Chocolate Capitals of Europe: Our Top Spots for Chocoholics

Chocoholics rejoice! Easter is just around the corner and there’s sugary treats aplenty lining aisles in almost every shop.

Hot cross buns, colourful candy and, of course, chocolate! It is one time of year you can be sure to get plenty of tasty treats to satisfy any craving.
Chocolate bunnies, chocolate eggs, even chocolate dinosaurs are on offer this year and it sounds like chocolate heaven, doesn’t it?
But, we can do one better by combining your love of chocolate and your love of travel! Where are the best places to get your chocolate-y treats? Some places are synonymous with the sugary treat, but, here are our unexpected top spots to satisfy your sweet tooth all year long.

Tuscany

Tuscany
Well known for its picturesque vineyards, you may be pleasantly surprised to hear that Tuscany is also home to what is known as ‘The Chocolate Valley’.
Based in a triangle formed between Florence, Pisa and Montecatini, the stunning Tuscan countryside is host to many gourmet shops and small factories producing some of the finest chocolate in Italy.
Some of the chocolatiers in the Valley offer cooking classes, factory tours and chocolate tastings so check in advance if you’re around one that offers these fun activities.

Barcelona

Barcelona
The Spanish were actually the first people in Europe to experience chocolate when it was brought back from South America and Barcelona is home to the first ever chocolate making machine that was built in the city in 1780.
There’s even a chocolate museum where you can learn all about chocolate, how it’s made and see some impressive chocolate sculptures and tastings, although we suggest you don’t mix the tastings with the sculptures, that probably wouldn’t go down too well.

Cologne

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Looking for some great chocolate in Germany? Well, Cologne is the place to be! Once the second largest supplier of chocolate, with the Stollwerck Chocolate company, you can be sure to grab a great bite in Cologne.
Head to the chocolate museum for all sorts of chocolate-y goodness from learning about the history of your hot chocolate to a rather impressive chocolate fountain.

Zurich

Zurich ciy in Switzerland. Evening cityscape.
The holy grail of milk chocolate! In a country where more chocolate is consumed than anywhere else in the world (20lbs per person!), Zurich is the heart of Switzerland’s cocoa creations.
The home of the world renowned Lindt brand, one of the top destinations for a chocolate lover is the Lindt & Sprungli factory. Plus, there’s lots of free samples to try whilst you’re there.
The Bahnhofstrasse, also known as the most expensive street in Zurich, is host to some of the top chocolatiers in the world nestled in between the likes of Chanel and Armarni. Here you can pick up some delicious Champagne Truffles made with Dom Perignon champagne, butter cream and dark ganache. Delicious!

Paris

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As the world’s gourmet capital, there’s no surprise that Paris also comes up trumps when it comes to chocolate too.
With dark chocolate being their speciality, Parisian chocolatiers are celebrated for making miracles from coco beans using original and high quality recipes.
With over 300 chocolate shops in the Parisian phone book, and host of the World Chocolate Master Championship, you can be sure to be in confectionery heaven in Paris.

 
Now, over to you, if you’re a chocoholic, where have you picked up the tastiest treat?
 
 

Discover Australia: Our Top Spots in the Land Down Under

As you may have seen, we have recently launched our brand new, 20-day, Discover Australia tour and, crikey! We’re excited.

The magical land down under offers a whole array of new and exciting places to visit, from the bright red sands of the outback to the spectacular waters of the Coral Sea, there’s plenty of good days to be had.
But, if you’re setting foot in the land of Aus for the first time, you’re probably wanting to know, what are the best things to see and do? Well, here are our top places and attractions to visit whilst in amazing Australia.

9. Great Ocean Road

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By far one of the most scenic drives in the world… Stretching across an impressive 180 miles of the south-eastern coast, it sure is remarkable.
Travelling past world class surfing breaks, through pockets of rain forest, heathlands and on the edge of sheer drop cliffs, it offers a whole new meaning to the thrill of the ride.
Top Sight: The Twelve Apostles – although there are now only eight, these lonely rock stacks are certainly a sight to behold.

8. Philip Island

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Only 90 minutes from Melbourne, this place takes you back to the wild side. Well known for its motorsport circuit and wildlife including kangaroos and koalas, you really will have an enjoyable Aussie experience on Phillip Island.
You’ll be in for a treat with the Parade of Penguins, too. Each night at sunset, you can see one of the largest colonies of penguins in Australia waddling home after a long day’s fishing.
Don’t worry if there is a chill in the air, these little penguins will certainly warm your heart.

