5 Great Countries For You To Explore!

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See some of the great countries Expat can take you to Explore!

France

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France is the world’s number one tourist destination, and it’s certainly not hard to see why.

From Paris with its vast amount of cultural history, amazing monuments and architecture, to the beauty of the French Riviera and the stunning region of Burgundy, France has it all.

You can explore the Mont Saint-Michel and the historical Normandy beaches in the north, and the medieval citadel of Carcassone and ancient Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard that crosses the Gardon River in the south.

Expat Explore has many coach tours that visit Paris. See the Champs Elysees and famous Arc de Triomphe, visit the the Louvre Museum or infamous catacombs. Enjoy a cruise up the River Seine, Climb the Eiffel Tower and explore the many museums, galleries, boulevards and restaurants, as far as places to go, the ‘City of Lights’ is truly a remarkable experience not to be missed.

Germany

Germany sits central at the heart of Europe and boasts stunning rural scenery and natural landscapes dotted with historical architecture. The Rhine Valley is a picturesque glacial alpine valley that cuts between enchanting hillside castles and rolling vineyards.

See the stunning Neuschwanstein Castle, a nineteenth-century Romanesque Revival palace seated on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau in Bavaria. You have to see it to believe it as this extraordinary castle takes you to a world of fantasy and fairy tales.

The magical countryside is contrasted by urban cities which are steeped in thousands of years of history. This urban culture reflects a dynamic and creative force that can be seen in cities such as Berlin and Munich. Berlin has an enticing mixture of history and contemporary culture, so you can witness the historical Berlin Wall while enjoying the bustling cutting edge social scene.

Likewise, in Munich enjoy the Oktoberfest beer festival on a guided tour with Expat Explore tour to get a true feel of German culture as it is meant to be.

Netherlands

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The Netherlands is one of the most unique if not smallest countries in Europe, and is recognized by its many canals and iconic windmills.

It may be small, but it has also provided considerable power and influence over the years. In the 17th century, the Dutch Empire grew to become one of the major economic powers, excelling in science and the military. The Dutch also had considerable cultural influence which can be seen in its legacy of master painters such as Van Gogh and Rembrandt.

Amsterdam is the Netherlands’ capital, and is well known for its artistic heritage and bustling nightlife. You can visit the Van Gogh museum and Rembrandt House museum there and see the truly wonderful work of these great artists, or take a trip down one of its many canals to see the true spirit of the city.

If the countryside is more your thing, why not take a trip to the famous Keukenhof Tulip Garden, and be blown away by the outstanding beauty of the place, especially in spring. Whatever your preference, the Netherlands will have something for everyone, and is a truly inspirational place to be.

The Netherlands is perfectly situated for an Expat Explore Europe multi-country coach tour, and is often the first or last destination to visit depending on which way round you travel.

Switzerland

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In the heart of central Europe lies the outstanding beauty of Switzerland, home to numerous enchanting lakes and valleys, and the founder of the intricate Swiss watch. Sample the famous cheese fondue and indulge in the finest Swiss chocolate, arguably the best in the world.

Switzerland is also known for its alpine peaks and glaciers, especially the 11,400 feet Jungfraujoch which is one of the highest peaks in Europe and one of most famous landmarks in the world. Take a train ride up to the peak and witness breathtaking views.

Visit the beautiful Lake Lucerne, which can be found in central Switzerland, and embark on a boat cruise on either an elegant salon motor vessel or historic paddle wheel steamer.

With France to the west, Germany to the north and Italy to the south, Switzerland is also perfectly situated for Expat Explore Europe multi-country coach tours.

Italy

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Last but not least Italy, what isn’t there to love about Italy – a truly extraordinary place!

As well as boasting the famous Colosseum, Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain and  St. Peter’s Basilica, Italy also has the greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites in the world!

Home to the Pope and the Catholic church, Rome has more than its fair share of  beautiful architecture and incredible history. Explore the Vatican city and see the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo, or wonder at the beautiful Saint Mark’s Basilica.

Explore Venice, famous for its canals, gondolas and amazing festival; visit the Leaning tower of Pisa, or bask in the glory of Florence. The Romans surely did leave a wealth of legacies to behold.

