Italian Süd Tyrol & the Dolomites – A Passenger's View

The Dolomites

Amazing, Beautiful, Spectacular, Wonderful, Fantastic, Stunning…. You really do run out of words to describe some of the places you visit and sights you see on this Dolomites tour, but I think the coach crew would sum it up in their own word ‘Amazeballs’ as that’s just what this tour was.

Day One – Outbound to Liege

We were lucky enough to join our tour coach at our pick-up point and were able to sit in our allocated seats from the start. Once on board, Mum had a lovely surprise as her seat had been decorated by our drivers, Paul & Lisa, to celebrate her birthday. This was a lovely gesture and Paul & Lisa also made sure that they presented each passenger who celebrated a birthday on tour with a personal card & gift. This made the tour extra special for those 3 passengers who celebrated their birthdays on this tour of the Dolomites with us.

Following the usual efficient service at the interchange, we re-joined our tour coach and continued on to our overnight hotel in Liege. We arrived at a reasonable hour and were able to enjoy a drink at the bar and the chance to get to know our fellow travellers. One thing we love about Leger tours is the opportunity to make new friends and discover wonderful new places. This tour was no exception!

Day Two – Liege to Uttenheim

It’s an early start and a long day, but travelling through some wonderful scenery, as we did, it’s a very enjoyable journey. There were plenty of refreshments available on board, regular stops to stretch your legs and the lounge on board is a great place to spend some time getting to know the new friends you meet on board. During the journey, Paul explained the itinerary and provided additional information & interesting facts about the planned excursions and places we passed during the day. His knowledge of the area and enjoyment of the tour was obvious and both he & Lisa were more than happy to answer any questions about the tour, or indeed any other tour we were thinking of booking after perusing the brochures on board.

At the end of the day, we arrived at the lovely Zum Schlossl hotel in Uttenheim to find a warm welcome from our hosts Anna & Peter along with a lovely 3-course dinner waiting for us.

Day Three – Dolomites

I think this Dolomites tour has to be one of the highlights of the holiday. Stunning scenery around every bend, and plenty of stops for that perfect picture postcard photo opportunity. Our lunch stop on the Pordoi Pass, in the Dolomites, was fantastic with more than enough time for those who wanted to take the cable car to the top. I can thoroughly recommend doing this if you get the chance as the views were stunning…. snow, ice, blue skies and amazing vistas. The first of many lunches with a view this week….

After dinner, those who didn’t want to watch the football tonight had a fun evening of Bingo provided by Lisa & Paul …. It did get a bit competitive but was a great end to our day. There were a lot of laughs and everyone really enjoyed the fun end to a wonderful day exploring the mighty Dolomites.

Pordoi Pass, Dolomites
Pordoi Pass, Dolomites

Day Four – Lake Garda

This optional excursion was well worth booking. We travelled to Lake Garda and had time to explore Riva before catching our first boat of the day to Limone. Once there, we had plenty of time to explore this lovely town and enjoy lunch in one of the many cafes offering views of the lake. Our last boat ride of the day took us to Malcesine where there was time to visit the castle, browse the local shops and of course enjoy the obligatory ice cream in the Italian sunshine before re-joining the coach for our journey back to the hotel. On board the coach for our return journey we enjoyed our first taste of Meloncello which was lovely and the perfect end to the excursion.

Riva, Lake Garda

Day Five – Brunico & Lake Misurina

In our opinion, this was the best day of the tour and is an optional which really should not be missed. Our first stop of the day was Brunico, where we were given plenty of time to explore both the new and old parts of town and enjoy coffee & cake in one of the many cafes.

Some of us climbed up to the Woodland Soldier Cemetery which Paul had suggested we visit and the castle and I can recommend both on a visit to this beautiful town.

Brunico Soldier Cemetery is a forest cemetery and is unlike any other war cemetery I’ve seen. Set amongst the woodland, overlooking the town, all of the graves are carved from trees. Amongst them, you can find Hungarian-Austrian & German army next to Russian & Serbian Prisoner of War graves. Every one of them, whether Catholic or Orthodoxy, Mohammedan or Jewish, were buried according to their religious rites, and all of the graves are equally cared for and decorated all year round by the town. When visiting Brunico it is well worth the walk up to visit this woodland cemetery and we were so glad Paul told us about it.

Brunico Soldier Cemetery
Brunico Soldier Cemetery

Walking across the bridge from the Woodland Cemetery we found Brunico Castle, which overlooks the town. We had the time to go in and explore the castle and were glad we did. There is so much to see within it that we could have spent a lot longer there and would definitely go back again. The views from the castle over the town and surrounding area are worth climbing the stairs of the tower, although a lift is also available if the thought of the stairs is too daunting.