7. Four Mile Beach

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The clue is in the name when it comes to our next top port of call. Yes, you really can expect four miles of gorgeous sandy beach!
Once just a sleepy coastal town, the Four Mile Beach and Port Douglas have now become one of the most popular places to be in northern Australia, and it’s easy to see why.
With soft sands and tropical sunshine, you can take a stroll along this premier beach. Buildings and homes are neatly hidden behind swaying palm trees and the crystal clear waters of the Coral Sea will welcome you to paradise.

6. Blue Mountains National Park

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Home to the famous Three Sisters rock formation, the Blue Mountain National Park is World Heritage listed, full of amazing natural wonders and is ten times older than the Grand Canyon!
With its rich aboriginal heritage, it’s also home to hundreds of species of birds and rare and ancient plants, with a number of species of reptiles in there too, a trip to the Blue Mountains is an experience that is not easily forgotten.

5. Bondi Beach

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It has to be the most famous beach in Australia! One of Sydney’s most visited beaches, Bondi is a mixed bag that has something for everyone. Surf, sand, bars, cafés, you name it…
Home to the Bondi Life Saving Club, if you’re feeling adventurous, the protected waters are a great place to learn to surf.
If you’re wanting a more relaxing time at the beach, head down Campbell parade and enjoy a range of stylish surf and fashion shops and a host of stylish bars and cafes.
You can even join the locals with picnics or fish and chips by the sea. Who’d have thought you could enjoy a quintessentially British past time, even though you’re the other side of the world?

4. Alice Springs

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Situated a vast 1,500 km from the nearest city, Alice Springs in the Northern Territory is a popular gateway for adventurers exploring the ‘Red Centre’.
A vibrant art scene, a rich cultural life and its mix of Aboriginal and European colonial history makes this seemingly secluded town an interesting cosmopolitan city with plenty to see and do.
One of the most iconic things most visitors to Alice Springs set off to enjoy is…

3. Ayers Rock (Uluru)

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One of the most iconic landmarks in Australia, Ayers Rock, or Uluru by its Aboriginal name, is a sight to behold whilst in the outback.
It is a sacred site for the Aboriginal tribes and is pretty spectacular for a number of other reasons, such as its sheer size, history and rather interestingly, as each day passes, the rock actually changes colour!
There’s no Pantone for Uluru… Light and atmospheric conditions change the appearance of the rock each and every day meaning it’s never the same shade as the day before.

2. Great Barrier Reef

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One of the world’s great natural wonders, it’s the largest living structure in the world with almost 3000 individual reefs that are home to thousands of types of fish, plants and birds. Dolphins, sharks, whales, and turtles, the Great Barrier Reef attracts them all.
It’s is so long (2300km to be precise) it stretches over 14 degrees of latitude and can even be seen from space!
With its crystal clear waters it’s a haven for snorkelers and divers alike making the reef one of the most popular attractions in Australia.

1. Sydney Harbour

The Harbour Bridge is the world's widest long-span bridge.
One of the most iconic sights down under, of course the top spot just has to go to the world famous Sydney Harbour.
Streamed across the world as it becomes one of the first cities in the world to welcome in the New Year, the area is iconic for impressive celebrations in a striking setting.
With the stunning sights of Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, it is regarded one of the most beautiful natural harbours in the world and that’s something we certainly won’t disagree with!
 
If you’re looking for a trip down under and you want to see all of these sights and more, why not join Leger Holidays as we set off on our new adventure Discover Australia? For more information on our tour, just click here.
 

Best European Jazz Festivals

Some of the best jazz festivals in the world can be found in Europe, and many are right on our doorstep. Jazz music has seen a considerable revival across all age groups, with thanks to Jamie Cullum and many more helping to make the genre more popular to a wider audience.

Jazz music is a genre which spans all age groups and appeals to casual listeners, through to seasoned jazz aficionados. Many enjoy travelling far and wide to experience their favourite artists, whilst indulging in the festivities of a different culture.
So, whether you’re a fan of Glen Miller, Miles Davis, or you simply want to enjoy the atmosphere and culture, here are our top ten jazz festival picks to experience across Europe.

