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Why you should take your holidays in Croatia in 2018

Holidays in Croatia

 

There are worse ways to celebrate your 40th birthday, than by taking your holidays in Croatia. I’m lounging on the grassy bank of a little river with an ice-cold beer in my hand, chatting to a German couple about motorcycles, history and our various adventures around the world. The dog who lives in the hotel I’m currently staying in lies at my feet, basking in the sun and the adoration of the humans around her, while gentle clouds of smoke waft across from where a group of locals is happily barbecuing a huge and delicious-smelling selection of meat for their lunch.

I’ve been helping to sell holidays to Croatia for a decade or so, but until now I’ve not had the time to visit. I’m glad I finally did. North to South, and East to West, Croatia is a patchwork landscape of wooded hills, winding lanes and little villages where church spires rise above the hilltop trees. Along the coast, ancient ports still retain their faded Venetian elegance and mighty medieval walls, while tiny islands hide the treasures of a thousand secluded coves from all but the luckiest visitors.

But even so, for me, it’s not the enchanting cobbled courtyards and ancient colonnades of Split and Trogir, the sunshine and sea air of resorts like Porec, Pula and Dubrovnik, or even the astonishingly clear and astonishingly blue waters and waterfalls of the Plitvice Lakes (top tip: If you have the choice take the train to the topmost lakes and work your way down from there, the opposite way from the route most visitors follow – it’s a lot less crowded), that have really captured my heart. It’s the relaxed, genuine friendliness that I found everywhere I went.

Ivan, who owns the hotel, cheerily encourages us to “eat as much as we can” at breakfast on our first morning. Igor, our guide, is a laugh-a-minute-character with addictions to Only Fools And Horses re-runs and base-jumping. Cycling through the countryside, we’re greeted with cheery waves and cries of “dobar dan” whenever we (not literally) run into other people. At dinner one evening, the lady waiting our table arches a wry eyebrow at Igor’s request for a shot of blueberry brandy to go on his vanilla ice cream, then smiling brings enough for everyone without bothering to charge us.

My colleagues will tell you I’m a curmudgeonly sort; happier digging around in data and correcting other people’s spelling than holding anything resembling an actual conversation. But in Croatia, I find myself unexpectedly released and reimagined as a social butterfly. Maybe it’s the sunshine. Maybe it’s the beer. (It’s probably both. Karlovacko Rezano certainly comes with my hearty recommendation.)

And if Croatia can do that for someone as relentlessly misanthropic as me, imagine what it can do for someone more normally balanced. Someone like you.

Oli Roberts is Newmarket’s Commercial Projects Executive. He likes science fiction, peanut butter M&Ms and bicycles. His inability to engage in conversation with other humans may have been exaggerated for effect.


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Meet the Newmarket team – Vanessa Mellor

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Today we caught up with Vanessa, who has been working at Newmarket Holidays for two years as a Creative Designer and Artworker. Vanessa is our lovely resident Kiwi, and helps to create all our adverts and beautiful glossy brochures.

What do you enjoy most about working at Newmarket Holidays?

The best part of my job is, without a doubt, looking through all of the amazing travel photography and picking my favourites to use in our brochures.

What’s the best place you’ve ever visited and why?

One of the best is probably Lisbon in Portugal. It’s such a colourful city and the views from the top of the hills out over the water are incredible. I could have spent all evening in the vibrant ‘Time Out’ Market trying all of the delicious food and mingling with the friendly locals. A must-try is the local drink ‘Ginja’, served in a cute little chocolate cup. Discovering hidden gems around every corner in the Alfama district was also a highlight of the trip – the first time I’ve had fun whilst getting lost.

What’s your favourite thing to do on holiday?

I like to go where the locals go to really get a feel for the place I’m in. Sampling food and drink that is typical of that region is always fun – you never know what you’ll like until you try it. I also like to just walk around and see where I end up, there’s always something interesting to see on the way.

Which Newmarket Holidays’ tour would you go if you could?

I would LOVE to go to Costa Rica. A couple of colleagues have been and can’t recommend it enough. Wildlife, volcanoes, thermal hot springs… what’s not to love? I’ve been on Newmarket Holidays’ Lapland Day Trip, which was fantastic. The husky ride was such a thrill and something I never dreamed I would experience.

 What three things would you take on a desert island?

A very resourceful chef, music and an endless bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

Can you tell us an interesting fact about yourself?