Brunico Castle
Brunico Castle

Lake Misurina

What a place for a lunch stop! There was the chance to walk around the lake if you wanted, which many of the group did. We chose to take our first chair lift ride and enjoyed a very nice lunch (& being at the top of the mountain we couldn’t not try the apple strudel for dessert!) with a spectacular view overlooking this beautiful lake and the surrounding snow-topped mountains.

Without a doubt we would recommend that you do this optional excursion if you get the chance….it’s just Wow!

Lake Misurina

Day Six – Venice

This is a long day with an early start and because of that, not all the passengers joined this optional excursion. Those of us who did had a lovely day in Venice with perfect weather. We enjoyed our first gondola ride and enjoyed wandering around the streets of Venice exploring before finding a lovely local restaurant for lunch. There was time after that to take photos at the Rialto Bridge and enjoy another ice cream while we walked back via St Mark’s Square to catch the boat for the optional Lagoon cruise.

Rialto Bridge, Venice
Rialto Bridge, Venice

Venice is a lovely place to visit and we enjoyed our day, but because of the long drive, it deters a lot of passengers from booking the excursion. It may be worth changing this day and including some of the other wonderful places in the Tyrol which are closer to the hotel. Some of the passengers who didn’t come to Venice had a lovely day exploring the local towns or going for walks from the hotel. Whether they joined the excursion or not, everyone enjoyed their day.

Day Seven – Bolzano

A nice short day after Venice but we still had plenty of time to explore this lovely town. The architecture of the buildings and the beautiful surrounding countryside provide some great photo opportunities. We took time to look around the local shops, visit the castle and enjoy lunch soaking up the sun with overlooking the Cathedral with its beautiful mosaic roof which stands at one end of the central square, Piazza Walther. In the centre of the square is a statue of the poet and bard, Walther von de Vogelweide and we found it was a wonderful place to sit and enjoy lunch whilst watching the world go by.

Bolzano
Bolzano

Hotel Zum Schlossl, Uttenheim

There is not one bad thing to say about this hotel. We had a room in the annexe which had a balcony with fantastic views over the mountains. The hotel is run by Anna, Peter and their son and is just across the quiet road from the annexe. The food is all fresh and homemade by Anna and, believe me, you will never leave the dinner table hungry. After dinner, there is a very nice terrace where we enjoyed a drink in the evening with our fellow passengers and I am being totally honest when I say we really can’t fault anything about this hotel or the wonderful staff. We only wish we could have stayed there longer!

Coach & Crew

There is not one negative thing to say about the coach or Paul & Lisa, our fantastic crew for this Italian Sud Tirol and the Dolomites tour.

The coach was always kept spotlessly clean inside & out, and with plentiful refreshments on board, there was no chance of spending any part of the tour thirsty or hungry.

Paul & Lisa are a wonderful team and they work extremely well together. Their obvious love of their work and knowledge of the tour and the places we visited was infectious and I don’t think one person left the tour without having a thoroughly enjoyable time.

Throughout the week, both Lisa & Paul were happy to answer any questions about any tours that we saw in the brochures on board the coach. Then, on the Friday night, they had the great idea of a ‘Booking Night’. This gave the whole group the chance to talk to each other and ask any questions of Paul & Lisa about future tours they were thinking of booking. We were lucky enough to make some wonderful new friends this tour and by the end of the night, we had booked another 3 tours to look forward to with our new friends.

To find out more about our Summer in the Italian Süd Tirol & the Dolomites tour, click here to find out more. 

Coach Holidays: Breaking the Stereotype

You could probably stereotype any type of holiday, from an 18-30s or a couples’ retreat, and if we don’t usually associate ourselves with those we assume we would be travelling with, it could well be a make or break factor.

But, what about coach holidays? Who exactly would you be travelling with? What sort of people would go on a coach holiday? Well… everyone!
We asked a collection of passengers, who have previously travelled on a coach holiday, a series of questions to shine some light on the mysterious passengers on board your coach and what it is you can really take away from a coach holiday.

Let’s take a look at your fellow passengers…

A common question we get asked from people who are thinking about travelling on a coach holiday is about the age of fellow passengers. Will they feel that they are too young or too old?

71% of people we asked thought, prior to their coach holiday, that their fellow passengers would be over 50 years old with 9% thinking all of their fellow passengers would be 70+. Once on board their coach, 47% of these people actually travelled with passengers that were under 40.
But, if you’re thinking about going on a coach holiday for the first time and your age is playing on your mind, you may be glad to know that only 2% of those surveyed said that the age of their fellow passengers was an important factor in their holidays with 59% saying they would recommend a coach holiday to any age group. So no matter how old you are, you’ll always be made to feel welcome on board.