Copenhagen Jazz Festival (Denmark)

Copenhagen Jazz Festival
Caetano Veloso & Gilberto Gil, DR Koncerthuset. Foto: Kristoffer Juel Poulsen

Lasting ten days throughout July, the Copenhagen Jazz Festival has been heralded as one of the biggest and best jazz festivals in the world since 1979. With more than a thousand concerts across more than a hundred stages, there is something for everybody in the Danish capital. The concerts take place all over the city in bars, restaurants, concert halls and on purpose built stages.
The festival attracts more than 250,000 visitors each year and has welcomed prestigious acts such as Tony Bennett, Gilberto Gil, Herbie Hancock, and Chick Corea to name just a few. Whether you love traditional or freeform jazz, there are acts to cover all styles. You can also explore the city and take in the local culture whilst you listen to some of the finest acts from across the world.
Admission costs can vary and are dependent on the venue and artist. However, there are hundreds of free acts across the city, so you are never far away from the action. See the Copenhagen Jazz Festival website for more details.

Jazzahead (Germany)

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Held in Bremen for the last eight years, Jazzahead holds over 110 concerts across more than 30 stages throughout the city. The festival is considered to be a meeting point for some of the biggest names in jazz. Whilst it is mainly a trade fair, there is a broad programme that covers showcase concerts, visual arts, exhibitions and various cultural events across the city.
Attracting more than 16,000 visitors every year, the festival is famous for its global appeal in which it attracts businesses, acts and labels from across the world. It has also become a go-to event for the public, largely due to its cultural programme that spans a lengthy two and a half weeks throughout April.
You can also explore the sights, smells and sounds of Bremen. The city’s famous cathedral is a focal point and is situated near the market square. Bremen has a long-standing tradition of organ music and the cathedral has five organs in different areas of the property. There are also many museums to explore, such as the Kunsthalle and the Weserburg Modern Art Museum.
Ticket prices vary depending on whether you plan to go for a day or a whole weekend. For more information, head to this page of the Jazzahead website.

Bohemia JazzFest (Czech Republic)

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Image courtesy of Bohemia JazzFest

Held in multiple cities across the Czech Republic, Bohemia JazzFest is a real gem for any jazz enthusiast. After its introduction in 2006 by accomplished jazz guitarist, Rudy Linka, the festival has become one of the largest festivals in Europe, with over 70,000 visitors attending every year.
The festival’s locations are incredible – the Old Town Square in Prague being the biggest. These beautiful backdrops can provide an unforgettable experience. You can also indulge in a bit of city exploration and take in some of the local culture.
Past performers across the different cities have included Larry Carlton, Roy Haynes and Stanley Clarke.
All of the concerts are free of charge, so you can relax, sit back, and enjoy the entertainment courtesy of the festival.
For more information, head to the Bohemia JazzFest website.

North Sea Jazz Festival (Netherlands)

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Image courtesy of North Sea Festival

The North Sea Jazz Festival, held in Rotterdam, is considered to be one of the most prestigious jazz festivals in the world. The first installment took place in 1976 and it has grown significantly since, attracting up to 70,000 visitors ever year throughout the second weekend in July.
The festival covers a wide range of musical genres including blues, soul, pop, jazz, hip-hop, world music and many more.  This year’s line-up is incredibly diverse and features major artists such as Simply Red, Gregory Porter, Buddy Guy, Level 42 and Joe Bonamassa. You may even wish to explore the cultural delights of Rotterdam. The city is known for its historic architecture, as well as its museums and well-connected travel links. At Leger, we host a number of trips to the Netherlands which include visits to Amsterdam and Valkenburg.
Whilst weekend tickets have already sold out for the 2016 event, single day tickets are still available. More information can be found at the North Sea Festival website.

Montreux Jazz Festival (Switzerland)

Montreux
©2015 FFJM Vincent Baily

Montreux is by far one of the biggest and most prestigious music festivals in the world. Created in 1967, the festival runs during the first two weeks of July, and whilst jazz and blues are at the roots of the event, other styles are present including rock, pop and soul.
Some of the most important live performances in the world were recorded at Montreux. These include performances from Nina Simone, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, David Bowie, and Stevie Wonder.
Situated on the shore of Lake Geneva, the festival attracts up to 250,000 visitors across all ages. A number of events are ticketed, but there are also hundreds of free events which run throughout the two-week period.
This year’s festival sees Muse headlining, alongside a jam-packed bill which will be released on April 14th.
Switzerland is an incredible country to explore. From alpine skiing to summertime railway adventures, there are so many different areas of the country to witness.

