Simon Calder Q&A: Tips and Travel Advice

Simon Calder, Travel Writer and Broadcaster

Here at Leger Holidays, we’re celebrating holiday inspiration, and who better to get involved than travel writer and broadcaster, Simon Calder? We invited the Twittersphere to ask the travel man himself for his ideas and experiences. We’ve distilled the best for you here …

What are the strongest triggers to deciding on a particular trip?
My usual motivation is a word in my ear from a friend with taste – but a film, chance conversation or just a tweet can work.
Your greatest drive in Europe?
So many roads, so little time – but most of Italy’s coast, so long as someone else is driving.
Is there a secret European location waiting to be discovered?
Yes, and almost all of them are behind the old Iron Curtain, particularly Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine.
What was the last film that inspired you to travel and why?
Er, is it very uncool to say Sound of Music? Many of the locations in it, in and around Salzburg in Austria, are still exactly the same
What’s the latest about the hole in Rhodes airport runway?
The runway on the Greek island had a malfunction earlier this week but is now back in action – and a great destination in Sept/Oct.
Your favourite Christmas Market?
For me the surroundings count for as much as the stalls, chalets and cafes. So: Cologne, with Bruges, Hamburg and Frankfurt as good alternatives.
You were in Castellon last week – what’s it like?
The latest Ryanair route from Stansted and Bristol serves Castellon Airport on Spain’s Costa Azahar – the Orange Blossom Coast and mostly beautifully unspoilt, with Peniscola the best place to stay. The airport also serves as a cut-price gateway to Valencia if the fares to that fine city are too high.
Where are you going skiing this winter?
Haven’t decided yet but Slovakia and Germany are possible locations – they don’t experience the usual half-term price surge. However, Austria is also very appealing.
How far in advance is too far to book a holiday?
Booking too far in advance can be a real problem, particularly for non-refundable plane tickets. Package holidays are less risky because you can transfer them to someone else if you can’t go. But of course anticipation is sweet – and I’ve already booked an eclipse-hunting coach holiday in the US for 2017.
Former Yugoslavia – your favourite component?
I’m fond of them all, but besides Croatia (a given) I have particular soft spots for Slovenia, Montenegro and Bosnia.
What type of coach holiday would be most appealing to you?
A good guide and good company are essentials, but after that it’s terrain that you can really enjoy from a coach. So lakes (or lochs) and mountains work for me, but some UK motorways are also excellent – the M62, M74 and upper reaches of the M6 are all best seen from a passenger seat
Do you ever ask locals for tips on things to do and places to see?
Yes. Online research and guidebooks are invariably trumped by local recommendations. So, always ask.
The best place to visit in Reykjavik?
I’m just back from the Icelandic capital and it’s in great shape, with more flights from the UK than ever. Eat at the newly opened Tacobarinn, which brings Latin American style (and almost prices) to the city. Don’t bother with the Blue Lagoon – overly commercialised – but take the 5-min ferry rider to wonderful Videy Island.
Any other relatively undiscovered wildernesses in Europe, other than Iceland?
Many. In the UK: Knoydart Peninsula in Scotland. Eastern Poland/western Ukraine also wonderful.
Based on what you’ve seen so far this year, what do you think will be the travel trends for 2016?
Niche Latin America, eg Costa Rica and Puerto Rico, eastern Europe and Canada for sheer good value.
Where has reading a book led you?
George Orwell made me hitch-hike to Barcelona after I read Homage to Catalonia. The Fruit Palace by Charles Nicholl is an inspiring introduction to the marvels and madness of Colombia. And the European Rail Timetable is full of wild and wonderful places to add to the list.
Croatia, Greece or Turkey?
Great question – all offer value, beauty, history and a warm welcome, but right now Greece is the word.
Where are the best places to travel to in Europe that are still warm in autumn/winter?
I’d choose an island from Crete, Malta, Sicily, Mallorca and Ibiza, with the Canaries best for the real depths of winter.
What’s not to miss in Berlin?
The Reichstag (Parliament building) is free and brilliant. Ditto East Side Gallery. And take a trip out to Potsdam.
Which TV show or movie has inspired you to visit the filming location?
It’s only been out a week, but Everest is spectacular. I don’t want to climb it but I do want to visit Nepal.
Thank you to Simon, and huge thank you to everyone for your questions! You can take a look at all of our once in a lifetime Grand Explorer holidays by clicking here.