A comfortable setting for a solo traveller…

When the itchy feet set in, you just want to go. It’s not always easy to have your travel companion free to travel at the same time, or circumstances might make it difficult. Solo travel is a coach holiday speciality.
You get the benefit of being able to head off where and when you want and with the sociability of being in a group. And, you have the option to travel on our Single Traveller holidays, alongside a group of like-minded individuals, or join our main tours and feel welcomed into the Leger family with a wider variety of passengers.

And, don’t worry too much, everyone is different and enjoys different things, and a coach holiday doesn’t have to be restrictive. Whilst 29% enjoyed their holiday with their group as whole, 70% enjoyed the best of both worlds, having a great time with their group, also enjoying time to themselves, doing exactly what they wanted to do. What more could you ask for?

Social and relationship benefits of a coach holiday…

Following their coach holidays, our passengers weren’t thrown back in the real world with memories alone. In fact, 21% of our customers flouted the post-holiday blues, and came back feeling happier than before they left.

But, for the people travelling with a friend or partner, 83% have taken away lasting memories with each other, 9% feel it has brought them closer together and 3% have said it’s even made them want to spend more time together!

The benefits of being an experienced traveller…

Stories, experiences and the ultimate travel envy, there are many ways in which others can influence your holiday choices.
When travelling on a coach holiday, you visit many destinations within your holiday, ticking off those bucket list destinations or visiting places you’ve never even heard of, you’ll certainly come back at least a little more knowledgeable in travel. And, it makes you far more interesting too…

The coach holiday also broadens horizons with a whopping 76% of people feeling they are more likely to visit new places. But, it can also create a new love story with the destinations you’ve visited, 23% of people said after a coach holiday, they were more likely to go back to the places they found themselves to love.
The benefits of a coach holiday means you can really make the most of escorted touring. In fact, 70% of people feel they return feeling more enlightened and 80% feel they are more knowledgeable, and how incredible is that?

Travelling for long periods, how would I pass the time?

Luckily, with our Luxuria coach, with your own touch-screen TV at your seat, you’ve got plenty to keep you entertained. But, even without that, our previous passengers have found passing the time a breeze.

And, then you’re hooked…

An incredible 62% of people surveyed have enjoyed 5 or more coach holidays and 88% of passengers would consider them to be their main holiday! And, with so much on offer, from short breaks to our impressive Grand Explorer holidays, the choice is almost endless.
Has this got you thinking a coach holiday might just be for you? Well, take a look at our incredible collection of exciting itineraries available to book, now: leger.co.uk
Survey conducted with 144 previous Leger travellers who are members of the Leger Holidays – Very Important Passengers Facebook group.

2016: Our Top Viewed Tours of the Last Year

Another year has come and gone and whilst it seems to have gone in warp-speed, there was plenty to remember it by. From a spectacular show from team GB at the Rio Olympics to Andy Murray lifting his second Wimbledon trophy, unexpected results at the polls and a certain Pokémon game sweeping the nation, we can truly say 2016 has been a roller-coaster of a year. With all that being said we do hope that your Leger holiday brought bundles of happiness and incredible memories to last a lifetime.

But, as we move on into 2017, we take one more look back into the year just passed and bring you our top 10 viewed tours of 2016. Compiled from the most popular tours you viewed on our website, we reflect on which tours caught your eye in 2016.

10. Beer & Battlefields

Soldiers drinking beer

Coming in at number 10, a relatively late arrival in 2016, our Beer and Battlefields tour has certainly caught your attention in the short time it’s been online. A brand new concept tying in the prominent battlefields of Belgium alongside the prominent breweries of WWI and WWII.

A perfect Battlefields starter tour, expertly crafted by our specialist guide, Marc Hope, it’s a great way to gain knowledge of our history and the impact and sacrifice of these wars alongside a more light-hearted approach looking behind the front lines and just how these beers and breweries affected our soldiers. As Marc himself said, there are ‘hoppy’ times ahead as we kick off our maiden tour in 2017.

9. Cruising the Rhine and Moselle

Boats along the Rhine river

River cruises are becoming increasingly popular and where better to set sail than down the Rhine and Moselle? Known as the heart of River cruising, you get everything you could wish for meandering through two of Germany most picturesque valleys.

And, it’s certainly proving popular among Leger customers! Sailing on the MV Prinses Christina, you’re in for a real treat. Plus, with both valleys being notorious for their wine production, let’s raise a glass to a fantastic river cruise.

8. Beautiful Bruges

Bruges canal
The pinnacle of short breaks? It is no surprise that our Beautiful Bruges tour pops up on this list. A short hop across the channel yet a world apart from the day to day life at home. Stunning architecture, quaint canals and chocolate! What more could you ask for?

