Born in the USA: Our Guide to the Stars of the States

In a week where our friends across the pond have been celebrating their Independence Day, we’ve been busy thinking about all the fantastic things the United States of America have on offer.

We probably don’t even need to talk about how amazing New York is and how everyone should visit the Grand Canyon at least once, you more than likely already know because America itself is just as famous as the celebrities it produces.
And in true American style, this one’s not just about the stars and stripes, it’s also about the stars themselves! And if you’re a music fan, a film buff, or like to dabble in the celebrity gossip scene, here are our top places to visit if you’re looking for the star-studded experience whilst travelling in the states.

Memphis


Memphis is not just a fantastic place to visit, it’s also the home of rock and roll royalty. From Johnny Cash and George Coleman to a rock band called Saliva (yes, really), it’s certainly got some musical merit.
But one of the big attractions is the home of possibly the most famous musician of all time. Yes, the King himself, Mr. Elvis Presley!
Elvis purchased the sprawling property, better known as Graceland, 60 years ago and luckily for us, it is now open to the public. Spreading over 17,500 square feet, it has even been voted the World’s Best Musical Attraction in USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice awards in 2015.

It offers an exciting experience touring through Elvis’ former home. But some things are kept a little more private. The upper floor of the mansion is not open to the public, but don’t feel too bad…
Considered his private sanctuary, the place he lived and loved, only former wife Priscilla, daughter Lisa-Marie and the Graceland curator are allowed within its hallowed halls. So you can be sure to still get the fullest experience on offer when visiting the iconic home.
Graceland comes in a smooth second in the most visited homes in the USA list, attracting over 500,000 fans a year, falling just behind our next stop off…

The White House


Home to possibly the biggest star in the USA, the presidential home is the most visited house in the USA. And, it’s certainly of presidential proportions.
Despite what you may think of the man in the oval office at the time, it’s a fascinating place to visit. And, best of all? It’s free to get inside!
Each week, the White House has over 30,000 visitors. But, it doesn’t end there, they also receive 65,000 letters, 3,500 phone calls and 100,000 emails! So, they could certainly do with the extra hands, lucky there’s an extra resident on hand to help them out…
Winston Churchill reportedly saw the ghost of Abraham Lincoln whilst staying in the former president’s bedroom. It’s said he was just getting out of the bath at the time, lucky he didn’t slip!

San Francisco


The birth place of Bruce Lee, Clint Eastwood and Steve Jobs, San Francisco hasn’t just brought us the best of film and technology, it’s also one popular place to visit.
Attracting 18.9 million visitors in 2015 alone, if you’re looking for former celebrity haunts, you’re in the right place.
The impressive China Town area is actually the birth place of Bruce Lee, and it’s the largest of its kind outside of Asia. There are temples, tea houses, souvenir shops and traditional pharmacies and if you’re visiting during a Chinese holiday or event, you can expect some extravagant celebrations.

And, if you’re looking for a popular celebrity haunt, The Slanted Door in San Francisco Bay is not only one of the most popular restaurants in the city, it’s also attracted stars such as Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Quentin Tarantino!

Beverley Hills


Of course, the home of the rich and famous, Beverley Hills has not only attracted the elite for decades, but the tourists seem to love it too!
Judy Garland lived on Bel Air Road, Michael Jackson and Walt Disney on Carolwood Drive and John Lennon on Mulholland Drive, so you can see why the Hollywood Stars’ Homes tours are so popular.
But if you’re thinking less about peeking into houses and more about living the lifestyle, Rodeo Drive is a great place to visit.
Not only is it a shopper’s paradise, it’s also starred in over 50 films! From Beverley Hills Cop to Pretty Woman, you can walk in the footsteps of Julia Roberts and Eddie Murphy on the picturesque and pretty famous street.

Hollywood Walk of Fame


How could we not mention the world famous, Hollywood Walk of Fame, where any star who is a star has a star! Visiting the Walk of Fame is almost a rite of passage when in Los Angeles.
Honouring luminaries in film, television, radio, theatre and recording, the sidewalks of the famous Hollywood Boulevard have taken over tinsel town since the 1960s, and it’s still just as impressive today.
Everyone’s favourite stars from Richard Bacon, Doris Day, Aretha Franklin and the Backstreet Boys have their names adorned on the glistening footpaths. And if this isn’t the best way to reach the stars, we don’t know what is.