Remembering Sgt Vic Bettle: A Story From the Battlefields

On a Battlefield tour, it’s not unusual to come across group members with personal connections to the tour they are on. Whether it be through a distant relative, great-grandparents or even a parent.

On one of our recent Battlefield tours, D-Day Landings in Normandy, a passenger of ours had set out on a truly personal trip. Ruth Bettle was on the tour following the footsteps of her late husband, Sergeant Vic Bettle.
Sgt Vic Bettleimg044
Sergeant Bettle was part of the 7th Parachute Battalion, would have jumped in or around the Pegasus Bridge area of Normandy on D-Day, 6th June, 1944, as part of Operation Tonga. The Parachute Battalion were tasked with giving support to the D Coy of 2nd (Airborne) Battalion Ox & Bucks Light Infantry led by Major John Howard.
What we know is that 7 Para Bn advanced to the area of Putot-en-Auge in August 1944.
Ruth had received correspondence from a French national several years ago who had been staying in a château in the town of Putot-en-Auge. The grounds of the château played host to a barn, it was in this barn that he had come across something special.
Ruth Bettle at the Barn
He had found an inscription signed ‘Sgt Vic Bettle, 7th parachute Batallion, 19 August 1944’. The inscription simply read ‘We chased them out this morning’.
The tour was led by our Battlefield Guide, Fred Greenhow, who after speaking to Ruth, arranged for our drivers, Chris and Brenda, to take a drive out to the château in the early evening of Sunday 5th April.
The owners were away at the time, however, with much persuasion and the use of Fred’s ‘Geordie Charm’, the young girl who lived in the ‘gate-keepers’ house allowed them access to the barn.
Ruth Bettle_The Inscription_5 Apr 2015The Inscription_19 Aug 1944
“It was an absolute ‘Condor Moment’” Said Fred. “When I was able to take the wife (Ruth Bettle) of a Veteran back to the place where her late husband wrote an inscription on the wall of a barn in the grounds of a Chateau / Manor House, and the inscription is still there and as clear as the day it was written over 70 years ago.”
“Ruth was absolutely overwhelmed when we found the Chateau in the village of Putot-en-Auge, approximately 30 km’s to the East of Caen. Her husband Sgt Vic Bettle who served with 7 Para Bn, wrote his message on the 19th August 1944, it was discovered by a Frenchman in 1998, who tracked down Vic by writing to Gen Napier Crockenden, 6 Airborne Division Association.”
On a Battlefield tour, you’re heading off on a journey of learning, understanding and appreciation, when we can reunite family and friends with a sense of their past, it’s something we are very proud of. Thanks to Fred, and to Ruth and her daughter Karen, we can share this story and keep the memory of Sgt Vic Bettle alive.
Sgt Vic Bettle on a previous trip to Pegasus Bridge after Operation Tongaimg047
 
Interesting Fact: ‘The Longest Day’, a war film from 1962 featuring John Wayne, Richard Burton and Sean Connery, covers Operation Tonga.  The actor Richard Todd OBE, who appeared in the film, served alongside Sgt Bettle in the 7 Para Bn and also played the role of Major John Howard. Another actor played Richard in the film.
 
 

The truth about the Christmas Truce

It was the war that was meant to be over by Christmas. In 1914, 5 months into WWI an end was far from in sight. However, on 24th December an unofficial temporary truce was agreed along the Western Front. Soldiers from opposing sides laid down their guns and celebrated Christmas together.

