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.

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!

Chocolate Capitals of Europe: Our Top Spots for Chocoholics

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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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

Famous Landmarks in Europe – Our Top Places to Visit

Europe is a world heavyweight when it comes to impressive landmarks, with just about every country packing a punch in the sight-seeing category.

Iconic structures you could pick out in an instant, architecture as old as time, but which are the best landmarks to visit whilst travelling through Europe? Well, we’ve picked out some of our top places to grab some picture postcard pics whilst visiting the continent…

The Colosseum

Oh, yes. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. And what’s more quintessentially Roman than the Flavian Amphitheatre?
While its history may be brutal, the Colosseum’s structure is one to behold, built of concrete and sand, in its day, it could hold up to 55,000 people!
It also takes the top spot as the most famous tourist attraction in Rome – well worth a visit.

The Eiffel Tower

One of Paris’ most visited attractions, the Eiffel Tower takes the top spot of most tourists visiting the City of Lights. And, with the stricture standing at 342 metres in height, it is hard to miss.
The tower actually welcomes around 7 million visitors each year which gives it the title of the most visited paid-for monument in the world.

Sagrada Familia

Whilst Barcelona’s impressive Catholic Cathedral still stands unfinished, you can’t deny that the Sagrada Familia is pretty spectacular.
Designed by architect, Antonio Gaudi, the cathedral has now entered its last phase of construction with the tallest of its new towers set to reach a whopping 172 metres!
After 133 years in construction, if you’re waiting to see the finished piece, it is on track to be finished in 2026 which will also mark the centenary of Gaudi’s death.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

One of Italy's most famous landmarks - The Leaning tower of Pisa
Poor foundations it may have, but if this tower was up right it wouldn’t be as appealing, right? This is one human error we can certainly be thankful for.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a tourist hotspot, and you can be sure to see hordes of people trying to get that one picture showing them propping up the tower, which can be an amusing sight in itself.
Now safely anchored into the ground, you can even take a walk up the tower and what a great thing to say you have done?

Brandenburg Gate

One of the best-known landmarks in Germany, Brandenburg Gate, is a symbol of peace that was built in the eighteenth century, and it’s certainly something to look at.
Originally, the designer’s concept for the gate was a ‘Friedenstor’, or victory arch, as we may know it. Through Berlin’s varied history it has also shared it existence as a political icon and a symbol of a divided city.
Luckily, we can now enjoy the Brandenburg Gate as a symbol of unity. It’s certainly a unique and memorable place to visit during your time in Berlin.

Ancient City Walls of Dubrovnik

Considered the most magnificent fortification monument in Europe, a walk around the walls of Dubrovnik are sure to be a highlight of your trip to this spectacular coastal city.
Stretching around the city, the walls reach over 2km in distance. So, if you’ve indulged in some of that delicious Dubrovnik seafood, it’s the perfect excuse to fit in a post-lunch stroll.


Landmark in Athens - The Acropolis
Mention an 80ft hill with a flat top and it may not sound overly impressive. Mention its name, and it suddenly becomes one of the most iconic monuments in Europe.
The Acropolis, especially the Parthenon, are by far the most characteristic sights to see in Athens – a must on any trip to the city.
It is considered to symbol the beginning of Western civilisation and the Parthenon was even dedicated to the patron goddess of Athens, Athena, who is also the goddess of wisdom making it a real treat for culture enthusiasts and historians alike.

Duomo, Florence

The Duomo Landmark
It’s hard to miss the Cathedral of Santa Maria, or The Duomo as it’s otherwise known, as it stands high above the red-tiled rooftops that cover the stunning city of Florence.
The iconic dome proved somewhat of a puzzle to the people of Florence, as nobody actually knew how to build it.
It could have been divine intervention, or just good luck, as their prayers were answered by Brunelleschi, a goldsmith and clock maker.
Brunelleschi was the mastermind of the design and engineering miracle and is who we have to thank for one of Europe’s most impressive masonry dome.

Phew, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Are there any on our list that you’re longing to see? Let us know in the comments.

Europe's Most Romantic Cities

They say love is all around us but we just can’t deny that there are some places that just ooze that romantic charm. They have a certain je ne sais quoi, a heart-warming atmosphere and, lucky for us, these places are right on our doorstep.

Yes, it’s the stunning cities of Europe. Maybe it’s the unique architecture, the winding rivers or the mouth-watering cuisine, there’s just something that gets the butterflies of even the most cynical romantic fluttering away.
With Valentine’s just around the corner, you may just be thinking about what Europe’s most romantic cities may be. Wonder no more, you won’t even need your rose tinted glasses to feel this kind of love, here are our top 9 cities perfect for a romantic experience.

