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. 

A Spring Fling: The Best of the Dutch Bulbfields

When Christmas is out of the way and the New Year’s resolutions are in full swing, we all need something to look forward to. And, if spring is your thing, you’re probably already counting down the days until those first buds start to appear

We know many people will have their hearts set on that summer holiday, but we think why wait? When spring comes knocking, it’s time to get packing because the Dutch Bulbfields offer the perfect post-winter getaway.
It’s the time that Holland transforms into a sea of colour, from the brightest of yellows, to the deepest of pinks, it’s not just an anthophile’s dream.
First comes the crocus season, followed by daffodils and hyacinths, then the grand finale, the tulips! From mid-March to mid-May, Holland’s green spaces get a whole lot more impressive and the Dutch Bulbfields are a worthy inclusion on any persons bucket list.

The Dutch fascination with tulips certainly isn’t new. First introduced to Dutch Merchants from the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, unlike any other flower at the time, the intense petal colour fascinated Europe and the flower grew rapidly in popularity – and so did the price.
In fact, at there was a time that the flower was so valuable, it was even used as currency. That’s why they called it ‘Tulip Mania’.

Amsterdam


Although the value of a tulip will no longer buy you a house by the canal, throughout April, the Dutch capital still honours the humble tulip with its very own festival, showcasing an impressive 500,000 of them throughout the city!
From the EYE Filmmuseum, Hermitage Amsterdam and Hortus Botanicus to the Museum Van Loon, Rijksmuseum and many more public spaces throughout the city, you can be sure to spot some spectacular displays whilst in Amsterdam.
And, of course, as the hours of sunlight grow steadily longer, there really is more time in the day to enjoy the best of Amsterdam. Maybe having a leisurely break, sipping on a Dutch beer by the canal? Albeit, with the help of a patio heater every now and then.

Keukenhof Park


Just a short hop away from Amsterdam, you can reach the real holy grail of the tulip itself, the stunning Keukenhof Park. 79 acres of flowers and fragrance, the park is considered the ‘Garden of Europe’, a well-deserved title, we must say.
Unlike anywhere else, the park has attracted a whopping 50 million people since it first opened, with almost 75% of those visiting from other countries.
It’s one of the world’s largest flower gardens, with more than 7 million Tulips, Hyacinths and Daffodils on display over 8 weeks of spring.
Surprisingly enough, the bulbs are provided for free by over 1000 Dutch growers, and at the end of the show season at Keukenhof, the team of gardeners have orders to dig out the millions of bulbs and destroy them, ready to start fresh for the next year.
Although, the bulbs don’t go entirely to waste, maybe in stark contrast to the Tulip Mania era, most will be used as food for farm animals.
The gardeners will then hand plant next year’s bulbs in Autumn, taking 3 months to create a brand new design. So, if you’re wondering is it worth going back and visiting Keukenhof again, it sure is!

The Bulbfields


But, it’s not just Keukenhof where you can enjoy mass amounts of tulips all in one place, the bulbfields themselves are just as impressive.
Fields of vibrant colours line canals and road sides, with windmills rising up from the sky line, the growing fields of this fabulous flower are certainly a sight for sore eyes. Even Vincent Van Gogh thought them worthy of a masterpiece, as the fields feature in many of his paintings.
Every spring draws huge crowds, with cameras to capture the spectacular sight in their own snap shot. Even if you’re not particularly into flowers, this one makes a great photo.
Even though these fields are beautiful, and attract tourists in their droves, they are also economically valuable to the Netherlands. A high proportion of the country’s exports are freshly cut flowers.
In fact, Holland holds the title of the biggest player in the flower game, making up two thirds of the world’s flora sales! You can even buy tulips in New York that were cut in Holland that very morning! Now, that’s impressive.
So, if people in New York are enjoying a little piece of Holland, why not try some for yourself? Our popular Dutch Bulbfield tours will be departing through March and April so why not book your getaway today?

Christmas Holidays: The Beauty of Escaping it All

Set the scene of Christmas… big family dinners, drinks with your nearest and dearest, festive cheer to set you up for the next year.

