Barnsley Pals: Following in the Footsteps of Local Heroes

Our Head Battlefield Guide, Paul Reed has lived in the South Yorkshire former mining village of Elsecar for the past couple of years. In this blog he documents his experience of guiding a dedicated group tour, taking patrons of his local to the battlefields to discover the stories of the Barnsley Pals.


Elsecar is situated on the edge of Barnsley, close to the countryside, and near the impressive Wentworth Woodhouse stately home, whose owners built the local colliery and many of the houses here.

The Milton Arms pub, in the heart of Elsecar, is my local and I was delighted when the landlord, Phil, approached me to organise a tour to the battlefields. Having travelled with a few friends on a battlefield tour on one of our Luxuria coaches, he wanted to return and do his own thing with a group from the pub.

Leger Battlefields Tour Group

One of the great advantages of bringing a group booking to Leger is that you don’t have to book a brochure tour. With our help and advice you can discuss what you’d like to do and we offer our expertise and make it possible. Phil wanted to remember some local heroes from both World Wars, so it was decided that we would travel direct from Elsecar to the Somme, have a night in Northern France, and then move on to Normandy to look at D-Day and the battles of 1944.

We started early from Elsecar with a good supply of pork pies and plenty of drinks stock on the Luxuria coach, with drivers, Adam and Paul looking after us. Getting across to France early, we made our way down to the Somme and made our first stop at the Thiepval Memorial where several members of the group had relatives commemorated on the panels dedicated to the Missing of the Somme. From here we went on to Serre and had a gentle stroll up onto the battlefield where the Northern Pals battalions were all but wiped out on 1st July 1916: the First Day of the Somme.

Leger Holidays Luxuria Coach

Our own village had many men from the Barnsley Pals who were here that day and the group assembled around the memorial to the Barnsley lads, which was rededicated on the centenary of the battle in 2016. Elsecar to Serre in a day – so simple now, but a centenary ago, the gulf between those at home and those at the front was immeasurable.

After an excellent night staying in Arras, with its amazing main square and great restaurants and bars, we headed down to Normandy to look at the story of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. Over the course of the next few days we visited all five D-Day beaches, saw where American and British Airborne dropped in, and for many, the highlights were seeing ‘Bloody Omaha’ where so many GIs were killed on 6th June 1944, and walking across the original Pegasus Bridge. You can see these on the screen, but there is nothing like being there and seeing it for yourself.

Pegasus Bridge

As part of the D-Day tour we made a special visit to two Elsecar men killed in Normandy: one at Ranville, who was killed as a tank crewman and another at Ryes, who was an Assault Engineer. Again, it was great to have that local connection, and we were probably the first people from the village to ever stand at their graves and remember. The highlight of the week, for many, was at Hill 112 where Phil, and Chaplain Andy, led a Service of Remembrance. A veteran of the battle here had visited Phil in the pub and asked if we could remember his mates when we came, and it was a special pleasure and honour for us all to do this.

Group tours like this are unique: from planning to visiting the battlefields, those who organise are in total control over what they do and where they go, and have our years of knowledge to fall back on to make it a tour to remember.

Enquire today about taking your own group on a visit to the battlefields of WW1 or WW2 by visiting our website or by calling our team on 01709 787 403

Tempting Wine Regions: Europe’s Top 5

Have you been true to your word and not touched a drop of wine, beer or your favourite spirit throughout the whole month of January? Well, there’s some good news in store… the end of dry January is nigh!

And, to all those who’ve soldiered on through the month, abstaining from alcohol, this one is dedicated to you.
We all know that a holiday just isn’t a holiday without a little – or a lot – of overindulgence, and for all you wine connoisseurs out there, there’s no better place to sample the local delicacies than within the wine regions of Europe!
So, if you’re more than ready for that first tipple of your favourite beverage, but you’re still trying to power through those last remaining days, turn those cravings into wanderlust and find out about the fascinating places behind your favourite glass.

The Loire Valley – France’s Picturesque Wine Region

The Loire Valley - France
Deep within central France, marking the border between the north and south, and just a short distance away from the capital city of Paris, lies the lovely Loire Valley.
Or, should we say the ‘Garden of France’? A name awarded to the region due to the abundance of vineyards lining the banks of the river. And, that’s a great start, right?
The Loire Valley produces grapes such as the popular white Chenin Blanc and the red Grolleau and amongst the stunning natural scenery, you’ll find châteaux, castles and palaces dotted along the river… but it’s the 4000 wineries that we’re most interested in.
Producing an array of world-renowned quality wines, from light rosés to deep reds and sparkling whites, there’s something for everyone to enjoy, whatever your tipple of choice.

