As we near the end of 2017, we’re taking time to reflect on another fantastic year and what an honour it has been to take so many of you on wonderful holidays.
And we’re thrilled that, with all the hard work of our teams at Leger HQ and, of course, our coach crews and guides out on the road, we’ve helped create incredible memories and a lasting impressions, as you voted us the Best Medium Coach Holiday Company for the second year running at the British Travel Awards.
But, we couldn’t round off the year without giving you the rundown of our most viewed tours on of 2017. So, without further ado, if you’re on the lookout for holiday inspiration or just wanting to know if your favourite tour made it onto our list, here’s what really caught your eye this year…
10. The Beauty of Lake Como and Lake Maggiore
The third largest lake in Italy, and the first of four Italian tours to make it onto our list. But it’s not just our customers who love Lake Como, it’s also a hit with George Clooney, Madonna and Richard Branson.
9. Picturebook Norway – Fjordland Spectacular
Our dream tour seems to be your dream tour, too. With our first departure sold out and our 2019 dates now on sale, the Norway effect is still in full swing.
A perfect WW1 Battlefields experience for first-timers and experienced travellers, 2017 has certainly captured your interest of visiting the Western Front.
6. Lake Garda, Venice and Verona
The mighty Lake Garda, incredible Venice and the home of Romeo and Juliet, Verona, this is three world-class destinations in one impressive tour, we’re not surprised to see this tour make it into our top 10.
5. Picturebook Italy
A Leger Holidays favourite, Picturebook Italy, of course, makes its way into our top 5. Well, a holiday visiting the best that Italy has to offer, it’s bound to happen.
4. The Wonders of Rome & Pompeii
Italy still seems to be a big hitter in 2017, but the Wonders of Rome & Pompeii comes out top of the Italian pickings. And it’s no wonder when Rome alone attracts around 7 – 10 million tourists each year.
3. Dutch Bulbfields & the Delights of Amsterdam
Tulip mania lives on! In 2017, the beautiful Dutch Bulbfields really caught your attention, or is it the visit to Amsterdam? Either way, a trip to Holland doesn’t get much better than this.
2. D-Day Landings in Normandy
Taking the hypothetical silver medal in 2017, our D-Day Landings in Normandy tour narrowly missed out on the top spot. But, with the recent launch of our D-Day 75th Anniversary tour, could it snag the top spot next year? We’ll have to wait and see.
1. Nashville, New Orleans & Elvis Presley’s Memphis
And with over 300 tours to choose from, for the third year running, our most viewed tour is our Nashville, New Orleans & Elvis Presley’s Memphis tour. Whether you’re an Elvis fan, a music buff in general or just fancy a visit to America’s Deep South, we seem to have got it right with this one. From everyone at Leger Holidays, we wish you a very happy New Year!
In the lead up to Christmas, German soldiers on various parts of the British sector of the front were seen to be placing lanterns on their Trenches, in some cases Christmas Trees, and reports of carol singing were also received. Then on Christmas Day wooden signs could be seen on the German parapet saying ‘Merry Christmas’ and then German soldiers emerged into No Man’s Land, calling for a Truce. Many British soldiers were initially suspicious of this, but gradually the Truce spread. In some cases it lasted a few hours, in others it lasted several days. Thousands and thousands of men on both sides took part.
2. It was largely on the British sector
Despite some recent films, the Truce really only took place on the British sector of the front. Whether this was because British soldiers felt some natural affinity with the Germans due to shared history and culture is difficult to say. On the French front there was little desire for fraternisation, and while there were some isolated examples of a Truce, most were related to burying the dead after recent fighting.
3. No Football was played
Again, despite cinema and a recent supermarket advert, evidence shows that there were no football matches in No Man’s Land on Christmas Day 1914, between British and German troops. The nature of the battlefield, with shell holes and barbed wire, made such a match difficult anyway, but footballs were used for physical training when out of the trenches, and it is unlikely if any were available. Letters from the time show a desire to play matches, but the only example that comes anywhere near is on the front of 1/6th Cheshires where what was described as a ‘kick about’, featuring more than 100 soldiers of both sides, took place. So no organised match, and Germany did not win!