This year, possibly more than ever, the Christmas truce of 1914 has struck a chord with the nation. Featuring on TV adverts, being widely talked about in the press, even a memorial statue for the much debated game of football in Flanders Field, Belgium, was unveiled earlier this month by Michel Platini, president of UEFA.
What happened on that day has become one of the most famous and mythologised events of the war. With stories of carols, swapping of treasured items and, of course, the famous game of football between the British and the Germans, it has become a wonderful example of humanity. Whilst we may not be able to piece together an exact account of what happened on this momentous day, we do have a clear idea of specific events that make the Christmas Truce of 1914 one of the most heart-warming stories in British History.
Late on Christmas Eve 1914, following the first air raid in British History after a German aeroplane dropped a bomb on the town of Dover, the British Infantry were astonished to see Christmas trees and paper lanterns lining the German trenches. Carols were sung and eventual communication between both sides began.
Whilst ‘Silent Night’ has become synonymous with the Christmas Truce, soldiers have documented in letters home that it was in fact ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ that encouraged both sides began to sing in harmony.
Whilst a truce was largely observed, not all of the Western Front adhered, fighting was on-going in certain areas and deaths were recorded on Christmas Day. Soldier Pat Collard, for instance, wrote to his parents, describing a horrendous Christmas under fire, concluding: “Perhaps you read of the conversation on Christmas Day between us and the Germans. It’s all lies. The sniping went on just the same; in fact, our captain was wounded, so don’t believe what you see in the papers.”
At first light on Christmas Day, a number of German soldiers emerged from their trenches and began to approach their enemies calling out ‘Merry Christmas’ in their native tongue. Wary that this could be a trick, the British stayed in their trenches. Soon realising their enemies were unarmed they climbed out of their trenches to join them halfway in No Man’s Land to exchange handshakes.Christmas truce handshake
Rifleman J. Reading, writing to his wife about the truce confirmed some of the heart-warming events we remember today. “During the early part of the morning the Germans started singing and shouting, all in good English. They shouted out: “Are you the Rifle Brigade; have you a spare bottle; if so we will come half way and you come the other half.” At 4 a.m part of their band played some Christmas carols and “God save the King”, and “Home Sweet Home.” You could guess our feelings. Later on in the day they came towards us, and our chaps went out to meet them. Of course neither of us had any rifles. I shook hands with some of them, and they gave us cigarettes and cigars.”
During the festivities of the truce, there were more sobering events also taking place. Soldiers used the ceasefire to retrieve the bodies of their fallen comrades. J. Reading’s letter continued “We did not fire that day, and everything was so quiet that it seemed like a dream. We took advantage of the quiet day and brought our dead in.” As a result of the truce, some soldiers were laid to rest in No Man’s Land side by side with their opposition in joint burials.
Although it is one of the most significant stories of the truce, there is no hard evidence to suggest the football match between battlefield enemies went ahead as reported as there is no official account that mentions it. Research suggests the British played football amongst themselves as the Germans watched on. This letter, sent by Mr J. A. Farrell, a Bolton Post Office employee, indicates there was no German involvement in the game. The letter that was sent to the Post Office, published in the Bolton Chronicle 2nd January 1915, reads: ‘…In the afternoon there was a football match played beyond the trenches, right in full view of the enemy’…”
A letter sent home to a father from his son on the Front Line was relayed in the Rugby Advertiser on January 16th 1915 indicating that although there was a hope of such a game, the plans fell through.
“Walter Cooke, son of Mr H Cooke of Church Lawford has written home to thank his friends for the plum pudding and good things they sent him for Christmas. He says: ‘They wanted to play at football but that fell through. They kept their word, and did not fire a shot all Christmas Day and Boxing Day’.”
As the war continued, the truce was never repeated. The following year, the threat of disciplinary action by the officers was enough to stop any further attempts of a cease fire on Christmas Day. However, that year soldiers on the Western Front did not expect to celebrate Christmas on the battlefield, but even a world war could not destroy the Christmas spirit.
 
Find out more about WWI with our great choice of Battlefield tours.
 

BBC 1's The Apprentice takes on Coach Tours.

Nana Markin

If you haven’t heard, the BBC 1 hit show, The Apprentice, is taking on the task of putting together a one day coach tour on tonight’s episode.

The Apprentice sees 20 entrepreneurs take on a series of tasks to prove their worth. An investment of £250,000 is at stake to fund a business partnership with Sir Alan Sugar. Each week we see contestants eliminated with brutal honesty coining the famous phrase ‘You’re fired’
Coach tourism is worth £2.35 billion to Britain’s economy and forms a large part of Leger Holidays, as you can probably imagine, the talk of this episode at Leger HQ is rife.
Without giving too much away to the avid fans of the show, the task is set to create a day trip to a top UK tourist attraction outside of London. They are provided with two luxury coaches as both parties depart to their chosen destinations.
We’re said to expect a display of coach sing-a-longs and some questionable lunches on top of some unsuccessful negotiations for attraction entry prices.
Luckily for Leger customers, this is something they don’t have to worry about. With the launch of our new coach, Luxuria, entertainment is far beyond ‘Eye-Spy’ and Karaoke, you are now able to enjoy your own interactive seat back TV with plenty of games, films and music to choose from.
We’d love to know your verdict on the episode, would you go on any of the tours they put together? Leave us a comment or hop over to Facebook or Twitter.