La Rioja – The Famous Wine from Spain

La Rioja, Spain's famous Wine Producing Region
If you’re a glass of red sort-of-person, then Spain could be the one for you… Situated at the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains, La Rioja is close to the ‘Way of St. James’ pilgrimage route and is centred on the Ebro River Valley.
With beautiful views of medieval villages, endless vineyards and olive groves – not to mention the unbroken blue skies – the La Rioja region produces an abundance of full-bodied red wines.
And, the wines from Rioja are as age-worthy as those from the Chianti and Bordeaux regions – they’ve even been produced since Roman times!
Rioja’s main grape is the Tempranillo, however, most wines are blended with smaller amounts of others, such as the Garnacha and the Mazuelo grapes, but, one thing is certain, they always taste divine!

The Douro Valley – Portugal

The Douro Valley - Portugal
Often overlooked as a wine region within Europe, we say the Douro Valley in Portugal is amongst one of the best!
It’s home of the world-famous Port and, as a matter of fact, was the first wine region in the world to have a formal demarcation. Yes, just like Champagne, the Douro Valley is the world’s only producer of Port.
History played a huge part in the production of the sweet tipple. When England was at war with France in 1756, it was decided that they would import wine from Portugal instead.
However, due to the long journey, the wines would often become spoiled by the time it reached England. So, in order to preserve them, they were fortified… and in the city of Porto, Port was born!
And, due to its deliciousness, the sweet, red dessert wine is still extremely popular to this day.

Tuscany – Italy’s Iconic Region

Tuscany, Italy's famous wine producing region.
It’s true what they say, it really is hard to find a bad glass of wine in Tuscany! And, not only does Tuscany produce one of the most beautiful wines in the world, the Chianti, it is also one of the most beautiful places on earth!
Unique landscapes of lush green, sloping hills full of olive groves and vineyards, are scatted with tiny traditional villages, seen for miles and miles.
Chianti, typically and traditionally presented in a bottle known as a ‘fiasco’, wrapped in a straw basket, is a dry red wine, which goes very well with the delicious cuisine that you can enjoy in Italy!

The Moselle – Germany’s Top Wine Region

The Moselle Wine Region - Germany
Germany is home to thirteen different wine regions which make the country one of the top producers in Europe. But, out of all thirteen, the Moselle is arguably the most famous… and for good reason.
Vineyards cover the steep hillsides that border the Moselle River, and it’s here where the celebrated Riesling grapes are produced, along with the Elbling, Pinot Blanc and Kerner, to name a few.
These grapes create some of the most delightful light and crisp wines you’ll ever taste. And, they’ve been made here since the 15th century, when the Romans planted their crops along the Rhine and Moselle rivers in order to supply their garrisons with wine.
Add to that the fact that the Moselle Valley looks like something straight out of a fairy tale, you’ve got the perfect destination for wine lovers and old romantics alike.
Visit these impressive wine regions and much more on a Leger Holidays escorted tour – we even offer wine tasting excursions, if this blog has whet your appetite.

Top Viewed Tours of 2017

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.
Lake Como

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.
Norwegian Fjords

8. Splendours of Paris

Paris is always a good idea, and it seems that’s something we can all agree on! The romantic capital city of France comes in at a respectable 8th on our list.
Paris 2017

7. All Quiet on the Western Front

A perfect WW1 Battlefields experience for first-timers and experienced travellers, 2017 has certainly captured your interest of visiting the Western Front.
Tyne Cot Cemetery

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.
Venice 2017

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.
Florence

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.
Trevi Fountain, Rome 2017

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.
Dutch Bulbfields

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.
Pegasus Bridge

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.
New Orleans 2017
From everyone at Leger Holidays, we wish you a very happy New Year!

ANZAC by Scott Brand

On the 25th April 1915, Australian and New Zealand forces stepped ashore onto the beaches of the Gallipoli Peninsular, Turkey. They were part of a large expeditionary force comprising of British, Indian, Newfoundland and French forces, with the aim of fighting their way into Turkey and capturing Constantinople (modern day Istanbul), the capital of the Ottoman Empire.

An ambitious plan, and what could have been a bold strike that might well have changed the course of the war, very quickly deteriorated into stalemate of trench warfare only a short distance inland from the landing sites. A variety of reasons contributed to this impasse, but primarily the fighting ability of the Turks was severely underestimated, putting up a fierce and unrelenting defence.

Australians in WW1

 
The end result was eight months of horrific trench warfare, which claimed the lives of thousands of men from both sides as a result of combat and disease.  When it was acknowledged that the Gallipoli campaign was untenable, the decision was made to leave the peninsular and on the 20th December 1915, The Australians and New Zealanders under secrecy and the cover of darkness were evacuated from Gallipoli. In those eight months, 28,150 Australians became casualties, which includes 8,709 killed and 7,473 New Zealanders with 2,721 killed in action.
Rewinding sixteen months to the outbreak of war in August 1914, Australia had only been a federated nation for thirteen years and New Zealand seven, and though contingents of militia from both Australia and New Zealand had been sent to fight in South Africa during the Boer War, both countries had not fought in any major conflicts as nations. Keen to play their part, both Governments went about recruiting men, and thousands of men rallied to the call. Late 1914, the first wave of Australians and New Zealanders set off destined for the Western Front in Europe, but were diverted to Egypt and subsequently Gallipoli. This contingent of antipodeans were known as the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, but more commonly ANZAC’s, and it was the 25th April 1915 that the ANZAC’s wrote themselves into history and into the psyche of the Australian and New Zealand Nations.
 