XJAZZ Festival (Germany)

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XJAZZ is a very different kind of jazz festival which crosses every kind of style associated with the genre. Today’s understanding of the term “jazz” has become widely developed from its traditional meaning. XJAZZ incorporates contemporary styles such as soul, electronic, funk, and classical amongst many other genres, in an aim to cross musical and cultural boundaries.
The festival is based in Berlin and takes place from 5th – 8th May. The local music scene is pivotal to the festival’s philosophy, and approximately 70% of the line-up consists of local artists.  XJAZZ maintains its intimacy yet it has an international feel which attracts visitors from across the world.
Image courtesy of Brand & AlbrechtBerlin is rich in cultural history and is a perfect tourist destination to visit.
At Leger, we host a number of trips to the city in which we visit major attractions, including the Christmas markets and the Brandenburg Gate.

Umbria Jazz (Italy)

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Image courtesy of Umbria Jazz

Introduced in Perugia in 1973, Umbria Jazz Festival is one of the biggest music festivals in Italy. Held during the 8th – 17th July, this year the festival welcomes Mika, George Clinton & Parliament, and Buddy Guy. The event is perfect for any music fan as it combines a variety of jazz-influenced genres, which attracts a number of household names.
Each event is paid for separately, however, there are hundreds of free events across the city. There are free open-air concerts held in Piazza IV Novembre and at the Giardini Carducci as they are part of the festival’s rich history.
Food is very much a significant part of the festivities, which adds to the incredible atmosphere held at hundreds of venues across Perugia. There are also traditional street parades and various artistic performances.
Umbria is considered to be one of the most picturesque areas of Italy and is a popular tourist hot spot, famed for its landscape and historic traditions. At Leger Holidays, we host a number of trips to Italy, which include visits to Tuscany, Lake Como, Venice and Rome.

Gent Jazz Festival (Belgium)

Gent
Image courtesy of Gent Jazz Festival

Held in mid-July and lasting two weeks, the Gent Jazz Festival is celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2016 with a host of top acts. Held at the side of the Bijloke in Ghent, the festival hosts a wide range of musical genres that diversify from jazz.
The festival attracts over 38,000 visitors every year and has seen a number of household acts perform, including Tony Bennett, Gregory Porter, Rodrigo Y Gabriela, and Van Morrison. This year’s event sees Ghent’s very own export, Balthazar, take the main stage alongside Ibeyi. The full line-up is to be announced in March. Tickets can be purchased online and prices vary dependent on age and the type of ticket you require. Visit the website for more details.
After visiting the festival you may wish to travel further afield at a later date. At Leger, we visit a number of cities around Belgium, including Brussels, Bruges and Antwerp.
One our tours includes a visit to the Brussels Jazz Marathon Weekend, which is held from 20th – 22nd May. Throughout the weekend, there are over 160 free performances that take place on a number of purpose built stages. Our four day trip costs £269 pp and includes three nights accomodation, continental breakfast and travel by executive coach.

Heineken Jazzaldia (Spain)

Jazzaldia
Image courtesy of Heineken Jazzaldia

Situated in San Sebastian on the coast of Spain, Heineken Jazzaldia is the longest running jazz festival in Spain, and also one of the oldest in Europe. The festival, which attracts over 124,000 people, has seen a number of major acts play over the years, including Gloria Gaynor, B.B. King, Patti Smith, and Jimmy Cliff.
The festival runs from the 20th – 25th July at a number of venues across the region. One of the main highlights of the festival is the free events at Zurriola Beach, which last until the small hours. This year’s event sees a fantastic array of artists take the stage, including Diana Krall, Gloria Gaynor, and Charles Bradley.
Prices vary depending on which venue you go to. Tickets can be purchased at the venue box office.
San Sebastian has been a tourist destination since the 19th century due to the region’s cuisine, historical importance, and stunning scenery. After the festival, you might consider a trip across the country to Valencia or Madrid. Our packages cover a variety of destinations across Spain, and there’s no doubt that you’ll be surprised how many hidden gems there are across Europe.

Rigas Ritmi Festival (Latvia)

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Image courtesy of Rigas Ritmi

Rigas Ritmi is one of Latvia’s most attended and most loved music festivals. Every July, the festival hosts a number of different stages across Riga with world famous and award-winning acts. Since its inception in 2001, Rigas Ritmi has grown from strength-to-strength with more than 500 artists and 180,000 visitors.
In previous years, the festival has hosted Bobby McFerrin, Diane Reeves and Richard Bona on its main stages. 2016 sees yet another strong line-up with a string of international jazz artists that include piano prodigy Justin Kauflin and saxophonist Emile Parisien.
Children under 7 years old can attend the festival free, whilst tickets for adults and seniors can be purchased on the Rigas Ritmi website or at the venue box office.
You may want to consider a Trans-European trip to other jazz festivals, including Vilnius Mama Jazz (Lithuania), Festival Jazzkaar (Estonia) and Pori Jazz Festival (Finland).
 