To keep you going before the Apprentice at 9pm tonight, here’s our top 5 reasons why we love coach holidays:

  • Magnificent Scenery

From rolling countryside to snow covered mountain peaks, you can see it all on a coach trip. It makes for some beautiful photographs too!

  • It’s all planned for you

If you’re planning on visiting more than one city, you could be looking for moths for a great deal. Your itinerary is perfectly thought out, taking you to the best places and lovely hotels and you don’t have to lift a finger when it comes to the planning.

  • Meeting great new friends

A coach full of interesting people, with their own stories and experiences all there to enjoy the same thing. There’s no wonder Leger customers find life-long friends on their holidays.

  • Visiting several amazing locations in one holiday

Don’t place yourself in one location with the only escape being your flight home, we can take you from the beautiful island of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea to the Grossglockner Glacier in Austria within days of each other.

  • Great Value

The value of a coach holiday simply doesn’t compare to an air holiday. Multiple destinations, luxury travel and inclusive meals for less than some plane tickets? What’s not to like?
Getting to know each other in the lounge
Why don’t you pop over to our Facebook page and get involved with our Apprentice style task, put together your perfect 5 day tour!
You can also see what our brand new coach, launching in 2015, Luxuria has to offer by clicking here.
The Apprentice, Wednesday nights at 9pm, BBC1

9 of the Spookiest Places in Europe – Happy Halloween

Ever wondered where the scariest, spookiest and most haunted places are in Europe? Does the idea of chasing ghost and ghouls sound like the perfect holiday? This Halloween let us take you around the continent to set the scene for the perfect ghost stories to share this All Hallows’ Eve.

1.

tower-of-london

The Tower of London

Regarded one of the most haunted places in Europe, the tower of London has a history going back 900 years of torture and execution. The most famous of spirits said to be wandering within the walls of this iconic building is the Ghost of Anne Boleyn. One of the fated wives of Henry the VIII, her headless body is said to have been spotted close the scene of her demise.
 

2.

chateau

Chateau de Brissac, France

Built in the 11th century, this castle has spooked many a visitor. A gruesome double murder in the 15th century has left a lasting spirit roaming the halls of this magnificent castle. ‘The Green Lady’ as she is known, is said to have terrified guests with her ghoulish groan echoing around the corridors in the early hours. More terrifyingly, the guests who claim to have seen her have said her corpse-like face features holes where her eyes and nose should be.
 

3.

baracks

Babenhausen Barracks, Germany

Used during multiple wars to house German soldiers whose spirits have never left. It has been claimed the ghosts of World War 2 soldiers in full military gear have been spotted as lights turn on and off by themselves and voices have been heard coming from the basement. Now a museum, soldiers that have visited have picked up a ringing telephone are said to have heard a lady talking backwards. In the town of Babenhausen rumours of a witch was burned at the stake are prominent with her ghost said to have seduced and killed several German Soldiers.
 

4.

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Poveglia Island, Italy

Sat in the Venetian lagoon is the small island of Poveglia. The island became populated when mainlanders fled to escape invaders. By the 14th Century the island was completely deserted, however, when the plague hit, the island was used as a quarantine colony with Venetians sent there to die. Their bodies were said to subsequently be burned on giant pyres. The site was also said to be used as a mental asylum in the 1800’s with stories of experimental procedures with stories of ill treatment and suicide rife in the city. Today, the island sits abandoned with locals daring not to set foot on the island for fear of being cursed. The ghosts of past patients are said to haunt the island with screams and voices often being heard, there has also been stories of violent possessions by evil spirits.
 

5.

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland, UK, illuminated at night in the winter snow

Edinburgh Castle

An outstanding landmark, situated overlooking the city of Edinburgh. Once again the scene of many battles and tortures, it is thought to be one of the most haunted castles in the world. Visitors claim to have been touched and pulled and sightings of ghoulish figures include a headless drummer boy and a piper who had apparently got lost in the tunnels below the castle and subsequently lost his life.
 

6.

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Corvin Castle, Transylvania

Best known to be the home of Count Dracula but also Vlad the Impaler. Vlad was known for his excessive cruelty and his nickname ‘The Impaler’ came about as he was notorious for his practice of impaling his enemies. The Corvin Castle is said to have been where historical figure was held in captivity as strange sightings have been reported of vampire-like figures appearing in flickering candle-light.
 