9. Verona

Starting off with the home of the most famous Shakespearian love affair, in at number 9 it has to be Verona. The setting of Romeo and Juliet, it’s certainly a city to play out a true act of affection.
Romeo? where for art thou? Right here. One of the most popular destinations is, of course, Juliet’s Courtyard where tourists will pose for a picture or two upon the balcony.
The city is so famous for love that countless letters addressed to ‘Juliet, Verona, Italy’ are sent every year, there’s even a team of volunteers dedicated to responding to these lovelorn love notes.

8. Budapest

Reaching over both banks the river Danube, Budapest is a sight to behold. Known as the Paris of the East, it really is a city of romantic beauty.
With stunning architecture from the impressive Parliament Building to the stunning Vajdahunyad castle, there’s plenty to see and do to kick start your romantic heart.
Steal a kiss on the chain Bridge or take a loved up selfie as you take in the sights from the castle district. With the allure of the Széchenyi Thermal Bath thrown into the mix, who could say no to Budapest?

7. Prague

Charles Bridge, Prague
With beautiful coloured buildings, gothic architecture and some amazingly great beer on offer, Prague may be under the radar when it comes to romantic city locations, but it certainly has a lot to offer.
The birthplace of Bohemia, from the love, locks bridge in the Malá Strana district, to the winding paths of Petri­n Park, you could easily fall in love with Prague.
If you’re in the city on the 1st May, a kiss by the statue of Karel Hynek Macha is said to guarantee your love will blossom. The tradition is related to the poem ‘May’ written by Mácha which starts, ‘Late evening, on the first of May—
The twilit May—the time of love.’
The tradition is so popular, Czech couples actually have to queue to steal their kiss with their beloved.

6. Florence

Italy really is home of the romantic heavyweights and appears once again with a firm favourite, fantastic Florence.
Bordering the Tuscan Chianti country, Florence really is packed full of the flavour of love. And, with almost a third of the world’s art treasures residing in Florence, it really can whet the whistle of the cultural couple.
Romantic strolls? It’s got them in abundance, the narrow streets of the city, the stunning Piazzas and, of course, the romantic River Arno.
To top it off,  the spectacular city views, dominated by the striking Duomo, really do set the scene for the perfect romantic trip.

5. Copenhagen

If you’re looking for some fairy-tale romance, Copenhagen has just what you are looking for.
The symbol of the city is the world-renowned little mermaid, created by Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen. Her statue even sits on a rock in the harbour – awaiting her love.
With quaint, cobbled streets, this compact city has the wow factor without being overwhelming. Take a stroll over to the harbour bridge and leave a love lock to seal your romance in stunning Copenhagen.

4. Vienna

With romantic sight-seeing opportunities and even a huge Ferris wheel to take it all in from above, you’ll certainly feel young at heart in Vienna.
White horses, imperial palaces, beautiful gardens and chandelier-lit coffee houses to enjoy, it’s almost like a scene from a romance feature film.
Take a horse and cart ride through the city and stop off at the beautiful Hofburg Palace, once the centre of the Hapsburg Empire, for a truly Viennese experience.

3. Rome

Trevi Fountain, Rome
Put the Rome in romance, celebrate eternal love in the eternal city – do we need to go on?
Take a Roman holiday in the stunning city of Rome and feel love of colossal proportions.
Recreate the iconic love scene in ‘La Dolce Vita’ by sharing a kiss by the Trevi fountain, saunter down to the Spanish Steps or canoodle at the Colosseum.
The river Tiber is a hot spot for couples, with love lock bridges and a stunning view over the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, especially as the sun sets, that’s certainly amore.

2. Venice

The creme de la creme of Italian romantic escapes, of course, it has to be Venice.
There’s just something about the winding canals with stunning turquoise water, the gondola rides and with plenty of scenic piazza’s to explore, you’re not short of romantic strolls.
Enjoy the iconic view over the lagoon from San Giorgio Maggiore and tie up your trip in a truly romantic style.

1. Paris

Be still, my beating heart. In the words of Audrey Hepburn, Paris is always a good idea. Yes, it’s cliche, but you can’t deny the French capital the top spot.
Climb the Eiffel tower to take in panoramic views over the whole city, take a sail down the river Seine or take your love to the Louvre.
There’s a reason why this city is given the name ‘City if Love’, and it’s because it’s so easy to fall in love with Paris.
If you’re struggling to find the perfect Valentines gift this year, check out our gift guide, here.

