Increasingly we are finding that people want to give Experiences rather than specific items as presents. Certainly we have personally found as we age and our house fills up with clutter we would much rather have a shared experience with a loved one, than be given yet more “stuff” to find a home for.
Many of our clients are booking holidays to celebrate a special occasion or milestone such as big birthdays with a zero on the end, significant anniversaries, as well as many proposals and honeymoons. The joy of this is that the giver often benefits from the experience as well! In this case the anticipation of the special occasion break adds to the experience with shared excited plotting and planning.
In other cases the gifter is arranging this trip in secret and we send the travel packs out to a different address so the game is not given away ! Then the surprise weekend break is given as a present on the big day, as people often do not actually travel on their special day so they can be at home with a wider group of family and friends.
The extreme surprise planners like to be away for the big moment and to try to get the recipient to the airport without knowing where they are going! This is always a bit trickier as the packing to some of our destinations such as attending a Venice Carnival Ball or going on a Northern Lights Trip in Swedish Lapland need a bit more thought than the usual weekend away!
Sometimes though it can be tricky if you are unsure of their date availability or their break preference and people prefer to give the idea as a present, and if it is well received then book it. The issue with that though is that availability may have gone in the meantime, and due to exchange rates and flight movement, we can only confirm the exact price for an exact date for 48 hrs and the price may have moved in the meantime. Both lead to an awkward situation!
Therefore the final option of gifting a voucher to a certain value is a good option for a special occasion break gift. This option lets the recipient choose themselves where and when they wish to go to. With over 19 countries on offer across our 4 websites, and with breaks ranging from travelling on the luxury Maharajas Express in India, to going to see the spectacular Verona Opera in the Roman amphitheatre, to Whale Watching in Iceland or an exotic Safari to see the Migration there is bound to be something that appeals!
Gift vouchers are also a popular way for friends to buy a present, or as a retirement gift, as everyone can contribute the amount they wish, and it is surprising how quickly this adds up to give someone a unique and memorable special occasion break.
These vouchers are valid for 3 years and can be topped up by the recipient if they wish to go on a more expensive break than you had intended.
So if you are thinking of gifting a Special Occasion Break do give us a ring on 01722 744695 or take a look at our 4 websites; Aurora Nights, Italian Short Breaks, Weekend a La Carte and Safari Addicts for inspiration.
With Brexit now confirmed we wanted to update you, especially as there is still a possibility we could Brexit without a deal. Travel to the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein will change if the UK leaves the EU with no deal.
You may need to renew your British passport earlier than you anticipated if you’re travelling after Brexit. The new rules will apply to passports issued by the UK, Gibraltar, Guernsey, the Isle of Man and Jersey.
On the day you travel, you’ll need your passport to both:
If you renewed your current passport before the previous one expired, extra months may have been added to its expiry date. Any extra months on your passport over 10 years may not count towards the 6 months needed.
Please see a link below with further details and also a link for you to check your specific passport
Driving Licence Requirements
In the event that there is no EU Exit deal, the government will seek to put in place new arrangements for EU and EEA countries to recognise UK driving licences when people are visiting, for example on holiday or business trips. Until such arrangements are in place, UK driving licence holders may need an IDP in addition to their UK driving licence to drive when visiting EU and EEA countries.
Each EU and EEA country will decide if they require a foreign driver to have an IDP, in addition to a driving licence, to legally drive in their country.
There are three different types of IDP (International Driving Permits) covering different countries so if you already have one please check it is the correct one for the country you are travelling to.
For example –
Italy, Norway, Sweden – 1968
Iceland – 1949
It is very easy to get a IDP from a Post Office (There are 2,500 that issue them in the UK). You would need to take with you a passport photo, your plastic photocard driving licence and we would recommend taking a second Photo ID such as your passport as well. It costs £5.50 and it is issued there and then over the counter. We would strongly recommend if driving in Europe (including Norway and Iceland) you get one as the local suppliers are also not clear if they will need them or not. For example in Iceland one car hire company think they may not need them, another one says they will need them. For the sake of £5.50 it seems an easy decision for peace of mind for your trip, and as we would not be able to help overrule this requirement if on arrival it is required we do recommend you get one.
Please see the link below with further details, as well as the ability to search for you nearest issuing Post Office.
There is no doubt that Prague is getting popular but it is still possible to get away from the crowds and enjoy it’s beauty. The Clock Tower in the main square has to be seen as it truly is remarkable, but it is on everyones list and the crowds will be with you. See it and stop to have a drink in the square, and watch with amusement as the bubble man makes a living blowing clouds of bubbles for tourists to have their photo taken in, and then move on further afield.
For example we would recommend the Strahov Monastery for its truly stunning ceilings in the libraries. With over 260,000 books, many dating to the 14th Century, it is rather special. Set up high on the hillside overlooking Prague it can be tricky to get back from so don’t rely on a passing taxi being available. Instead a private tour of the monastery can be combined with a private tour of the castle and the famous Golden Lane which will overcome that little logistical challenge.
