You may have seen it in the news (or even experienced it first hand) but when it comes to childcare nowadays, it’s often the grandparents that are left holding the baby.
Rising childcare costs have left many parents in a situation where it’s not worth one of them working. Unless of course, good ‘old’ granny or grandpa can help out that is!
Around half of UK families now depend all year round on the older generation, who we’ve dubbed ‘Retired Help’ (get it?) for their childcare. This savvy situation is thought to save more than Â£2,000 per year for the average family and over Â£10,000 for those who rely on grandparents to provide full-time support.
And let’s face it, most grandparents are only too happy to step in. Looking after children is undoubtedly hard work but (allegedly) so much more fun when you can leave them in the capable hands of their parents at the end of the day and go home to put your feet up!
But at Leger Holidays we began to wonder if this reliance was actually impacting on the holiday and leisure time of grandparents and so we conducted some research. And it seems we were right…
The research revealed that over a quarter of Britain’s 14 million grandparents feel that such commitments and responsibilities actually stop them from going away as often as they would like. Interestingly, grandmas are more likely to feel this pressure (32 per cent as opposed to 28 per cent of grandads).
So, whereas historically the mature traveller has always enjoyed more freedom when it comes to holidays, it appears there are now more than 3.5 million of them delaying or sacrificing their dream getaways to help their families.
One alternative of course is for grandparents to go on holiday with their families. But in our research some grandparents admitted *whisper* they didn’t enjoy the experience. One in five said they find it hard work and many also feel they are only invited to provide free childcare. Of course tastes differ across the generations too. Whereas many young families choose to lie on the beach or by the side of the pool, the older generation often prefer to have more experiential getaways, looking for new things to see and do each day. They want to visit museums, admire art, enjoy leisurely shopping and see the sights without a toddler who isn’t interested to bear in mind. Plus, most grandparents have done their fair share of “are we there yet?” journeys.
So we say ‘Retired Help’ of the world unite! Don’t feel guilty about needing a break, it’s important to take the holidays you want, see the places you’ve dreamt of seeing, and to get some well earned R&R! And if you do feel bound by childcare duties (and you don’t mind that) why not squeeze in a long weekend or short-stay break wherever possible, giving you lots of mini treats to look forward to? Come on now…surely you can squeeze in a few days on a midweek break to Paris, recharging your batteries? And imagine all the great presents you could get the grandkids from a trip to Belgium, the Chocolate Capital of the world?
We’re sure your grandchildren will appreciate a rested and rejuvenated granny or granddad – now you’d better get back to building that treehouse…
The interchange at Dover Eastern Docks often has Leger Holidays customers amazed: How on earth can luggage from sometimes up to 30 coaches end up on the right vehicle so quickly? How do so many people from so many different coaches from all over the country swap successfully to the right tour coach where their bags and belongings are waiting for them? But it happens. And the luggage handlers and coach crews make it all look so easy.
We thought the best way to explain what goes on was to spend a day at the port and put together a short film to share with those of you who have yet to experience the ‘smooth operators’ at Dover port… So, on a brisk November morning, Anita and I (Caroline) headed off ‘on location’, travelling from Yorkshire to the south-east coast of England to see this marvel for ourselves.
The sky was bright blue against the famous white cliffs, brightly lit by the autumn sunshine, as we passed through security and headed to the interchange.
Caroline: “Even though we weren’t actually going anywhere, we had to go through passport control and, because we would be filming and taking photographs around the interchange, we had to pass various security and health and safety checks – we even had a video to watch and questions to answer before we were allowed to proceed, escorted by a Dover Harbour Board security guard. They take security and passenger safety very seriously here.”
Despite the relatively mild temperature, the wind chill on the coast had us heading for our scarves and gloves in no time. Rob, our security guard for the day, made sure we were wearing our hi-vis vests before accompanying us around the interchange.
Picture the scene
As each coach arrived, it was like watching a well-rehearsed dance sequence – each vehicle sweeping around into the parking area and gliding back into its designated bay, one after the other – all that was missing was some music.