What you don’t see on these picture-perfect Christmas cards and in the adverts for this years’ must-have gadgets, is the stress, the expenditure and the mountains of washing up.
For some people, that first chorus of this year’s Christmas carol bombardment fills them with dread. If this is you, we’ve got some advice… it’s time to take back Christmas!
Forget about the sprouts and put down the turkey baster… this year, it’s all about you!

Escape the Country


The odds for a white Christmas might leave you more likely to win the lottery, but winter scenery is within reach.
Sure, we can’t predict snow, but the Swiss Alps and the Italian Dolomites will give you that winter cosiness that every traditional Whovillan wishes for.
Snow-capped peaks, outstanding natural beauty and a chill in the air, the first gift of Christmas away from home is certainly the change of scenery.

Be Looked After


Forget about being the people pleaser, and the ‘who wants trifle, who wants pudding’ fiasco, you can have everything taken care of for you.
Your days expertly planned to maximise your experiences whilst you’re away. Like, a ride on the Swiss Glacier Express or just a Boxing Day stroll around Rome.
You also don’t have to worry about cooking, as all of our Christmas breaks have a festive dinner included. Yum!

Be Around Like-Minded People


You certainly don’t have to be lonely at Christmas. The great thing about escorted tours is that you’re around people who have the same love for travel as you do!
And, if you’re all enjoying Christmas away together, then you’ve all got something in common.
Our Single Traveller Christmas holidays offer a great way to surround yourself you great people, and the best part of all is that there is no single supplement!

Treat Yourself


When was the last time you put yourself first? We all do it, whether it’s work, family or friends, the easiest option is to satisfy others before yourself.
So, why not treat yourself at Christmas? And, we may be biased, but is there any better present than the gift of travel?
Ticking destinations off your bucket list, sightseeing in some of Europe’s most impressive cities – and, when there’s less crowds to stifle your views – a Christmas getaway could be just what Santa ordered.

Something for the Inner Scrooge


Maybe, you’re just not a Christmas person. And that’s perfectly okay! You are allowed to walk away from the cold weather and family gatherings, because this is about you.
In fact, the ultimate treat for the self-professed scrooge could well be a Spanish fiesta! Swap the sprouts for sangria, sit back, relax and enjoy the Spanish Coast.
There’s nothing wrong with a real winter warmer, after all.
 
If the thought of all this and more sounds like just what the doctor ordered, it’s not too late to book your Christmas getaway. Click here for more information.

10 interesting facts about Germany

Germany is proudly the seventh most visited country in the world and it sure is packed with so many things to see and do, so there’s no wonder people flock there in their droves.

Whatever you are looking for, whether it’s a city break, Christmas market trip, a cross country tour or even a historical pilgrimage, there’s something for everyone in Deutschland.
So, if you’re still in the research phase of your holiday planning, or just wanting to brush up on you knowledge before heading off on your German adventure, we’ve compiled our top 10 interesting facts about Germany just for you.

Here are our facts about Germany…

1. Germany is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe

The country has a staggering population size of 80,636,124 people, which means even though Germany is a rather large country, there are actually 231 people per square kilometre!

2. One third of Germany is still covered in Forest and Woodland

Despite the population density, a good proportion of Germany is actually still covered in foliage, and boy is it spectacular. If you’re a fan of the Brother’s Grimm fairy tales, you might just want to pay a visit to the beautiful Black Forest… the setting of many of their stories.

3. Berlin is nine times bigger than Paris and has more bridges than Venice

Did you realise how big Berlin actually is? Dating back to the 13th century, the city spans a whopping 891.8 km², which gives plenty of room for the 1650 bridges it houses.

4. During JFK’s famous declaration of “Ich bin ein Berliner” he actually likened himself to a jam doughnut.

Yes, you read that right… What JFK should have said is “Ich bin Berliner” meaning “I am a citizen of Berlin”, as a Berliner is actually a type of jelly donut made in Berlin, so “Ich bin ein Berliner” can actually be translated to “I am a jam doughnut”.