7.

Leap Castle

Leap Castle, Ireland

Widely regarded the most haunted castle in Ireland, it boasts a history of murders and massacres. It is said to be haunted by spirits seeking vengeance for their untimely murders. The castle is thought to have been built by the O’Carrol family who apparently had a habit of murdering people and dumping the bodies down a hole in the castle wall. Hauntings are said to take place in the ‘Bloody Chapel’ where it’s thought the murders took place.
 

8.

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Convent of St Agnes, Prague

Prague is said to be one of the most haunted cities in Europe and the Convent of St Agnes, situated in the world famous city, does not disappoint. Apparently haunted by the ‘Murdered Nun’, her legacy began when, as a girl, was said to be ordered to the convent by her noble father after falling in love with a poor knight. The night before she was due to leave she decided to follow her heart and met with her love. She was also met there by her father who, in a fit of rage, fatally stabbed her for shaming him. She is said to be seen in her ghostly form covered in blood and weeping bitterly.
 

9.

norway

Nidaros Cathedral, Norway

This imposing cathedral in the town of Trondheim is said to house the spirit of a Monk who has been described as a tall figure with a dark habit, a monks tonsure, glowing eyes and blood dripping from a cut in his throat. He reveals himself to church goers and is said to often sever his head from his body and walk straight through church goers.
Happy Halloween!
Fancy seeing some ghoulishly gorgeous scenery for yourself? Take a look through our European tours for a fangtastic time.
 

Remembrance – Annamarie Vickers-Skidmore

Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres

With Remembrance day now less than a month away, on such a poignant year, the sacrifice of World War One is highly present on all of our minds.

We’ve recently received a phone call from a customer of ours thanking us for listing one of her ancestors names on page 14 of our Battlefields brochure. The name, Mr E. Payne, is etched into a panel at the Menin gate and you can see the picture on the right hand panel of the brochure. You can view the brochure here.
A member of our reservations team, Annamarie, was so humbled by the call and that one name was recognised out of so many, that she was inspired to write the following poem of remembrance.

Remembrance.

Thousands of names,
Carved into the wall,
On Armistice Day,
We remember their fall.
 
The young and the old,
A battlefield of hate,
The bugles will play,
To honour their fate.
 
Names embedded,
Their graves unknown,
Fighting for our country,
Feeling so alone.
 
Their legacy lives on,
As their ancestor’s wait,
Heads bowed in respect,
At the foot of Menin Gate.

We would like to thank Annamarie for sharing this beautiful poem with us and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
We are forever being impressed by these displays of talent from customers and staff alike, if you have something you’d like to share, email us at [email protected].
 

Seen It Live – The German Grand Prix

Zara Thompson, Reservations Supervisor, has worked at Leger for 6 years. Enjoying the races on TV, she wanted to experience the real thing.

My husband and I had our first Grand Prix experience at Hockenheim, Germany in 2012 and had such an amazing time, so decided to go again this year.
 
Which tour did you go on?
The German Grand Prix 2013 at the Nürburgring.
How did you get there and how long did it take?
We drove to the Holiday Inn at Ashford North the day before and were collected at 1pm by a feeder coach. This was a leisurely start and not too tiring on the first day. The Channel crossing was by ferry from Dover to Calais, during which we had time to relax on board and start to take in the atmosphere of the avid Grand Prix fans all travelling to Germany. We arrived at our hotel around 11pm, which was reasonable for the distance we had travelled to be close to the circuit.
Where did you stay?
We stayed at the 4-star Ramada Hürth-Köln which was in a great location, with places nearby to get our evening meal and only a 1-hour drive from the circuit. After a lovely breakfast, we left the hotel in good time to beat the traffic to get to the Nürburgring.
How does actually seeing it live compare to watching on TV?
It’s such an incredible difference, being at the circuit to watching the race on TV. From the sounds of the roaring engines to the smell of the fuel, you get to feel the intensity of the F1 cars and see just how quick they fly around the track. It’s such a good atmosphere, with all the different supporters of teams, drivers and nationalities. There’s a real sense of camaraderie and mutual respect between each supporter, all together, just there to have a good time and enjoy the race. Before we went, we knew we wouldn’t get to see as much of the race as you do on TV, but the atmosphere more than made up for that. At qualifying, we walked around the circuit to work out the best places to stand to see the race. On the race day we found where we wanted to be and managed to get in front of a screen and saw more or less everything they showed on the TV as well!
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Did you go to watch a certain driver or team?
I will always be patriotic and support McLaren, but this season, I have had to follow my not-so-secret crush: Lewis Hamilton! Kitted out in Mercedes gear with a huge Hamilton flag was a bit daunting in the middle of a crowd of Vettel fans… in Germany! When Lewis got pole position on the Saturday we wanted to discreetly slope away back to the coach… to our surprise, all the German fans were cheering with us and had a few beers with us at the bar!
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What was the weather like? Did it affect your visit?
As we had this as our main holiday this year, we were really hoping to get some sunshine. The whole weekend was glorious from when we arrived in the morning until after the race ended in the late afternoon. It made the experience more enjoyable and worthwhile, rather being in rainy Silverstone back in the UK!
Please sum up your tour in five words?
Atmospheric, surprising, experience, thrilling, loud!
Would you do a Grand Prix tour again?
Definitely! Nürburgring was top of the list, but I’d love to go to the Belgium Grand Prix and The Monaco Grand Prix.
 