It’s also just a stone’s throw away from the Hollywood Madame Tussauds, meaning you can (almost) get up close and personal to the stars, too!
Thinking about heading off on a dream tour of America? With our fantastic selection of USA holidays, you can take in some of the most popular destinations worthy of anyone’s bucket list!
From New York to Miami, the West Coast or maybe a cross country journey travelling along Route 66, we’ve got it all. Fancy taking a look, they’re all available, here.

Unusual Place Names: Where in the World?

Unusual place names, they seem a million miles away… from the likes of Bunratty to Honningsvag, they’re the sort of destinations you’d have to grab at atlas to find out exactly where they are. And even then, it’s finding out just how far away they are can be pretty mid-boggling.

Well, the thing is, they’re probably closer than you think. We’ve put in some research and found some of Europe’s most unusual place names (and, funnily enough, we visit them on our tours too!) and have even found out just how many miles away they really are.
So, if you’re heading off on one of our tours to places you’ve not really heard of before, your unusual destination may just be on our list. Find out how far you’ll travel to get there with our fantastic new infographic.

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.

Lights, Camera, Action: Our Top Film and TV Locations in Europe

Have you ever watched a film or TV show and felt so engrossed in the setting that you wanted to pack your suitcase there and then, and set out on your own action packed adventure?

Well, what if we were to tell you that some of the most famous movie locations are right on our door step, here in Europe, and you could visit some of the world’s most famous, real life movie sets, on one of our tours? You better believe it! Take a look at some of our favourite film and TV locations we love to visit.

Prague – Casino Royale

Charles Bridge, Prague
Charles Bridge, Prague

We begin with Prague, which has a long list of movie location credentials, and it’s no surprise that directors and producers alike have chosen to shoot some of the most famous silver screen scenes here.
The capital city of the Czech Republic boasts some pretty amazing architecture, which provides the perfect back drop for any action movie, which brings us to one of the most famous action heroes of all time…Bond, James Bond.
Since the release of the 2006 movie, Casino Royale, Prague has become popular with Bond fans from all over the world, with many visiting the city in order to take snaps in the famous locations.
Some locations in Prague even doubled for scenes in Venice and Miami! The Czech National Museum was used as the setting for the Venetian hotel, and both Prague Ruzyne Airport and the Ministry of Transport, which are both portrayed as locations in Miami.  However, the opening scene for the film was actually set and filmed in Prague at The Danube House, which tell us the story of how Bond gained his Double O status.

Salzburg – The Sound of Music

Aerial View of Salzburg
Aerial View of Salzburg

Home to the Vonn Trapp family, the fairy tale city of Salzburg is a must do in its own right. However, it has become renowned for its Sound of Music tours, with fans of this heart-warming story flocking from near and far to walk in the footsteps of Julie Andrews.
Salzburg is home to many wonderful sites, so it’s no wonder the director of the 1965 Oscar winning musical chose to shoot as many of the scenes as he could in the city itself. With an abundance of movie scenes to visit, such as the Do-Re-Mi fountain, why not take a look at our very own Austria, Sound of Music tour?

Taormina – The Godfather

View Over Taormina
View Over Taormina

Ah Sicily, home to one of the most notorious families of all time, the Carleone family, from the hit crime series, The Godfather.
Based on Mario Puzo’s bestselling novel, which was inspired by real life events carried out by the Sicilian Mafia, there was really nowhere else for the typically Italian scenes to be filmed but in Italy itself.
Aside from its claim to fame, Sicily is truly memorising and would be enjoyed by anyone, even if you’re not a fan of the hit crime series. However, if you are a Godfather fan, why not take a tour of some of the most iconic spots of the film? Our Treasures of Sicily tour dedicates a whole excursion to the Al Pacino classic.

Dubrovnik – Game of Thrones

View over Dubrovnik
View Over Dubrovnik

Stepping away from the movies, we take a look at one of the most popular TV shows of the present day, Game of Thrones. With the seventh season just around the corner, over the past few years many fans of the show have been journeying to Croatia, in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the stars, in the real life’s ‘Kings Landing’. Or, as we know it, the old town, Dubrovnik.
That’s right, the medieval town offers the back drop for the southern city in this make believe world of fire and ice, and we can see just why it was chosen. The UNESCO world heritage site is filled with wonders and the ancient stone walls of the city really give it that enchanting feel. And whilst you’re certainly not going to catch a glimpse of any dragons, who knows, you may brush shoulders with one of the shows many stars, making Dubrovnik a must visit for any GOT fan.