Gallipoli Battlefields

The 25th April soon became a day of remembrance, with the first ANZAC day in 1916. There were commemoration ceremonies throughout the two countries and 2000 Australian and New Zealand soldiers marched through the streets of London. However, Gallipoli would be the last time the two nations would fight side by side for some time and it wouldn’t be until June 1917 at the Battle of Messines in Belgium, before they fought alongside each other again Throughout the remainder of the war ANZAC day continued to be a day of commemoration with marches in major cities, but it was used for recruitment rallies also.
At the end of hostilities in November 1918, over 60,000 Australian and over 18,000 New Zealanders had been killed, the majority on the Western Front. ANZAC day commemorations continued after the war, though there was no formal organisation, commemorations took on many different forms throughout Australia, with a morning vigil being popular amongst veterans as they most likely found peace in the quite solitude of the dawn. It was these vigils that formed the basis of the Dawn Service, which is a regular part of the ANZAC commemorations we know today.
Dawn ANZAC Day Service on the Somme

ANZAC day continued to be popular and following Word War 2, there became a new generation of ANZAC’s to commemorate. In the 1960’s with Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War, the popularity of ANZAC Day declined with many commemoration services marred by anti-war protests. It wasn’t until the late 1970’s that they regained the popularity and attendance they had seen post World War 2.
As a young soldier in the Australian Army in the 1980’s, I participated in many ANZAC day commemorations and I have strong memories of marching along George Street in Sydney and the pavements were lined with thousands of people. As far as the eye could see along George Street it was a sea of khaki, white and blue, with the men and woman of the Army, Navy and Airforce, marching alongside veterans of three wars. The day always started with the dawn service at a war memorial local to our barracks and then it was back to the RSL (Returned Service League) for a rum with the veterans, before heading into the city for the main march. ANZAC day always ended back at an RSL for the biggest game of two-up, with the calls of “come in spinner” ringing around the room. Incidentally the only time it’s legal to play.
Villers-Bretonneux

In my younger years, I always associated ANZAC day with the remembrance of the dead and missing in the mud of France and Flanders, the beaches of Gallipoli and the sands of Mesopotamia, however as I become more involved in military history it became more than that for me.  ANZAC day for me now is not only commemorating the ultimate sacrifice so many of those men made, but it is also remembering the ones that came back. So many returned from war changed men, whether physically or mentally and the war would have a profound impact on them for the rest of their lives. It’s also reflecting on the impact war has on those left behind, whether grieving for the loss of a loved one or caring for the injured. Seeing the veterans turned out in their best bib and tucker, proudly wearing their medals, smiling and joking amongst their mates, it was easy for me to forget the painful memories so many would have had.
ANZAC day is for commemorating the fallen and celebrating the achievements of the Australian forces in all the wars it has been involved in, but also reflecting on and remembering as it has been so eloquently said to me so many times “Just ordinary men doing extraordinary things”
Join us for our Centenary of ANZAC at Villers-Bretonneaux on this 5-day tour from £399pp.

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.

5 of the Best Firework Displays around the World

Fireworks, love them or hate them, they’re going to be a big part of this weekend as the country gets together to celebrate Bonfire Night.

But when done properly, firework displays can be pretty spectacular. Lighting up the night’s sky in a kaleidoscope of colours, creating some of the most entertaining shows on earth.
So, as many places across the UK set the sparks going and host their own bonfires, if you’ve decided to keep snug and stay indoors, why not read about some of our favourite firework displays from around the world?

Sydney

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As one of the first countries in the world to welcome in the New Year, you can be sure to count on Australia to see it in with a bang.
And one of the most iconic sights of New Years’ Eve is seeing the Sydney Harbour lit up with a dazzling display of pyrotechnics, right as we wake up on NYE itself.
We might not be there for the fireworks, but if you’re thinking ahead to welcome in 2018 in style, we’re heading off on our inaugural tour of Oz in February on our Discover Australia tour.

Edinburgh

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Now, what’s better than tying in an impressive firework display with the world famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo?
Following the incredible performances, put on by the British Armed Forces, Commonwealth, international bands and display teams, weather permitting, each show concludes with one spectacular firework show. Designed to get the maximum impact from within the stands, if you’re heading to the Tattoo itself, you’ll be in prime position to catch the fireworks in all their glory!
And, that’s what we call going out with a bang.

Paris

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Bastille Day is not only France’s national holiday, it’s also the biggest party of the year! Celebrating the day in which the Bastille prison was stormed, helping to spark the French Revolution.
The 14th of July sees Paris light up from with spectacular display direct from the Eiffel tower! The iconic monument comes alive as multi-coloured fireworks burst from the structure in all directions. You can be sure the Parisians know how to put on a show and this is one that won’t disappoint.
The firework display itself lasts around 35 minutes, and for a free show, that’s pretty impressive.