 

Are you the UK’s biggest Christmas Scrooge?

Free holiday on offer for the UK’s biggest Scrooge

Are you the UK’s biggest Christmas Scrooge or does the thought of festive feelings bring you out in a rash? If so, you could be in for a treat with a twist this yuletide season!
We’re offering the nation’s biggest scrooge, and a friend of their choice, a free seat on one of our most popular Christmas Market tours in the hope of overcoming any Grinch-like ways they may have.
To enter yourself, or nominate a loved one, all you need to do is send us a 300 word explanation of what makes you (or the entrant) the UK’s biggest Scrooge along with a photo of the person nominated. Entries should be sent to [email protected] by the 25th of November 2013 at which point your entry will be put forward to the panel.
The lucky winner, who will be notified by the Leger team by the 27th November, must be available to travel on the 12th December 2013. Collected from one of a selection of pick up points, the winner and a companion of their choice will travel on a luxurious Silver Service coach to visit Brussels Christmas Markets and Valkenburg for a spectacular four day tour. Their Christmas spirit levels will of course be measured both before and after their return.
Huw Williams, Marketing Director for Leger Holidays said:
“The European markets offer unbeatable festive atmospheres which are sure to melt even in the frostiest of characters. Over the years, we’ve had so many customers come back from the tours claiming to have found a new sense of Christmas spirit that we just had to put this to the test and see how powerful the sights, sounds and smells of these markets can be!
“Of course, everyone is entitled to embrace their inner scrooge should they want to. However, through this competition, we wanted to provide an opportunity for those who are more curious about exploring their hidden Christmassy side. We look forward to reading through the entries and we wish everyone the best of luck!”
Looking to enter or nominate someone you know? Make sure you’ve read our terms and conditions…
Terms and Conditions:

  1. The promoter is Leger Holidays Ltd. Sunway House, Canklow Meadows, Rotherham S60 2XR.
  2. The ‘Lose The Scrooge’ competition is open to all UK residents over 21 years old (including Northern Ireland, Eire and the Channel Islands) except for employees of the promoter, their immediate family and anyone else connected to the creation or administration of the promotion.
  3. The prize offered is non-transferable and is for one adult (over 21) and a travelling companion of their choice.
  4. The entry materials must belong to, or have had approval from, the entrant.
  5. The entry period is from 12th November 2013 until midnight on 25th November 2013.
  6. The overall winner will be announced by the 27th November 2013.
  7. The overall winner will receive two free seats on Leger Holidays’ Silver Service, four day tour ‘Brussels Christmas Markets and Valkenburg’. The tour includes three nights’ accommodation with continental breakfast (with the two travelers sharing a room one of whom must be over 21).
  8. No cash alternative is available and the tour must be taken on the 12th December 2013 as started, unless Leger Holidays announce otherwise.
  9. Please check at time of booking exact dates and times of travel, as missed departure will void the prize.
  10. Travel insurance is excluded. Winner should take out their own insurance.