For many of our clients their highlight is the private classic car tour that takes them past all of the main sites. Here you can enjoy Prague cities highlights without fighting through the crowds, and with a glass of bubbly in your hand and the sun on your face in your open topped car! Whether you choose a Skoda Felicia Cabrio or a replica of a Alfa Romeo you will find it to be a lovely introductory Prague tour.
The old streets are worth a wander both sides of the river, and on the far side of the river it quietens off and this is a great place for a lunch stop.
There are some wonderful restaurants overlooking the river on the far side of Prague where you can rest any aching feet and relax into your Prague City Break with the sun on your face. With a surprising range of restaurant budget choice available you can lunch with the water lapping at your feet overlooking the King Charles Bridge, or indeed be so close as to be overshadowed by it. I was rather charmed at my choice near where some of the river boats left from, and by the fact that the waiter seemed particularly pleased on my dessert choice as his wife had made it!
Afterwards stroll back over the King Charles Bridge and enjoy the many buskers on the bridge. During my recent visit there was a particularly good jazz quartet which I stopped to listen to. It was as good as any concert and had the extra delight of people dancing on the cobbled bridge with the evocative backdrop of the river.
The Old Town Hall Tower whilst busy seems to soak people up so the wait is not too long and it does not feel too busy at the top. With wonderful views across the red roofs and The Old Town Square it is definitely worth a trip up in the lift.
We would recommend you stay at the charming and rather quirky Hotel Aria in the heart of the Old City. A view of the breathtaking panorama from the Roof Garden Terrace will leave you in no doubt that you are in the most prestigious quarter of the Old City. Aria Hotel celebrates the work of some of the greatest composers with each floor dedicated to an important genre of music, such as Opera, Jazz, Contemporary and Classical. Each room then honours a specific artist or composer with music, art, and books highlighting their work.
We can organise trips to go Hot Air Ballooning over the nearby countryside and if the wind is blowing in the right direction you may even get to see the highly evocative Karlstejn Castle from the air.
So don’t write off Prague, as many have, as now being spoilt. It is a beautiful classic and clean well maintained city with plenty of local vibrancy, culture and sights to see. A Trip to Prague can still be enjoyed in full with the right guidance . Do take a look at the Prague Luxury City break that we offer.
If you are looking for recommendations as to where to eat in Vienna take a look below. If you are interested in the full range of breaks we offer see our Vienna Holidays
Built between 1865 and 1867 the Kursalon is one of the most exclusive buildings in Vienna. The restaurant faces to the park and provides an open fresh atmosphere. The cuisine is a combination between Viennese tradition and international flair.
Main courses cost @ €20
For reservations ring +43 01512 5790 or book on-line firstname.lastname@example.org
Donauturm (Danube Tower)
Take the express elevator up to the observation platform – 150m above ground and enjoy the fantastic view over cosmopolitan Vienna to its fullest – Day or Night. At the new Danube Tower everything is centered around the delicate Viennese cooking. The restaurant rotates and offers original Viennese titbits such as Viennese Grilled Chicken, Boiled Rump or a variety of speciality Roast Beefs.
Main courses cost @ €20
For reservations ring +43 1 263 35 72 or book on-line email@example.com.
Please note this is a long walk from the nearest Metro Station and it is recommended you use a taxi to get here.
The Sacher is inextricably linked with Austria – the Austria of yesterday, today and tomorrow. Luxury and tradition, perfect service and cordial staff, style and taste combine wonderfully. Cafe Sacher Vienna is famous for the Sacher-Torte; a perfect stop for afternoon tea. Please note it can get very busy and reservations are not taken.
Get pampered in a contemporary, elegant atmosphere with exclusive delicacies, in a favourite meeting place at any time of the day. Vienna’s metropolitan style is clearly in the spotlight here: with international flair, good music and a contemporary ambiance. Here you will be offered Petit Patisserie and delicate lunch snacks and is very much the place to be seen.
Main courses cost @ €18
Ring +43 (0) 153 2222 or book on-line firstname.lastname@example.org
Do & Co Albertina inside the museum
This restaurant is perfect if you are visiting the museum or the Opera. This museum arguably holds the largest and most valuable collection of graphic art in the world. In the summer season, this is one of the most beautiful terraces in Vienna – with an unforgettable view of the State Opera and the palace rooftops – providing an exclusive setting for a light lunch or relaxing dinner.
The restaurant seats 60 and has a kitchen that allows patrons to watch the chefs artistry unfold. The style of the restaurant is modern elegance and matches the design and superb architecture of the historical palace.
For reservations contact: +43 1535 39 69 or email email@example.com
Do & Co Stephansplatz
The restaurant is located in the heart of Vienna. The guest enjoys a perfect view to St Stephens Cathedral as the restaurant is located at the top of the Haas Haus in front of the Cathedral. The Chef offers the best of the worlds cuisines. You can choose from a great variety. Either you can taste exotic spices at the wok station, enjoy finest sushi and sashimi, or have oriental treats.