Rhine in Flames

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The biggest event on the middle Rhine. On five incredible nights throughout the summer, the Rhine Valley comes alive, and it’s a real firecracker.
The sky above the glittering waterways of the River Rhine are illuminated by a medley of colours. And what better way to enjoy it than being in the thick of the action?
Join our 4-day Rhine in Flames Festival tour and watch the procession of boats glide through the valley as the sky lights up in a spectacular show. We’ve got you covered from all angles.

Disneyland Paris

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Of course, when it comes to magnificent firework displays, we can’t forget the magic kingdom. One of the most iconic firework displays in the world that takes place every night as part of the Dreams parade and it’s something both kids and adults can enjoy.
It’s said that Disneyland (although focused American counterpart) spend around $50,000 on fireworks every night! And, we’d expect our closest neighbour to spend in the same region. Now, that’s A LOT of fireworks to enjoy.
And, to go one step beyond, Disneyland even put on an extra special display for Mickey’s Magical Bonfire and Fireworks Spectacular, they say it’s a place where dreams come true, and if you dream of picture-perfect firework displays, this is certainly the place to be.
Do you have a favourite firework display? Let us know in the comments. 

Fall for Autumn: 5 Reasons to Travel in Autumn

 With the hectic summer holiday travel period over for another year, and a few more months to wait until our festive holidays kick off, you could be forgiven for thinking that autumn can be pretty dull.

But, it’s not a season for sitting at home twiddling your thumbs. We think it’s time to get out and about and embrace the new season! And, here’s a little secret, travelling throughout September and October could actually prove to be the best time to feed your wanderlust. Why? Well, here’s what we think makes travelling in autumn amazing!

1. The big summer getaway is over!

Train crossing bridge in Switzerland
Yes, we’ve already mentioned it, but summer really is the busiest time to travel. And, as you can imagine, with 58% of Brits looking to get away over the same period, it can prove to be quite hectic. With dreaded traffic jams, busy ports and airports, and the school holidays in full swing, autumn definitely has the upper hand.
Of course, when passenger numbers drop, things tend to flow more smoothly. You’ll be swiftly through passport control and on your way. Team that up with an escorted tour where everything is taken care of for you, it’s a perfect combination, if we do say so ourselves.

2. There are less tourists!

Autumn in Belgium
If you’ve got the flexibility to travel whenever you like, you really can take advantage of the off-peak season in your favourite European destinations. Not only does it mean there are less people around, less hustle and bustle, and a better chance of getting to see everything you set out to, but you may be able to grab some great deals, too!
With the foot fall to major attractions dwindling once the seasons change, some will drop their entry prices to a more attractive price. So, you may have a few more Euros to play around with whilst you’re there.

3. It’s cooler.

Brussels
Now, don’t get us wrong, us fellow Brits, we know that every bit of sunshine and warm weather should be cherished. But, as the summer fades out, we can really enjoy Europe, with more bearable temperatures. Perfect for sightseeing!
Forget about overheating, with cooler air and weaker sun rays, sightseeing can be a whole lot more pleasant. And, that tasty Italian gelato won’t melt quite as quick.
And, when the temperature finally drops as we edge closer to winter, what could be finer than wandering around the likes of Paris and Bruges in a cosy coat, clutching a nice hot drink?

4. Wine lovers rejoice.

Grape Harvesting in Tuscany
With the cooler weather and the ripened vineyards, autumn is the time when European winemakers get to grips with grape picking.
Bustling with activity, between September and October, the annual wine harvest takes place throughout Europe.
Some travellers lend a hand and volunteer to work the harvest alongside locals, but it’s not expected. So, if you’re travelling through a wine region throughout autumn, why not contribute by treating yourself to a tipple or two?

5. Autumn is just simply beautiful.

Charles Bridge, Prague
The trees start to shed their leaves, leaving a carpet of oranges, reds, and the last remaining flickers of green. You can’t deny that autumn scenery is stunning.
With the low, hazy sunshine, a crispness in the air and the new hue of foliage, if you’re a keen photographer, or just looking for a stunning selfie, autumn has picture perfect scenery wherever you go.
Did you know, we’re heading to some exciting destinations throughout autumn? Why don’t you come along, too? See this season’s departures, here.

Our Top Destinations for the Food Fanatic

We know that sometimes, the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach. And, although the majority of us travel with our hearts and our heads, with so much tasty food on offer all around the world… maybe we should travel with our stomachs too?

Different cultures bring a whole host of new flavours, whether its local produce or superb sea food, part of an adventure is learning how the locals live, and eat.
So, whether you see yourself as a super foodie, or you just appreciate the finer tasting things in life, then why not check out our top destinations for the best culinary experience.