5. Germany’s Capital City has shifted 7 times!

Now here’s one to remember for the pub quiz! Germany’s capital has shifted from Aachen during the Carolingian Empire to Regensburg, Frankfurt-am-Main, Nuremberg, Berlin, Weimar (unofficially, during unrest in Berlin), Bonn and East Berlin, and, since 1990, Berlin again!

6. Germany is sometimes known as the land of poets and thinkers

German writers and have won 13 Nobel Prizes and Germany was home to world-renowned writers such as Friedrich Schiller, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Günter Grass and Maria Stona.

7. Germany is Europe’s second largest beer consumer

Just behind the Czech Republic, the German’s are known to consume a fair amount of ‘liquid gold’. However, given the Bavarian’s consider beer to be a basic food and drink an average of 150 litres per person per year, so we think they’re giving the Czech’s a good run for their money.

8. The longest word published in the German language is Donaudampfschifffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft

This loosely translates to Danube steamboat shipping electricity main engine facility building sub clerk association. It is a law delegating beef label monitoring, was removed from the German language in 2014.

9. The German football team is the second most successful football team in the world

The beautiful game is a British sport and a hard fought rivalry in the football world. We have to hand it to Germany on this one, falling just behind Brazil, winning four world cups and three European championships, so they certainly can play us at our own game.

10. The first book to ever be printed was the Bible by Johannes Gutenberg in the 1450s in Germany

The first mass produced printed book was the Latin Bible and was originally published in February 23, 1455 in Mainz.

Are you tempted by Germany? Then join one of our many escorted tours for a great value holiday to some of the best destinations. Click here to see what’s on offer.

River Cruise vs Sea Cruise: What Floats Your Boat?

Looking to dip your toe into cruising? We know, there’s so much to choose from. Not least whether you want to sail the 7 seas or enjoy something a little gentler. The age old question, do I choose a sea or a river cruise?

Maybe you’re an avid sea or river cruiser and are wondering what it’s like on the other side of the water, or you’re thinking about setting sail for the first time but not sure which is more you? Here are our top 5 points to consider when making your choice.

Sea Sickness

Let’s get this one out of the way to start. If you suffer from bouts of sea sickness, don’t write cruising off just yet. River cruising could just be the answer.
It’s highly unlikely that you, or even the most motion sensitive people, will suffer any bouts of sea sickness on board a river cruise. Firstly, there are no waves and secondly, you’re always in sight of the shore, two huge triggers of the dreaded illness.
In fact, the ride is so smooth, river cruise passengers have said that they didn’t even notice the boat moving so you won’t be left worrying about where the nearest bucket is. You’re free to enjoy the benefits of cruising.

The Changing Scenery

If you’re a fan of visiting the ‘must-see’s’ and the thought of traveling to many different countries, looking for dramatically changing scenery is right up your street, then sea cruising has it all.
From Venice, to Croatia and a stop off in stunning Santorini, it’s all possible in one holiday! But that doesn’t mean that river cruises are any less scenic. In fact, we could say they’re more so.
Rolling countryside, cruising through stunning cities and even flowing through world-famous vine yard clad valleys, if sailing for days on end, through epic seas and mighty oceans, with nothing but the blue sea between you and the horizon doesn’t sound like your thing, there’s plenty to see when sailing on a river cruise.

It’s not the size of the boat…

Well, it could be. There’s the thrill of travelling on an ocean cruise ship, a floating resort, almost. There’s everything you could possibly wish for and it’s every inch as glamorous as you’d think.
From cafes to fine dining, West End worthy shows and spas. Not to mention endless shopping opportunities for those souvenirs or even a little treat for yourself, there’s plenty to keep you occupied on a cruise ship.
But on a river cruise, your vessel is a lot smaller. And that doesn’t mean you’re missing out on all the fun. The smaller ship provides a more intimate environment making it easier to make friends, and anywhere you want to go is just a short walk away from where you are.
And, you can be sure that the staff will always be on hand to make your experience as enjoyable as possible. The lesser number of passengers means the service is a lot more personal, and if that’s the sort of thing you like on a holiday, it’s well worth giving river cruising a go.