 
 
 

Formula 1 – Open to All by Joseph Rogers

Thinking about heading out on a Formula 1 Race weekend with Leger Holidays? Formula 1 fan, competition winner and Leger Customer, Joseph Rogers can tell you all about it.

We recently ran a competition courtesy of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya offering an amazing experience to attend the Formula 1 pre-season testing in Barcelona with a VIP pass. Our lucky winner was Joseph Rogers, an avid Formula 1 fan. Joseph has been on two Leger See it Live tours previously and has kindly written a blog of his three Leger experiences for you to enjoy.

Formula 1 – Open to All

Since its inception in 1950, Formula 1 has been portrayed across the globe as the epitome of financial exuberance in sport. Even before the days of oily rags and hay bale barriers, it was very much the affluent proportion of society that guided motorsport from the comfort of English stately homes and large multinational companies.
Now with worldwide sponsorship, superstar drivers, and events spanning almost every continent, the story of Formula 1 is still very much bound to that of money… and lots of it.
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Today, this can sometimes give the impression that to enjoy the sport outside of the television requires as much money as it does to run a team. Ticket prices, whilst always the subject of change, are often advertised to draw eccentric business-owners, corporate heavy-weights and those in the higher tax bracket.
On top of that, flights and hotels with links to the sport do little to encourage a cheap motorsport themed getaway and the logistics of getting to circuits outside of major city boundaries get ever more complicated.
Thankfully, this creates a niche in the market for companies offering Formula 1 holidays. With financial predicaments at the forefront for many in the UK, getting value for money on something as important as a once-in-a-lifetime trip is of crucial importance.
For a Formula 1 fan, who has to account for the price of a ticket on top of the travel costs, value for money can make-or-break the experience.
Enter: Leger Holidays. A company that not only provides seamless travel arrangements to places all over Europe, but does so with utmost enthusiasm and professionalism.

Belgian Grand Prix, 2013

I first travelled with Leger to the 2013 Belgian Grand Prix and was blown away not only by the screaming pitch of the soon-to-be-axed V8 engines but also the ease with which the whole experience was conducted.
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I was picked up from a location close to my home, by taxi and taken to the coach waiting for me at the nearest motorway junction. There, I was greeted by 2 drivers as keen to get the track as I was and who clearly has a passion for what they did.
After a cup of tea, we were on our way to Dover and onwards to Belgium, where Formula 1 became a reality for the first time and sheer pleasure resulted from knowing that Leger were allowing me to see my cherished sport first-hand.

Monaco Grand Prix, 2014

I didn’t hesitate in booking again for 2014, this time; Monaco. In my mind, seeing the world-famous Monaco Grand Prix, was the stuff of dreams. By far the most exotic race on the calendar, I was astonished to find it in Leger’s list of See It Live events and at only a slight increase in price on Belgium.
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What resulted was some of the most euphoric days of my life. Even the monumental coach journey from Taunton down to the south French coast, was full of sights, laughter, a pub-quiz and the perfect amount of service stops before our hotel over the border in Italy.
At the race, joy erupted at the thought of being amongst the rich and famous. Even from the general admission area, celebrities and drivers could be seen a few feet away amongst the super yachts and champagne-covered balconies.
A reflection of the thought, that I was there, and (at the time) unemployed, amateur author in the middle of the world’s most exuberant show of wealth, was simply life-changing. The experience promptly inspired 2 chapters of A Spectrum Of Settlements, my second publication and the first on the subject of travelling.
2 years later, I’ve just come back from Barcelona and the 2016 Formula 1 pre-season test, again courtesy of Leger.
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What Leger Holidays offer, with each and every package whether it be the Monaco Grand Prix or a French Battlefield tour, is the opportunity to experience your life’s passion within financial comfort and peace in knowing that from door-to-door you’ll be taken care of by happy, hard-working people that are as excited to travel as you are.
Formula 1 is not out of reach and not for the privileged few. It’s an enthusiast’s sport, supported by the fans and enjoyed by those truly passionate about motorsport. Thanks to Leger Holidays, we can all enjoy the sport we love.
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