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Bruges Christmas Market with Derek & Wendy

Upon arriving in Bruges we settled into our hotel, organised our rooms and relaxed with a drink before heading for Zand square. It had a very lively atmosphere and we got our first taste of Belgian food in a restaurant that had been recommended! It was a thoroughly enjoyable meal and it was a great start to our few days in Bruges. On our walk back to our hotel we passed fountains with lovely statues all lit up. It was time for bed as we had plenty of walking to be done over the coming days.
The following morning, after our continental breakfast, we set off for our first full days of exploring the city. Immediately we came across market stalls selling their wares. Early purchases were made before we walked on towards the central city area. We passed many horse-drawn carriages and looked forward to a ride ourselves. As we walked along we saw all the wonderfully dressed shops. Many offered such delights as fine chocolates and beers. Very tempting! However, we decided it was best to take a canal cruise and enjoy the fantastic views from a different angle in this extremely beautiful city. It was well worth it. Next, we had lunch at a nice cafe before wandering more streets ducking into the odd church or two and mingling in the other market areas. A few more gifts were bought and once happy with our first full day of sightseeing and shopping we went back to our hotel to freshen up for the evening. We had seen the restaurant we wanted to dine as we had wandered Bruges and we walked back to enjoy another pleasant evening dining on typical local fayre.
After breakfast we walked to the exhibition of ice sculptures. The theme this year was of Disney and it was again another fantastic and inspiring work of art. It is truly amazing what can be done with some frozen water! They even had an ice slide and those who didn’t mind a cold bottom braved it. We needed a warm drink after having spent much time in the freezing cold display. Once rejuvenated, we went for lunch followed by a ride around the city in a horse-drawn carriage. It was a fun experience and we learnt more from our guide about the important buildings and the history of this small but beautiful city. It was time to hit the chocolate shops and market stalls for further gifts. We all loved this part. While wandering the market stalls we stopped for a hot chocolate or Gluwein. We then went back for a short rest at the hotel, got spruced up for another night of fine dining and then a late night’s drink in a local bar.
The next day was our last and after breakfast we finished packing, loaded the minibus and took a stroll around the neighbourhood before setting off for Calais and our journey back to Blighty. We finished off our holiday on board in the Brasserie, having our first Christmas lunch followed by Christmas pudding. Perfect!!

Turkey & Tinsel with Phil & Candy

When we had everybody on board the Jolly Bus, we took a lovely gentle, scenic drive down to Hayling Island.  We had a delicious fish and chip lunch and then completed our journey to our hotel.  After arriving, we found our beautifully spacious rooms and unpacked our cases.  We then took a stroll around the complex to explore our surroundings.  We spent our evening dancing, laughing and even took part in a quiz!  We enjoyed a few drinks and Alan impressed the lead singer with not one, but two dances with her!  What a way to kick start our holiday!
During our festive time away, we did many activities that everyone loved.  We took part in a few quizzes which we did extremely well in!  We did some exciting archery (with more than one bulls eye scored!), rifle shooting and skittles!  We took some lovely refreshing walks around the hotel grounds, taking in the beautiful scenery.   
As it was Turkey & Tinsel week, we tucked into a delightful Christmas dinner, pulled crackers and wore our party hats to celebrate the spirit of Christmas!  The whole place was decked out in the most fabulous Christmas decorations and the atmosphere was brilliant.   We took charge of the dance floor every night with our enthusiastic singing and dancing!  One night we even did karaoke and crowned Alan and Rachel as King and Queen!  They did some stunning renditions and there was rapturous applause!
We watched Dick Whittington one afternoon which was hugely entertaining! The entertainment team were second to none and really bought the stage to life and interacted with our group.  OOOOHHH yes they did!  This was followed by a flutter on the racing reindeers which produced 2 out of 5 wins!    On our last evening which was New Years Eve, our night was full on! With no prompting to dance, it was a race to the dance floor!  Stamina was not in short supply in this group!  What a wonderful way to spend our last night! 
After our final breakfast we packed our suitcases and then visited the onsite shop to buy some souvenirs to take home.  We then had a few games of pool which everyone loved!  We then all climbed aboard the Jolly bus and headed to the Ship Inn where we enjoyed a delicious lunch before a gentle ride back to reality!  It wasn’t January the 1st in real life!!  What a super holiday we all had. 


Father Christmas in Lapland with Adrian & Melanie

Everybody was so excited about travelling to Lapland and the adventures that lay ahead of us!  We had a lovely relaxed meal in the hotel next to the airport and made sure we had a good sleep before our flight in the morning. 
What a winter-wonderland it was when we stepped off the plane!  We collected our snowsuits and climbed aboard the 'Bells Bus' where we sung songs on the way to our hotel.  We unpacked in our beautiful spacious rooms and then had a lovely Welcome Meeting where they served us mulled wine and soft berry juice.  Delicious!  After getting some of our snow suits changed to ensure we were as comfortable as possible whilst out and about, we tucked into a delicious dinner.   We then put our snow suits on and made our way outside for a wander to explore our surroundings.  Unbelievably we got to see a display of the Northern Lights.  It was a green line of light that faded in and out - what a treat!  We tucked in for the night feeling very happy and excited! 
The following morning we did some wonderful activities.  We did tobogganing, snowmobiling, husky sledging and reindeer sleighing - what fun it was!  There were plenty of fires to keep ourselves warm by. We joined in with some Finnish songs and even learnt how to do reindeer calling!   That afternoon we did some shopping in the town which was right next to the hotel.  Some of us bought traditional Finnish gifts to take home.  We then had a game of ten pin bowling which was fabulous as everyone got into the competitive spirit!  A special well done to Lesley and Diva who were our striking champions!  The day was rounded off with carol singing underneath a beautiful tree, a hearty dinner and drinks in the bar whilst listening to a live musician who had us all singing along!
The following day we arose feeling eager to get back into the snow, so after breakfast we climbed into our snow suits and headed into town where more shops were explored. We played in the snow and climbed in top of a huge mound of snow and slid down on our bottoms! It was then back for lunch and it was time for the day to really begin! We set off to Santa's village where we went inside lots of different workshops. It was snowing too, so it was even more magical! 
We got to decorate our own biscuits that the Baking Elf had made for us inside The Bakery Workshop.  We followed Jolly Jack, our leader for the holiday, who led us into the Post Office where we got to see how all the presents are sent!  We saw them busily making toys for all the girls and boys.  Some of us even sat down and drew some pictures and were able to pick up the toys!  Once we had looked around all of the workshops, we heard a huge HO HO HO and Santa appeared!  The atmosphere was amazing and everyone was so excited!  He had an impressively long, white beard and was very friendly. 
We were told that Santa would be at our party later that evening where we would have a chance to actually meet him!  We freshened up and headed out to the party where our table was laid out for us! We all received presents from Santa and had our photo's taken with him.  We spent the rest of our last evening dancing and singing along to Christmas songs - what a super holiday we had!  Thank you to all who made it so special!