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.
The variety is extraordinary. I have focused just on my personal highlights, but there are plenty more!
We went out on a boat from Muscat to try and see some Dolphins. The captain follows the tuna fisherman, as where there is tuna there are usually Dolphins feeding. I was confident we would see Dolphins but I didn’t expect to see 300 of them! Leaping, diving Dolphins in every direction that I looked … and yes some of them jumped right out of the water – 4 feet in the air. The captain kept us close without ever interrupting their hunting, but often they swerved right in front of the boat and we could see them clearly underwater corkscrewing as they passed by. We easily spent at least an hour with them and I know my daughter would happily have stayed another 2!!
Whilst I have visited a desert before I have never before been to real desert with enormous sand dunes that stretch on and on as far as the eye can see. It was stunning. On arrival at 5pm at the Desert Nights Resort we were whisked up to the top of a 80m Sand Dune in a 4WD. We grabbed a drink and wandered along the Sand Dunes off onto “virgin” Sand Dunes with not a footprint in sight to watch the sunset. To use a cliché the silence was deafening and the Dunes stretching as far as I could see overwhelming in their beauty and presence.
Rising at Sunrise we bravely clambered aboard camels for the 1½ hr Camel trek into the Desert. It was superb to get out into the desert away from everything. I was amazed how well the camels coped with the sinking sand and we noted how wide their hooves stretch to help with this problem. It’s only when your Camel stops all the time to eat that you appreciate how many bushes are dotted around the sand – somehow growing in all that dryness. Whilst admittedly at times a painful exercise, (my husband had to be pulled off the camel backwards to get off!) it was a wonderful way to experience the beauty of the desert first hand. You could not but not think about the Bedouins and Trading Caravans that used to regularly cross the Desert on Camel for days on end and have huge respect for them; by 8 o clock in the morning it was starting to get too hot for us! Our only regret of the whole holiday was that we didn’t spend longer in the desert. A great place to relax during the day (yes the tents are air conditioned!) and as the day cools a superb place to appreciate the majesty and drama of nature.
I was slightly sceptical about the Dune Bashing. I thought it might somehow be disrespectful of the environment, and spoil the peace and calm atmosphere. However I have to say I was soon converted as I squealed with excitement whilst appreciating and trusting the skill of the driver as we charged straight up our first dune, spun sideways across another and even reversed backwards down the next one. Great harmless fun.
Watching her heave her heavy body on her flippers slowly back to the sea is inspiring, but the most delightful part of the whole evening was sitting around a nest watching the hatchlings merge from beneath. First a flipper or a beak will show and then with great speed the rest of the body emerges and it starts its dash down to the sea. At one point there were about a hundred hatchlings hurtling towards the sea. We had to be careful where we walked! The next morning we walked down to the beach and had a wonderful swim and walk around the beach looking at all the turtle tracks and for the whole morning we were the only people on this beautiful beach!
The 4WD Mountain drive from Nizwa to Muscat is stunning, passing Palm Tree village Oasis’s created by Falaj irrigation channels. We were driven along tracks with breathtaking views, and sheer drops. In places the track had been seriously damaged by heavy rain the previous week and we had to extra careful! We stopped to see the hillside stained with Copper and a seam of Gold. Was this fool’s Gold or the real thing? – The guide assured us it was the real McCoy so we dug out a few tiny rocks to take home!
By far my most favourite walk was through the village of Misfat Al Abriyeen. Falaj irrigation systems have been created to channel the natural springs into irrigation channels. They have been built with various side channels which are blocked up with rocks and material. When the villager wants to irrigate his field he unblocks this side channel, blocks the channel further downstream and diverts the water to his crops. So simple and yet so effective as demonstrated by the wealth of palm trees, roses, wheat, apricot trees and more that we came across during our visit in Oman. This is a delightful shady walk up through the valley, where you can walk along the irrigation canals balancing as if on the beam. A really beautiful and fascinating couple of hours.
Up the Mountain at Jebel Al Akhdar at 2,700M high it is 10 degrees cooler, which makes the 2 hr walk down through the villages beneath the hotel perched on the Canyon edge even more pleasant. Again the irrigation channels had worked their wonders and we passed Roses, Fig and Apricot bushes as well as passing through traditional villages with mud houses and extremely friendly people. The hotel even picked us up at the end of the walk so that we did not have to walk back uphill. A short detour took us to see iridium- created when the meteorite hit the earth 65 million years ago and wiped out the dinosaurs. Wow!