Verona – Letters to Juliette

River Adige, Verona
River Adige, Verona

This gorgeous romantic comedy, gives you a real sense of the passion of Italy. Set and mostly filmed in Verona, the film tells the story of a writer struggling to find her muse, until, among the sights, she ends up discovering the “Secretaries of Juliet”. The “Secretaries of Juliet” being a group of women in Verona, whom spend their days replying to letters left to Juliet for love advice.
There she discovers one that was written 50 years ago, which then leads to the main character, played by Amanda Seyfried, setting off on a quest to aid one woman whose story she has become engrossed in. It’s a truly beautiful film, with some truly gorgeous scenery, as the cast travel through the Italian countryside in the hopes of reuniting two lovers.
So, if you’re looking to set the scene for your own romantic tale, Italy, and namely Verona, is the perfect place for you.

Copenhagen – The Danish Girl

Nyhavn, Copenhagen
Nyhavn, Copenhagen

The streets of Copenhagen’s Old Town set the scene for this dramatic tale. Based on real life events, The Danish Girl, was an immediate success when it was released in cinemas a little over a year ago, and it’s no surprise when you see the Oscar nominated and Oscar winning performances of both Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander.
But aside from the outstanding performances, the stunning scenery of Copenhagen is also Oscar worthy, from the cobbled waterfronts, to the curving and colourful streets of Nyhavn. It really is one for the bucket list!

Bruges – In Bruges

Canal in Bruges
Canal in Bruges

Although the 2008 film didn’t quite make the cut when it was released in cinemas, it soon became a cult classic. The film has the perfect mix of some brilliant comedy moments and an excellent script, but the real star of the show is Bruges itself.
The film follows two hit men who have been ousted to Bruges for making a mess of a job. Whilst there, the lead characters Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell) take a tour of the town, visiting celebrated sites such as the Belfry and the Basilica of The Holy Blood, meaning there are probably few places that you can visit whilst there that weren’t key locations in the film.
It is the case that the movie made the medieval town so popular, that the Bruges tourist board even created a map dedicated to the dark comedy, so fans could make sure that they didn’t miss any of the famous sites whilst touring the town.

Rome – La Dolce Vita

Trevi Fountain, Rome
Trevi Fountain, Rome

The classic black and white film follows a tabloid journalist called Marcello, whose life is torn between wanting to become an establish writer or continuing to publish profitable but meaningless magazine articles.
Set and filmed in the glamorous Roma, the film includes many of the ancient cities treasures, however the most famous scene in the film comes as Marcello meets the beautiful socialite Sylvia, played by the 1960s Swedish bombshell, Anita Ekberg.
As Marcello takes the star on a tour of Rome, we see her character plunge into the Trevi fountain in an all-black evening gown. The scene is mesmerizing, and so it’s no surprise that it attracted fans from around the globe, many of whom wanted to come and recreate the moonlight splash. However, as there’s a ‘strictly no bathing policy’ this is unfortunately not possible, but you can pay a visit to the spectacular monument and the beautiful city of Rome on one of our many tours.
If this blog has you in the mood to visit some of the most famous film and TV sets in Europe, why not star in your story on a Leger Holiday?

2016: Our Top Viewed Tours of the Last Year

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

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

10. Beer & Battlefields

Soldiers drinking beer

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

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

9. Cruising the Rhine and Moselle

Boats along the Rhine river

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

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

8. Beautiful Bruges

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

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

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

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

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

6. Austrian Gems

Kitzbuhel

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

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

5. Lake Garda, Venice and Verona

Lake Garda

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

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

4. Belgian Grand Prix

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

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

3. Imperial Capitals – Prague, Vienna and Budapest

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

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

2. All Quiet on the Western Front

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

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

1. New Orleans, Nashville & Memphis

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

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

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

Berlin: Delve into the History of the German Capital

Berlin. If there was ever a city that had it all, this is it. From history, to architecture. From war to peace, and from old to new.