Main courses cost @ €27
For reservations Phone +431 535 3969 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the things I love most about this job is seeing different cultures and really getting beneath the skin of a country. It isn’t just about lazing around a pool and enjoying the excellent cuisine and fine wines, although of course that also helps!
I have to admit before I started working at Weekend a la Carte, I knew absolutely nothing about Slovenia and would have failed at locating it on a map. Therefore when our Slovenia specialist Abigail, would put together fantastic trip proposals for clients wanting to experience a Slovenia holiday, I was particularly interested. The Lake Bled photos almost resembling a mythical castle on an island reached by a calm lake, convinced me I had to go.
Flying into Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital is less than a 2hr flight by plane and a short drive took me into the heart of the city centre. Ljubljana is a surprisingly compact little city where I immediately felt comfortable and could very easily walk around without the need for transport. With quaint shops selling salted chocolate (a local speciality!) and dragon statues in various shapes and sizes (the traditional emblem of Ljubljana), there is plenty to shop for.
A trip on the funicular to Ljubljana Castle is a must do. Presiding over the town on a hill, this castle has battlements you can walk along and enjoy the view. Just a shame it was a little wet when I was there, so I couldn’t do the view justice!
Next I headed to Lake Bohinj, north of the capital for the first boat ride of the trip. This smaller lake can be reached through a very alpine-Swiss, Austrian-style set of villages. The guide told me that tradition has it that when God was handing out land to all his people, he realised there was a small group he had forgotten. For their dignified patience, he gave them the best land of all and they called it Bohinj, which means God. It certainly was beautiful and very peaceful.
I continued onto Lake Bled. Being only a small journey from Lake Bohinj, at the bottom of the Julian Alps, there was actually snow on the peaks, which the guide told me was not due until November, and it was only early September! This lovely little town was so picturesque; I almost didn’t believe I had actually arrived. Hotel Toplice was the only hotel that afforded a superb view of the entire lake and I can see why Abigail singled this out as the base for her Slovenia holiday package. The balconies over the lake are fantastic.
After some wonderful meat dishes in Ljubljana, on the lake food understandably favoured fish options, including trout caught straight from the lake. Seriously worthy of a second helping! When lunch was complete, I was pleasantly surprised to see a cute little train driving around the lake; a perfect way to experience the view from all angles.
The Bled Island trip was scheduled for the next day. Getting to the island involved oarsmen rowing boats quite similar to Venetian gondolas but with a roof. After the day to day noises on the roads, it was refreshingly quiet rowing gently over the lake. Once arrived on the island, I had a ninety-seven step climb to the top to reach the church. The Slovenian’s regularly hold wedding services on the island and tradition has it that the groom has to carry his bride up all ninety-seven steps. If he fails, she is free to “kick him back down” and cast him off! Assuming he is successful, the ornate church is a lovely place to hold your special wedding ceremony. There was a “wishing rope” inside – a hasty tug for the sun to return was gainfully employed!
Feeling sad to leave Lake Bled behind, I then travelled south west to Portoroz, which translates as “The Port of Roses.” The sun came out and with everyone enjoying either the beach or the shops, I got to explore this beautiful, stylist little sea port town.
I ventured for a final boat trip to the Salt Pans where as well as learning all about salt (one of the main sources of exportable income in Slovenia), I also got to see the Slovenia-Croatia border. Then back on the boat for a short ride to Piran, another lovely little town to while away half a day. After a good wander, some refreshment and a bit of retail therapy, I left this Venetian-feeling little town behind to head to the real Slovenia-Italy border for a wine tasting. Slovenia boasts some excellent wines, some of which I was very fortunate enough to sample.
The final day of the trip saw me heading inland to the Postonja Caves. These are the largest caves in Europe. A small open-top train takes you 2km inside where you walk with your guide a further 1.5 km weaving through stalactites and stalagmites. These caves are truly vast and I couldn’t get my head round just how far they extended to.
I’m sure it was planned to happen, when halfway through the walk all the lights went out and it was complete darkness. Although it only lasted several seconds, there is no darkness quite like a cave! Nearing the end of the walk, I got to see the elusive Olm; blind transparent fish with arms and legs that live in the cave and can go ten years without eating; not like me on this Slovenia trip!
The train route on the way back to the surface differed to that entering, which just showed the sheer scope of the caves. I was taken through the concert hall used for music recitals at set times of the year, which was stunning with chandeliers and candles mounted all around.
The final stop of the day was to nearby Predjama Castle. Built into the rock, making the castle virtually impenetrable to invasion, this castle gave a good taste of Slovenia being formerly part of the Austrian empire. From a building perspective, it was quite an eclectic mix with bits added to from each age and ownership. It is worth noting that for those visiting the Postonja Caves, entrance to Predjama Castle is also included, making this a worthwhile day’s excursion.
As with all trips I didn’t want to leave. Slovenia is a beautiful country with incredible scenery ranging from mountain to seaside, while taking in the Alps to the Istrian Coast. It has fantastic cuisine and the friendliest people. I strongly urge you to discover this unspoilt country as a priority!
Click here to see the itinerary for our beautiful trip to Lake Bled, Slovenia