Published: 16:39, 23 January 2020
| Updated: 09:32, 29 January 2020
Just a warning. I am going to talk about Europe and I will be mentioning the B-word several times.
No not Brexit. Bruges!
The Belgium gem together with nearby Ghent, are often overlooked as perfect venues for a short term trip by ferry.
And now the fun doesn't have to begin on the other side of the Channel, because DFDS ferries ensure the journey is effortless from the moment you park your car on the ship.
Whether it's just a cup of coffee or a chance to enjoy some fine dining, DFDS offers it all.
My short break was all about food (and the occasional Belgium beer) and the onboard cuisine equals anything found in many top rated hotels.
The staff take a great deal of pride in sourcing much of it locally - from vegetables to bread, from sauces to ice cream.
DFDS's food and beverage manager Dave Lewis is a man who is clearly passionate about the food served in his restaurants.
As he says: "Using the best quality ingredients helps create the best quality dishes."
And there was so much quality to choose from in the restaurants - including a plethora of fabulous cakes. For someone with a sweet tooth they were impossible to refuse (that's my excuse).
The Channel crossing was quick, smooth and hassle-free.
And then onto Ghent just a few miles away. While I have visited Bruges dozens of times, this was my first trip to this wonderful city in the heart of Flanders.
The city has been around for nearly 1,400 years and is situated where the rivers Scheldt and Lys meet.
Like its sister town Bruges, it has its own charm and culture and is best enjoyed by foot or boat. Or if you are more energetic, by bicycle!
Setting off from St Veerleplein near the Castle of the Counts, then on past the Old Fish Market and onto the steps of the Korenlei before enjoying a sharp intake of breath when I saw the view from St Michael's Bridge with its view of the city's trio of towers.
And a leisurely trip by boat on the waterway is a great way to enjoy the city's exquisite beauty, slipping past ancient buildings and castles..
I headed for the Gruut Brewery (naturally) which is quirky, packed and full of laughter, and a wonderful choice of beers and then calling in atMémé Gusta in Burgstraat for dinner.
And then onto Bruges - a town which holds a lot of special personal memories for me.
I have always believed that Bruges has all the beauty of Paris, oozing charm and sophistication with lots of chocolate and lace (my wife loved the lace, I scoffed the chocolates).
Another great advantage that this ancient medieval city has over Paris is everything is in easy walking distance along picturesque cobbled streets.
There are so many places to stop and enjoy along the canal - whether it's street musicians or the architecture, it is easy to understand why the city was chosen asthe backdrop for the thriller, 'In Bruges', which starred Ralph Fiennes.
This is a place you can enjoy on foot, in a horse drawn carriage or on aboat on the canal - and at a leisurely pace.
It is also worth popping into a wonderful restaurant called Balls and Glory which specialises in oven-baked Flemish meatballs with a variety of fillings, washed down with some more Belgium beer.
And if you want to know how they make such tasty beer, then its worth visiting Bourgogne des Flandres brewery in Kartuizerinnenstraat for an insight into the brewing process and also a tasting at the conclusion of the tour.
If you get the chance to attend the Kookeet food festival in the city then don't miss it. Sipping a glass of champers while tucking into food prepared by 31 Michelin-starred chefs is just out of this world.
Each year more than 100,000 food fans flock to this culinary show and it's worth every minute.
And then it was back to the ship for another wonderful meal in the Brasserie with its seaview and a la carte menu.
Brexit maybe about to happen, but Bruges and Ghent will always be there to remind us that these lovely cities are just a short trip away.
And returning aboard one of P&O Ferries’ 90 minute sailings Calais to Dover is also a great experience.
There is a variety of cafes and restaurants, including The Brasserie and Food Court.
Or if you are looking for more comfort for an extra £12 you can book your place in thee Club Lounge.
The £49 cost for your car also includes up to eight passengers. The food was excellent, tasty and made the return leg a joy.
My short break to Bruges and Ghent was organised by Discover Ferries and Visit Flanders, with the outbound crossing from Dover to Dunkirk provided by DFDS and the return crossing from Calais to Dover provided by P&O Ferries. Journey time from Dover to Dunkirk was 2 hours and from Calais to Dover 1 hour 30 minutes. Fares start from £49 on way for a car and up to nine passengers. I stayed in the Novotel Gent Centrum, prices start from £109.00 per room per night, and the Radisson Blu in Bruges, prices starts from £93 per room per night, both based on double occupancy.
P&O Ferries is a leading pan-European ferry and logistics company, sailing 27,000 times a year on eight major routes between Britain, France, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium. It operates more than 20 vessels, which carry 8.4 million passengers and 2.3 million freight units annually.
More by this authorPaul Hooper
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