 5-11, complete with crew mascot Pirate Pete. Children a bit apprehensive about the Ferry will barely notice they’re at sea with live shows such as The Little Mermaid and Treasure Island to distract them. There’s also craft sessions, puzzles and games as well as colouring in kits for all the kids – and adults as well if you want them. The Video Arcade is an excellent distraction to get older kids out from under your feet, or there are two cinema screens with a range of the latest films, that should have something everyone.

Pic 3

For adult groups, as we mentioned, there are informal bars for you to languish in and make plans for the trip ahead, the on board pianist performs nightly to help you truly chill whilst at sea. If you feel lucky then the casino can certainly be a profitable use of your time. Finally there’s the Show Lounge to make your trip a bit more eventful, you can treat yourself to live music and cabaret, the lounge opens in to a disco if you fancy making a night of it. All the on board bars stock non-alcoholic alternatives so any designated drivers for the next day won’t be put out.

Travel Details

Backpacker, hikers and general sojourners be warned all passengers need to have checked in 90 minutes before departure, that rule isn’t only for people bringing their cars. If you are bringing a pet with you then you are disqualified from Priority Boarding though you will be able to go straight through after filling in a pet manifest. Other than that boarding is pretty simple, of course you will need your passport and be willing to undergo a security check.

From Car to Cabin is a really easy and pain free process, just bring your booking reference with you to receive your cabin key and a hanger to put on your wing mirror, this will designate which lane you are to park your car in. From this space you’ll be directed towards the passenger area and your cabin.

The Spring to Summer months are holiday makers favourite times to visit Holland. The flowers are blooming for the Tulip Festivaland Keukenhoff’s greenhouses are open for you to marvel at. Amsterdam will burst in to a sea of orange for 2016’s King’s Day Festival if you want to join one of the largest street parties in Europe. This year also marks the 500th year anniversary of Jheronimus Bosch, the largest collection of works is now on display at Noordbrabants Museum.

Book now for your P&O Ferry Holiday to Holland in 2016, Cast off is at 1900 hours so don’t be late!

Image Credit: Nick Ares , Jeremy Keith , Wolfgang Staudt

P&O Ferries takes you to see Sade in Antwerp 1st May


Being one of the most revered and reclusive artists in Britsh pop history, R&B and soul singer Sade could happily spend the rest of her life hidden away in her country house in Gloucestershire. Matthias Scherer explains why you’d be a fool to miss her gig in Antwerp on 1 May.

sade

Helen Folasade Adu OBE – or Sade to her legions of fans – is a hugely successful singer and songwriter and has sold more than 50 million records during a 25-year career. Her breakthrough came with ther debut album Lovers Rock, released in 1984, which won the Brit Award for Best British Album the following year. It contains the hit single “Smooth Operator”, which she co-wrote.

Apart from her often emotional, deeply personal songs about the struggles – but also the ecstasy – of love, Sade is famous for her JD Salinger-like avoidance of the spotlight. Before her last album Soldier of Love came out last year, her previous record had been released a decade earlier.

In her early days of fame, paparazzi scaled trees in front of her house to get a shot of her, and, after an interview with a tabloid newspaper, she vowed never to give interviews again (she has since spoken to the press on very few occasions). This fierce protection of her private life might have its roots in her slightly chaotic upbringing – she was born in Nigeria, but moved to England as a four-month-old toddler after her parents’ marriage fell apart.

She then moved around, from Colchester to East Anglia and to London, where she set about starting her career in music. After her song “Smooth Operator” created a big buzz in the music industry, she signed to Epic Records – a label she’s still working with.

Despite her reluctance to play the industry game, she loves playing live. “Whatever anybody might say about me, when I feel the warmth we get back from the audiences , I think it’s worth all the bulls***”, she told The Times last year. After touring only once in 14 years, she now brings her intense stage show to Europe.

This promises to be a very special tour indeed and you should move fast to get tickets. We propose her gig on 1 May at the renowned Sportpaleis in Antwerp, which is easily accessible from P&O’s port in Rotterdam. Tickets are going fast, so you’d be advise to act quickly if you don’t want to miss this fantastic opportunity. Tickets can be bought here or here.


P&O Ferries wants to help you get on your way to this show – the show is on a Sunday, you can take the 9pm ferry to Rotterdam the day before. From Rotterdam, it’s only a 45-minute drive to Antwerp.

