Our clients come from all over the world

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.

Therefore please

  • Check your passport and if it has long enough left on the passport.
  • Check you have the right driving documents
  • Check your insurance does not have any exemption clauses that kick in if we Brexit without a deal

Passport Requirements

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:

  • have at least 3 months left on day of travel home
  • be less than 10 years old (even if it has 3 months or more left)

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

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/passport-rules-for-travel-to-europe-after-brexit#check-a-passport-for-travel-to-europe

 

For many travelling on the Venice Simplon Orient Express is on their bucket list and is a “Once in a Lifetime Special Experience”. For me I thought it would be an outstanding way to travel between two fabulous cities, but I did not expect the journey to be as unusual and as special as it was. I had not prepared myself to “step into another world”, and to enjoy the 24 hours as much as I did.

Your Steward will escort you to your cabin and whilst you settle into your home for the next 24 hours ease yourself into the mood with a glass of Prosecco.

It is a very different atmosphere from the busy, often manic, lives that many of us live. On the Venice Simplon Orient Express you will be forced to unwind and as a result have the time to enjoy beautiful craftsmanship, indulgent service and unexpected companionship.

Many people leave their cabin doors open during the journey in the daytime. Partly it is so as to not miss the scenery on the other side, but it is also a different way of “living”. There is a real companionship on the train and you will see people leaning in to have a chat as they pass by. It would feel positively rude to close your cabin door for the first couple of hours.

The food is quite exceptional. Right from the delicate afternoon tea that is served in your cabin by your Steward, to the exquisite dinners that are freshly prepared and served from the tiny kitchens, to the scrumptious croissants that you can eat whilst still in bed in the morning.

There is a wonderful amiable atmosphere in the 3674 bar carriage. This is where you are encouraged to dress up and you will see the range of 20’s flapper dresses with feather boas, black tie, Scottish Trewsers and sparkly full length dresses as well as the more usual suits and cocktail dresses. The pianist plays all the great classic hits such as “New York New York” on his baby grand piano and occasionally someone will burst into song to accompany. It almost has a jazz club feel.

This carriage is popular pre and post dinner and as people walk down with the train gently rocking you will find yourself “handed along” so that you don’t stumble. The carriage is lined with sofas and padded stools either side and you will quickly find people making space for you and yourself engaged in conversations with them.

Travelling on the Venice Simplon Orient Express does feel like “going back in time” – not only in style of the carriages but in how people act. The atmosphere facilitates connection and conversation. The fact that telephones are frowned upon in the restaurant and bar carriages means people instead engage with each other. I wasn’t able to make the WiFi work in my cabin, and for me this was a joy as it meant I could truly relax into the rhythm of the train.

There is a very special atmosphere that is hard to explain , but it felt very “in the moment” and your focus was totally on what was happening on the train, and what you could see through the window. Past and future issues were parked as you focused on your train community.

The recent “Murder on the Orient Express” movie did not fully show the glory and beauty of the Venice Simplon Orient Express train with it’s inlaid marquetry and Lalique glass, but it did showcase how the train “becomes a world and community” in its own right. In this day and age anything that can trigger that openness and willingness to engage and connect with strangers is to be treasured.

There are many different journeys that can be undertaken on the Venice Simplon Orient Express. I would personally recommend the Venice to Prague, Venice to Budapest or Venice to Vienna route as you have longer on the Orient Express train as the full journey is on the Orient Express train, rather than connecting with British trains (as the train is not allowed to run through the EuroTunnel), and you have 2 wonderful cities to visit and explore either side of the journey.

 

We are often asked by our clients who on a Verona Opera Trip with us where to eat in central Verona – here are our top favourite recommendations.

Al Cristo
Situated in the heart of Verona, Ristorante Al Cristo is the venue for an optional extra wine tasting offered by Weekend a la Carte. The menu is considerably cheaper than the other suggested restaurants though highly related by previous of our clients, with starters being priced between €8 and €15, and mains starting at €12. Reservations can be made by email (info@ristorantealcristo.it) or by telephone: +39 045 594 287.

12 Apostoli
With its’ history dating back to the early 1900’s, this traditional and charming restaurant is extremely popular. It is advisable to book in advance – reservations can easily be made via email dodiciapostoli@tiscali.it or by telephone: +39 645 596 999. Prices tend to range from €45 to €65 per person excluding wine. Closed on Sunday evenings and Mondays.

Ristorante Arche
Ristorante Arche dates back to 1877 and is known in particular for its excellent fish menu. Situated beside Juliet’s balcony and Romeo’s house, the romantic setting is perfect for an enjoyable evening in Verona. The meat menu starts at €15, whilst the specialities menu is slightly dearer with the fish dishes starting at €21. It is advisable to book in advance; they can be contacted by telephone: +39 045 800 7415.