Immense yourself in the Italian culture with Expat Explore on one of their regional coach tours of Italy, and enjoy a holiday of a lifetime.

Parks & Gardens of Paris!

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Embracing the wonderful beauty of a landscaped garden is sheer heaven to the soul.

Whether you want to admire some awe inspiring sculptures or just take in the surrounding beauty, a walk through a park or the landscaped gardens of a grand building takes some beating.

Now, add the fact that you can find them in Paris, and you have a good idea on what a perfect experience can be.

Find below some truly wonderful places to visit on your next trip to Paris:

Parc Monceau

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Parc Monceau

Parc Monceau is a public park situated in Paris at the junction of Rue de Prony, Boulevard de Courcelles and Rue Georges Berger. It is open daily from sunrise to sunset and has extended hours in the summer months. There are actually nine gated entrances to the park looked after by a park watchman who lives above the north entrance.

The park was established by Phillippe d’Orléans, the Duke of Chartres who was a cousin of King Louis XVI, as well as a a close friend of the Prince of Wales, later George IV. As a consequence, he loved all things English and so designed the park as an ‘English garden’.

The park includes a collection of scaled-down architectural masonic references (Philippe d’Orléans was a leading freemason) which include, amongst many, an Egyptian pyramid and Chinese fort. There are also a number of statues of famous figures including a beautiful statue of the famous musician  Frédéric Chopin, sculpted in 1906 by Jacques Froment Thomas.

 

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Parc Monceau

Jardin du Luxembourg

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Jardin du Luxembourg

The Jardin du Luxembourg or Luxembourg Garden was first created in 1612 by Marie de’ Medici for the Luxembourg Palace.

The garden is known for its tree-lined promenades, lavish lawns and flowerbeds, the Medici Fountain and its large octagonal basin of water where you  an sail model boats.

There is also a playground and vintage carousel, as well as live music seating to while away an afternoon.

The garden also houses over a hundred monuments, fountains and statues which include figures of French queens and  Famous women and saints.

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Jardin du Luxembourg

Jardin des Plantes

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Jardin des Plantes

The Jardin des Plantes in Paris is the main botanical garden in France. It was founded in 1626, and first planted as a medicinal herb garden in 1635 by Guy de La Brosse, Louis XIII’s physician.

 The Jardin des Plantes includes four galleries of the Muséum: the Grande Galerie de l’Évolution, the Paleontology Museum, the Entomology Museum and the Mineralogy Museum.

It also houses a small zoo, Ménagerie du Jardin des plantes which was founded in 1795 by Bernardin de Saint-Pierre.

From the Alpine Garden to the Rose Garden, this botanical garden has it all!

 

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Jardin des Plantes

Palace of Versailles

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Palace of Versailles

If you fancy venturing out a little further from Paris, the Palace of Versailles and its opulent gardens is just a 20-minute ride away on the local RER line.

Famous because of Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette, this palace has up to five million visitors per year and its vast grounds attract over six million.

 The construction of the Palace and its gardens lasted through three different reigns, from Louis XIV to Louis XVI, and undergone five major re-plantations.

Indeed, in 1774-1775 Louis XVI ordered  a complete replanting of the gardens.

 The entire grounds of Versailles now cover some 800 hectares of landscaped land.

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Palace of Versailles

 

 

Perfect Paris!

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Paris is and always will be one of the most dramatic and romantic places to visit on earth!

There are not many people that have not heard of this wonderful place, making it one of the most popular destinations to visit.

Its beauty, flair and style make it a must see place in the day, while its literally brilliant nightlife warrants it the name ‘City of Light’!

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As you can see from the picture above, Paris is a vast city brimming with life, from the majestic architecture to the intricate artworks, Paris has it all.

In fact, it is so vast that you would struggle to see it in one day! A few days in Paris is needed to truly appreciate its delightful beauty, but how would you get around?

Well, you could start with one of the most popular forms of transportation – The Metro!