Croatia

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‘Jedi!’… Put down that lightsaber, we’re not talking Star Wars. One of the mouth-watering aspects of the Croatianculture is to eat, eat, eat! And, that’s exactly what ‘jedi’ means.
And, despite this seeming somewhat the wildcard entry, the people of Croatia are actually renowned for serving up some outstandingly good grub.
Their food has many influences, from the Italians, to the Turks and even the Hungarians, the Croatians have taken the best from the best to create one of the most delicious blends of cuisines in Europe!
‘Split’ in two (excuse the pun), if you’re enjoying time on the coast, you’ll be relishing coastal cuisine! Making the most of a fantastic array of seafood with dishes such as pašticada and black risotto – a must for seafood lovers.
It undoubtedly has a more Mediterranean taste, too, with olives, fresh bread and meats. In fact, the Croatians have been growing olives for centuries! It really is worth picking up a bottle of olive oil whilst you’re there.
If you’re inland, you’ll get a taste of their continental cuisines. Croatian pasta, stuffed peppers and hearty meat stews. It makes our mouths water just telling you about it.
Chicken and veal are two of the most popular protein offerings, and you can be sure to find lots of cheese, hearty sauces and pastry thrown in for good measure. A great offering after a long day touring.

France

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Frogs legs and snails may not be at the top of your list of tasty treats to try, but they certainly top a lot of travellers ‘to-do’ lists when visiting France. But, beyond the daring feat of trying these unusual appetisers, the French really know their food.
The leaders in haute cuisine, their chefs are national celebrities. And, the culture of French food is certainly distinctive, with dishes popular all around the world such as Coq au Vin, crêpes and crème brûlée.
And, of course, if you’re on the search of flavoursome food, be sure that you get a taste of truffle. A pungent fungus that grows under trees, you can rely on the French to make it simply divine!
If you know what you like and you love your cheese, France actually has a different cheese for almost every day of the year. And, with ten billion baguettes baked in France every year, that’s a recipe for an incredible cheese sandwich!

Italy

italy
Italian cuisine has made its way into almost every country in the world, and we love it. From pizza to pasta and wine and even cheese, it’s part of our everyday life.
Italians don’t see food as just a means of survival, it’s about family, happiness and heritage. And, when you think us Brits are rather at home with a Sunday roast, Our continental cousins do one better.
It is said that a whopping 95% of Italians stay at home on Sunday afternoon, eating as much as humanly possible with their relatives. And, boy, do they mean it. The estimated annual pasta consumption is around 70 lbs per person!
With pizza originating it Naples, and tomato sauce first recorded in Italy in the late 18th century, you’ll be forgiven for thinking that Italian food all comes down to one tasty list of carb-laden menu.
But, you’d be wrong. There’s no such thing as ‘Italian food’. We Brits have cherry-picked dishes from around the country and created our own version of Italian cuisine. There are actually 20 regions in Italy, each with their own special cuisine. For example, your carbonara you might have enjoyed in Rome, may not be as easy to track down in Florence, down to it being a roman dish.
But, if that’s not just the best excuse to see more of Italy, then what is?

Spain

tapas
A tradition starting long ago in the city of Seville, of course you couldn’t sample the delights of Spain without trying a bit of tapas.
The word tapas actually derives from the Spanish word ‘tapar’ or in English, ‘to cover’. Where does ‘cover’ come in to tasty little snacks we hear you ask?
Well, originally tapas began life as slices of bread or meat, and Andalusians used them to cover their glasses of sherry to stop flies from getting in.
As Tapas has developed, it’s settled into the quintessentially Spanish lifestyle. Evening meals tend to be eaten between 9pm and 11pm which means that there’s a long period between lunch and dinner.
And, they sure do use this time constructively. Hopping from bar to bar, where small pieces of Tapas are served with drink orders. It’s just a nice way to keep guests comfortable whilst drinking in a bar. Or keep them there longer, whichever way you would like to look at it.
You might need something a little more filling, though. And, how could you turn down some authentic paella? With so many options, there really is a paella for everyone. Seafood, vegetable and, of course Valencian.
Valencia is the home of paella, so it would be just right to have a dished names after its birth place and using chicken, rabbit and garrofón beans, you’re in for a treat.
But, those are just our top foodie destination in Europe, what’s the tastiest country you’ve stayed in?
 

Top Wine Regions in Europe

From impressive architecture to some of the world’s most iconic attractions, Europe really does have it all. And, to top it all off, it’s also home to some of the best vineyards, producing the world’s most popular wines, year after year.

Whether you’re a wine connoisseur, looking to indulge in some wine tasting or just enjoy a glass of the grape, what could be better than getting to know just where your favourite tipple comes from?
But, don’t just go by what you heard through the grapevine. Delve into some of the picturesque vineyards on the continent as we take you some of the best wine making regions that Europe has to offer.