Leger Holidays' Top 10 Viewed Tours of 2015

A new start to a new year, and no, we can’t quite believe it’s 2016 either. 2015 was a brilliant year for Leger Holidays. Our new coach, Luxuria, hit the road, our website got a new look and, best of all, we got to take more fantastic customers to some great destinations and made memories to last a lifetime.

Whilst we’ve been busy preparing for the exciting year ahead, we can’t help but look back fondly on our experiences from last year. So, we’ve compiled a list of our most-viewed tours over the last 12 months. If you’re looking for some inspiration or just curious to see if your favourite tour makes the list, here’s what caught your eye over throughout 2015:


In at number 10, giving us all that warm, fuzzy feeling is the Fairy Tale Castles of Bavaria, the Rhine Valley & Black Forest. And, who said romance was dead?
Bavaria, Germany


Taking the number 9 spot was beautiful Italy with our Lake Garda, Venice & Verona tour. Now that’s amore!
Venice Grand Canal


Speeding in at number eight, it’s fast cars and lavish surroundings with the Monaco Grand Prix by Coach.
Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix


Lucky Seven, our Splendours of Paris caught your eye for a short trip just across the channel.
Eiffel Tower, Paris


The stunning Dutch Bulbfields take the number 6 spot, or was it the excursion to Amsterdam that tempted you to this colourful tour? Both spectacular choices, of course.
A windmill in Holland


Italy sure is popular, coming in at number 5 is the fantastic Wonders of Rome & Pompeii.
Trevi Fountain, Rome


Our D-Day landings in Normandy comes in at an impressive number 4, proving once again, we will never forget.
Pegasus Bridge


Into the top three for 2015, and first onto the winner’s podium, the tour taking the hypothetical bronze medal is Beautiful Bruges!
Bruges, Belgium


And in second place, it’s another appearance for the Formula 1 fanatics, our ever popular Belgium Grand Prix Race Weekend spiked your interest for another year.
Ferarri Forumla 1 Car


Taking the top spot, the most viewed tour of 2015 is… Nashville, New Orleans and Elvis Presley’s Memphis. Heading into America’s Deep South, you liked the sound of the live jazz of New Orleans, the blues and rock ‘n’ roll in Memphis and the country sounds of Nashville. And, a visit to Graceland? We can’t disagree with that.
Nashville, USA
With a host of new tours coming up, we wonder which tour will top our most viewed tours this year. One thing we do know is that we’ve got plenty of holidays and experiences we hope you enjoy in the meantime. Where will your plans take you in 2016?

Halloween traditions from around the World

As the nights draw in, there’s a certain something lingering in the air. Something, eerie… Something, spooktacular! Of course, we’ve hit Halloween.

Love it or hate it, Halloween has crept upon us once again and shops and homes are packed full of spooky costumes, sweets and carved pumpkins that really are cutting edge.
But, as we get ready to celebrate the seasonal scare-fest, have you ever wondered how others around the world celebrate?
Well, this isn’t a trick, so treat yourself to something interesting. As the sky turns dark this Halloween night, here’s how our continental friends, and beyond, will be having a ghoul old time this weekend …

The birthplace of Halloween!

Starting at the beginning, Ireland is said to be the birthplace of Halloween, dating all the way back to its Celtic roots. Marking the end of the Pagan pastoral cycle, the 31st October was considered the last day of the year.
Celts associated winter with death, so, on the last day of the ‘bright’ half of the year, it was thought the boundary separating the living from the dead became blurred.
This not only allowed the souls of the departed to return to their former homes, but also potentially wicked spirits were released from the ‘Otherworld’ and became visible to humans. Spooky!

A Magical Haunting

The Austrians take a much lighter meaning from All Hallows Eve, leaving bread, water and a lightened lamp on a table before heading off to bed.
It was once believed that this act of kindness would welcome the dead souls back to earth and rather than it being a haunting event, it was actually considered quite magical.
By the same token, in China, during the Halloween festival known as Teng Chieh, families place food and water in front photographs of family members that have passed away, whilst bonfires are lit to light the paths of spirits as they join us back on earth for the night.
However, in Germany, residents take a slightly more cautious approach when it comes to the return of the lost, putting away their knives to avoid risk of harm to or from their ‘Otherworld’ visitors. After all, those ghosts have real spirit.