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The Metro

The Paris metro was opened in 1900 and is one of the oldest and best underground systems in the world, rivalling London and New York. There are 14 lines and 380 stations connected

by in excess of 130 miles of track. It is generally seen as the most efficient way to explore the great city,  getting near a couple blocks of anywhere you want to go. The metro runs from

5:00 am to 12:30 am and tickets can be bought at the ticket booth in the station.

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The RER Train

In addition to the metro is the RER train that was first opened in 1961.This is a commuter suburban line that is integrated into the metro system and goes further

outside the city as well as having several stops in central Paris. There are lines that connect to Orly Airport, Charles De Gaulle Airport, Versailles or Disneyland, as

well as other suburban destinations.

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Bus

The bus system in Paris is also exceptional, it’s also a good way to see and familiarize yourself with the city. Metro tickets can be used on the buses and can be bought on the bus as well

as in the metro stations.  Most of the buses run from 6:30 am to 8:30 pm with a few running until 12:30 am.

Paris L’OpenTour buses are also a great way to visit all the major places of interest in the city while enjoying the amazing views from the open top deck.

Enjoy fantastic views from the open top deck. Explore the best of what Paris has to offer through a Hop On Hop Off bus tour. These buses run daily at 30 minute intervals from

9:30 am to 6:30 pm.

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Taxi

There are nearly 15,000 Taxis in Paris which are quite easy to find.

You can hail one on the streets or get your hotel to book one for you.

Taxis are not too expensive and probably the easiest way to get home after a day or night of walking around.

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Boat

What better than a ride on a riverboat shuttle service which takes you on the Seine and to the heart of Paris.

The Batobus runs up and down the seine with eight stops on the route, allowing you to experience a different view of Paris along your journey.

 Take in the Champs Elysées, Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Musée d’Orsay, Hôtel de Ville, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Notre Dame, and Jardin des Plantes.

The boat departs daily at 25 minute intervals from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm, Monday Tuesday Wednesday  and Thursday, and 25 minute intervals from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm

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Valentines Day getaway!

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Valentines Day is the perfect time to whisk your loved one away on an enchanting trip for two.

Paris is one beautiful place to go, with its amazing monuments to see and incredible night life to enjoy.

However, there are also other wonderful places to explore, including Prague, Vienna, Bruges and Tuscany.

PRAGUE

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Prague at night.

Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, is also known as ‘the City of a Hundred Spires’.  This truly romantic city is famous for its ancient Old Town Square, colorful baroque buildings, Gothic churches and medieval Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Hall.

Explore this beautiful city by walking along its curved cobblestone streets and beautiful bridges. Travel by tram across the Vltava River and see the magnificent 1000 year old Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral with its grand stained glass windows.

Prague has a wonderfully diverse nightlife with everything from opera, theatre and ballet to music clubs such as the five-story Karlovy Lázně, and a seemingly infinite range of bars and cafés. Find underground bars with amazing cocktails on offer and enticing restaurants serving delicious food and fine red wine.

Explore this elegant ‘Golden City’ for a truly romantic experience never to be forgotten.

VIENNA

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The Musikverein Concert Hall in Vienna

The capital city of Austria, Vienna is known for its Baroque palaces and marvelous concert halls.

Vienna is also famously artistic and residents have included Mozart, Beethoven and Sigmund Freud.

For a special romantic evening out in Vienna, book your tickets for the Vienna Mozart Concert at the Musikverein. Dressed in historical costumes and wigs, the Vienna Mozart Orchestra re-creates the 18th century in this historic concert hall – the perfect valentine gift to enjoy a little Mozart while you’re in Vienna!

Vienna also houses many elegant coffee houses to indulge in delicious cakes and steaming hot coffee while gazing at the outstanding beauty outside, and a chance of snow in February will only add to the romance!

BRUGES

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Bruges magnificent medieval architecture

Medieval Bruges can be counted as one of the most romantic and beautiful cities in Europe.

The whole atmosphere of Bruges oozes pure romance with its medieval architecture, canals and cobbled streets.

 You can try your luck at climbing the Belfry Tower to find the final view absolutely breathtaking. You will also see the old Law Courts, the City Hall, and the ‘Basilica of the Holy Blood’ in which is housed some of Jesus’ blood.