Bordeaux

St. Emilion, Frankreich
Nestled in the southwest of France, needing little introduction, Bordeaux is one of the largest and most recognisable wine regions in Europe. And, whilst it may not be known for its striking beauty, it is home to some of the most sought after and expensive wines in the world.
In fact, the most expensive bottle of wine ever to be sold by auction came in at an eye-watering £105,000! The name? Chateau Lafite, a Bordeaux wine.
Its reputation as a great wine region comes from its superb reds. With its perfect combination of climate and soil, around 75-80% of the wine produces
Wine Producing Grapes from the Bordeaux Region
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot

Champagne

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Of course, we can’t forget about the Champagne region in northern France. EU law actually states that only sparkling wines made in this region can go by the name Champagne, which certainly helps with its label as one of the world’s most elite drinks.
The Champagne province, just a short hop across the channel, is actually pushing the northernmost limits of the winemaking world. With its high altitude and low temperatures make it difficult for the grapes to fully ripen – but do make the grapes highly acidic, making them perfect for sparkling wine.
But, not only does the area produce world-famous champagnes, but there’s also a nice selection of non-sparkling wines and even the odd rosé.
Wine Producing Grapes of the Champagne region
Pinot Noir, Meunier, Chardonnay

Douro Valley

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One of the oldest and more picturesque European wine regions. Stretching from Porto to the Spanish border, it became the first wine region in the world to have a formal demarcation, meaning only in that region can Port wine be made.
And, of course, it’s famous for its production of Port. Packed into the north of Portugal, the Douro is also a popular producer of some brilliant, and relatively cheap, young table wines of all types – red, white and rosé.
The area is split into 3 sub-regions; Baxio Corgo which is the mildest and has the most rain, the largest Cima Corgo, standing at an impressive 47,000 acres and the hottest and driest region, the Duoro Superior producing the best quality wines.
The general rule of thumb is that the further east the region lies, the drier the climate and the deeper the wine, giving a great selection if you’re wanting to bring home some delicious Duoro wines.
Wine Producing Grapes from the Douro Region
Tinta Barroca, Mourisco Tinto, Tinta Roriz, Malvasia, Viosinho

Mosel

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Taking its name from the Mosel River, it’s the third largest wine region in Germany. But, most will consider it the best, thanks to the regions international prestige.
Whilst many people associate Germany with beer, its wine production has brought about some highly sought-after bottles.
It’s thought that the vineyards were first introduced to this area by the Romans, who planted their crops along the Rhine and Moselle to keep a local source of wine for their garrisons.
It’s considered to be one of the most difficult to maintain vineyards in the world, thanks to its steep river bank slopes, making the fruit of their labour even sweeter.
Wine Producing Grapes of the Mosel Region
Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Elbling, Kerner

Tuscany

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Tuscany, it certainly oozes romance. From its picture-perfect rolling hills, quaint villages and its Italian charm… and the fact it’s Italy’s most famous wine region.
Tuscan vineyards produce an array of internationally recognised wines in various styles, including the popular Chianti. Its perfect combination of hilly terrain and warm daytime temperatures allow for the grape to maintain its acidity, sugars and aromas.
Ever heard of a ‘Super Tuscan’? Super Tuscans are an unofficial category of Tuscan wines, not recognised in the wine classification system of Italy. Winemakers of the region thought the rules of producing Chianti were too strict, thus producing their own super variety.
But in no way does this make the wine cheap and of low quality, they tend to be modern, rich and some carry a hefty price tag of over £100.
Wine Producing Grapes of Tuscany
Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malvasia Nera, Trebbiano

Rhône Valley

View of historic center of Avignon town from Papal Palace. France
The Rhône Valley wine region is divided into two sub-regions, both with individual winemaking traditions, the Northern Rhône and the Southern Rhône.
The northern region, with its continental climate, produces both red and white wines and the southern, with its Mediterranean climate, offers a wide array of reds, whites and rosé wines – including the popular Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
By law, there is only one red grape permitted to be planted in the northern region – Syrah. However, to offer a unique selection of various wines, it is often blended with white wine grapes to soften the wine and produces a great choice of varying tastes and aromas from the one red grape.
Wine Producing Grapes of the Rhône Valley
Syrah, Viognier, Red Grenache, Marsanne
So, there you have it. Let’s raise our glass to the brilliant vineyards of Europe.
Why not take a trip to these wine regions and even enjoy a spot of wine tasting? Head over to leger.co.uk to find your perfect tour.

In search of Great Uncle Sidney by Catherine Miles

A battlefield tour can mean many different things to many different people, whether they’re on a journey of discovery, or something slightly more personal, what you take from an emotive experiences such as these tours will differ from person to person.

Catherine Miles recently published an article on her blog following her visit to Tyne Cot cemetery, on our All Quiet on the Western Front tour, in which she writes to her Great Uncle Sidney, who was sadly lost during one the Ypres salient of World War I . Catherine has kindly let us share with you on our blog.