Day of the Dead

You may have heard of the Dia de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, associated with Mexico and other Spanish speaking countries, in fact, it’s even the opening sequence to the new James Bond film, Spectre. However, Spain celebrates a little differently.
There is the Dia de Difuntos (Day of the Dead) and Dia de Todos los Santos (All Saint’s Day) and, whilst they are separate events, the two are usually celebrated together and are actually a religious holiday, with mass held three times throughout the festivities.
Much like Christmas, the holiday is considered a family day, however, visits to the graves of loved ones is high on their priorities, honouring their lost loved ones and leaving them covered in fresh flowers.
And, to top it off, there’s also performances of the most famous and romantic mythical story seducing women and fighting men, Don Juan Tenorio, to keep everyone entertained – not quite the scary story you would expect to hear around Halloween.

We’re Just Here for the Party

Our French neighbours don’t really believe in any spooky superstitions at this time of year, in fact, Halloween is typically regarded as an American holiday.
However, never being a nation to turn down a party, the French have somewhat adopted la fête d’Halloween as an excuse to dress up and celebrate, and who can blame them?
And, of course, one of the most spectacular Halloween Spooktacular’s is at the magical Disneyland Paris Resort, lurking amongst the pumpkins on Main Street U.S.A you’ll find spooky adventures for all the family.
Whilst trick-or-treating is not as popular over the Channel, the few you do find going door-to-door, will be knocking on the fronts of shops rather than gracing their neighbours’ doorsteps.
With a little push from big, multi-national companies, the knowledge of Halloween is now wide spread, with some people even objecting to the idea of an overly-commercialised American holiday, whilst others simply relish in some freaky fancy dress.
So, it’s over to you, how will you be celebrating this year? Do you have your own traditions of creating some freakish fun or are you having a fright night within the safety of your own sofa?
Ready for some more ghost stories? Find out where the spookiest places in Europe are hidden in our previous blog, here.

Paris: A Perfect Delight by Danny Coy

Love Locks in Paris

I have been a photographer for a few years now and when the opportunity arose to work with Leger Holidays I was so excited.

My first assignment was to visit Paris on a 4-day coach break, taking photos for Leger’s brochures and website. Having never been to Paris before, I was awaiting this trip with such excitement. Once I had received my itinerary I knew I was in for a highly rewarding weekend.

I really enjoy walking and when the beautiful scenery matches the weather I find myself walking miles on end. The great thing about booking with Leger Holidays is that you can also make use of the excursions and really get to see everything.
The positive spirits of both the coach drivers and the passengers made for a pleasant coach journey from England into Paris. Everyone was welcoming of one another and after a couple of onboard drinks, the jokes were flying around.
The hotel I stayed in, the Inter Hotel Le Cardinal on the outskirts of Paris, was fantastic. The rooms were perfectly clean and well laid out, the staff were so friendly and more than happy to assist us with any questions and the included breakfast had plenty to keep you going.River Seine, ParisThe Louvre, ParisNotre Dame, ParisViews over ParisPalace of Versailles
On the first morning, the first major sight I saw was the Arc de Triomphe in all its glory. I couldn’t believe how big it was, and one thing that stuck with me is how the coach just fell completely silent as we drove around it. Everyone was just taken aback and it’s at this point I really felt that I was in Paris. As we came down The Avenue des Champs-Elysees somebody said, “I wonder if they have a Primark here”. The whole coach atmosphere was fantastic and everybody was so excited to start exploring.
We were able to park almost directly below the Eiffel Tower. The huge structure was unlike anything I had ever seen before, and again, it looked so massive in real life. The sun was shining through all its little gaps and it just took my breath away. The beautiful blue sky contrasted the metal wonder perfectly and everything just seemed to stop for an instant.
Just walking through the centre of Paris I could see that it was unlike any other place. The streets were lined with trees that have been perfectly trimmed so that they were all symmetrical,
historical statues stand on every corner and even the street lights look like something out of a movie.
The Louvre was definitely a huge highlight for everyone on the trip. I remember having a conversation with a passenger who said that you know the art inside is going to be good when the building itself is a masterpiece. The entrance is a huge glass pyramid and each panel seemed to reflect the suns light slightly differently.
As I followed the road and went over a beautiful bridge I reached the Notre Dame, the home of the fictional character Quasimodo. The gothic masterpiece is such a joy to behold and the gargoyles perched on the corners are almost lifelike.
The river Seine cruise is an optional extra that Leger offers and everyone on the coach wanted to do it. The gentle cruise was made even better by the gorgeous weather and a pleasant breeze. It’s a great way to see the city from below and also gain some knowledge of the history of Paris. The detail of the bridges that can only be seen from below; the little houseboats that line the edges of the river; the sound of the water lapping up the side of the boat as you glide past the Notre Dame; and the way the city
looks from the boat. It was so peaceful and tranquil and the sun shone over the top of the buildings as brightly as the smiles on the people’s faces.
In the evening, Leger had organised a three-course meal in a restaurant in the Latin Quarter. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for nearly everybody on the coach. The restaurant was tucked down a back street, without the help of Leger, we would never have found it. As soon as we walked in we were greeted by a couple of jolly locals playing the guitar and accordion. They proceeded to seat us in an underground area and brought out lots of free wine and bread.
Being in France, I decided to have the snails that were on the menu and they were delicious. I’m always happy to try new things, but in all honesty, I hadn’t expected to really enjoy them. They arrived with shells and I had to pick them out with a skewer. They were really tasty and not at all chewy, as I expected. The main course was a choice of different meats served in different sauces, so there was something for everyone to enjoy. Whilst we were eating our desserts, the guys with the guitar and accordion came down to play for us. Their English was as perfect as their sense of humour and it really capped off a brilliant evening.
The second morning began as pleasantly early as the first and we were soon off to Montmartre. Highlights in Montmartre are definitely the Moulin Rouge and the Roman-Catholic Sacre Coeur church. There was a really nice smell in the air from the abundance of patisseries.
By lunchtime, we were heading off to the gardens of Versailles and nobody knew what to expect. The thing I liked most about the gardens was the perfect symmetry of everything. I have always enjoyed things to be in order, especially in my photography, so Versailles really filled me with deep happiness. The flowers are beautifully maintained and there’s just so much colour everywhere. It’s a truly breathtaking place and a great way to round up the whole trip.
Leger Holidays made it easy for me to really experience the culture of a city. It’s great if you don’t feel up to travelling all on your own or if you want to see everything a place has to offer but you don’t want the stress of sorting it all out yourself.