Ferry collides with fishing boat between Jersey and France


Nero Multimedia Suite 10

A high-speed ferry collided with a smaller fishing boat beetween Jersey and France this morning, leaving one fisherman seriously injured.

The Condor Vitesse was travelling between St Malo, France, and St Helier, Jersey, when it struck the boat around 8am today. According to eyewitnesses, there was heavy fog, with visibility down to 30 metres. A doctor aboard the Condor Vitesse gave emergency treatment to the injured man.

The injured fisherman is believed to be a 42-year-old man, and is said to be in a “serious” condition. He has been taken to hospital. According to the Guernsey Press, the ferry was travelling at around 37 knots (ca. 43mph), and the fishing boat sank after the collision.

A rescue helicopter was sent to the scene of the accident, but had to abort its attempts at rescue due to the poor weather conditions.

A spokesperson for the Jersey Police said: “The incident occurred northwest of Chausey (French waters) and is being dealt with by the French authorities at this time.

“It is believed that all persons have been accounted for from both boats and that three persons from the French fishing vessel were recovered from the water although the extent of any injuries to those casualties is still being established. There are no reported casualties from the Condor Vitesse.”

A statement released by Condor ferries said: “Condor Vitesse is currently involved in a search and rescue operation in the vicinity of the Minquiers following a possible collision with a fishing vessel.

“Further updates will be issued as more information becomes available. The ship was en route between St Malo and St Helier Jersey on Monday 28th March 2011.”

Jamón ibérico – a damn good ham


Jamon_Iberico_on_Passeig_de_Gracia_Barcelona

We get stuck into a meaty issue (sorry) as Tomas Mowlam explains the culinary wonder of jamón ibérico. Italy has prosciutto, Croatia has Pršut, Spain even has another famous ham – jamón Serrano – so what’s all the fuss? Well jamón ibérico is just a different league of pig based goodness.

The first difference is that Jamón Serrano comes from the white pig, but Jamón ibérico is made from the black pig, cerdo negro, nicknamed pata negra for their thin black legs.

The second major difference is the care and strict regulation with which every stage of the production of the ham is governed.

Piglets are weaned, then fattened on cereals and acorns, and then allowed to roam through la dehesa; groves of holm oaks known as encina in Spain. Chowing down on sweet acorns (bellota) and rooting about on the dusty ground of la dehesa is key to the ham.

The diet of bellota during la montanera, the period from October to January when the acorns fall to the ground gives ham its nutty/olive taste. The pigs have to weigh 160kg or more, and are limited to two pigs per hectare so the little porkers get their fill of bellota.

If they’re judged to have passed the strict regulations they are graded. The top grade is Jamón ibérico de bellota, which means it’s a pure bred pig, fed solely on bellota during the montanera and aged at least three years. It’s pricey too.

It mainly comes from the areas of Salamanca, Extremadura and Andalucia. The hams from Guilejo in Salamanca, and Huelva in particularly the town of Jabugo, are some of the most famous.

The Spanish protection of this makes French defence of Champagne look timid and the rules governing production are so strict that the end result should be excellent whichever mark you buy.

After the pigs go the great slaughterhouse in the sky they’re cured and dried, a process which can take up to four years for the very best hams. And my god is it worth the wait; the jamon is sliced wafer thin and it melts in a salty, ruby-red flavour burst.

P&O Ferries is running the Portsmouth – Bilbao service until the end of the summer, so hop on board while you’ve got the chance.

Image Credit: Tags: Uncategorized by tmowlam
No Comments »

Strasbourg – a surprising city


Strasbourg Cathedral

It’s associated with worthy but dull European institutions like the European Parliament but Strasbourg is a fascinating historic city, writes Tomas Mowlam.

There’s been a town here since the Romans were trying to pacify the truculent German tribes. From the early medieval period it became a major centre of the Holy Roman Empire, and it’s weathered the religious upheaval of the Protestant Reformation, the Thirty Years War, fire and plague, the French Revolution and Allied bombing during WWII.

This makes it all the more amazing that the beautiful historic inner city known Grande Île (literally the Grand Island) has survived. In 1988 UNESCO classified the island as a World Heritage Site, and it’s still linked by the medieval stone bridges across the river to the rest of the city. Many of the traditional black timber framed and white walled German buildings have also survived the ravages of time, giving the town a historic feel.