Cabin Space

As you would expect, ocean ships have a huge variety of cabins to choose from as opposed to river cruise ships.
And whilst the rooms on board a river cruise ship are comfortable and funtional, the luxury/upgrade options on board an ocean liner can be truly fantastic.
Often ranging from something more modest to impressive suites, you’ll be completely spoilt for choice, whatever your budget.

Right in the heart of the action.

Sea cruises take you to some of the most impressive destinations on earth, provided they’re on the coast. And what better way to approach a stunning destination of bucket list standard than to sail in on a magnificent vessel?
However, due to the sheer size of the ships, it’s not always possible to get into port or even close to land. Sea cruises sometimes use tenders to get you into your destination. And, there is a lot of people to get to shore on a ship of that magnitude.
On a river cruise, you sail straight into the heart of where you want to be, find your spot on the dock and off you go. Of course, there may be times a river cruise has to use a tender too, but with less passengers to ferry and less distance to travel, it’s far from a hassle to get your sight-seeing trip started.
And, as an added bonus for a river cruise? You’ll most likely find yourself ashore every day of your holiday, so your days will be fun packed and fly by…well, sail by.

Ready to hit the waters or high seas? We’ve got plenty of cruises to choose from, whether you’re floating more towards sea or river experiences. Take a look at our cruise offerings over at leger.co.uk
 

Norway? Nor-way Would You Want to Miss This One.

There are a few things that may spring to mind when you think or Norway. Cold? Snow? Northern Lights? You’d be forgiven if so. But, we’re thinking of something a little different.

What we’re proposing might just come as a bit of a surprise… we’re saying summertime, lush scenery and the mighty Fjordland! And, possibly the most incredible summer holiday you’ve ever had.
Norway is host to our brand new summertime tour in 2018, with our Picturebook Norway tour setting off on its maiden voyage.
This fantastic holiday is actually the brain child of our Dream Tour Competition winner, Sue Godwin. But, we agree completely with her sentiments and are proud to call this, not only Sue’s, but our dream tour.

Geirangerfjord

Why? You ask. Well, let us tell you just why a holiday to the Norwegian Fjords is the ideal summertime break.
Firstly, it’s not as cold as you think. The weather is surprisingly good!
In fact, from late June to early August, the weather is at its most stable and it’s not unusual for temperatures to reach 25°C and above. The days are sunny and bright and there’s plenty of daylight – perfect to see the Fjordland, in all of its beauty.
Kjosfossen Waterfall

And, the favourable weather conditions actually give life to some of Norway’s most fruitful areas, producing an array of berries, vegetables and fruits.

Tasty tip: The combination of the water, the steep mountains, deep fjords and the heat from the sun help the Norwegians create some of the tastiest, locally produced juices in the world. The perfect way to quench your thirst on a warm, summer’s day.

In Fjord Norway sunsets and sunrises, dawn and dusk last longer than at more southern latitudes. And, with nice weather and plenty of daylight, you have the perfect ingredients to enjoy a fantastic stretch of sightseeing.

Summertime Dusk in the Fjords

And, what better way to see the stunning fjords than on the Flåm railway? Dubbed the world’s most beautiful train journey, and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Norway, you can enjoy a magical journey from sea level at the Sognefjord to the Myrdal Mountain station – an impressive 867 metres high!
The Flam Railway

But, that’s not all. It’s also one of the steepest rail ways in the world with over 80 percent of the journey at a gradient of 5.5%, and whilst you can imagine that the view just from that would be pretty spectacular, there’s even a sprinkling of stunning waterfalls to make the journey even more special – it’s a real crowd pleaser and a journey you will never forget.
With the help of calmer weather you can find in the summertime, it gives you the perfect opportunity to get out and really get to know the Fjords.
Sognefjord is the longest and deepest Fjord in Norway – and the most famous in Norway. Its popular arm, Nærøyfjord, actually has a UNESCO World Heritage status and, alongside the Geirangerfjord, it has been rated the world’s number one heritage site – and yes, you will see them all on our Picturebook Norway tour, so don’t forget your camera.
Sognefjord