4. Peace on Earth? It was about burying the dead
For many soldiers in the front line area there was a practical reason for a Truce: to bury the dead. On the British front in Flanders there had been some local attacks on 19th December 1914, and the unburied bodies of the dead were lying out in No Man’s Land. The smell was terrible, and soldiers wanted to bury their comrades, so one of the most common activities that day was not to share your rations with Fritz, but to find and bury your dead.
5. Did they swap gifts with each other?
In many cases soldiers did give each other gifts once the Truce was active. Opposing soldiers swapped cap badges and buttons, food and drink, and some took photographs of each other, as at this stage of the war personal cameras were not banned. The 1/6th Cheshires cooked a pig in No Man’s Land and offered to share it with their German counterparts. German soldiers brought a barrel of beer to the men of 2nd Royal Welsh Fusiliers, for which they gave plum puddings in return. But the beer was of poor quality to the hardened Welsh regulars so it was not a popular present!
6. The Truce was not universal
Not every German unit wanted a Truce, and not every British unit agreed to participate. British soldiers had witnessed many examples of the Germans implementing ‘ruse de guerre’ (tricks of war) during the campaign from Mons to Ypres, and as such they did not trust the motives for the Truce. Some units were proud of their martial reputation and did not want to be seen to fraternise, and even in sectors where there was a Truce, some soldiers did not take part: having lost mates or family members in the war, as well as the diet of anti-German propaganda that had started on the outbreak of war, they perhaps had little inclination for it.
7. Men Died on Christmas Day 1914
Along the British front on 25th December 1914 more than seventy British and Commonwealth soldiers were killed or died of wounds. Of these 32 are commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial, Ploegsteert Memorial or Menin Gate, and have no known grave. With shelling, random sniper and machine-gun fire, for many soldiers Christmas Day 1914 was a typical period of trench warfare with the usual losses.
8. There were many remarkable coincidences
Men of the London Rifle Brigade who took part in the Christmas Truce were Territorial soldiers from the City of London. Before the war many waiters in London hotels were German, and a large proportion of men’s barbers were German too. One veteran recalled meeting a German soldier who used to cut his hair, in No Man’s Land that day; a few months before he had been the man’s client, now they were enemies.
9. Famous people who witnessed the Christmas Truce
Among those who took part in the Christmas Truce was wartime cartoonist Bruce Bairnsfather, who drew the famous ‘Old Bill’ cartoons of the period. He was photographed by one of his men in No Man’s Land that day, and wrote about it in his best-selling book ‘Bullets and Billets’ published in 1916. Nature writer Henry Williamson, most famous for his 1928 classic ‘Tarka The Otter’ was in the Truce at Ploegsteert. Having German ancestors, he felt some kinship to the enemy he met that day, and it was a life changing moment for him: one German soldier told Williamson that he was fighting for King, Country and Freedom, something he could not square that with the fact that supposedly he was fighting with the British Army for the same thing. Later in life Williamson used to get very morose on Christmas Day, thinking back to the Truce and the terrible loss of life in the war.
10. It was a remarkable day
While aspects of the Christmas Truce have been exaggerated, and there may have been no football, it was a truly remarkable day. Soldiers who were enemies stopped fighting and met each other on the battlefield. They obeyed a basic human instinct, rather than just follow orders. As the majority involved were professional soldiers they may have seen it as a rare opportunity to have a day off. Others would have been curious to actually meet a German, as it was likely few ever had. Whatever the reason, it was an event unique to 1914. While the odd battlefield truce, and a small scale one at Cambrai in the winter of 1917/18 took place, there was nothing on this scale ever again: whatever innocence remained in 1914 was lost in the great battles of the war on the Somme and at Passchendaele.