With a four-day tour starting from as little as £249*pp, it really is the perfect little getaway.

7.The Elegance & Charm of the Italian & French Rivieras

Portofino Harbour
The glitz and glamour capital of Europe, who wouldn’t fancy time on the Riviera? With this one, with all those fantastic places to visit, you don’t have to choose between where to go. From the iconic French Riviera taking in the likes of Cannes, Nice and Monaco, to the stunning Italian fishing village of Portofino, you really will enjoy the best that this exquisite part of Europe has to offer.

With air options and dedicated single traveller packages available, there really is the perfect trip to the Riviera lifestyle for everyone.

6. Austrian Gems

Kitzbuhel

The hills are alive with the sound of music, and it seems to be calling you over to Austria, the home of the Von Trapp family. Touring through Austria’s most beautiful villages, stopping off at the wonderful Krimml Falls and, of course, enjoying time in spectacular Salzburg. You don’t have to be a fan of the film to enjoy this trip.

With prices from just £349*pp for 7 days, you’ll be stepping into the shoes of Julie Andrews and feeling like bursting into a rendition of ‘My Favourite Things’ before you know it.

5. Lake Garda, Venice and Verona

Lake Garda

The Italian lakes are still a hit for British tourists and where better to get a true taste of a lake holiday than at the wonderful Lake Garda? And with excursions to Verona and the picturesque and popular city of Venice, there’s plenty to enjoy whilst you’re there.

Departing from April to October, there’s the perfect opportunity to experience the changing seasons in an already stunning destination.

4. Belgian Grand Prix

Williams Formula 1 Car on track
The highlight of the racing calendar, the Belgian Grand Prix proves ever popular in our list of most viewed tours. In fact, for the 2016 race, we sent out 13 coaches taking around 650 Leger customers to the summertime race at the Spa-Francorchamps.

If it’s the electrifying race atmosphere you’re looking for, this could be the tour for you in 2017.

3. Imperial Capitals – Prague, Vienna and Budapest

Budapest Parliament Building
There’s plenty to be said about each of the focus destinations on this tour, so combining them into one trip seems to be perfect for the adventurous traveller among you. Who could say no to 9 days taking in the most delightful destinations that Eastern Europe has to offer? Your journey of discovery will be second to none when you embark on this tour.

From the Astronomical Clock and the Charles bridge in Prague, to the Fisherman’s Bastion in Budapest and, of course, the Hofburg Palace standing pride of place in Vienna, you can’t deny this tours popularity.

2. All Quiet on the Western Front

The Menin Gate, Ypres
One of the staple battlefield tours, the ever popular All Quiet on the Western Front was still one of the most popular tours on our websites in 2016. It’s an ideal introductory tour covering the major battlefields of Flanders and France and is a great trip for people of all ages with an interest in our military history.

Our expert guides provide a 5* service giving you every chance to really walk in the footsteps of heroes. We think this tour will still be standing proud at the top of this list as we head into 2018, the centenary year of the end of WW1.

1. New Orleans, Nashville & Memphis

Memphis
You can’t seem to get enough of the Deep South, our New Orleans, Nashville and Elvis Presley’s Memphis tour is once again our most viewed tour of the year.

The idea of jetting off to the USA and sampling the soul of these fantastic cities is extremely popular, once again. And, with a visit to Graceland itself, it sure is one of the best (if we do say so ourselves). If you’re wanting to rock ‘n’ roll over to the states for a trip that’s music to your ears, we’ve got you covered with this one.

*Prices including early booking discount, correct on publication date.

Paul Reed: Being a Battlefield Guide

In my capacity as Head Battlefield Guide for Leger, every year I get dozens of letters and emails from people asking how they can become battlefield guides, or could they come to work for us.

However, what is clear is that often few of these prospective guides have any real idea of what is involved, or what we really do. So what is a battlefield guide, and what do we do?!
I did my first paid job as a battlefield guide in April 1987 when I took members of the Henry Williamson Society around the WW1 battlefields, and I am lucky to have been working pretty much continuously ever since.

early-days-with-leger-on-the-somme
Early Days with Leger on the Somme

How did I get into it?