I am looking forward to my next assignment.

Danny Coy

Art, architecture and tree-lined avenues: see the sights of Paris in a day

It was a warm early autumn morning, and I’d just jumped out of a taxi at one of the most famous landmarks in Paris, the Arc de Triomphe. There were people chatting, others posing for photos, cars, buses and scooters whizzing around like the horses on a merry-go-round and high above us, people walking around the top of the structure, which looked so much larger up close than it appeared in any of the photos in the brochures.

 Arc de Triomphe

I’d chosen to spend a full day in Paris – the third day of my four-day coach break – and see the sights on foot. I’d joined the guided sightseeing tour by coach the day before which gave me a good idea of where things were and decided that I’d get out amongst the hustle and bustle of the streets of the wonderful French capital. Whenever I go away, I prefer to walk around (whenever possible) – I get to see more and sometimes end up in places I didn’t intend.
So, armed with my already-crinkled city map, I was there: at the top of the Champs Elysées, on a hot September morning with the whole day ahead of me.

Champs Elysées Sign

As I strolled along past small souvenir shops and large stores displaying designer names, the morning sunshine was glittering through the trees lining the famous avenue. There were people in cafés chatting on mobile phones or with friends, enjoying a croissant and ‘cafe au lait’. Smartly dressed ladies with large sunglasses hurried past, phone in one hand and a glossy, rigid designer shopping bag on the other arm. I had entered into the world of ‘chic’.
My route took me all the way along the two-kilometre length of the Champs Elysées to one of the best-known squares in Paris: the Place de la Concorde, originally a site of execution during the French Revolution. Here, the splashing of fountains and sound of people chatting and laughing as they posed for photos filled the air, along with squeals as passers-by were taken by surprise by the statues that come to life as soon as you get near them. The scene was so far removed from what I imagine it to have been like in the late 18th century.

Champs Elysées

Fountains at Place de la Concorde

Continuing straight across to the Tuileries Gardens – an area which was once a clay quarry for tiles, or ’tuilerie’ – I turned to see the Arc de Triomphe, now a tiny archway in the distance, and the unmistakable structure of the Eiffel Tower over to the left, standing against the bright blue sky.
By now the temperature had risen quite a bit and as I entered the wide lane running through the Tuileries Gardens, linking the Place de la Concorde and the Louvre, there were people sitting around a large fountain on green steel chairs reading, sunbathing, kissing, chatting and listening to music, whilst others relaxed in the cafés under the shade of the horse chestnut trees lining the avenue.

 Tuileries Fountain

As I walked, the gentle sounds of the cream-coloured gravel crunching underfoot and birds singing above, the quiet hum of conversations and the bells of energetic cyclists ringing as they whizzed past all made for a very laid-back wonderful atmosphere.
Ahead of me was the large building of the Louvre Palace, home to one of the world’s largest museums and the modern glass pyramid which sits in the main courtyard. As I got closer I could see the long queue of people, all waiting to get in to the famous museum for a peek of one of art history’s most famous paintings, Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, perhaps or maybe the elegant sculpture of Venus de Milo?

