When I moved to England, one of the first things I did was visit the incredible stone circle at Stonehenge. I couldn't believe that my husband had never been there before! Ancient monuments, preserved art and traditional celebrations are a wonderful way to explore the culture of a different country, and I always love to visit standing stones and marvel at cave paintings when I'm in a new place.
With Midsummer's Day fast approaching, festivals and events will be held all over Europe to celebrate the longest day of summer. Some of these - like the huge ritual at Stonehenge - are recent creations that pay tribute to our pagan past. Others have been virtually unchanged for centuries, providing a living link to the history of the continent. Here are just a few of the things you can see and do around Midsummer - all within an easy drive of Eurotunnel Le Shuttle.
A reveller jumps through the 'purifying fire'
Bonfires of St John
The summer solstice has been associated with fire for thousands of years, and Spain's astonishing Bonfires of St John are a perfect example of how a pre-Christian tradition can survive into the modern world. In cities and towns throughout the country, huge bonfires are built and brave young people jump across them in an ancient fertility ritual. The biggest and best bonfires are in Alicante, but the whole of Spain is lit up on St John's Eve (June 23rd).
One of the reasons I love Stonehenge is because its majestic stones remind me of an equally amazing monument back home in northern France. The commune of Carnac in Brittany is home to more than ten thousand standing stones, arranged in such straight lines that local legend says they were once a Roman legion turned to stone by the great wizard Merlin. There aren't usually any midsummer events at Carnac, but it's impossible not to feel connected to history when you're there - watching the dying sun light up the stones is a festival in itself.
The standing stones at Carnac
Fête de la musique
The Paris Festival of Music first took place on June 21st 1982, as a way of bringing people out of their homes to enjoy music together. Since then it has spread across the world, with 300 European cities all over the continent filling the air with popular and classical music every Midsummer's Day. Wherever you're planning to travel this summer, there's a good chance that one of the cities or towns near you will be hosting a Fête de la musique - you'll see plenty of flyers advertising the local events. And the best thing of all? Every single musician participates for free, so you can enjoy the best of European music without adding a penny to your holiday budget!
Between Midsummer's Day and St John's Day, almost every town in Europe holds some sort of celebration, from a simple torch lit picnic to an elaborate carnival. And with Eurotunnel you can get to the continent in just 35 minutes, leaving plenty of time to explore these amazing summer traditions! I wouldn't recommend jumping over any bonfires, though...