My first time travelling alone

“Just go for it” I told myself. “What’s the worst that can happen?”.

I was thinking about going on holiday on my own for the first time. I’d always had someone else to share the decision making, the evening meals, even the journey with, so it would be quite unusual – even a bit scary – to be ‘going it alone’. But I wanted to get away. So I stopped thinking of all the reasons for not going. And I booked.

First Steps

Working for Leger, I knew that Single Traveller holidays were part of the programme, and so I decided to opt for one of them – The Beauty of Lake Como and Lake Maggiore – as my first experience of ‘single travel’. Quite literally, a ‘busman’s holiday’!
I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but knowing that I would be on a coach with other people – despite them being strangers – made going on holiday on my own seem slightly less daunting. Having said that, I was still a bit nervous on the morning of my holiday. I was getting a taxi – a woman, on my own – to my pick-up point where I would join my feeder coach. The thought of travelling in a taxi on my own always makes me a bit nervous, but the Door-to-Door service that you get on Single Traveller holidays meant that Leger had sent the car to get me, so I didn’t feel too worried.

Getting to Know You

On the first day of the holiday the people on my tour coach were a bit subdued, but when we’d had our first night’s sleep and everyone was refreshed and ready for the first full day as a group, things started to change.
The following day, as we made our way through France and on towards Italy people started chatting to the person next to them, making conversation at comfort breaks and spending time at the back of the coach in the rear lounge (we were travelling on Silver Service), where everyone seemed to be getting on great. Our drivers did an excellent job of making sure we were all OK and keeping everyone supplied with drinks, and by the end of the week, it might sound like a bit of a cliché, but we really were like one big happy family.

Silver service coach lounge area
Get to know your fellow travellers in the coach rear lounge

Strangers Become Friends

On our days out I enjoyed a walk along the edge of the lake in Lugano with one member of our group; a ride on the Bernina Express Railway through some fantastic scenery with some of our ‘gang’ – some said this was the highlight of the trip; a walk around the little town of Tirana with one lady; and a stroll around the lovely town of Stresa, finding my way around the little streets there with some of the others. We had some really great times. Great memories.

Passing over the Brusio Spiral Viaduct on the Bernina Express Railway
Passing over the Brusio Spiral Viaduct on the Bernina Express Railway
A walk along the promenade in Lugano
A walk along the promenade in Lugano

Our hotel – the Britannia Excelsior in Cadenabbia – was in an excellent location, right on the shores of Lake Como. Some evenings when we came back from our days out I enjoyed a bit of time to myself, having a drink at one of the little bars close to the hotel, just happy to sit on my own, looking out at the views over the lake. It was so peaceful.

The Hotel Britannia Excelsior in Cadenabbia sits right on the edge of Lake Como
The Hotel Britannia Excelsior in Cadenabbia sits right on the edge of Lake Como
Afternoon view over to beautiful Bellagio
Afternoon view over to beautiful Bellagio

As the holiday went on, we all got to know each other, chatting about where we’d been before, whether we’d been on holiday on our own before, what we thought of the holiday etc… We ate together on long tables every night and then moved to the large bar area after dinner where we chatted about the day and what we’d seen and done. When there wasn’t enough space in the bar for us all to be together, we improvised and made our own ‘bar area’ in the hotel’s lounge. We played games (invented by one individual in our group), danced to the live music, sang and laughed until the early hours each day.

No Regrets

Looking back, it’s hard to remember why I’d had any worries about travelling alone in the first place. I never once felt alone, even though everyone was travelling alone. Because of that, I think people made a bit more of an effort to talk to each other and get involved. There were, of course, those people who just wanted to keep themselves to themselves and spend time on their own and that was fine too. There was no pressure to do anything.