It was simple, living in the south-east I had been in a good position to visit battlefields since the late 1970s and I had a good knowledge of the ground. First friends asked me to take them, then groups like this.
How I guided then was very different to how I do it now but certain things never change: it is not all about baffling groups with military terminology, rattling off lists of units, dates and commander’s names… it’s about people – and as I often say, ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.
Most groups want to hear about the experience of war: what it was like, what people went through, how long they were there, what the conditions were like, what did they eat, where did they go to the toilet?
In that respect battlefield guiding is like story-telling, and that is not a bad analogy. I find that the most successful tours are ones that have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Groups like to see a logical and understandable sequence to their visits, they like to understand how they are connected, they enjoy big themes, with some micro-detail to lighten the dark corners or blurred edges.
What they generally don’t want are ‘stands’ – a military style of battlefield tour that is fine for staff-rides but not for civilians, especially when discussing World Wars when the average British soldier was a civvie in Khaki themselves.

paul-reed-talking-to-ww2-veteran-in-italy
Paul Reed Talking to WW2 Veteran in Italy

Reading, Talking and Knowing your Roads

Reading, reading and more reading is always the best approach for battlefield guides. Read everything, read the new books because people will ask about them, read the old books, the ones by those who were there – those are very important, because they give the ground-up viewpoint. But don’t ignore the historians: battlefield tours can be a way of educating a wider public, so being aware of recent historiography, new thoughts on your period: that is very important too. It also means you can never have enough books, which is a bonus as well.
Talking, talking and more talking is also the best approach too. If you are shy, or not good at public speaking, this is not a job for you. Don’t just talk when you are on the ground, either. That is what the microphone on your vehicle is for: tell people what they are seeing as you travel, link these places with stories from the books you have read. Which means you have to know your ground: perhaps the thing new guides invest the least in, is knowledge of the battlefield as it is today.
You need to know the roads, the tracks, the best routes and the worst ones too: and more importantly how this terrain fits into the picture of the conflict you are guiding. Without that, you could just be driving around in circles and no-one would really be the wiser. And with the technology we have now, there is no excuse: a far cry from the days when I poured over paper maps and tried to re-imagine the places I had been on the last trip over.

guides-recces-at-waterloo
Guide’s Recce at Waterloo

In the end, your work as a battlefield guide should always be an evolving process. Never be afraid to change, or listen to advice from others. Most working guides are happy to share knowledge and contacts, and help people out. As guides we should have a common bond, and we have a duty to share what we have learned not just with groups but with fellow guides, too.
I often get asked do I get fed up with it: doing the same thing, visiting the same places? But how could I, when you consider what these places are and what they stand for. I consider myself blessed being able to be among them so often. Fortunate to have spent so many days in the company of veterans of both World Wars on the ground where they fought as young men. Honoured to have helped relatives visit a family grave, and shed a few tears with them over it.
taking-a-family-back-to-a-wargave-in-flanders
Taking a Family Back to a Wargrave in Flanders

And lucky, so lucky, that what has driven me for most of my life is also my job: a job where I have watched the ashes of a last veteran scattered across a Somme field, seen an old man weep over the grave of the man who saved his life, and experienced the comradeship of common experience as I’ve walked the ground with groups where so much took place: a landscape which in itself is a last witness that speaks to us if we care to listen.
Because, finally, the joy of battlefield guiding is not what the guide gets from it, but what the group experiences, sees and understands. None of us are bigger than the subject; perhaps one of the best mantras any perspective guide should always bear in mind. Be true to your passion, and never forget the debt we owe the men and women we discuss: with that approach, you can never go wrong.
leger-coach-on-the-battlefields
Leger Coach on the Battlefields

 
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Christmas Markets: ‘Tis (almost) the Season

As the old Wizard track goes, we really do wish it could be Christmas every day. There’s just something about the cold winter nights, the twinkling lights and the smell of roasting chestnuts filling the air.

While we seem to be heading through this year at colossal speed, it does give us one thing that we can really start to look forward to… Christmas market season!
Yes, before we know it, we’ll be gearing our coaches up to send them on their merry way into the continent, taking all of our lovely passengers to their exciting holidays visiting the best Christmas markets.
But, if you’re still looking for a trip to some of the best Christmas markets in Europe, here’s where our Christmas markets by coach and air will be heading in 2016.

Germany

Berlin Christmas Markets
Of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas market season without a great selection of German markets. Big cities and twinkling lights, from Berlin to Cologne, you can really get the traditional Christkindlmarkt experience.
Dipping into the lesser known destinations, we’ll visit the markets of the Rhine Valley and the small yet perfectly formed resorts such as Monschau.
With plenty of Glühwein, stollen and steins, even Berlin’s toboggan run, there’s heaps of fantastic festive fun to be found in Germany.

Austria

Salzburg Christmas Markets
The Austrian lake district, Innsbruck and of course, Salzburg. We’re ticking off all of the top destinations in Austria.
Whilst Austria shares many traditions with its Bavarian neighbour, one thing you can count on is the romance of it all. The picturesque settings of the small towns can easily outweigh the big city buzz if you’re after something more cosy and scenic for you and your partner.
Even if you’re heading out to the markets solo, with so much to enjoy and the abundance of Christmas spirit, you certainly won’t feel lonely.