Anita: “This was a relatively quiet day, as far as the interchange goes – we only had 7 coaches heading across the Channel. Our busiest time is July and August, when there can be 30 coaches lined up, ready to board the ferry.”
Leger guests poured off their feeder coaches and headed into the Passenger Services Building to enjoy a cuppa or stock up on essentials at the shop there, whilst the luggage handlers and coach crews set to work wheeling cases into position.
There were flashes of hi-vis jackets circling the coaches like the seagulls doing circuits of the sky above us, whilst the coach crews stocked their vehicles with supplies for the trip. In no time at all, cases had been checked, luggage had been loaded onto the relevant tour coaches and Sarah, part of Leger’s team at Dover, called over the tannoy for our guests to join their tour coaches.
The coach crews welcomed guests onto their vehicles, checking seat numbers and ensuring everyone was present. Once all the doors were closed, the convoy of blue and silver vehicles made their way over to the ferry boarding area and waited for the go ahead to board.
That’s a wrap
We waved off each coach as they disappeared up the ramp and onto the ship, wishing we were joining them on their European adventure.
By the way, have you ever wondered where the phrase “that’s a wrap” came from? Well, some say it’s an acronym for a phrase which originated in the 1920s when the director of a film used to shout “Wind Reel And Print” to signal the end of filming. So now you know!
The video can be viewed below:-
Richard Mansfield, Leger’s E-commerce Executive has been working at Leger for just over four months now. After seeing the popularity of the Paris Midweek and Weekend breaks by Coach, he decided he had to see what this tour and Paris had to offer.
A burning ambition of mine has always been to visit Paris and with it only being across the pond, I can’t believe it has taken me until 2013 to tick it off my ‘Bucket list‘.
We choose not to take the option of breaking up our journey by stopping at the Ashford, Holiday Inn. Instead we were picked up from the Wakefield departure point at 4:30am (the first pick up of the day), picking up along the way and stopping for the odd comfort break.
We arrived at Dover at around 12.45pm where we boarded our ferry to Calais, France. After a wander around the ferry and a fabulous fish and chip dinner, we returned to our coach to complete the final leg of the journey to our hotel in Paris. This was around a 4 hour journey split up with comfort stops and a film onboard the coach.
Overall from Wakefield to our hotel it was around 13 hours. (which for a coach holiday novice like me, seemed to fly by)
Where did you stay?
We stayed in the 4-Star Holiday Inn Paris-Versailles-Bougival, which is located on the western side of Paris. The rooms are very nice offering all those little amenities you would expect of a 4* hotel. Unfortunately I didn’t sample the variety of treatments available at the onsite health spa, but after a little nosey around I must say it looked the perfect place to wind down after a days sightseeing in Paris.
What was the weather like? Did it affect your visit?
It was very cold, but we did go in February. (The hot refreshments on the coach were well received). The weather didn’t affect our stay in any way, we still did all the optional excursions. My only suggestion if you are thinking of travelling at the same time of year would be to pack extra layers.
After the sightseeing, we had an hour’s free time around the Eiffel Tower (2 hours if not going on the cruise) before joining the river cruise excursion which is around an hour long.
Once we returned from the cruise, we then boarded the coach back to our hotel to freshen ourselves up for the Paris by night excursion. This includes all transport, a meal and a trip up to the top of the Montparnasse Tower, where we got to see the magnificent views over Paris and we got there in time to see the 9pm light show of the Eiffel Tower.
After returning from the day’s excursions we had time to change and head out into the Latin Quarter. This is an area packed with souvenir shops, bars (where we watched England beat France in the Six Nations, a little awkward!) and eateries offering everything from a delicious waffle to fresh lobster.
After a stroll around the shops and some amazing pizza topped off by a chocolate and cream waffle, it was time to return back to our coach for our departure back to our hotel where we prepared for our journey home the following morning.