In Search Of Great Uncle Sidney

It’s a beautiful summer Sunday afternoon in the late 1970s and I’m about 8 years old. I’m standing in the back garden of my Grandmother’s house in Dagenham. I can hear the whirring of hand pushed lawnmowers as neighbours cut their grass. My Great Uncle Frank is with me and has just handed me a bronze medallion, about 5 inches in diameter.
The medallion has a relief of Britannia with a lion at her feet on one side. There is also a rectangular box with an embossed inscription. I trace my fingers over the letters.
Private Sidney Greaves
“He was my brother. He was killed in the First World War”. I look up. Great Uncle Frank is looking intently at me with his piercing blue eyes. The same eyes of my Grandmother and Dad.
“He was very young. Never forget him, Cath. It’s important. Never forget.”
Dear Great Uncle Sidney (can I call you Sid?)
We never knew each other, and this may seem a bizarre letter to write. I’m your Great Niece – your little sister Winnie was my Grandmother. I’m writing this in Belgium, just outside Ypres, in an area I guess you came to know all too well. I’ve come to see where you and your mates fought.
There’s lots we don’t know about you but we’ve pieced together the bald facts of your story. You were born in 1898, the fourth of 7 surviving children of Mary and Herbert Greaves. You lived in extreme poverty in Birmingham. Your Dad was an electrical light switch maker, then a labourer and the family lived in two rooms at the back of a shared house in Bacchus Road. I’d imagine it was a tough existence, which only became tougher as you grew up.
By the outbreak of war in 1914 both of your parents had died, along with the step-father who your mother married after your father’s death. Your elder brother Wallace had died aged 8. There clearly wasn’t a lot of money around as your mother died in the workhouse hospital. Your sister Winnie had been placed in an orphanage, and from there she went into service from the age of 14. Your youngest brother Frank had been adopted by a caring local couple who set him on a very different path in life: education, a decent job, a family. Your two older brothers, William and Herbert, had both joined the Army and were fighting in France.
We know you enlisted in your local regiment, the Warwickshires, in Birmingham. We don’t know exactly when. Did you join up under age in the surge of patriotic enlistment in 1914? Or were you conscripted in 1916, when compulsory military service was controversially introduced? This looks more likely – you’d have been 18 and eligible for service. We know that after you joined the Warwickshire Regiment you were transferred into the 6th Battalion, Royal Wiltshire Regiment. This suggests you were conscripted in 1916 – it was after this point the Army started to re-allocate new soldiers from their local Regiments to Regiments they had no geographical connection to. This was prompted by the horrendous losses on the Somme, particularly amongst Kitchener’s Pals Battalions. The huge losses incurred by full frontal infantry attacks against machine guns meant that entire communities were decimated when their local Battalions suffered severe casualties.
So let’s assume you were conscripted in 1916 and sent out to France to join the Wiltshires a few months later. How did you feel? Scared? A sense of patriotic duty to do your bit? Excited for the adventure? Was it better than the alternative of fending for yourself in Birmingham living a hand to mouth existence?
It’s October 1988. I’m 17 and on a 6th form trip to the World War One battlefields. I’m standing at a windswept Tyne Cot Cemetery under leaden skies, looking at the rows and rows of neat white gravestones. I scan name after name of the missing on the stone tablets arcing round one side of the cemetery. I try to imagine what it was like for these lads, many my own age, to stand in those trenches then climb out over the top when the whistle went at dawn. And I can’t imagine the mix of fear, adrenalin and dread they must have felt.
I turn to join my classmates getting back on our coach as the rain starts to fall, raindrops streaking the names on the stone. What I don’t realise is the significance of one of those names.
The Wiltshire Regiment you joined had seen significant fighting during the War. The 6th Battalion was formed in 1915 from the rush of volunteers responding to Kitchener’s call to join the Army. It fought at the Battle of Loos and at the Somme, taking large numbers of casualties each time. By 1917 when you were likely to have joined it, the Battalion was in Belgium preparing to take part in the next great Battle.
So now we come to the part of your story where we know a little bit more. In summer 1917 the British Army launched a new offensive against the Germans around Ypres in northern Belgium, aiming to push them back from the salient and away from their strategically important ports. The offensive was led by General Plumer, one of the more innovative WW1 Generals, and started in 7th June 1917 with the detonation of 19 massive mines under the German lines at Messiness ridge. The simultaneous explosion of the mines was so loud it was heard in England. As General Plumer told the Press before the mines detonated ‘Gentlemen, we may not make history tomorrow, but we shall certainly change the geography’.
God knows how loud it was for you Sid – it must have sounded as if the world was exploding.sidney-battlefield
The mines were a success, and the British gained ground, with your Battalion (including you, most likely) fighting in the thick of the action. There was then a pause before what became the Third Battle of Ypres began. During this time there was unseasonably high rainfall, turning the clay-based ground into a water-logged quagmire. Trenches flooded, the shell holes that pockmarked the landscape filled with water and if you fell in you could drown in them.
This was the battlefield which you were to fight in. After three years of total war the landscape was totally desolate, without a building and barely a tree left standing. Ypres and the fields around it had repeatedly been fought over since 1914, the ground being gained and lost by either side. Trenches snaked through the very slight inclines of the land.
It was in one of these trenches that you were standing on the morning of 20th September 1917, waiting for the order to attack. You would have looked out onto a wasteland of mud, shattered tree stumps, jumbles of barbed wire, and the remains of unburied men and horses. Your Battalion was to take part in what became known as the Battle of Menin Road Ridge, attacking parallel to the ridge line.
You were exactly here, about to attack up this slope.
I can’t imagine what you were feeling, standing in that trench with your mates. What I do know is that, according to the Battalion War Diary, at 5.40am the whistle blew and you climbed out of that trench and attacked the German lines. With artillery shells falling around you, machine guns firing in front of you and snipers taking aim at you. The Battalion war diary records:
At zero hour 5.40a.m Battalion advanced to the attack under a heavy creeping barrage by our artillery. Left front Company met with little opposition except for continuous Machine Gun Fire from the direction of CEMETERY EMBANKMENT. The machine guns appear to be located beyond the objective line and to fire through the Barrage. The dugouts in the wood at about O 6 a 7.7. were dealt with 3 Germans being killed and 19 taken prisoner. As ‘D’ Coy on the right seemed to meet with considerable resistance Capt. Williams (O.C. ‘C’ Coy) ordered his right front Lewis Gun to open a brisk fire on the dugouts in front of that Company.
The Company reached its objective O 6a 75.65 – O 6a 3.7 within 37 minutes of Zero and flares were lit in response to aeroplane calls at Zero plus 42. The consolidation was covered by Lewis Guns and the Company Snipers who were busily engaged endeavouring to pick off Germans moving down the railway embankment and also keeping down enemy sniping on the immediate front – one platoon sniper remained isolated in a forward position from the morning of the 20th until relieved on the night 21/22. Left Support Company consolidated its section of the intermediate line, several casualties were caused by sniping. The ground was very wet and water logged in places but firesteps were formed with sandbags.