No Need to Worry

So, if you’re alone – for whatever reason – and still want to go on holiday, don’t be afraid of travelling alone. If I’d thought about it too much, I could quite easily have talked myself out of it, but now I know I had absolutely nothing to worry about.
If you go on a Single Traveller holiday, it’s your holiday and it can be whatever you want it to be. From my experience, if you want to have time on your own, it’s still comforting to know that the rest of the group is there if you want to join in with them. And if you like to mix and get to know people, there are plenty of people there who also want to get together and make new friends. One thing I would say, is to choose a holiday and a company that’s right for you. See what they offer single travellers. For me, the fact that I got a taxi sent to pick me up and I didn’t have to get one myself was reassuring, along with the fact that I would get my own room without having to pay a single supplement. Just see what’s right for you.

Caroline and her friend Joe
Making friends: me and my friend Joe…
Joe and Caroline on their single traveller holiday
… we’ve become great friends since our trip.

Just the Beginning

Since I joined my first Single Traveller holiday a few years ago, I’ve travelled many times on my own, been to some fantastic places and met so many wonderful people along the way, all of which I might not have experienced if I’d not taken that first step. I’d still not attempt backpacking around the world on my own – that would be a step too far for me – but I have no problem whatsoever in joining a group of people, both single and mixed groups of travellers, who all have the same thing in mind: to see more of the world.
So, if you’re deliberating about going on holiday alone, stop thinking and just go for it.
Share your single traveller holiday stories with us!
To find out more about Leger’s Single Traveller holidays, click here.

The Rhine Valley: on land and water

A day out on Leger’s Romantic Rhine, Fairytale Castles of Bavaria and the Black Forest tour took us along just a small stretch of one of Europe’s longest rivers, the mighty Rhine.

Pastel-coloured buildings of pink, green, yellow and mustard lined the banks of the river amongst clean white churches and half-timbered buildings, all looking like tiny matchboxes against towering hillsides. Above them, I noticed how the land resembled a patchwork of deep green corduroy – stripes left to right, up and down – as if it was a large blanket, holding the hills together.

Colourful buildings line the Rhine

As we began sailing along the calm waters of the Rhine we passed one of the many castles which cling to the valley: Burg Maus – ‘Mouse Castle’, with its distinctive round tower, sitting above the small village of Wellmich on the east side of the river.

Burg Maus
Burg Maus sits high on the east bank of the Rhine.

Through the commentary on our ship we learnt that the castle – official name, Burg Peterseck, and also known as Thurnberg – was built by the archbishop of Trier to protect its borders against the Counts of Katzenelnbogen who had previously built a castle on the opposite side of the river: Burg Rheinfels. In response to the building of Thurnberg, the counts built a larger castle, the name of which was shortened to Burg Katz (Cat Castle), and, according to tradition, renamed the archbishop’s castle Burg Maus (Mouse Castle), saying that Burg Maus would be eaten by their nearby Burg Katz!

Burg Katz sits along the river from Burg Maus
The larger Burg Katz sits along the river from Burg Maus.

A bit further along we passed the rather unusual Zur Klosterschenke – a church which is attached to a pub! To get to the church you actually have to go through the bar. Here, the priest apparently serves at the bar when he’s not covering his other duties. That’s something I’ve never encountered before!

Zur Klosterschenke
Zur Klosterschenke – see how the church is adjoined to the pub!

In Kamp-Bornhofen the two castles of Sterrenberg and Liebenstein stand high on the hill and hold a couple of interesting stories about two brothers from the 13th century. Legend has it that the brothers, who shared the castles, became enemies and a wall was built between the two structures. These castles – one white and one black, seen clearly from the river – are sometimes referred to as ‘The Warring Brothers’.

Cruising along the river

It was a beautiful, sunny day as we continued along the Rhine. Our party were sitting in deck chairs laughing and joking, enjoying a drink and a chat in the sunshine. It was so relaxing, just sitting there, listening to the commentary and taking in the scenery. Flags were flapping in the welcome breeze and everyone appeared to be having a great time.