When Christmas is out of the way and the New Year’s resolutions are in full swing, we all need something to look forward to. And, if spring is your thing, you’re probably already counting down the days until those first buds start to appear
We know many people will have their hearts set on that summer holiday, but we think why wait? When spring comes knocking, it’s time to get packing because the Dutch Bulbfields offer the perfect post-winter getaway.
It’s the time that Holland transforms into a sea of colour, from the brightest of yellows, to the deepest of pinks, it’s not just an anthophile’s dream.
First comes the crocus season, followed by daffodils and hyacinths, then the grand finale, the tulips! From mid-March to mid-May, Holland’s green spaces get a whole lot more impressive and the Dutch Bulbfields are a worthy inclusion on any persons bucket list.
The Dutch fascination with tulips certainly isn’t new. First introduced to Dutch Merchants from the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, unlike any other flower at the time, the intense petal colour fascinated Europe and the flower grew rapidly in popularity – and so did the price.
In fact, at there was a time that the flower was so valuable, it was even used as currency. That’s why they called it ‘Tulip Mania’.
Although the value of a tulip will no longer buy you a house by the canal, throughout April, the Dutch capital still honours the humble tulip with its very own festival, showcasing an impressive 500,000 of them throughout the city!
From the EYE Filmmuseum, Hermitage Amsterdam and Hortus Botanicus to the Museum Van Loon, Rijksmuseum and many more public spaces throughout the city, you can be sure to spot some spectacular displays whilst in Amsterdam.
And, of course, as the hours of sunlight grow steadily longer, there really is more time in the day to enjoy the best of Amsterdam. Maybe having a leisurely break, sipping on a Dutch beer by the canal? Albeit, with the help of a patio heater every now and then.
Just a short hop away from Amsterdam, you can reach the real holy grail of the tulip itself, the stunning Keukenhof Park. 79 acres of flowers and fragrance, the park is considered the ‘Garden of Europe’, a well-deserved title, we must say.
Unlike anywhere else, the park has attracted a whopping 50 million people since it first opened, with almost 75% of those visiting from other countries.
It’s one of the world’s largest flower gardens, with more than 7 million Tulips, Hyacinths and Daffodils on display over 8 weeks of spring.
Surprisingly enough, the bulbs are provided for free by over 1000 Dutch growers, and at the end of the show season at Keukenhof, the team of gardeners have orders to dig out the millions of bulbs and destroy them, ready to start fresh for the next year.
Although, the bulbs don’t go entirely to waste, maybe in stark contrast to the Tulip Mania era, most will be used as food for farm animals.
The gardeners will then hand plant next year’s bulbs in Autumn, taking 3 months to create a brand new design. So, if you’re wondering is it worth going back and visiting Keukenhof again, it sure is!
But, it’s not just Keukenhof where you can enjoy mass amounts of tulips all in one place, the bulbfields themselves are just as impressive.
Fields of vibrant colours line canals and road sides, with windmills rising up from the sky line, the growing fields of this fabulous flower are certainly a sight for sore eyes. Even Vincent Van Gogh thought them worthy of a masterpiece, as the fields feature in many of his paintings.
Every spring draws huge crowds, with cameras to capture the spectacular sight in their own snap shot. Even if you’re not particularly into flowers, this one makes a great photo.
Even though these fields are beautiful, and attract tourists in their droves, they are also economically valuable to the Netherlands. A high proportion of the country’s exports are freshly cut flowers.
In fact, Holland holds the title of the biggest player in the flower game, making up two thirds of the world’s flora sales! You can even buy tulips in New York that were cut in Holland that very morning! Now, that’s impressive. So, if people in New York are enjoying a little piece of Holland, why not try some for yourself? Our popular Dutch Bulbfield tours will be departing through March and April so why not book your getaway today?