Like in many towns in Belgium, in Bruges you will find many varieties of beer, delicious chocolates and fine lace, a trademark ever since the Renaissance. The many lovely warm restaurants are also there to while away the time on a truly romantic day.

TUSCANY

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Tuscany wine region

 Tuscany with its rolling hillsides, quaint farmhouses, tall cypress trees and olive groves is just waiting to be explored.

 Head to the scenic hills of the Tuscan wine region in February to experience this romantic beautiful countryside all to yourself, without the hordes of other holiday makers.

Taste the local produce and explore the numerous artisan shops while reveling in the truly romantic atmosphere of glorious Tuscany.

Christmas & New Year Travelling!

The first snowfall is always a good reminder that winter is hear, if not just around the corner.

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That means Christmas is also not far away, and for some, this is a very special time to celebrate.

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It can also be a wonderful time of the year to travel the globe and see this magical season in a different light.

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A good way to do this is by coach on a guided tour lasting a few days which will enable you to experience and soak in the different cultures during your travels.

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Although a lot of people enjoy coach tours during the warmer weather, winter getaways are becoming ever more popular with more and more people wanting to experience the world during the colder seasons.

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Europe is a very popular destination during winter as its rich cultural diversity takes on a magical form around Christmas time.

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Take in the extraordinary Swiss Alps, revel in the lights of  Paris in France, Barcelona in Spain or Sorrento in Italy and discover some of the finest Christmas Markets in the world! Most tours add extras like a complimentary meal on Christmas day and, of course, Hogmanay festivities when visiting Edinburgh in Scotland.

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Please note that most of these extraordinary photos are by Gerd Altmann from Freiburg, Deutschland on Pixabay.

10 Reasons to go on a Winter Holiday!

Why go on holiday in winter?

Well, there are many reasons why going on a winter holiday is a great idea.

Take a look below to see 10 fab reasons why a winter getaway to Europe is the best way!

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Winter Wonderland

 

1. You can travel for less and view major attractions at a cheaper rate.
Winter is the cheapest time to fly to Europe. Airfare prices drop after the high season, and you get cheaper deals and better service at major attractions and local restaurants.

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Fly Cheaper

 

2. You will have more of Europe to yourself.
Winter and autumn time in Europe means less crowds and and fewer queues. This means you will have extra time to fit more into your itinerary every day and have a complete and satisfying experience of each destination.

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Less Crowds

 

3. You get to see all of Europe (and not just the main attractions).
Travelling in autumn and winter can include visits to places you would not normally have time for. Art galleries, museums and places of worship for example. Plus, because you do not get the stifling summer heat, you would not mind being indoors.

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Visit York minster and the Christmas shop on Stonegate.

 

4. Cultural Paradise.
In Europe the cultural calendar swings into full action during winter. Revel in late night exhibitions, enjoy  the warmth of heated indoor museums and take advantage of the busy schedules at opera houses and theatres.

Take in a Show - enjoy some ballet!

Take in a Show – enjoy some ballet!

 

5. Enchanting Christmas Markets! 
Christmas in Europe is a sight to behold! European capitals have their city squares decked out in festive finery and Christmas markets can be seen in almost every European city. Be mesmerized by Christmas markets in Vienna, Munich, Nuremberg, Bruges, Berlin and Krakow to name a few. Indulge in some some Christmas shopping, enjoy some traditional Glühwein and savour the many delicious Christmas treats available at this time of year!

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Christmas Market in Ulm, Germany

 

6. Food! Glorious Food! 
Talking about food, winter time in Europe is the perfect time to eat, drink and be merry. Top winter treats not too miss are Belgian Waffles and Belgian hot chocolate, German cinnamon stars, Swiss Fondue, gingerbread, and of course, the traditional Glühwein!

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Ginger bread treats

7. Ice skating, sledding and skiing.

Travelling through Europe in winter means you can do activities that are not possible to do in summer. Ice Skating is a must during the festive season and Europe is home to some of the best outdoor ice skating rinks in the world. Sports enthusiast can also indulge in their passion for skiing in the Swiss or French Alps and sledding is a great way to experience the great outdoors in winter.