Cruising down the river
Cruising down the river

Off the ship and back on dry land in the lovely town of Boppard I enjoyed a short walk along the Rhine Promenade before we left for our next visit. Along the promenade people were walking their dogs while others strolled along, eating ice cream or pedalled past me on bikes. Baskets of red and pink geraniums lined the railings against the river adding a hint of colour to the view.

The Rhine Promenade

Leaving Boppard, our next stop was the small town of St. Goar (Sankt Goar). After a short walk along the edge of the Rhine, I was in the centre of town, and immediately spotted the cuckoo clock shop – not hard to do since outside it displays the world’s largest free-hanging cuckoo clock. Behind the clock, up on the hillside I could see the Burg Rheinfels (one of the castles built by the Counts of Katzenelnbogen) which was apparently the largest castle on the Rhine until Napoleon’s army came and blew it to bits! Today, while some of the castle is still in ruins, other parts of the building are a hotel and restaurant.

The world’s largest free-hanging cuckoo clock in St. Goar
The world’s largest free-hanging cuckoo clock in St. Goar.

As I continued along the town’s pedestrianised, central street, lined with souvenir shops, inviting cafés and kondotorei, I could hear the loud ‘tick tock’ of the ‘world’s largest free-hanging cuckoo clock’ following me for quite a distance. I spotted a few members of our party sitting at the cafés, enjoying an afternoon tea break: a pot of tea, a cold beer or a large ice cream.

St. Goar
Rheinfels Castle can be seen from St. Goar’s main street.

Up in the quiet backstreets of St. Goar, the only sound I could hear was my own footsteps. The maze of cobbled streets lead me to a picturesque church, tucked up into the centre of the town, amongst old buildings and streets lined with colourful planters. Following the paths back to the main street, I sat beside a couple of men enjoying huge slabs of cake – a strip of biscuit base holding orange sponge, pink mousse and topped with strawberries. Yum!

Tasty cakes from the konditorei.
Tasty cakes from the konditorei.

But there was no time for cake for me. The day had all-too-quickly come to an end and it was time to leave the lovely little town of St. Goar and the picturesque Rhine Valley after a wonderful, memorable day by the river.
Have you been to the Rhine Valley or experienced a cruise along the River Rhine? Have you been on Leger’s Romantic Rhine, Fairytale Castles of Bavaria and the Black Forest tour? Share your stories with us.

Getaway, What a Great Gift!

Getaway, What a Great Gift!

By Anita Rogers

When it comes to presents, I suppose I’m a little tricky to buy for. I tend to receive a lot of chocolates (although I’m nearly always on a diet) and there are only so many bath sets a woman needs! That’s why I love the idea of receiving (and giving) a getaway gift.

Whether it’s Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day or a birthday celebration, arranging a holiday for those you love is not just an original present but a thoughtful one too. Firstly, a well-chosen trip shows that you pay attention to a person’s interests. Secondly, it provides the recipient with an ideal opportunity to indulge in their favourite places or pastimes without any guilt. And finally, as you’ll most likely book the trip as a pair or group, you could get the added benefit of sharing the trip together.

I think that Leger’s ‘See it Live’ tours make perfect gifts. They’re short, affordable and full of great things to do. Late last year, I went on The Grand Prix tour in Belgium where we filmed a promotional video by the track (which will be available to view here soon). During my 25 years with Leger, I’ve also been lucky enough to experience a few more of these tours too, including Ladies Day at Ascot and the Chelsea Flower Show. And I have to say, I’d be glad to experience any one of them again (hint, hint)!

Winners circle at Ascot
Ladies day at Ascot

Each one offered something totally different to the next, whether it was picking up a rare plant at the flower show, having a flutter on the horses or hearing the roar of an F1 race car from the track side. In my opinion, there’s no better way to see a live event than to get close to the action and experience the atmosphere first-hand.