If you would like to know any more about our trip to Paris, don’t hesitate in putting any questions in the comments section below. Maybe you are considering the tour for yourself? More information can be found here – Paris midweek and weekend breaks by coach.
Before you buy your mum a gift this Motherâ€™s Day, I want you to think back to when you were younger. Back to the days when you used to paint your mumâ€™s portrait (although it often resembled a warped pink splodge with a smiling face), make her macaroni jewellery or heroically volunteer to take on the washing up for a day. You know, as an extra special treat!
I know what youâ€™re thinking, â€˜itâ€™s the thought that countsâ€™ and youâ€™re right it was. But now that weâ€™ve grown up, itâ€™s time to make amends for all those crafty creations and really treat the women who resolutely admired them for all those years.
Now, itâ€™s a well-known fact that we girls arenâ€™t adverse to a bit of shopping now and again. So, what better excuse to indulge in this pastime than booking a spending spree away together for her Motherâ€™s Day present?
Whether itâ€™s Paris, Venice or Rome, Europe is packed with exciting shopping destinations and experiences youâ€™ll both remember for years to come. So rather than forking out for flowers, chocolates and potpourri again this March, why not book yourselves an unforgettable trip together instead?
My top shopping suggestion, and one of our most popular choices for mother-and-daughter breaks at Leger, is the German Christmas Markets. Enjoying a spot of retail therapy is one thing, but enjoying it at Christmas is a whole different kettle of fish. And, if your mum is anything like mine, sheâ€™ll be at her retail peak at this time of year. Thereâ€™s always one more present she has to buy or another bauble the tree just wouldnâ€™t look right without!
With their picturesque locations, authentic stalls and fantastic foods, a trip to the German market is a gesture your mum will cherish forever. And, with plenty of time to enjoy the pre-holiday build up; itâ€™s the gift that keeps on giving. Be warned though, I would definitely recommend taking an extra suitcase for all the treasures youâ€™ll bring home.
For those of you whose mothers are not as keen on shopping, there are plenty of other great getaway ideas out there so step away from the forecourt flower stand! From the Beautiful Bulbfields of Holland to the geared up atmosphere of a Grand Prix, there are so many great places and events that you could be looking forward to. If youâ€™re still stuck for suggestions you can always give me and the rest of the reservation teams a shout, there really is no excuse for not making your motherâ€™s day this year.
What trip would you go on to treat your mum for Motherâ€™s Day? Share your ideas by writing a post below. Whatâ€™s more, if this has inspired you to book a trip, why not visit www.leger.co.uk, where youâ€™ll find endless of options of tours and customer testimonials.
I’d heard of Rocamadour before and seen many photos. I knew it as the French village that sits on the top of a steep cliff above the River Alzou, but I had no idea what the place would be like until I visited it as part of Leger’s Highlights of Provence and the Dordogne tour.
It was about 10 o’clock when we finished dinner on our first night there and the village was really quiet. From what I could see, there was just one main street through Rocamadour, so I decided to go for a little stroll.
The cobbled walkway looked so lovely, lit up with soft yellow lighting from the hotels and buildings lining the street, so I decided to take a few photographs. There were very few people around but I felt quite safe walking along on my own.
Dancing in the street
As I set up my tripod, a small group of people appeared, walking towards me from the other side of the archway I was about to photograph. The guy in the threesome was dancing about and leaping into my shot, and as they got closer they asked what I was doing.
Before they got too carried away in their super-fast French chatter, I reached into the depths of my memory for my school-days French and asked “Parlez-vous Anglais?” Luckily for me, they continued in English, asking what I was doing: Why was I in Rocamadour? Why was I taking photos? Where was I going? When I explained that I was with a coach tour, the guy explained that he needed to get to Paris tomorrow and asked me if there was any room on our coach! I explained how, unfortunately, we wouldn’t be able to give him a lift, before wishing them bonne nuit and bon voyage!
Before long, another couple appeared from the shadows of the archway. Again, the guy started dancing in front of the camera (what was it with guys and cameras?) and asked me what I was doing.