Home to around 3.6 million people, Germany’s biggest city dates back to the 13th century. And, one thing we all know is that it has a rather tumultuous past.
Seeing the rise, and subsequent fall of Hitler, sustaining heavy damage through WWII. Divided by the Cold War and reunified with the help of none other than Baywatch legend David Hasselhoff.
And, with a varied past comes an extremely interesting present, you can see why the city is fascinating to many.
But, it’s not the sort of place you can only read about in book. It’s a city that you truly have to explore, with so much to see and do, it is one of the most exciting places to visit in Europe, that’s for sure.
So, let us take you through some of Berlin’s most historically important landmarks to visit on your trip to Berlin.

Berlin Wall

Whilst the Berlin Wall felt the fate of reunification when it officially became redundant on the 9th November, 1989, and the majority of the divisive wall was later torn to the ground. But, in the interest of history and tourism, part of it actually still stands today.
And, it has been reinvented as a rather unique art gallery. Consisting of 105 paintings by artists from all over the world, the East Side Gallery is a canvas for artistic visions of optimism, freedom and friendship.
It also holds the title of the world’s longest open air gallery, at more than 1km in length.
berlin-mel

Checkpoint Charlie

Following the East Berlin’s communist party announcing that relations had thawed with the west, citizens from both sizes of the wall greeted each other drinking beer and champagne alongside chanting of “Tor auf!”, or “open the gate”, if German isn’t your strong point.
And, it happened. The former Allied sentry post, Checkpoint Charlie, was officially closed. But, unlike the majority of the wall, Checkpoint Charlie still, sort of, exists and has become a major tourist attraction.
Where the border once sat, it is now marked with cobbles. And a replica of the guard house and sign that marked the border crossing are sat in the spot of the original Checkpoint Charlie. A great insight into the history of a divided city.
checkpoint-charlie

Brandenburg Gate

For a real look into past, Brandenburg Gate is actually the only remaining city gate that used to separate East and West Berlin.
But, despite its unsavoury past, it’s now considered a symbol of unity, signifying the exact opposite of its intended purpose.
And, interestingly, whilst the gate is an original piece of history that still stands to this day, the Quadriga, crowning the structure actually had a little stint in another European great, Paris, in 1806.
When Berlin was occupied by the French, Napoleon demanded the bronze statue to be taken to the French capital. However, following the battle of Waterloo, it was triumphantly returned to Berlin and, once again, adorned the gate.
A cross and an eagle were added upon its return to signify the victory. But, it was soon removed from the Quadriga as the cross was thought to have associations with Prussian militarism. However, if you’ve noticed it’s still there today, that’s because it was restored after reunification in 1990.
gate

Reichstag Building

Now, if you’re looking for the most visited building in the city, the Reichstag is where you need to be. Rising high above the city, and much like the rest of Berlin, it too has had a turbulent past.
Destroyed in WWII, captured by the soviet troops and abandoned during the years Berlin was divided. But, since 1991 the German parliament voted to reinstate Berlin as the capital and move parliament back to Reichstag.
The new Reichstag building, whilst keeping its historic façade, updated its looks with a fairly impressive glass dome to get a bird’s eye view of the German capital.
reichstag

Museum Island

And talking about impressive architecture, Museum Island has plenty to offer. Yes, an island of museums situated in the Spree River has actually been awarded a UNESCO World Heritage Site inscription.
Host to 5 museums, the island is unique due to its ability to illustrate the evolution of museum design throughout the 20th century. In fact, between 1824 and 1930, as each museum was built, they were done so in accordance to the art the museum would host.
So, not only are you having a cultural lesson investing in some unique art pieces, you can be sure that the buildings are a work of art, too.
museum-island
But, even with all of this, we’re still only scratching the surface of what this magnificent city has to offer. Whether you’re looking for its historic heart or simply its cosmopolitan present, there’s so much to see and do, it’s a perfect city break for everyone.
Christmas Markets, Battlefield tours and short breaks, take a look at our holidays that take in Berlin by clicking here.
 

Our Top Destinations for the Food Fanatic

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

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

Croatia

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

France

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

Italy

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

Spain

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

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

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

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

Coming Soon to Leger Blog

Coming soon… Paul Reed’s Battlefield Blog.

Join in and experience the battlefields from Leger Holidays’ Head Battlefield Guide’s perspective as Paul Reed takes us on his personal journey through the Battlefields of Europe.

Our new feature will include regular updates from Paul. From personal encounters to new tour updates, sharing his wealth of military knowledge and research.

 
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Top Wine Regions in Europe

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

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

Bordeaux

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

Champagne

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

Douro Valley

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

Mosel

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

Tuscany

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

Rhône Valley

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