Brussels Jazz marathon stage
Brussels Jazz Marathon Festival

Should any of my friends or family happen to read this post in time for my birthday, I would very much like a weekend in Brussels to see the Jazz Marathon festival. I also think that the Paris Tour de France would make an amazing gift. If there’s anyone else out there who’s sick at the sight of socks, do let us know and we can pop a strategically-timed brochure in the post for you. Feel free to get in touch with your suggestions for new live tours too, we’re all ears.

Visit our website to read more about Leger Holidays’ See It Live tours.

Comfort and Camaraderie

A customer review by Eddie Thompson

When the good people at Leger Holidays asked me to write a post on my experiences of their tours, over a decade of great memories came back to me. My wife sadly passed away last year, but some of my fondest recollections are of our numerous trips together across Spain, France and Italy. In fact, you can pretty much name any Leger European tour and I’d bet you a pound to a penny we’d been on it (at least twice). We were quite the travelling twosome!

Nowadays, I travel with the friends I’ve made over the years on Leger tours and we already have some exciting trips lined up for 2013; Picturebook Italy in March followed by the Costa Brava in April. I’ve not decided on my summer holidays yet though, I’m still waiting to hear what the rest of the gang fancy!
But it’s not just the great company on board that keeps me coming back to Leger. Over the years, I’ve become quite attached to the Silver Service coaches it offers and I wouldn’t want to compromise on the kind of comfort they provide ever again.
You see, for me, when you’re going on an amazing holiday you want to make the most of your experience and it’s often the little things that can make the biggest difference. For instance, I’m 6ft 4in, so you could say I’m a little on the tall side! Due to my height, I’ve always found travelling long distances in cars, trains or coaches uncomfortable. On a Silver Service coach, however, the extra legroom means my legs don’t get stiff after just minutes in my seat or (even worse) seize up when I attempt to get off the coach (leaving me hobbling down the aisle like Bambi)!
Having a bit of banter on board isn’t for everyone but, for a chatterbox like me, it’s essential and that’s where the rear lounge areas found in Silver Service coaches come in handy too. As the social type, I like to escape my seat every now and then, raid the on-board games supply and create my very own travelling games room. And, as nice as it is to sit and watch the world go by, there aren’t many that can resist coming up for a game of rummy, brag or pontoon once we get going! I recall one trip to Sorrento and the Neapolitan Riviera where we had a rummy league running throughout the whole tour. Unfortunately, I was at rock bottom throughout the contest but I made some brilliant friends that day; friends that I still go on tours with today.
Along with the comfort and camaraderie, I have to say that it’s the drivers that really make Leger the right company for me. Not only are they experts in their fields but they continue to make each and every journey a pleasure with their witty jokes and insider knowledge. John and Tony are amongst my favourite characters. I’ve travelled with them both countless times and they always make me laugh non-stop. They’re driving my Picturebook Italy trip in March and I can’t wait to hear the latest news they have to offer and share in a joke or two along the journey.
For more information about our Silver Service coaches, or any other Leger Holidays tours, hop on to the website or give our friendly sales team a call.

Traditional Dutch Stamppot Recipe

Traditional Stamppot recipe

The traditional Dutch Stamppot recipe is a very popular recipe in colder months of the year. It is a combination of root vegetables and mashed potatoes. The Dutch Sausage topping really brings this dish together. Go on give it a try.

What you’ll need

  • 3 carrots
  • 1/2 of a turnip
  • 1 leek
  • 1/2 of an onion
  • 2 lbs potatoes
  • ½ lb sweet potatoes
  • 1 lb butternut squash
  • 1 lb green cabbage
  • ¼ cup of butter (add more dependent on taste)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 ½ lbs of Dutch sausage (Chorizo works well)
  • Optional Cashews

How to cook it

After washing and cutting the vegetables, chop the onion. Peel and cut the potatoes, with the butternut squash, carrots, parsnips, turnip and the sweet potatoes.
Using a large stock pot, place the vegetables in water, this should be brought to boil and simmered for 15 minutes
During this time you can cook the Dutch sausage to the packaging requirements
Once the vegetables are tender they need draining for mashing, then season with salt and pepper to required taste. This is when the cup of butter is added and mashed
Now add the Dutch sausage to the top and serve
For a real taste of Holland why not take a look at our Dutch tours available with Leger Holidays.
The image is courtesy of Flikr user – Incase