Why not try dog sledding

Why not try dog sledding

 

8. Winter walking and great photo opportunities

Enjoy the fresh air in the Countryside where the crisp air, freshly fallen snow and frozen lakes will make you want to grab your camera for a snap shot of the wonderful scenery.  The quaint cobbled streets found in the medieval cities of  Europe will make you to stay outside even if the weather is cold!

Taking photos in the snow

Taking photos in the snow

 

9. The locals are in town.

Winter is the perfect season if you are out to meet people! The cafe & pub culture in Europe is on fire over winter months and the locals are everywhere. Meet up for a coffee, beer or wine and soak up the warm atmosphere. It’s the best season to get cozy and chatty inside, and to find out more about the local history and culture of a place!

Cheers!

Cheers!

10. You can experience New Year celebrations in a different country.

European capital cities celebrate the New Year like no other.  Millions of people  gather around major attractions like the Eiffel Tower in France, the Piazza in Florence, or Oosterdok in Amsterdam, counting down the minutes to the New Year and amazing celebrations. Scotland in particular is a popular place to celebrate the new Year, calling it Hogmanay and  throwing one of the biggest parties full of huge firework displays and musical performances.

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New Years Eve celebrations

 

So, as you can see, travelling to Europe ‘out of season’ makes absolute sense and can make for a truly amazing experience to cherish and never forget!

Valentines Day – past & Present!

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St Valentine is a name we all recognize as a symbol of love and romance. We even have a day on February 14 named after it and, giving us a good excuse to express our most romantic side by showering our loved ones with cards and gifts. Valentines day can be a way to show our true love towards those most precious to us, but what are its origins and has it always been this way?

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St Valentines day links back to Christianity and martyrdom. Many early Christian martyrs were named Valentine and were subsequently honoured the customary public worship on various dates  by various  Christian denominations. The Valentines honoured on February 14 are Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni, with another St Valentine mentioned by the Catholic Church who was martyred in Africa.

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The legend of Saint Valentine of Rome is perhaps the most popular account of why love and romance is associated with St Valentines Day on February 14. The story goes that the Roman Emperor Claudius II banned marriage so that there were plenty of unattached young men available to fight as soldiers. Valentine of Rome fought against this and the general persecution of Christians under the Roman Empire by performing secret marriage ceremonies. When eventually found out, Valentine was imprisoned  but managed to heal his Jailer’s blind daughter who frequently visited him. It is said that he wrote her a letter before his execution and signed it “Your Valentine”, a statement still used today on valentine cards sent from admirers around the world!

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The celebrating of Valentines day evolved over time and the giving and receiving of gifts and cards originated in Britain in the late 18th and early 19th century!

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In the late 184o’s, Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts sold this British  idea to the United States after receiving a card from an English admirer. She took inspiration from his fanciful card and began importing  floral decorations, ribbon and paper lace from England to begin the first mass-produced valentines cards. The famous American company card makers, Hallmark,  first began producing Valentine’s Day cards in 1916 and Hallmark Card Statistics estimate that 144 million cards were sent in 2013 alone, coming only second to Christmas cards sent!!

 

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‘Love Locks’ are a new phenomena that are quickly becoming popular around the world to express ones love! Couples usually secure a padlock bearing their names along a bridge or similar spot and throw away the key. They are thought to have  originated in Hungary and are supposed to represent hearts locking together in eternal and everlasting love!

 

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Valentine’s Day gifts have even evolved further and short breaks and holidays have now been introduced to celebrate this most romantic of days. Valentine’s Day is just round the corner so what better way to celebrate your undying love for someone than by sharing some of the most beautiful and romantic destinations with them, and create wonderful memories which will last a lifetime!

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Go Christmas Crackers on a Coach Tour!

We know Christmas is just round the corner when we start to see more of this little fellow.

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Our wonderful little robin.

 

We also know that we have to get those Christmas gifts sorted, so what better way to do this than at a wonderful Christmas market!

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Bearing gifts!

 

But rather than go local, why not try something different like on a continental shopping trip!

Combine that all important present buying with an amazing discovery of sights and sounds you have not experienced before.

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Holland at Christmas time.

