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. Travel to the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein has changed.
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 3 months needed.
Please see a link below with further details and also a link for you to check your specific passport
Only 45 minutes from the Slovene’s capital Ljubljana, Lake Bled is easily accessed. What is imperative is that you book a room with a view over the Lake. The Grand Hotel Toplice is our favourite. Set right on the lake shore overlooking the church of the Assumption of Mary, the hotel has an old world Eastern European charm. Our balcony was huge and afforded many moments of quiet reflection taking in the majesty of the view.
We took a walk right around the Lake. This can take a few hours but is worth the time. If you are particularly enthusiastic you can even walk up to the medieval castle with its commanding views. Lunch and drinks is a welcome reprise before taking a look around the castle museum.
A 3 or 4 night break is optimum and the region offers a number of fabulous day trips. We would recommend a private guide as this always allows you to really understand the history of a destination in particular.
One day venture through the Triglav National Park with its gorges, ravines and waterfalls and perhaps even take the cable car up to Mt Vogel which at over 5000ft offers commanding views over the whole of Julian Alps and beyond.
Another great day out is taking in Postojna Caves and the Stud farm for the famous Lipi. The scale of the 20km cave is extraordinary. A fantastic maze of tunnels and passages, stalagmites and stalactites make this one of world’s premier subterranean locations. About an hour further on, and near the Italian border, is Lipica a small town with a global reputation as the breeding place for the famous Lipizzaner stallions used in dressage routines worldwide but most famously at the Spanish riding school in Vienna. Take in a show, walk around the stud farm and become acquainted with horses with bloodlines going back centuries!
No trip to Slovenia would be complete without spending some time wandering around the very relaxed city of Ljubljana. This small compact, relaxed and scenic city is a perfect half day experience and if your flight takes off in the afternoon then do this before going to the airport.
For more information on our Slovenia breaks please click here
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!
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