I had a chat with the couple – an English guy and his French girlfriend who were here visiting her family – before deciding to put my camera away for the night and headed back to my hotel at the end of the street. Who would’ve thought that there would be so many friendly people about at that time of night in the quiet streets of Rocamadour?
In the daylight I got to see the true charm of Rocamadour. I thought it had looked wonderful at night time, but in the day, the village really came to life. It was late April when I visited, so no doubt not as busy as it would be in the height of the summer, but the place had a lovely buzz about it. Gone were the pastel-coloured buildings with brightly-painted shutters that had been a familiar sight in other places on my trip, now replaced by rustic, biscuit-toned stone shops, restaurants, houses and hotels along the cobbled street.
As I walked down the pedestrianised main street, the smell of garlic floated through the air and I could hear the bells of the little train which runs up and down the street, carrying visitors through the lovely place. The lane was lined with wonderful, little shops selling handmade jewellery, arts and crafts, soaps, pastries, chocolate, foie gras (quite popular in this area) and wine, with two or three stone archways – the main gateways being the Porte du Figuier (right next to our hotel) and the Porte Salmon.
Further down the street, stone pots displaying colourful flowers lined the walkway and there was a sweet smell, which I later discovered was the small, white flower, Stephanotis, which I’d seen in planters outside a couple of the restaurants. The shop owners and locals were very friendly and welcoming. In one shop, the owner asked me to speak to her in English for a while so that she could practice her language skills!
A place of history
During my trip, I learnt that the Rocamadour is known for its historical monuments and the village attracts pilgrims from many countries each year. There are many stories surrounding the origin of the name of the village and a lot of history about the chapels, abbeys and churches there. I could see a large, stone tower high above the main street, and so decided to walk up the stone steps (apparently, climbed by pilgrims on their knees even today) for a closer look. It was quite a climb but there were some excellent views along the way. Along Rocamadour’s main street I’d passed a sign for the ‘Ascenseur de Rocamadour’, the lift which would’ve taken me to the top, but I thought I’d get better views by walking. I was right.
Once through the buildings and courtyards of the chÃ¢teau and the chapels, I entered a shady path, zig-zagging its way through the trees, known as the ‘Stations of the Cross’. The path was quite steep up to the chÃ¢teau at the top, and at each turn there was a frieze depicting a Station of the Cross.
The best view in the village
At the top of the hill I entered the chÃ¢teau (you need two 1 Euro coins to get through the turnstile) and walked up the stone steps for some magnificent views over the village. The battlements of the chÃ¢teau were really narrow and jutted out over a drop of a few hundred feet – not too good if you don’t like heights! Despite my legs feeling like jelly, it was from there that I got a real sense of the size and layout of the village. I could see our hotel and the coach park amongst the two rows of terracotta rooftops and excellent views over the Alzou Valley and of the churches and village below. The climb had definitely been worth it.
Au Revoir, Rocamadour
The sun was shining in Rocamadour on the morning our party left, lighting up the hillside and the creamy stone of the churches. I popped into the hotel’s restaurant to grab a croissant and jus d’orange before heading back into the street which was very quiet for 9 o’clock on a Saturday morning. Three or four small cats stretched out on the street enjoying the morning sunshine as I exchanged a few cheery bonjours with the handful of shop owners opening their shutters.
Whether it’s for its religious connections, historical significance, charming architecture or just the impressive views, it’s not hard to see why Rocamadour is France’s second most visited site after the impressive Mont St. Michel in Normandy. For me, it was just a lovely place to visit, a great little rustic French village where you can pass a few leisurely hours amongst some fantastic scenery and friendly locals.
But now it was time for me to head out on the winding streets above the lovely village of Rocamadour once more, for the next leg of my Highlights of Provence and the Dordogne tour. Have you been to Rocamadour? Share your stories with us in the comments below.
Mention â€˜Spaâ€™ to any girl, and thoughts of aromatherapy oils, body scrubs and hot stone massages spring to mind.