10 interesting and fun facts about Ireland

Ireland - River Liffey

Here’s a list of fun facts about Ireland…

  • The longest place name in Ireland is Muckanaghederdauhaulia.
  • The Guinness Brewery in St. James Street Dublin has a 9,000 year lease
  • The Titanic was built in Belfast, Northern Ireland
  • In 1447, moustaches were illegal in Ireland.
  • An odd Irish birthday tradition is to lift the birthday child upside down and give his head a few gentle bumps on the floor for good luck. The number of bumps should allegedly correspond to the child’s age plus one.
  • The national symbol of Ireland is the Celtic harp, not the shamrock
  • Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle, thanks to its lush greenery
  • The St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in Ireland on March 17th which is a national holiday
  • Although set in Scotland, most of the battle scenes in the 1995 film Braveheart were filmed in Ireland.
  • The river Liffey runs through the centre of Dublin and is 75 miles in length

Do you have any facts about Ireland? Please share them in the comments below. Alternatively for more information on any of our Ireland Coach tours follow the link provided.

Romantic trips to take in Europe

Spanish Steps Rome

By Danny Leeming (our very own Leger love bird)!

After proposing to my wife (and colleague) Caroline on the Spanish Steps of Rome, I’ve earned myself a reputation as a bit of a romantic here in the Leger offices. So, when it came to writing a post on the best places to visit this Valentine’s Day, I wasn’t too surprised when I was asked to come forward with my suggestions.

Over the years, Caroline and I have been lucky enough to visit some of Europe’s most stunning settings. However, when it comes to picking out the most romantic breaks to take, we do have some stand-out favourites to share….
Rome: Obviously, as this was the place I proposed, Rome will always hold a special place in our hearts. I remember sight-seeing in the city that day, the ring secretly hidden on my person. I had a slight panic when I had to empty my pockets after setting off a Vatican metal detector, but then later that day I surprised her on the Spanish Steps by dropping to one knee. Thankfully, she accepted! Fond memories aside, Rome has everything you could wish for when it comes to a romantic break. Be sure to take a bike ride around the Colosseum (very Peck and Hepburn) or pop two pennies (for love) into the Trevi Fountain whilst you’re there.
Paris: Although we’ve not been to Paris together, Mrs Leeming and I have both been to the city independently and agree that this just had to be in the top three. Surrounded by buildings like the Notre Dame cathedral, the local cuisine and the French accent, you can’t help but get that fuzzy feeling. They don’t call it the ‘city of lovers’ for nothing! A scenic cruise down the River Seine should definitely be on your list of things to do here too. We were actually hoping to go to Paris this year but, having just found out that we’re expecting our first baby, we’ve had to put those plans on hold for now.
Madrid: It’s not as closely associated with romance as say Paris or Rome but Madrid is a fantastic place to go as a couple. The architecture is stunning, the warm summer evenings are full of atmosphere and the local people are so passionate about their culture, you can’t help but get caught up in it. Caroline and I both share a love of football so would love to see Real Madrid play here. Understandably, that’s not for everyone but there is so much more to do than just watch the footy should you take the trip.
Well there you have it, our top three romantic trips to take. And, after the baby arrives, I’m sure we’ll begin crossing more heart-warming cities off our wish list too. With Prague, Bruges, Florence and Venice still to visit, we’ve certainly got our work cut out but I’ll be sure to report back to you on our findings soon.
I hope that’s enough inspiration to get you thinking but don’t forget to check out our website if you’re still undecided about your Valentine’s break. Don’t forget to consider coaching as your method of transport too. With no directions to argue about and a glass of wine to enjoy as you take in the scenery, coach travel really can be a couple’s paradise – trust me!

Me and Caroline