Ristorante Il Desco
Elegantly decorated, Ristorante Il Desco is yet another romantic setting that is perfect for a lovely evening out. The four course ‘Fast Menu’ costs €65, however the individual courses are more expensive, with starters being at least €38 and meat and fish dishes starting at €40. The online website allows reservations to be made, however they can also be contacted by telephone: +39 045 595 358 or info@ildesco.com

For more information on our Verona breaks please click here

Last week I returned from an exhausting 24 hour period in Siena when I went to review the Palio balconies, windows and hotels that we offer for the Palio. Of course others from Weekend a La Carte have visited and reviewed but this was my first time and I am thrilled with the Palio positions we have managed to secure. I was expecting them to be good – but they are fabulous!  Balconies and Windows right on the Campo which offer first class positions with which to view the race and take in the atmosphere and passion of the Italians! With different positions across the Campo we have managed to deliver angles to different clients – some can even see the Mossa beforehand.

The two main hotels we offer are super and in very different ways. Both are within the city walls and extremely central.

The Palazzo Ravizza Siena is a charming converted Palazzo with oodles of character, a grand piano for anyone to play and the most stunning gardens overlooking the Tuscan countryside – a perfect place to take a drink and look at the view.

Hotel Athena Siena is a more modern offering with a restaurant and also has a wonderful Terrace overlooking the gorgeous Tuscan countryside – a superb place to chill and imbibe the atmosphere – this will be slightly quieter on Palio day.

Both are managed by excellent teams focused on making sure you have a wonderful stay. I would be hard pressed to know which one to recommend.

The Palio consists of a bare back race around the Campo between 10 out of the 17 Contradas at any one time. The Contradas are based on districts and you belong to a Contrada based on where you were born. Our Palio partner gave me the Pantera (Panther) colours (Based on the fact that my first night in Siena was in the Pantera district) so now I will be supporting Pantera in the upcoming Palio races. We discussed the machinations and politics of the Palio many times during my visit and I think I may understand about a tenth of it now! – 700 years of history is hard to unravel in a day!

The streets where the Contrada Dinners take place are full of character, churches and atmosphere – with an average of 1,500 people at each of the 10 Contrada dinners the night before the Palio the atmosphere must be electric! What an amazing way to wish the Jockeys luck!

I visited many restaurants and would certainly recommend Cane & Gatto Siena restaurant run by a graceful elderly couple delivering mouth-watering and beautifully presented food. The Antica Osteria da Divo Siena restaurant offers delicious traditional Italian food served in a wonderful atmosphere of alcoves in the underground Tufa which Siena is built on.

Please click here to see our Palio break where we offer a package including Palio Balcony viewing, the privilege of attending the Contrada Dinner and a Guided Introduction to the Palio as well as Hotel, private transfers and Flights.

While attending our Palio Siena package break, you need a good hotel within the city walls, which is within walking distance of the main sites. One of our favourite hotels in Siena is Palazzo Ravizza, which is only 600 metres from the Piazza del Campo – the location of the Palio Siena Horse Race.

This converted palace was a family residence in the 19th century until the current aristocratic owners decided to convert the palazzo into a pensione in the 1920’s. The palazzo can boast a wealth of historians, musicians, writers and art collectors as some of their guests, one of which donated a Steinway piano in the salon.

The rooms are characterful and have the original furnishings maintained from the 1920’s. Some of the rooms face the garden creating a relaxing atmosphere.

As well as being within the castle walls, the hotel has a garden offering quiet areas where guests can read, relax with an aperitif or entertain friends. There is also a lemon house, bar, wine cellar and bookshop, the last of which is Siena’s only English bookshop. The bookshop stocks books on current trends along with Italian translations.

With incredible views overlooking Siena, this palazzo has something for everyone. When you have ticked all of these off your list you still have your Palio Siena package to entertain you! For those wanting to travel further afield and visit the nearby towns, Palazzo Ravizza has free parking for housing your car overnight.

This hotel is sure to be the icing on the cake when satisfying your wanderlust or special occasion on your Palio Siena package trip. For more information click here

For anyone planning a trip to Verona, there are several experiences not to be missed. The first is undoubtedly going to the Arena di Verona for a night of unparalleled operatic brilliance in the outdoor arena.

The second is visiting Juliet’s Balcony. Whilst the academic world dispute whether Romeo & Juliet ever existed, and even whether Shakespeare arrived in Verona, you cannot set foot outside of your hotel without being confronted with the star crossed lovers. There is Guonod’s Romeo & Juliet opera being brought to life in the Arena, Juliet’s Tomb, and of course, the famous balcony upon which Romeo declared his love.

Guonod’s Romeo & Juliet opera being brought to life in the Arena
The balcony itself is in a small courtyard adorned with love messages, lover’s padlocks where couple’s write their names on small locks, Juliet’s statue (remember touching the right breast brings good fortune!), and of course the aforementioned balcony.