Whilst you may think the above alone seems like a pretty epic trip, there’s even more to see in the Fjordlands. The stunning Vøringfoss waterfall, the Bøyabreen glacier and the Hardanger Nature Museum, to name but a few. If nature is your thing, just think of the joy Norway will bring.
Leaving the Fjords, there’s still a lot more to Norway to keep that smile on your face! Its delightful towns and impressive cities offer plenty, even to the hardest to impress. From Bergen to the mighty Oslo, summertime really shines a light on these pretty spectacular destinations.
Full of history, and beaming with natural beauty, Norway’s second city, Bergen, is a true delight. The colourful facade of Bryggen is by far the most iconic sight you’ll see in the city, and it sure is beautiful.
Bryggen, Bergen

The Hanseatic Wharf is a great stop off point for a meal or a snack in the cafes and restaurants, enjoy a spot of shopping, or even just to enjoy the view.
Hot-footing it into Oslo, you’ll get time to enjoy the delightfully modern and diverse capital city and all the frills that come with it. A shopper’s paradise, a hub for culture and history and nature right at your fingertips.
Head down to the waterfront area where you can enjoy great bars, cosy cafes and fine restaurants, and enjoy the view over the Barcode’s skyscrapers, a delight to anyone with an interest in architecture.
Oslo Waterfront

With a host of interesting restaurants and cafes, and with the strikingly modern opera house sitting on the water’s edge, the enchanting juxtaposition between Oslo’s new and old will be one of the defining memories of your holiday.
In conclusion, one thing is for sure, we could write a book on Norway and still feel like the words would still not do it justice. As they say, seeing is believing, and if you fancy the trip of a lifetime to the beautiful Norwegian Fjordland, find out more about our Picturebook Norway tour, right here.

Belgium: Beauty Nestled Between France, Germany and the Netherlands.

With Easter just around the corner, we decided that we’d like to dedicate some time to acknowledge one of Europe’s sweetest countries, and no, we don’t just mean because of its small size…

If you’re looking forward to tucking into some Easter eggs this weekend, you’ll certainly be intrigued by the fact that Belgium produces a whopping 220,000 tonnes of chocolate per year! But that’s not all that this wonderful country has to offer, from canal side cities, to beautiful beers, almighty Christmas markets and coastal treasures, you’ll certainly not be bored in Belgium.
Dig into our blog, and see why Belgium should not be overlooked when planning your next visit to Europe.

Food glorious food!

Belgium is renowned for its famous variety of delicious delicacies, from the obvious traditional chocolates to deep-fried frites, whilst in Belgium, be sure to indulge in some tasty treats…
As we all know, Belgium is celebrated for its chocolate. There are over 2000 chocolatiers in the country, which is also home to famous brands such as Côte d’Or and Belvas, and Brussels airport is the largest chocolate selling point in the world.
The delicacy has been associated with the country since the 17th century and since then the industry has remained rife. So, as you saunter the streets in Belgium, ensure you pay a visit to a traditional chocolate shop, for a taste sensation you’ll never forget!

Chocolate is not the only sweet treat that the country can claim though, it is also home to the wonderful Belgian waffle. There are two types of Belgium waffle, the Brussels and the Liege. The Brussels waffle is rectangular and bigger than the Liege.
They are also crispy on the outside and light and airy on the inside, and traditionally served topped with whipped cream and strawberries. The Liege waffle is more oval shaped, they are softer, doughier, a lot more flavourful and sweeter, meaning that they are often served without toppings. We’d definitely recommend trying both types whilst in Belgium!

And, if you’re more of a savoury person, you certainly need to ensure that you indulge in some frites. Although the French claim to have invented french fries, the delicious delicacy can actually be traced back to Belgium. It is rumoured that the potato based delights inherited the name the french fries during WW1, when American soldiers, thinking they were in France, called them french fries instead of fried potatoes.