 The Louvre Courtyard

The Louvre Palace & Fountains

By this time it was extremely hot, with people sitting on the edges of the fountain dangling their feet into the water to cool down. I joined them for a few minutes and soaked up the atmosphere of my surroundings: the impressive glass pyramids, the decorated façades of the Louvre Palace; the cooling water pools and the visitors enjoying their day. It gave me a good opportunity to update my notebook, check my camera and consult my map. With my various bags, pockets and pieces of kit to delve into, the moment turned to slow motion as I saw my video camera taking a dive! “Nnnnnooooooo!!!” I yelled, as I lunged to grab it, but it was too late. There was a loud ‘PLOP!’ and there lay the camera, in 2 feet of water like a coin tossed into a fountain by visiting tourists. I reached into the cold water to retrieve the camera – knocking my map into the pond in the process – and left it to dry on the wall, in the hope, somehow, of bringing it back to life! After a few minutes, in the heat of this beautiful September day, the map was functional again, despite being a bit soggy. The video camera, on the other hand, was not.
Sacre Coeur
Next on my list of ‘things to see’ was the Sacre Coeur Basilica – the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Peeling my map apart, I set off through the passage leading out of the Louvre courtyard and along the Rue de Louvre, heading for the Montmartre area. 45 minutes later, after asking a couple of people in shops and bars for directions and after a lot of pointing and hand gestures, I reached the Sacre Coeur. The bright building stood out against the deep blue sky, much larger than I had expected. It had been quite a long walk – especially in the heat – and a lot of it had been up hill, but it was worth it for the wonderful view over the city. As I arrived at the steps I noticed the funicular which takes weary sightseers up the hill to the basilica itself.

View over Paris

After catching my breath, I climbed the steps and followed the road around to the left of the cathedral, heading for the Place du Terte. Taking a left turn at the end of the wall, suddenly the road was really busy. The volume cranked up a notch or two, with music playing and people chatting at the bars and cafés and at the plentiful souvenir shops – there was a real buzz about the place. As I ventured through the crowds of the narrow street and out into a little square, there was an elderly woman singing along to the old music box she was playing, fed by a roll of paper with holes in it. Wearing knee-length denim trousers, a shirt and a neckerchief with a floppy, cap-style hat, the woman was attracting quite a crowd, some of them clapping along to the music while others captured it all on film.

 Souvenir shops in Montmartre

The sun was beating down as I passed the crowds and there in front of me was Place du Tertre. The square, although small, was lined by restaurants on one side and was a maze of artists – an extremely busy place where painters sat at their easels, applying oil paint to their canvas while others were busily sketching as they glanced over their thick-rimmed spectacles every so often to see if their display has any interest. There were traditional paintings and some more modern or abstract; old artists with bushy white beards, some clad head to toe in denim; others wearing neckerchiefs and shoes with no socks – the atmosphere here was wonderful. One old artist stopped mixing the colours of his palette to stand up and show us his works. I noticed he had bright green paint dotted in his wiry white beard. “I have many more – this one is quite good” he told us, showing us another of his colourful works. Behind the artists, shaded restaurants were bustling like the rest of the area, packed with contented customers.

Place du Tertre Paintings

Artist at Place du Tertre
I would’ve loved to spend much more time around Place du Tertre. I could easily have spent a day around the Montmartre area with its inviting and alluring atmosphere, just as I could’ve idled away a few hours watching the world go by from a Parisian café or strolling around the Tuileries Gardens, soaking up the sun and the wonderful atmosphere. I’d seen so much during my day in Paris: the Arc de Triomphe; Champs Elysées; Place de la Concorde; Tuileries Gardens; Eiffel Tower (OK, so this one was from a distance!); the Louvre; the Sacre Coeur; Montmartre and the Place du Tertre… and I know there’s still more for me to see in this magical city. I’ll just have to come back one day!
What’s your favourite part of Paris? Share your stories with us.

The 60 year search – Jonathan and Douglas Ford

My great great uncle, Ernest Edward Ford, a Rifleman in the Kings Royal Rifle Corps, was killed at Passchendaele on 31st July 1917. For his efforts in the war, he was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field. In December 2011, I tracked down his campaign medals and the military medal. This brought to an end to the 60 year search involving both my father and I. Here is the full story.