    1. Entrants will be given a choice of collection points for the tour from a limited selection of areas presented by Leger Holidays. Travel costs to these points will not be covered by Leger Holidays.
    2. In the event of unforeseen circumstances, the promoter reserves the right to offer an alternative prize of equal or greater value.
    3. The judging panel’s decision is final and binding. No correspondence will be entered into.
    4. By entering this competition, entrants and any persons featured in the entry photograph agree that their nominations may be used by Leger Holidays as they wish, without prior notice to the entrant. Entrants will also have permission of all individuals in the photograph, as well as the permission of the copyright owner of the photograph, before entering the contest.
    5. Winners’ names and counties are available 28 days after the closing date. Send a SAE to Leger Holidays c/o Lucre, 30 Park Square West, Leeds, LS1 2PF.
    6. By entering the competition, entrants agree that their nominations and photographs/text/content will be posted on Leger’s social and media channels including the Leger Holidays website and blog.
    7. By entering the competition, the winner agrees to participate in any publicity involving print and broadcast media that is required.
    8. All text copy provided in this competition remains the copyright of Leger Holidays Ltd.
    9. By entering the competition, entrants agree to be bound by these rules and by any other requirements set out in the promotional material.
    10. Any inappropriate or offensive material will be reported to the police and removed from the competition.
    11. Leger Holidays may in its absolute discretion change these terms and conditions without notice or cancel the promotion without prior notice in the event of circumstances arising beyond its control that makes it necessary to do so. By entering this competition entrants are deemed to accept these rules.

A Thought Provoking Trip for Paul Prendergast

Paul Prendergast had a couple of very special reasons for joining Leger’s 5-day All Quiet on the Western Front tour.
My interest in WW1 goes back a few years and was kicked off again by some research that I started at work.
I work for Royal Mail in Stockwell London SW9 where I am a Delivery Office Manager. Every office has a plaque dedicated to the dead of both wars. The plaque above my office has 6 names on it (I’ll come back to this later).
On the morning of our tour, we were met at Peace Pottage by our feeder coach and then travelled to Dover where we all boarded the ferry to head to Calais. On arrival in France we changed to our tour coach where we met Andy and Barbara who were our drivers/hosts on the Silver Service coach. We also met Iain McHenry, our Specialist Battlefield Guide who spoke about our tour.
Day 2
We set off at 09.00am to Tyne Cot Cemetery, where the graves of 12,000 men are buried and remembered. It makes you realise how senseless war is when you see that. I’m a member of the Victoria Cross Trust, and I also got to see the graves of three Victoria Cross holders.
We also visited then Sanctuary Wood and some trenches that have been preserved by the owner, and on arrival we heard a guy playing the bagpipes.
We then went onto Hooge Crater and Cemetery. The place was kept in beautiful condition by the CWGC, and I also found another VC grave.
After lunch we headed towards the Messines Ridge and we stopped at the Ulster Peace Tower, where our guide pointed out the German Front lines and spoke about the famous Christmas Day truce. He also pointed out that past the tower, a house/farm still has 50,000 tonnes of explosive under it!
We then stopped at another cemetery where there was a Jewish grave. I placed a stone on top the headstone – this is Jewish custom and there was no stone on there. This was the least I could do.
The final and most moving part of the day was the Menin Gate Last Post Ceremony. On the Menin Gate are the names of 55,000 men killed or missing. I was nearly in tears when I saw this monument to the people who gave their lives for our freedom. On the wall I found the names of the people from The Post Office Rifles… this is where the story about my reason for going unfolds. I placed a small cross of remembrance there for the six men killed from my workplace.
somme 2
Day 3
This was going to be a day of very mixed emotions for me. When we were on the way to Wellington Quarry it gave you a real idea of the people who lived, slept, ate and dug themselves into no man’s land.
We then went to Arras. There is a wall with the names of 36,000 men missing or killed in action there, and this is when it became very personal for me. The reason for this is that there was a name on the wall: rifleman John Williams 371151, died 16/06/17 2/, Post Office Rifles LONDON 2/8 BTN. Postman, Stockwell Delivery Office… The place where I now work.
I placed a cross of remembrance on the wall.
Cross
While sitting there, trying to imagine what he went through, a thought crossed my mind. All I could think was how honoured I am that I could say to him: “We have not forgotten”. I felt a mixture of pride – that I now work where he worked; honour – placing a cross by his name; and sorrow – knowing that his family could not bury him.
It was a very thought-provoking day for me.
Day 4
We had a long drive to La Boisselle, which is the biggest man-made crater on the Western Front. It was made by placing tonnes of explosive under the German front lines, then exploding them all at once. You cannot imagine what the scene of carnage must have been when this happened.
Our last visit of the day was to the Thiepval Memorial. It is the biggest memorial, with the names of 77,000 men missing or killed. I was looking for one: Sgt George Ryder 2512, died 07/10/13, Post Office Rifles LONDON 1/8 BT. He is the second of the two men that I traced, and the reason for my trip to the Western Front. Sgt George Ryder died 97 years ago on the week of my visit, so to finish the tour in this way, and by placing a cross by his name on the panel, again I can only feel proud. I just wish that, in some way or another, these people who fought for us could see that we still care about what they did for us 100 years ago.
The All Quiet on the Western Front five-day tour is the best way to see all the sites, and the guide, Iain McHenry was first-class. He helped me to find the names of the people that I came to remember on the walls, and also pointed out the VC winners to me. His knowledge of the subject was tremendous. The coach staff, Andy and Barbara were polite and very friendly throughout.
I will be going back – not just yet, but I still have four more names to find.