This stay in the mountain still had 2 more treats in store for us. Hundreds of Sea Corral Fossils litter the ground – at 2,000 M high! There were so many you found yourself stepping on them on the tracks. Finally at night I would recommend you use their telescope; we saw Saturn’s rings (how excited was I?!- it looked just like it was drawn in the comics!), Jupiter and 3 of its moons and our moon with all its craters. A very special experience.
There is so much more I could talk about; Portuguese Forts built in Vasco de Gama day, Sinkholes where you can swim and at times feel like you are inside a cave, Boatyards where traditional Dhows are still being built, The Spectacle of the Grand Mosque in Muscat, The Hustle and bustle of the Souks and stunning Wadis (valleys) where you can walk, explore and swim …. but I think I better stop now!
There are three main types of travel. The first are the beach holidays. Flights, car hire and a hotel/villa and you’re all set. These are great for when you just want to get away and have a relaxing break. They are perfect for those that don’t want to plan and just decide as they go what they do with tomorrow. This is the sort of trip for someone who wants to keep full control of their schedule. They are simple, easy trips. Pick a beautiful location and half an hour on Expedia, and it’s all done.
The second category is the full set tour package. Whether it is a case of you travelling alone, wanting to meet new people, or whether you are just unsure how to put together everything you want to do, these are the breaks for those wanting someone else to plan out the A’s to B’s. It could be a case of too much to organise or just not knowing how. City breaks are easy to organise, but how about a trip to the arctic on a northern lights holiday? How do you organise a husky sled tour? Or maybe you are travelling around. Organising a trip to Golden Triangle India trip say, would be quite daunting for most people. This is where the tour package excels; it gives you effortless travel without the worry. Trying to arrange this sort of trip would feel like a comparison search for new car insurance at the end of the day, and that rather defeats the point of a wonderful holiday!
But there is a downside to the second category. What if you don’t get on with everyone in the group and you spend part of your coach or cruise trying to avoid set people? Also, it means many early starts, which feels contradictory taking into account that for a few days/week etc. you want to escape the alarm clock! Lastly, whilst you’re happy to get up early for a tour you are looking forward to, there are always parts of the ground programme you have no interest in, and that’s when getting out of bed early, packing the case and checking out of your hotel to be driven to the next place, just feels like too much hard work.
Onto category three. At Weekend a la Carte most of our clients have done many of the previous types of trips, and they know what they want. This includes hassle-free travel and to be looked after, but not to be part of a group and have no say on their itinerary. Everything we do is bespoke travel, reaching from an African Big 5 Safari, Venice Carnival package, Northern Lights trips, to city breaks. We know you want control of your holiday, but we also know you want someone else to work on the finer details. Most of our travellers are celebrating special birthdays and wedding anniversaries. These are our forte. We know how to make your trip special. You won’t be waiting for others to get on the bus, we won’t take you places you have no interest in, your hotel won’t be away from all the local sights.
The travel dates, hotels and duration are for you to decide. We are very flexible! We have many clients who want us to arrange ground only and then leave them to their devices, and if you want a second tiger safari on your Golden Triangle India holiday or a second night at the Verona opera, we can do this. We have been doing it for thirteen years, and are constantly looking at ways to improve our breaks, extensions being one of the main ways. We really do have something for everyone. Why not take a look?
Weekend a la Carte – a chocolate box of trips including Slovenia, Russia, Prague, Jordan, Morocco and Vienna.
Aurora Nights – Northern Lights inspired trips to Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Greenland.
Italian Short Breaks – Verona Opera, Venice Orient Express Train, Venice Carnival and the Siena Palio.
Big 5 Safaris – South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia.
Now the only hard part is for you to decide where your next adventure takes you!
Jordan is a wonderful country to visit. Everyone knows about Petra, and indeed many have it on their “bucket list” of things to do, but there are so many other delights that this country has to offer as well. As Jordan is such a small country it is possible to explore it all in a relatively short time and truly experience all it has to offer
So what are the Top 10 Things to See in Jordan?
We have all been to many Roman ruins and its easy for them to merge into one in your memory as a result, but Jerash will stand out forever as it is one of the best preserved provincial towns in the world. In fact Jerash is a Greco-Roman Ruin and there are ancient Greek inscriptions in the city which point to the foundation of the city being linked to Alexander the Great in 331 BC, when Alexander left Egypt, crossed Syria and then went to Mesopotamia. After the Roman conquest in 63 BC Jerash was annexed into the Roman province of Syria, and in AD 90 Jerash was absorbed into the Roman province of Arabia which included the city of Philadelphia (modern day Amman). The Romans ensured security and peace in this area, so that its people could devote their efforts and time to economic development with its associated civic building activity, which of course makes it such an interesting Ruin.