Juliets Balcony in Verona
To date tourists have been able to take photos, buy souvenirs in the shop and even pay to stand on the balcony and re-enact the famous scene. Now however, Verona officials have decided that weddings can be conducted within this romantic backdrop, and even a night’s stay at Casa di Giulietta (Juliet’s House) is also available.

For all those visiting Verona with a Verona Pass Card, admittance to the courtyard is free; however, there is a small fee (€3 per person) for standing on the balcony.

Click here to see our popular break to Verona

Last summer I was fortunate enough to visit Verona. I wanted to test out the services we currently offer with our VERONA OPERA LOVER’S BREAK. After having received such wonderful feedback from past clients who have been, I was eager to match the experience.

Well, I can confirm that they were correct! I stayed at Hotel Firenze, well situated for both the train station (ideal for doing some travelling around in Italy), and only five minutes’ walk from main Verona. The hotel was perfect, well situated, friendly, welcoming staff and a plentiful range of breakfast options to suit all. It was good to have a five minute walk back to the hotel at the end of each day after enjoying all the plentiful food experiences – some of it needed walking off!

To anyone new to Verona I would strongly recommend buying a Verona Pass Card, included in our Verona breaks at no additional charge. This useful card means free access to most of the main tourist sights of the city. For me the highlights were the impressive castle; Castelvecchio where you can enjoy the exhibits and walk along the castle battlements whilst enjoying far reaching views. Also to be visited was the Museum of Natural History which has a vast array of fossils and animals both current and extinct. I would allow a few hours for this as the museum was deceptively larger than initially expected.

Whilst Italy boasts a large number of churches in all their towns, one that certainly stood out for me was St Fermo Church, a two minute walk from the Natural History Museum. As beautiful as the church was, it wasn’t until arriving at the bottom of the stairs that I realised the church was much more than it at first seemed – it was in fact a church built on top of two others! Having spoken to the guide, I learnt that the original church was replaced above the initial one for the poorer families coming to worship, whereas the street-level church above that was for the very richest Veronese who came to worship.

Of course nothing can eclipse the main focus of the town – the Arena di Verona. Built central to the town with a plentiful array of restaurants and shops around it, the arena is the place to be. The acoustics for an open air event are second to none and I could see for myself just how important having good seating up the front could be, when the arena stretched back as far back as it did.

Despite all of these wonderful experiences, the highlight for me was the Lake Garda Day. A short transfer and I was on the boat going over to the beautiful lake to Garda Island. Once there, I and the others on the boat were treated to a tour by the Countessa whose family currently own the island. The views from the garden were picture postcard, and nobody was in a hurry to leave! There were even three native beautiful dogs that enjoyed a life of woods, gardens and the lake to swim in!

After coming back from the island, there was a little time to visit Sirmione, a castle town with lovely restaurants and shops, before a much needed thirst-quencher at Villa Novare; tasting some of the local wines of the Bardolino area. A definite must for all would be wine connoisseurs!

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!

We are often asked by our clients who are on a Verona Opera Trip with us where to eat in central Verona – here are our top favourite recommendations.

Al Cristo
Situated in the heart of Verona, Ristorante Al Cristo is the venue for an optional extra wine tasting offered by Weekend a la Carte. The menu is considerably cheaper than the other suggested restaurants though highly related by previous of our clients, with starters being priced between €8 and €15, and mains starting at €12. Reservations can be made by email (info@ristorantealcristo.it) or by telephone: +39 045 594 287

12 Apostoli
With its’ history dating back to the early 1900’s, this traditional and charming restaurant is extremely popular. It is advisable to book in advance – reservations can easily be made via email dodiciapostoli@tiscali.it or by telephone: +39 645 596 999. Prices tend to range from €45 to €65 per person excluding wine. Closed on Sunday evenings and Mondays

Ristorante Arche
Ristorante Arche dates back to 1877 and is known in particular for its excellent fish menu. Situated beside Juliet’s balcony and Romeo’s house, the romantic setting is perfect for an enjoyable evening in Verona. The meat menu starts at €15, whilst the specialities menu is slightly dearer with the fish dishes starting at €21. It is advisable to book in advance, they can be contacted by telephone: +39 045 800 7415.

Ristorante Il Desco
Elegantly decorated, Ristorante Il Desco is yet another romantic setting that is perfect for a lovely evening out. The four course ‘Fast Menu’ costs €65, however the individual courses are more expensive, with starters being at least €38 and meat and fish dishes starting at €40. The online website allows reservations to be made, however they can also be contacted by telephone: +39 045 595 358 or  info@ildesco.com

Make an Enquiry

Call 01722 744 695 to plan your next special occasion trip.

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with others. If at any stage you would like to cancel this then please e-mail info@weekendalacarte.co.uk informing us and we will remove your details from our database.