 

European Christmas Markets are a seasonal event, and if you’re looking for a short trip, Bruges Christmas Markets are perfect and run from the end of November throughout December every year. See an assortment of handmade gifts, decorations, food, drink, clothing and everything else Christmassy that you can think of. While you’re there, go and climb the Belfry Tower for wonderful views of this stunning medieval city.

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Christmas treats.

For something a bit longer, try a multi country tour and visit places like  Paris, Switzerland, Rhine Valley, Amsterdam and Bruges!

See the stunning ‘City of Lights’, marvel at the Swiss Alps, relax on board a Rhine riverboat in Germany’s famous Rhine Valley, revel in the traditional Dutch style and indulge in beer, waffles, chocolate and moules et frites in Bruges.

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Beautiful Christmas market.

 So when all the shopping’s done and you eventually have a little time for yourself,  celebrate Christmas in style this year on your European trip and crack open that bottle!!

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Crack open that bottle of bubbly!

5 Outstanding Places to See in Paris!

1. The Eiffel Tower

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The Eiffel Tower

The first thing that you see when entering the French Capital is the Eiffel Tower.

This majestic tower began construction in 1887 and has been a source of world wide attraction ever since.

Witness the amazing light show at night for a truly thrilling experience!

 

2. The Louvre Museum

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The Louvre Museum

The world  famous Louvre Museum is a wondrous sight to behold.

It is housed in the Louvre Palace which was originally a 12th century fortress.

The museum first opened its doors for exhibition in 1793 and is now the worlds most visited museum, welcoming millions of visitors a year!

3. Arc de Triomphe

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Arc de Triomphe

 

The Arc de Triomphe was designed by Jean Chalgrin in 1806 but not completed until 1836.

This grand monumental masterpiece was styled in the  Neoclassical design of ancient Roman architecture.

It was made in honour of those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I lies in its vault.

4. Notra Dame de Paris

 

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Notre Dame de Paris

 

Notra Dame de Paris or quite simply Notra Dame has been imortalized in the classic Victor Hugo novel ‘The Hunchback of Notre-Dame’.

Construction of the cathedral began in 1163 during the reign of Louis VII and was not completed until 1345.

It has one 90 metre spire and stands 69 metres high by 69 metres in width by 128 metres in length!

5. Disney Land Paris

 

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Disney Land Paris

 

Last but not least, a trip to Paris is not complete until you have visited

Disney Land Paris!

Marvel at the wonderful scenery, amazing rides and childhood dreams that make up this enchanting land!

Let the Disney characters take you on a journey from times past and see the absolute wonder on your children’s faces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Experience a Winter Wonder Tour!

A coach tour in Britain or Europe can be an utterly amazing experience, but have you ever thought of doing these types of trips in Winter?

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London is seeing and believing at Christmas time as the festive season comes to life with fantastic light displays scattered far across the city. The city is waiting to be explored as it captivates you by the wonderful sights to behold. See the amazing light displays along the Thames, Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Somerset House ice-rink and Buckingham Palace. For more decadence, enjoy a spot of London’s finest shopping when visiting Harrods and the boutiques of Knightsbridge.

Amazing panorama of London.

Amazing panorama of London.

It’s not just the English Capital that can get you in the mood for Christmas, the French capital is also enchanting, inspiring and dazzling. Paris at Christmas is something to behold as you experience the glittering city including the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower and the festive illuminations on the Champs Élysées. Enjoy the beauty, romance and sparkling glory of this magical French capital.

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If you want to witness iconic sights and seasonal delights in central Europe, you can’t beat a tour to the Christmas markets of Austria, Germany and Switzerland! See markets and illuminated landmarks in Vienna, Salzburg, Munich, Innsbruck and Lucerne. Travel to the beautiful city of Salzburg and visit the enchanting Christmas market. Soak up the aroma of mulled wine and Christmas songs in the magic of Dresden‘s Striezelmarkt which is Germany‘s oldest Christmas market. Chat to the stallholders of Vienna‘s Christkindlmarkt about their traditional toys, made of wood just as they have been for centuries, or their spicy gingerbread and mulled wine. Enjoy the bustling grand market in Munich‘s famous Marienplatz, and also experience the magical little stalls in lakeside Lucerne.

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