The 60 year search started in the early 1950’s. My father, Douglas Ford was taken to Bawdsey Parish Church near Woodbridge in Suffolk, by his father, my grandfather. Whilst at the church he was shown a plaque on the wall commemorating those from the village who were killed in the First World War. One of those names was Ernest Edward Ford. My grandfather told my father that Ernest was his great uncle. My father was fascinated by this and wanted to find out more, so he talked to his Uncle, his father’s brother who had some information on the family history. He explained to my father that Ernest Edward had been awarded the Military Medal, however he did not know the whereabouts of the medals. He said to my father “perhaps you will find out one day what happened to the medals”.
My father was also interested to know whether Ernest Edward had a grave, and where it was. However, nobody in the family seemed to know. My father’s uncle did, however, state that he believed Ernest Edward had moved to Goole, and it was there where he had enlisted.
In the mid 1950’s, dad started training as a carpenter and joiner, and finished his apprenticeship in 1960. He began to travel in the UK and overseas in the construction industry. He had never lost his curiosity about the medals, and everywhere he travelled with work, he would put notices in shop windows, enquiring on the off chance that somebody might read them, who knew of their whereabouts. He also never walked past an antiques shop without going in to see if they had any medals, and would always inspect any medals they had in stock to see if they were Ernest Edward’s.
In the late 60’s, Dad moved to Wakefield in West Yorkshire and settled there. He continued to search for the medals over the coming years. He also wrote to the war office however they did not seem very forthcoming in those days with giving information out.
The search continued, and in the 1980’s, dad was told that, if he knew Ernest Edward’s service number, he might be able to obtain more information from the war office on the whereabouts of the grave and the medals. He also found out that Military Medal recipients were mentioned in the London Gazette. By this time, I had joined my dad in the research of his family history. We went to the reference library in Leeds, where we were shown a collection of London Gazettes that had been catalogued into books. The series from 1914 to 1918 filled a shelf. We were told that, somewhere in those books, Ernest Edward would be cited, along with his service number, however there was no way of knowing which book it would be in. We set about the daunting task of going through each book in turn. Dad started at one end of the shelf, and I started at the other, to see if we could find the information. Luckily, I found the citation in the second book I picked up. This was our first real breakthrough, as we now had Ernest Edward’s service number.
Dad then wrote to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, they confirmed that Ernest Edward had enlisted in Goole, and they told us that Ernest Edward was commemorated on the Menin Gate at Ypres. At last we knew where his memorial was and that he didn’t have a known grave. However we still didn’t know what had become of the medals, and even with the additional information, the War Office would not shed any more light on it, saying only that the medals would have been released to the next of kin. But there was no sign of the medals in the family.