So, if you’ve had a few too many Belgian beers, or you need something to keep you going as you explore the many wonderful streets of the Belgian cities, frites are certainly the way to go!

But where can we find all these tasty treats, you ask?

Well, Belgium is also home to some pretty amazing cities. From the fashion capital of Antwerp, to the canal side city of Bruges, the seaside resort of Ostend and the hidden gem that is Ghent… all waiting to be explored.
Antwerp, one of Belgium’s ‘coolest’ cities, has become increasingly popular with tourists over the past few years, and it’s not hard to see why… Home to Europe’s second largest port and regarded as the world’s diamond capital, Antwerp boasts a lively shopping scene, classic architecture and a host of trendy cafes and coffee shops, making Belgium’s second largest city the place to be.

Belgium’s most underrated city is quite possibly glorious Ghent. This hidden gem is a marvel to behold. Small and cosy, the University City is full of spectacular sights, marvellous museums, and like Bruges, pretty canal side architecture. It’s walkable and the city’s cobbled streets are super easy to get around.
Also, as Ghent is not yet as popular as its neighbouring Bruges and Antwerp, the town is not full of tourists, giving it a calm and welcoming feel and allowing you to take in the city’s sights at your own pace… But hurry, before everyone realises just how amazing Ghent is, which we doubt will be long.

Ostend, the ‘Queen of Belgium’s seaside resorts’, is definitely on our list of places you must visit. The coastal city features five and a half miles of sandy beaches, plus a fantastic promenade lined with shops, bars and restaurants which serve spectacular seafood, and many museums that must be explored.
Last, but certainly not least, we have to mention the Beautiful Bruges, the golden child of Belgian tourism. Bruges is a truly beautiful city and has been popular with tourists for many years. Being the focal point of the hit movie ‘In Bruges’ and being one of the world’s best preserved medieval cities certainly helped the canal side city earn its status. But with so much to see, from the Belfry to the Beer Wall, Basilica of Holy Blood to pretty canals, and with an all-round amazing atmosphere, we’re not surprised that Bruges is so popular.

Belgian Beer & Spirits

With over 180 breweries in the country, producing over a thousand different types of beer, it’s certainly safe to say that Belgium is a haven for those with a taste for the beverage.
There’s something for everyone, with a great diversity of flavours from sweet to fruity, to bitter or spicy. And, as an added novelty, almost every beer is served in its own unique glass, which is said to bring out the exclusive flavours and tastes of the different beers, making drinking Belgian beer an experience as well as a taste sensation.

The beer glasses also make for a brilliant souvenir and can be bought from almost any gift shop in the country. One of the most distinctive glasses is that of the Kwak beer, shaped like a vase, it has a rounded bottom, meaning it can’t stand without it’s unique wooden holder – make sure you order one and check it out whilst in the country.
Possibly the most popular types of beers produced in Belgium are the Trappist beers, and there are only eleven brewers in the world that can claim this prized label, six of which are located in Belgium. To be able to claim to be a Trappist beer, the beer must be produced by Trappist monks, in a Trappist monastery and it is a century’s old tradition. There are many different types, but the Orval, Westvleteren 12 and the Westmalle Dubbel are some of the favourites.
Not only do the beers range in flavours, the way in which they are produced, and the vessel in which they are served, but they also range from a low alcoholic percentage to a whopping 11-12%, so be careful not to have too much of the stronger stuff, but do ensure you enjoy a tipple or two of the amber nectar…

As well as beer, Belgium is also famous for Genever. Pronounced ‘Juh-nee-ver”, Genever is a flavoured spirit, which is often referred to as the ‘grandfather of gin’, as it is a juniper flavoured drink. It has been Belgium’s traditional spirit for over 500 years and not a lot of people know about it, so be sure to give it a try when you visit this beautiful country

Christmas Markets

Finally, how could we forget the festive markets? From the month of November, right through to the New Year, the cities of Belgium are transformed into fairy tale market places.
Pretty lights, festive decorations, Christmas trees and even ice rinks line the streets, as visitors flock from near and far to do their Christmas shopping. Browse the many stalls, all selling a wonderful array of traditional gifts, whilst you Indulge in some tasty treats from the many street food stalls, enjoy a Belgian waffle washed down with a warm hot chocolate, or enjoy a tipple of two of mulled wine.