Belgium

Bruges Christmas Market
The master of beer and chocolate, enjoy some tasty festive treats and say hello to beautiful Belgium. From picturesque Bruges to the heart of Brussels, stay in style as you combine the most popular Belgian Christmas markets with 5-star luxury hotels!
We’ve even got you covered if you’re looking for something a bit more off the beaten track, heading to Ypres and the underground cave markets of Valkenburg.
So, get your hands on some jenever (gin), Glühwein, and some tasty deep fried sweet dumplings, oliebollen, and get into the true spirit of Christmas in Belgium.

Denmark

Copenhagen Christmas Market
Fancy some Danish flavouring this Christmas? We’ll also be heading off to Copenhagen’s fabulous Christmas markets, including the picturesque Tivoli Gardens, set in the downtown area of Denmark’s capital city. The gardens will be host to a true Nordic atmosphere with wooden huts, Christmas lights and even Father Christmas’ reindeer.
With spectacular illuminations and Danish treats aplenty, it’s the perfect opportunity to relax and enjoy the festive atmosphere with a mug of spiced grogg.
But, that’s not all! See where else we will be heading this festive season, all of our Christmas market tours by coach are available to book now. Click here for more info.

Sightseeing as a Single Traveller – Rachel Wade Discovers the Mystical Cities of Central and Eastern Europe

You’re never too old (or too young!) for an adventure, as seasoned single traveller Rachel Wade discovered when she took on Leger’s Imperial Capitals – Prague, Vienna and Budapest tour.

This was my sixth solo Leger tour and by far the most ambitious, taking in three of Europe’s most beautiful cities – Prague, Budapest and Vienna. Thankfully, our friendly and helpful coach drivers, Richard and Shaun, were happy to help make our experience one we would never forget.
RachelBlog2_Prague
Our first destination was the Czech capital of Prague. While some of my fellow travellers joined a guided tour and boat cruise, I took to the city on foot to take in the stunning buildings, tempting shops and fascinating museums and galleries. The Jewish quarter and State Opera House were also well worth a visit, providing plenty of unique photo opportunities.
RachelBlog3_Bratislava
The following day we travelled to Hungary with a stop en route to the Slovakian capital of Bratislava. It was a vibrant and friendly city with many interesting streets to explore and an array of eateries serving everything from steak and lobster to vegan ice-cream! We finally arrived at our hotel in Buda directly opposite the glorious Hungarian Parliament building in Pest. What a way to begin our stay!
RachelBlog4_Budapest
We had the next day to explore Budapest at leisure, with an optional guided tour and boat cruise on offer. There were so many sights to soak up including the Fisherman’s Bastion, Cave Church, St. Stephen’s Basilica, and the famous baths. My favourite place was the Great Market Hall, which was crammed with all varieties of food, clothing and souvenir stalls – shopping heaven!
RachelBlog5_SchonbrunnPalaceGardens
Today we set off for Austria, stopping first in the Hungarian city of Győr – ideal for some last-minute shopping with our Hungarian Forints! We finally arrived in Vienna and were able to spend a couple of hours exploring the beautiful Schönbrunn Palace with its Baroque architecture, elegant gardens, and the oldest zoo in the world founded in 1752.
RachelBlog6_MuseumQuarterinVienna
Our final day had come all too quickly, but what a city to spend it in! Our coach dropped us off between the Vienna State Opera house and the Kunsthistorisches Museum; both incredible buildings displaying the historic and cultural heritage of the city. We spent the day exploring these and other iconic landmarks in the summer sunshine.
During our time in Europe we had travelled 2,300 miles, crossed seven different countries, used three currencies, heard multiple languages, and taken hundreds of photographs! But the memories each of us were taking home were countless. If you have a passion for exploring Europe’s finest cities, then this tour is the adventure you’ve been waiting for! You won’t regret it.
 

Experience Italy like the A-List

The glitz, the glamour, is there anywhere in Europe with more top class destinations than Italy? From Como to Portofino, there’s no wonder it’s so popular with the glitterati.

With a coach full of VIP’s on each of our tours, of course we’re going to visit some of these sought after Italian escapes.
So, if you’re wanting to do Italy like the star that you are and rub shoulders with the A-list, here’s our guide to the top spots craved by A-listers from around the world, right in the boot of Europe.