So, when we heard that the â€˜Spaâ€™ weâ€™d be visiting was Spa-Francorchamps â€“ the circuit of the Belgian Grand Prix, we realised it was time to ditch any ideas of a couple of days of relaxation in place of an adrenalin-pumping, motor racing weekend.
â€˜Starting gridâ€™… â€˜pole positionâ€™… â€˜chequered flagâ€™… â€˜Lewis Hamiltonâ€™… Before our weekend at Spa we both knew little more of F1 and the Grand Prix than these few words.
Swapping our â€˜day jobsâ€™ with Legerâ€™s Design Studio and Marketing teams, we were to join one of fourteen coaches heading to Belgium on the last weekend in August, accompanying the tour with a small film crew to learn more about the event and to make a short video to share with our customers on our website and our coaches.
Weâ€™d imagined we were going to be spending the weekend with a load of blokes, staring at a track and talking ‘lap times’, â€˜top speedâ€™ and â€˜bhpâ€™. â€œWhat’s the big attraction?â€ we’d asked each other before we went. We were soon to find out…
Caroline: “This trip was unlike any other Leger holiday I’ve been on, and I’ve been on quite a few. Our coach had such a mix of people: yes, there were the expected groups of guys, but also pairs of girls travelling together, couples and fathers with their sons. From the very beginning, people gelled and got chatting about their common interest: motor racing.”
On the qualifying day, we decided to get our bearings by taking a walk around the 7km track… little had we realised that the circuit at Spa-Francorchamps is set in the very hilly landscape of the Ardennes region of Belgium! As well as being good exercise for us all – particularly considering we were lugging loads of camera equipment around with us – it also gave us chance to suss out the best places to see the track for the main race on the following day.
Anita: “As soon as we got inside the circuit, it was clear to see who the regular race-goers were… they were so well prepared, with fold-up chairs, blankets to lay on (and stake their claim on their little square of grass!), picnic hampers, flasks and crates of beer! We were clearly novices at this – all we had was a KP Choc Dip to share between the four of us!”
Luckily, one thing we were prepared with was ear plugs!
Caroline: “The sound when we got closer to the track was louder than any of us had imagined. My ear drums were actually vibrating so much they tickled! We quickly developed our own sign language and the ability to lip read!â€
On the race day itself, the atmosphere was totally different to the day of the qualifiers. We’d commented on how ‘subdued’ it had seemed on Saturday, but on Sunday it was as though everyone had suddenly come to life! The grass banking was a sea of people – so much busier than Saturday – and folks were fully kitted out in t-shirts, caps, jackets and sweatshirts, all branded with their favourite team. There were huge flags waving, air horns sounding and even people dressed head to toe in Lycra chequered flag suits!
Our visit on Saturday meant we’d spotted a great position to see the track – one that was slightly raised and meant we could see the cars coming along the fast downhill stretch to the double-left at Pouhon, passing in front of us and then around the bend towards the quick, right-left Fagnes chicane. This viewpoint was much better than in the straights where, because of the speed of the cars, all you got to see was a flash of colour, and it was less crowded.
Anita: “It was here that we met up with some of our fellow travellers to film a short interview with them before the race began – they got quite a few looks from others around – I think they thought we were interviewing someone famous!”
The race hadn’t been going long when there was a spectacular collision at the first corner, putting Lewis Hamilton out of the race! So it was time to learn some other drivers’ names, and fast!
The cheers, air horns, flag waving and applause lasted throughout the 44 laps, with people watching the big screens in between the cars passing by or picking up commentary in hand-held devices.
We’d been told that the circuit at Spa almost has a climate of its own – on one side of the track the drivers can be negotiating the course in clear skies and bright sunshine, whilst on the opposite side it can be raining. This weekend, however, it was a hot, dry and sunny weekend – lucky for us!
As the 44th lap came and went and the race ended, there was a clear winner: the UKs very own Jensen Button had taken the lead right from the beginning – at one point having an 11-second lead!