Whilst Bruges, Lille and Ypres etc., all host some amazingly magical markets, Brussels Christmas market certainly is a show stopper. Not only does Brussels house fascinating monuments and amazing architecture, it really does have one of the best Christmas markets in Europe. With over 200 market stalls spanning from the Grand Place, the capital city is brought to life with twinkling lights, wonderful aromas and gorgeous garlands. A Ferris wheel allows you to see the markets from above, and a huge ice rink provides fun for all the family.
If you’re a fan of the Christmas spirit and you want a change from the busy shopping malls this holiday season, take a look at our Belgian Christmas Markets.
So, as you can see Belgium is certainly not boring, but don’t just take our word for it. Head over to our website and take a look at the tours we have on offer to Belgium, one of Europe’s sweetest countries.

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.

Top Tips for Travel Blogging

The rise of social media means we’re much more likely to share our travelling experiences now, than ever before. From posting pictures or even the odd Facebook boast, we like to let people know what we’re up to.

And, we think it’s a brilliant thing! With 60% of Brits updating their status TEN times whilst on holiday, we certainly have a lot to say.
If you’re happily guilty of being a social sharer, have you considered blogging? We love to post personal accounts from our passengers on this very blog, and if you want to try your hand at travel writing, here are our top tips to create the perfect post.

Don’t be too formal

We know, when you read travel guides, you’re not only left to pick out a few key bits of information from hundreds of pages, but it’s jam packed with big words and industry jargon. It can be slightly overwhelming.
When it comes to blogging, write simply. Write as if you were speaking to a friend, easy to understand language keeps your reader focused, there’s no need to over complicate it.
Keep your sentences and your paragraphs short, and break up your text with sub-headings. When people are taking time to read your piece, make it easy for them to see what’s written within.

Write in first person and past tense

It’s your experience and your story, so write from your perspective. When people are reading travel blogs, they’ll be looking for opinions. What you thought about a certain place, where you would suggest people visit.
Your visit gives your writing credibility, and your reader is there to read about what you got up to, just to see if it’s something they may like too. Don’t feel like it has to be written like a story book. Aim to entertain, not necessarily impress.

Start strong!

You don’t have to recall all of your trip in chronological order, what you want to do is to cherry-pick the best bits of your story.
And, this is no different with your opening paragraph. Let us know what makes your story interesting, grab your reader’s attention, and then, write about your favourite experiences.
A great tip would be to break your blog down into destinations, rather than days. Use sub-headings and let us know if you have any quirky little stories from your visit.

Find your angle

Are you a single traveller heading to unknown lands? Are you heading off on a special pilgrimage with your partner? Maybe, you’re on a journey of discovery? Each can be a unique angle to write from.
Think about what you’d like to have known prior to your trip. Whilst writing can be your hobby, it can also be an information source for others. If you have a reason for people to read your piece, they will.

Mix up your content

Keep your writing light by using photos, treat it like a show and tell. As they say, a picture can tell a thousand words, but it can also enhance your writing.
You will give the reader a better idea of what you’re talking about with visuals as images are easily digested. And, according to Content +, articles with images get 94% more views than those without.
(Be sure to use your own images, though. Pictures found online will, more often than not, be covered by copyright.)
It’s always great to throw in some interesting facts, or quotes from locals, your guides, or your travel companions, too. Keep your readers interested and give them something to take away from your writing.

Have fun writing!

Most importantly, have fun writing your blog. Your enthusiasm and passion for the subject will come across through your writing and make your blog post a pleasure to read.
So, there you have it. Our top tips for travel writing. Are you ready to begin? If you fancy writing a blog post for Leger Blog, send your work over to blog@legerblog.co.uk
 

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

Untitled-1
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.