Venice

Venice Grand Canal
An explanation as to just why Venice attracts people from around the globe, let alone celebrities, is probably not needed. But, we’ll give you a quick rundown, anyway – Gondolas, picturesque canals, exquisite architecture, palaces, ornate bridges, iconic squares… gelato!
Featuring in films such as James Bond epic, Casino Royale and Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, who needs the Hollywood ‘Walk of Fame’ when you’ll be walking in the footsteps of Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford?
And, love is really in the air! The wedding destination of George and Amal Clooney, and more recently German footballing hero Bastian Schweinsteiger and tennis superstar, Ana Ivanovic, if you’re looking for a spark of romance, this floating city has it in abundance.

Lake Como

como
Italy proves to be very popular with the Clooney’s, they actually have a residence in Lake Como. Yes, you can find George relaxing in his multi-million pound villa in Laglio. But, we don’t need to dream of that life because what Lake Como has to offer is just as impressive.
One of the most beautiful lakes in Europe, nestled in the Lombardy region and a stones throw from Switzerland, Lake Como has stunning scenery from every angle and plenty to enjoy, from boat trips to spectacular food, you’ll be living like the stars even if it’s just for one day.
Lake Como has been popular with the rich and famous for some time with the likes of John F. Kennedy and Alfred Hitchcock favouring a retreat to the lake’s shores. You really will be rubbing shoulders with the best.

Portofino

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Another picturesque hotspot, attracting seasoned globetrotters year on year, Portofino is a pretty perfect fishing village found on the Italian Riviera.
Pastel-coloured houses, high end boutiques and a harbour lined with super yachts, it’s the perfect place to hop ashore and enjoy some Italian splendours.
But who has pounded the pavements of Portofino in the past, you ask? Well, there was a well-documented visit by music power couple, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, as they celebrated her 33rd birthday and even Director Steven Spielberg has been spotted enjoying some down time in the resort.

Rome

rome
One of the most popular Italian destinations and lined with designer shops, incredible restaurants and, of course, outstanding sightseeing opportunities, Rome is high on the list of stars of film and stage, too.
With the likes of Richard Gere, Jude Law and pop princess, Taylor Swift, having touched down in the eternal city, you can make the most of knowing that you’ll be in great company during your visits to hot spots such as the stunning Trevi Fountain, Colosseum and the Vatican.

Taormina

toarmina
Nestled into the isle of Sicily, this hill top town on the east coast is linked to some iconic stars from the Silver Screen. Audrey Hepburn and Liz Taylor, to name a few.
The Taormina Film Festival brought the internationally famous stars flocking to this pretty little town in Italy. Sat in the shadow of Mount Etna, there was also many holidays enjoyed here, often using the old San Domenico Palace Hotel as their base, helping to make Taormina one of the legendary locations of the Dolce Vita.

Sardinia

sardinia
Last, but far from least, the world famous Costa Smeralda on the North Eastern coast of Sardinia is host to turquoise waters, some of the world’s finest white sands and multi-million pond yachts.
The rugged beauty of is awash with stunning private villas, first class restaurants and chic watering holes, and with the idyllic nature of course comes the famous faces.
Gwyneth Paltrow, Mariah Carey and Heidi Klum have all enjoyed sun-soaked family holidays on the picture perfect Mediterranean island making it one of the most favoured European holiday destinations for celebrities and stars alike.
But you don’t have to be a film or rock star to enjoy these incredible destinations, why not check out our great value Italian holidays and enjoy your life in the limelight as we take care of everything for you? See all of our tours to Italy, here.
 

Exploring Italy as a Single Traveller: Rachel Wade Visits the Süd Tirol

Having fallen in love with Italy on her first Leger Holidays trip, solo traveller Rachel Wade couldn’t wait to explore more of the country – along with a little taste of Austria – on our ‘Italian Süd Tirol & the Dolomites‘ tour.

With idyllic scenery, enticing excursions and the appeal of experiencing two cultures, a visit to the Italian Dolomites sounded like my ideal adventure. After a leisurely two days of travel, our tour group arrived at the hotel in Kiens to a warm welcome and a delicious dinner.
Italian Dolomites by Rachel Wade
On Monday we travelled through the beautiful countryside of the Italian Dolomites. The monochrome mountains, lush green landscapes and turquoise waters of the streams and lakes made for some incredible photo opportunities. A spectacular start to our holiday!
Excitement murmured along the coach as we eagerly anticipated Tuesday’s excursion to Lake Garda. The views were truly breathtaking as we drove down to the elegant resort of Riva, followed by boat trips to the equally delightful Limone and Malcesine.
Lake Garda by Rachel Wade
Wednesday began in Brunico with its bustling market, popular high street, decorative churches and hilltop castle to explore. We then headed to Lake Misurina for more spectacular views of peaceful waters and towering snow-topped mountains.
Despite Thursday’s bad weather, the sights of Venice were guaranteed to brighten our spirits! It was my first visit and exceeded all of my expectations – with meandering alleyways, tranquil canals and grand buildings, it is hard not to fall in love with the ‘floating city’.
Venice by Rachel Wade
On our last day, we visited Bolzano, a vibrant little town with lots to explore from museums and galleries to shops and market stalls. We were back in Kiens by the afternoon to pack our bags and say a reluctant goodbye to this stunning area. It was a trip I’ll never forget.
Bolzano by Rachel Wade
Why not explore more of Europe with our dedicated Single Traveller tours? See our full range here.