As the crowds poured out onto the track, we hot-footed it back to the coach (as much as anyone can hot-foot it when they’re weighed down by cameras, tripods and microphones) in readiness for our gang returning.
Caroline: “As people came back to their coaches, it was clear to see they’d had a good time – still waving their flags and now, it seemed, decked out in even more F1 merchandise! Two of the ladies on our coach who had met up with their friends from one of the other coaches were wearing masks – the four of them had caused quite a stir, walking around as Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button!”
It was an excellent weekend and now we know what the big attraction is. It’s all about the atmosphere… being there, in the thick of it, amongst the crowds cheering and clapping as the cars make that ear-piercing ‘Eeeeeeeeeeeooowwwmm’ past you… you certainly don’t get all that by watching on telly!
And so, from ‘starting gridâ€™… â€˜pole positionâ€™… â€˜chequered flagâ€™… â€˜Lewis Hamiltonâ€™… what else had we learned?
Well, we know that Jensen Button won the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix. We also now know at least two other driver’s names (thanks to the ladies in their masks!). We know that Spa is one of the most challenging race tracks in the world. And we learned that one KP Choc Dip between four people is just not enough!
Caroline Thorpe & Anita Rodgers.
If you’ve been inspired by Caroline and Anita’s story you can book your place for next year’s Belgium Grand Prix now!
Everyone has their own reason for getting away – I have a full list of them – but whatever our reason for travelling in the first place, once we’re away our brain seems to take on those sponge-like qualities we had as a child.
We become more alert to things happening around us, to sights, sounds and smells we experience, which is why it’s common to come back from our travels with so many more memories than we’d have from the same period of time back home.
To experience world cultures…
Some people travel specifically to discover new cultures – they want to see the difference between their own culture and that of the people in the country they’re visiting. It’s intriguing to see the way other people behave in other parts of the world – just watching them go about their daily business can be a real eye-opener. It’s so easy to take things for granted in our everyday lives, and immersing ourselves in the culture of foreign parts can be quite fascinating.
To do something different…
Placing ourselves ‘in the thick of it’ really helps us develop a different perspective on life, opening our eyes, ears, mind – and our taste buds – to all the amazing things that are out there. Speak a different language – or at least try; eat a dish you’ve never tried before; take a ride in a horse and carriage; go to the ballet; take in a classical music concert; climb aboard a boat… there’s a whole world out there just waiting to be experienced.
Out of curiosity…
We’ve all read about places, seen them on TV, or heard others talk about them, but what’s it really like to be there? What are the people like? Are the buildings really as big as they look on TV? Does scenery really take your breath away? So why not experience these places for yourself – find out more about them, explore them further. Nothing will satisfy your curiosity quite as much as being there, finding all the answers for yourself.
For fun, excitement and adventure…
People can sometimes be a bit wary of the unknown – things that are different to back home; afraid of change. But so much excitement and adventure can be achieved, just by doing something a bit different to what you’d normally do.
To escape every day life…
It’s not unusual to become a bit bored of every day life. The daily routine: bills to pay; shopping to do; a big project at work; meals to cook; clothes to wash; gardens to tend to… there’s no wonder so many people look forward to some ‘time out’ each year. It’s a time to switch off from everything back home; to be free from responsibility; to leave our worries behind. We all know that all those things will still be there when we get back, but for that short period of time, they don’t exist. It does us good to get away from everything for a while, and we tend to come back feeling much fresher and more positive (for a while, at least!).
On the trips I’ve been on I’ve met some wonderful and interesting people: travelling companions and people from the areas I’ve visited. People from different places sometimes act differently, have different beliefs and have many different stories to share. I love listening to people about their travels and places they want to go to: people who have many years of holidays behind them and others who are just starting to discover the world. And just as we are all individual, we all have different things we want to get from our precious time away.
What’s your reason for getting away? What type of holidays do you like? Share your holiday stories with us.