Belgium Grand Prix with Leger Holidays – Neil Martin

Neil Martin (Daily Star) – Belgium Grand Prix press trip blog post

Many people who go to a Formula One event for the first time talk about the noise – but no-one ever seems to mention the deep rumble you actually feel in your chest.

It was certainly a shock to me at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium as the cars came out onto the track for a practice session on Saturday.
Sitting just a few metres away on the bank beside the lightning-fast Kemmel Straight, the roar of the engines can make your whole body rattle.
So God only knows what it must feel like to strap yourself into the cockpit of one of those amazing machines, basically rockets with wheels, and blast down the track at more than 200mph.
Lewis Hamilton at Belgium GP
I’m not an obsessed F1 fanatic, but will watch the Grands Prix on television on a Sunday afternoon and follow who is doing well.
I was always interested, though, in knowing what it might be like to get up close to the action – and Leger’s three-night trip from the UK gave me the opportunity.
Spa is certainly a great place to experience everything that top-level motor racing has to offer.
Make sure you bring your hiking boots, though, as the circuit is nearly 4.5 miles long and extremely hilly as it winds its way through the Ardennes forest.
You’ll discover that immediately as you walk alongside the famous Eau Rouge corner that climbs steeply to a height of nearly 120 feet, about the size of a 13-storey building.
From there, you can walk all along the Kemmel Straight – the fastest part of the track – where drivers are able to put their foot right to the floor for more than 22 seconds to build up mind-blowing speeds.
At the highest point of Spa, pass through a tunnel underneath the circuit itself and walk downhill to the sweeping Pouhon corner that provides a natural amphitheatre for spectators.
Crowd at the Belgium Grand Prix
From there you can weave your way out through the trees to the remote Stavelot corner, or go back below the track and then uphill again on the elevated pathway that runs parallel to the long Blanchimont section.
That will take you to the Bus-Stop Chicane, where the cars make a dramatic right/left swerve before crossing the finishing line.
And all of that was accessible with the general admission ‘Bronze’ ticket, included for Saturday and Sunday as part of the trip.
Best to wander around and see it all on Saturday, though, when the crowds are not quite as dense as they are for Sunday’s big race-day.
That’s when the real hardcore F1 petrol-heads get up bright and early to bag the very best spots to watch the action, getting their places by 6am as soon as the gates open.
And they come from far and wide with French mixing with Finns, Germans chatting to Spaniards and English alongside Italians – all cheering on their favourites when the race begins.
From our hotel in Antwerp we were coached the 100-mile journey down to Spa each day, arriving at around 10am.
Having walked around most of the circuit on Saturday and identified our favourite corners, it was heads down and straight to the location (Pouhon) on Sunday before luckily finding a few spare square feet of space to squeeze into.
Those who prefer to be a bit more civilised can upgrade to Silver/Gold tickets which guarantee a specific seat in a grandstand – and also offers the additional benefit of shelter from any rain which famously develops out of nothing around Ardennes.
On this occasion the wet stuff, which can really spice up the race as drivers battle to keep their cars on the track, stayed away on Sunday and Sebastian Vettel enjoyed a processional victory.
But that’s the beauty of live sport – you just never know what is going to happen – and being there in person was certainly a much different experience to watching on TV from the comfort of the living room.
For more information on any of our Formula One tours please visit our dedicated Formula One tour page.