Wadi Rum gives you the opportunity to travel into the desert in Jordan’s largest desert and one of the most spectacular desert landscapes in the world. It is hard not to be swept away with the romance and the history of Lawrence of Arabia who was based here in the Second World War, and not to be in awe of the stunning landscape. For those more adventurous there are desert camps to stay in so you can enjoy sunset and sunrise, and of course all those wonderful stars at night. But be warned they may not be the most comfortable of camps, though certainly atmospheric. Camel Treks and 4 WD Safaris are available for those who wish to experience the desert at close quarters.
Crusader Castles and Kings Highway
You can spend a day visiting another era with the Crusader Castles, and of course everyone will want to travel down the evocative Kings Highway, part of the original Silk Route where you will find Shoback Castle and Kerak Castle. Kerak Castle is an impressive 12th Century Crusader Castle with superb views, and offers the opportunity to explore 7 levels of vaulted passageways and dungeons. One of the most notorious figures of the time, Reynald of Chatillon, ruled Kerak from the early 1170s. He was infamous for his acts of barbarism, and one of his favourite pastimes was throwing prisoners from the castle walls onto the rocks below.
Red Sea and Dead Sea
But not all your stay needs to be sightseeing. You have the beautiful waters of the Red Sea where you can relax, enjoy water sports galore, and snorkel and dive in some of the most colourful waters in the world teeming with fish and corral.
Whilst the Red Sea is full of life, the Dead Sea is the opposite with its high salt content and makes for a dramatic landscape and of course the ultimate newspaper read whilst bathing! At 400m below sea level this sea lies at the lowest point on the planet! The high salinity though is not linked to the sea level but rather due to the high evaporation level linked with low rainfall. Indeed due to reduction of the Jordan River flow due to human use the Dead Sea is actually shrinking. Luxury 5 star hotels with Spa treatments abound in this area due to the mineral contents.
Amman itself is worth a morning visit. It is considered by many to be the most westernised and liberal of Arab cities and in the commercial heart of the city, ultra-modern buildings, hotels, smart restaurants, art galleries and boutiques rub shoulders comfortably with the more traditional coffee shops and tiny artisans’ workshops. However ancient ruins exist within this city with a Roman Amphitheatre and a citadel high up where the remains of Hercules Temple, Ummayad Palace and a Byzantine Church can be found.
There are almost too many sites to mention with St Johns Baptismal Church as well as Lots Pillars being the obvious ones. But there are more such as Mt. Nebo, one of the most revered holy sites in Jordan and known as the burial place of Moses and with a spectacular view of the holy land or indeed Mukawer, where St. John the Baptist was incarcerated after the fateful dance of Salome.
Gosh did we nearly forget to mention Petra? – the highlight of any Jordan visit! Established possibly as early as 312 BC as the Nabataean capital city it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985. The site remained unknown to the western world until 1812, when it was “found” by Swiss explorer Burckhardt, and was named amongst the New 7 Wonders of the World in 2007. As a result it has become increasingly popular and it’s always good to time carefully your arrival in order to have as much atmosphere as possible away from others. The Treasury is obviously what everyone knows about, if only from the Indiana Jones movie, but there is so much more to see with the numerous trails with breathtaking views , and lesser well known sites such as Little Petra where the Trading Caravans used to stop on the way into Petra or indeed the Monastery. Afterwards right at the exit to Petra don’t forget to stop at the oldest Cave Bar in the world. The walls of the Cave Bar are part of an ancient tomb carved by the Nabataeans and the cool evocative atmosphere and drink are most welcome!
The tenth suggestion is actually an amalgamation of places because there are so many more than just 10!
Madaba – the city of Mosaics with the Greek Orthodox church of St. George where the famous 6th century Byzantine mosaic map of the holy sites in the biblical world is found.
Wadi Mujib with its stunning landscape and views.
Um Qais, a city rich with basalt ruins including a mausoleum, colonnaded main street, basilica, theatre and all on a splendid hilltop overlooking the Jordan Valley, Golan Heights and Lake Tiberius
The towering Arab built castle of Ajlun Castle, which was never defeated by the European Crusaders, and has a wonderful maze of vaulted ceilings, secret passages and fairy-tale towers and battlements.
After over 15 years of offering private Jordan Holidays Weekend a La Carte have a range of carefully constructed itineraries that give you a personal insight into this spectacular country and can include as many of these “10” as you wish! A point of difference is that your private guide will stop at local villages and introduce you to current Jordanian culture and cuisine, as well as the more traditional wonderful sights of Jordan. You will travel with the luxury of a private chauffeur for the whole of your trip so you can go at your own pace. The breaks offered range from a long weekend break to a more extended visit of the country so there should be something for everyone.
Click here to see the breaks we have to offer