These marvels however are all dwarfed by the huge sandstone gothic Cathedral of Our Lady. It stands 142 metres tall, towering over the skyline, and it took from 1176 to 1439 to build during the glory years of Gothic cathedral construction in Europe.

For a city of its size, Strasbourg has great selection of museums ranging from the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, with a huge number of Gustave Dore’s works, to the Archaeological Museum which displays thousands of finds from the original Roman settlements here.

But it’s not all museums and old architecture; the University of Strasbourg is the largest in France, and a sizeable student population, both French and international, keeps the town feeling young and vibrant with plenty of concerts and good nightlife.

Strasbourg: a surprising city, and well worth the drive.

Let P&O get you there; a crossing from Dover to Calais in a car with up to nine people starts from just £30.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Rotterdam – city by the sea


rotterdam_skyline

Look out over Rotterdam and the river, feel the salt air coming from the North Sea, and watch countless cargo ships motor by and you might just get an idea how vital the sea is to this Dutch city. And one of the best ways to get a feel for the role the sea has played in Rotterdam’s history is to visit the Maritime Museum, says Tomas Mowlam

Right on the river at Leuvehaven 1, Waterstad, the museum covers the entire port’s history.

Rotterdam first flourished as a vital Spanish port, then in the Spanish Netherlands, during the religious wars of the 16th Century.

After the long war against Spain for independence, the new Netherlands transformed itself into a rich and powerful merchant nation. The Dutch navy ranged through the East Indies, exploring strange new lands and making a fortune in the process.

Rotterdam remained a vital port, but was savagely bombed by the Luftwaffe during WWII as a warning to resisters. Today it is the busiest container port in Europe and the world’s seventh largest port.

There is plenty for the kids to enjoy, learn and play with including the museum ship, the Buffel, a Dutch Naval Frigate from 1868.

New exhibitions running include Animals on board. A look at how animals have crossed oceans, hitching a lift on boats. The family exhibition gives you a chance to “hoist a cow onto the quay, help look after the animals, play the droppings game and shell out for a dodo drumstick at meal time in the galley.”

MainPort Live brings the grandeur of the old back to the centre of the city. As the port has grown it has moved farther and farther from the heart of the city, MainPort Live brings the hustle and bustle back to the many stately ships moored in the river in the centre of town.

Glamour on the Waves exhibition looks at the classier side of life on the ocean wave, with six luxury boat interiors from the past century of luxury boat building.

Open 10am -5pm Tuesday to Saturday, 11am-5pm Sunday.

Image Credit: JeHu68

Ice Cold Sculpture Festival in Bruges


mammoths2

As the weather starts to get really cold, embrace the festive chill with a visit to Bruges and the Ijs Sculpturen Festival writes Tomas Mowlam.

The festival brings amazing ice and snow sculptures each year to the centre of town, and this year’s theme is the film Ice Age 3.

Follow the adventures of Sid the Sloth, mammoths Manny and Ellie, sabre-tooth tiger Diego, and Buck the swashbuckling one-eyed weasel and all the other cheeky critters, through a magical world of ice, snow and light, that kids will love.

The sculptures are rendered in blocks of snow and ice inside a massive tent chilled to -6°C.

The artists come from China, Canada, the United States, Russia, Sweden, Finland, the Ukraine, The Czech Republic, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium.

They use chainsaws, drills, hammers and chisels to cut, shape, carve and polish over 300 tonnes of ice and 400 tonnes of snow into the entire world of Ice Age. Blocks of ice can even be ‘welded’ by using an iron to melt the surfaces together.

The level of detail that goes into organising the festival is amazing, for example the forklift trucks used to move the blocks run on gas, so that no soot from exhausts can discolour the ice.

The ice used to be shipped in from Swedish Lapland, but the artists now work on ice made in West Flanders, in Belgium, in special water tanks that mean no air bubbles can form so each ice block is solid and crystal clear.

The blocks of snow, in fact finely ground ice, are packed down inside wooden moulds for three days, before being worked on.

Based in central Bruges at Buiten Boninvest, it’s just five minutes from the famous Christmas market and ice rink.

It is €13 for adults, €11 for concessions, €9 for kids and under fours get in free.

———

Image Credit: icesclupture.be

Add me to Twitter
Follow the authors on Twitter