And then at some point on that day you were killed. You were 19 years old. Your body was never found or identified.
Ironically, the action you were killed in was one of the more successful ones of the war. However, the battle that followed was one of the most attritional and horrific the British Army has fought. It’s name – Passchendaele – continues to epitomise the suffering, sacrifice and for some, the futility of the First World War. In your battle the British Army advanced five miles at a cost of 100,000 men killed. 1 man for every 35 metres gained. 1 of them being you.
It’s May 2016 and I’m standing again at Tyne Cot Cemetery. It’s a peaceful and beautiful place where 12,000 British servicemen are buried, the largest British Cemetery in the world. This time, however, I know who I’m looking for. I walk round the stone curved wall containing the names of 33,000 servicemen who were killed but their bodies never found or identified. These names are only those of servicemen killed after August 1917 in the Ypres salient. The original intention was for all of the missing to be inscribed on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres. But despite its enormous size it could only take 55,000 names – which wasn’t enough. So Tyne Cot was expanded to take the rest.
The curved wall is a striking feature but within it are two circular rotundas with carved panels containing more names. I walk towards the left hand one. It’s a peaceful tranquil space.
And there you are Sid, on panel 120. The Royal Wiltshire Regiment, Private Greaves, S.
I stare at the panel for a long time. I read the names around you. Were any of these lads were your particular mates? Which of the 5 NCOs listed was the toughest on you? Lieutenant Adam Shapland appears and he was killed on the same day as you, aged 22. Was he one of your officers?
I place a remembrance cross at the bottom of your tablet. On it I’ve listed the names of your brothers and sister. Will and Herbert survived the war, but Will was gassed and never really recovered. He died in 1944 from the effects of the gas nearly 30 years earlier. It must have been tough knowing they survived the war but their younger brother didn’t.
Your little sister Winnie married a sailor from East London (a cockney, news which may not please you) and had two sons. One of them is my Dad. I call him now and tell him I’m standing in front of your name. He’s glad we’ve found you.
And I think of my Great Uncle Frank, who made sure we knew about you and inspired me to come and find you.
So why do thousands of British people visit the WW1 battlefields every year to find the names or graves of relatives they never knew? There are 34 people on my trip and many are searching for relatives. One has come to see her Uncle, Harry Anderson of the Staffordshire Regiment. It turns out Harry is on a plaque just two down from you so I go to see him as well. Another lays a wreath in remembrance of the grandfather she never met at the mighty Thiepval Memorial which has the names of a further 72,000 missing from the Somme. The losses of the First World War were so great they touched every family in the country. There were over 730,000 British servicemen killed – sons, fathers, brothers, uncles and friends.
I came to Tyne Cot because I wanted to honour your memory and pay tribute to the incredible bravery and sacrifice of you and your generation. I’m acutely aware and grateful that I have a life of comfort and opportunity which would have been unthinkable to you. I wanted to keep my promise to your brother Frank to remember you.
And I wanted to let you know that your family loved you, and cared enough to make sure that your great nieces and great nephews knew your story.
You have never been forgotten, Sid. For me, it’s so important that all of us who came after you remember you and remain eternally grateful that we have never found ourselves on the front line, being ordered to climb out of the trench.
With love from your great niece
Catherine