The Mennin Gate, Ypres
The Menin Gate, Ypres

Now that we knew the whereabouts of the grave, we decided to visit Ypres, and hoped that we might find out some more about the medals. Our first visit to Ypres was for Armistice Day 2001. We visited the Menin Gate, and also spoke to lots of people to see if we could get any more tips on how we might continue the search for the medals, however we didn’t really get any further.
In around 2005, there was another breakthrough. One of dad’s cousins gave him a death plaque that had been issued to Ernest Edward’s mother . She had been in possession of it for some time and decided to give it to dad when she found out about his search for the medals. Dad decided to write to the war office again, stating that he was now in possession of the death plaque. He asked again if there was a record of who had received the medals after the war. The war office wrote back and said they would have been issued with the death plaque to the same person. We wondered if the medals had been in the family but maybe sold on.
At around the same time, we became aware that Leger Holidays ran trips to the Ypres Salient and heard of very good things about their battlefield tour guides. In 2006 we decided to return to Ypres, this time on a Leger Battlefield tour. It was then that we met Paul Reed and Keith Quibbell, who gave us lots of good advice on how we might move our search along, and also did some research on our behalf.
We continued searching for the medals over the next few years, but still could not find any trace.
In 2011, we visited Ypres again on a Leger tour, and one of the things that we learnt from that trip was how many war records were now being catalogued on the internet. On our return, I visited where I found some limited records for Ernest Edward. These records did not give us any more information though.
However, only a few weeks later, in December 2011, we had another big breakthrough. Another wave of war records had been loaded onto the internet site, including Ernest Edward’s. From those, we found lots more information, and, crucially, there was a document that stated that the beneficiary of Ernest Edward’s will was a Mrs Jackson in Goole. Not only that, but also there was a copy of a receipt, that confirmed these medals had been sent to Mrs Jackson, and not to the Ford family as the War Office had indicated. At last we knew where the medals had gone. My father and I discussed our next move, and decided that, in the New Year we would visit Goole, to see if we could track the Jackson family down, and to see if they had the medals.
Before that happened though, the last breakthrough came, and this one was the most astonishing. Over that preceding two years, I had periodically been doing internet searches on Ernest Edward Ford and Military Medals, to see if anything came up. Nothing ever had. However, just before Christmas I repeated the search, and there in front of me, on the computer screen, was a copy of an auction catalogue from Warwick and Warwick auction house. Within that catalogue was one lot, for E E Ford – Military Medal, Victory Medal and British War Medal. I had finally found the medals. There was one snag though, the auction had taken place that day, it seemed the medals had most probably been sold, and maybe lost forever. I spoke to dad about it, and undeterred, dad then phoned the auction house the next day. The auction house told us that the medals had been in a private collection for some 50 years; however the collection had recently been opened up, to be auctioned. They also told us that Ernest Edward’s medals had been sold to a dealer, Dixons medals in Bridlington. Dad then phoned Dixons, and spoke to the proprietor, Chris Dixon. On finding out that the medals had been awarded to our ancestor, and hearing the story of our search, Chris immediately agreed to sell them to us, for a discounted price, and without offering them to the open market. We were so relieved and so grateful at how sympathetic Chris had been towards us. On December 21st 2011, dad and I travelled to Bridlington, where we picked up the medals from Chris Dixon. Finally, the search had come to an end, and for the first time ever, the medals were in the possession of the family.
We could not believe that we had the medals, but what astonished us more, was some of the coincidences in the story. Firstly, Ernest Edward had grown up in East Anglia, and moved to Yorkshire before the war where he settled. Dad commented on how he had also grown up in East Anglia and settled in Yorkshire. Secondly, the medals had also made their way to Yorkshire after the auction. They seemed destined to come to us.
If there’s one message that we would like to give to other people who might be in the same position of not knowing where their ancestor’s medals are – that message would be to never give up. After nearly 60 years of a search which seemed like a search for a needle in a haystack, we have the medals back where we feel they belong.
If you are interested in any of the battlefield tours we offer, please visit our website Leger Battlefield Tours.

Grandparents Grounded with Childcare Duties

You may have seen it in the news (or even experienced it first hand) but when it comes to childcare nowadays, it’s often the grandparents that are left holding the baby.

Rising childcare costs have left many parents in a situation where it’s not worth one of them working. Unless of course, good ‘old’ granny or grandpa can help out that is!
Around half of UK families now depend all year round on the older generation, who we’ve dubbed ‘Retired Help’ (get it?) for their childcare. This savvy situation is thought to save more than £2,000 per year for the average family and over £10,000 for those who rely on grandparents to provide full-time support.
And let’s face it, most grandparents are only too happy to step in. Looking after children is undoubtedly hard work but (allegedly) so much more fun when you can leave them in the capable hands of their parents at the end of the day and go home to put your feet up!
But at Leger Holidays we began to wonder if this reliance was actually impacting on the holiday and leisure time of grandparents and so we conducted some research. And it seems we were right…
The research revealed that over a quarter of Britain’s 14 million grandparents feel that such commitments and responsibilities actually stop them from going away as often as they would like. Interestingly, grandmas are more likely to feel this pressure (32 per cent as opposed to 28 per cent of grandads).
So, whereas historically the mature traveller has always enjoyed more freedom when it comes to holidays, it appears there are now more than 3.5 million of them delaying or sacrificing their dream getaways to help their families.
One alternative of course is for grandparents to go on holiday with their families. But in our research some grandparents admitted *whisper* they didn’t enjoy the experience. One in five said they find it hard work and many also feel they are only invited to provide free childcare. Of course tastes differ across the generations too. Whereas many young families choose to lie on the beach or by the side of the pool, the older generation often prefer to have more experiential getaways, looking for new things to see and do each day. They want to visit museums, admire art, enjoy leisurely shopping and see the sights without a toddler who isn’t interested to bear in mind. Plus, most grandparents have done their fair share of “are we there yet?” journeys.
So we say ‘Retired Help’ of the world unite! Don’t feel guilty about needing a break, it’s important to take the holidays you want, see the places you’ve dreamt of seeing, and to get some well earned R&R! And if you do feel bound by childcare duties (and you don’t mind that) why not squeeze in a long weekend or short-stay break wherever possible, giving you lots of mini treats to look forward to? Come on now…surely you can squeeze in a few days on a midweek break to Paris, recharging your batteries? And imagine all the great presents you could get the grandkids from a trip to Belgium, the Chocolate Capital of the world?
We’re sure your grandchildren will appreciate a rested and rejuvenated granny or grandad – now you’d better get back to building that treehouse…