Coach Holidays: Tips for First Time Travellers

So, you’re considering taking your first coach holiday? Or, maybe you’ve just booked it? We know how excited you must feel at the prospect of visiting so many spectacular destinations in one holiday! But, you’re probably wondering just what you’ve let yourself in for.

What will it be like? Will I enjoy it? Well, earlier this week, we asked our fantastic Facebook fans for their top tips and advice for a first time traveller, and they didn’t disappoint.
We’ve pulled together our favourite snippets of advice for you to take a look over to give you a better understanding of just what to expect as you step on board a Leger coach for the first time…
 

Your drivers are always there to help…

Anne Greaves Brilliant company to travel with. knowledgeable drivers. been to Austria in 2009 and just come back from a St Patricks day tour.you meet great peopke on the coach from all ages. wouldnt hesitate to book with them again.
[quote]Anthony Okell As a driver I have worked for company’s who have worked for Leger they are a first class company with top class holiday’s, I would holiday with them any time.  They will go the extra mile to help you.[/quote]
Lynn Cooke Leger holidays are fantastic from start to finish, the drivers are fantastic they take care of you and tell you about the places you visit.
[quote]Tony Lewis Listen to your drivers, and you won’t go wrong. Your driver’s do the journeys week in, week out, they are all very professional. Enjoy your holiday, you won’t go wrong with Leger[/quote]
Karen Selby Love Leger. Very professional drivers who make your whole experience a holiday of great memories to reflect on and savour forever. Can't rate high enough. I have no worries about travelling alone either. There are always so many interesting people to meet. You even get very helpful advice. I recall when visiting Rome in 2014 one driver in particular was very helpful with regard to protecting us all from being victims of thieves. He did it in such a subtle and jolly way, but it did impress the thought firmly in your mind. Can't wait for my next trip
 
 

Elizabeth and Meinir’s tips are great if you’re considering some optional extras…

Elizabeth Wallis Listen to your drivers take the optional excursions relax take it all in and enjoy your holiday. Leger are the best
 
[quote]Meinir Ann Thomas Do all the optional excursions – best way of seeing everything.[/quote]

 

Meinir also says, treat yourself on your ferry crossings…

Meinir Ann Thomas Have a meal at the brasserie on the ferry - perfect way to start and end a holiday. Best to book a table in advance at Christmas though as it tends to get very busy - you can do this on the P&O website.
 
 

If you’re wondering about what happens when you get to your destination, here’s that June has to say…

June Rice We have travelled abroad with other Coach Companies, but always return to Leger, as they are the best. The drivers really look after you and you are taken into the Cities and dropped off and picked up. We travelled with another Company to the Classic Cities of Spain. We were dropped of at our hotels, most times and told what local buses to get into the Cities. Not good. We had a great time on our Leger's Russian Spectacular. Fantastic experience.
 
 

And, what about the Leger comforts?

[quote]Julie Bessant Wouldn’t book with anyone but leger professional drivers really comfortable journey and drinks prices were excellent.[/quote]
Pat Armstrong Simkin About to take our third holiday with this fantastic company. Silver Service all the way, two drivers, lounge to relax in, fantastic tours what's not to like
[quote]Jackie Thornton My friend & I are one our 3rd holiday with Leger we sit back,relax and enjoy[/quote]
 
 

A couple more…

[quote]Yvonne Riley Prepare yourself for the first of many holidays you will take with Leger. A great company[/quote]
[quote]Tim Forster Bring an open mind and a sense of humour.[/quote]

 

But maybe most importantly…

 
[quote]Sheana Kenyon Enjoy the ride and enjoy your holiday[/quote]
 
And these are just a selection of tips and tricks, see the full thread, here. Why not join in our conversation and get to know fellow travellers over on our Facebook page? We also have dedicated pages for our Battlefields and Motorsports tours. See you over there soon!
 

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)

jazzahead
jazzahead_clubnight_Lagerhaus ©Wolf

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)

Bohemia
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)

North Sea Festival
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)

XJAZZ
XJAZZ Festival ©Brand und Albrecht

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)

Umbria
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)

Rigas Ritmi
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).