I can recite the film The Labyrinth almost word for word, skipping the singing parts of course!

Thanks Vanessa – it was great to catch up.


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Competition Terms and Conditions

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Terms and Conditions

This prize draw is open to residents of the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and Republic of Ireland aged 18 years or over, except employees of The Newmarket Group (“Promoter”), their families, agents or anyone else professionally associated with the draw.
Details of how to enter form part of the terms and conditions. It is a condition of entry that all rules are accepted as final and that the competitor agrees to abide by these rules. The decision of the Promoter is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
The winner will be contacted by the Promoter within 14 days of the closing date of the prize draw. Should the Promoter be unable to contact the winner or should the winner be unable to accept the prize, the Promoter reserves the right to award the prize to an alternative winner. The prize as described is available on the date of publication. Should the prize become unavailable, a substitute of equal value shall be provided. The prize is subject to availability, non transferable and there are no cash alternatives. The winner may be required to participate in reasonable publicity on behalf of the Promoter.

Promoter:
The Newmarket Group
Cantium House
Railway Approach
Wallington
Surrey SM6 0BP


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Meet the Newmarket team – Claire Davies

Claire Davies - Newmarket Holidays

 

We recently chatted to Newmarket Holidays’ super-friendly Events Coordinator Claire Davies. Claire has been with the company for an unbelievable 29 years, so she’s a great person to go to if you need information. Plus she’s a delight to work with and has a truly infectious giggle!

Hi Claire, what does your current position here involve?

I’ve had a few different jobs at Newmarket Holidays but in my current role as Events Coordinator, I look after some of our big events such as Andre Rieu in Maastricht and also operate our River Cruises. Although the river cruise side isn’t organising events as such, it makes for a varied job which I love.

You’ve been at the company a long time, Claire. What keeps you here?

Without a doubt the people I work with! Everyone is hard working and interesting in their own way and it really feels like you are part of a big team too – which to me is really important. I also love the travelling I have been able to do with my job. I think I have spent about 15 months of my working life in Disneyland Paris and about the same in New York … as well as visiting The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Italy many times. I’ve seen so many changes at Newmarket during my time here and I have literally grown up with the company. I think I’m like Newmarket Rock – if you cut me in two you’d see the Newmarket Logo!

What’s the best place you’ve ever visited and why?

My heart is torn between Paris and New York, probably as I have spent so much time in both. They are vastly different but each has their own special appeal. I am a city girl through and through.

What’s your favourite thing to do on holiday?

Once I am confident I have seen the key sights, I just love to have a wander around and really get a feel for a place. You never fail to find something of interest when you just walk the streets.

Which Newmarket trip would you go on if you could?

I would love to go on the Fall Colours of New England and Canada tour, as the scenery looks stunning in the photos. I am actually going to the Blackpool Illuminations and Tower Ballroom Tea Dance with my best friend in October. I’ve been on many Newmarket holidays over the years to Italy, Spain, Paris, Battlefields and lots of UK tours.

Who is your hero?

My Dad without a doubt. He encouraged me to work in travel when I was younger and loved to travel himself. He was kind, generous and funny. Everything you want in a person.

If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

That is the hardest question ever – how on earth can you pick that? I think if you had to pin me down I would go for a full Christmas dinner so I had lots of bases covered.

What would you sing at karaoke night?

I can’t sing but I love it! It would have to be Sweet Caroline – you can’t beat a classic Neil Diamond song.

Can you tell us an interesting fact about yourself?

I volunteered in a Peruvian Orphanage in my thirties. It totally changed my outlook on life which I will be forever grateful for.

Thank you, Claire – it was lovely to chat.


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Win £25 John Lewis vouchers

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Win a £25 John Lewis voucher in Newmarket Holidays’ photo competition.

How to enter:

– Go to the competition Facebook post.
– In the comments section, post your travel photograph including a caption of where it was taken by midnight on February 23rd.
– Like our Facebook page and we will announce the winner on 24th February.

Terms and Conditions

This prize draw is open to residents of the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and Republic of Ireland aged 18 years or over, except employees of The Newmarket Group (“Promoter”), their families, agents or anyone else professionally associated with the draw.
Details of how to enter form part of the terms and conditions. It is a condition of entry that all rules are accepted as final and that the competitor agrees to abide by these rules. The decision of the Promoter is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
To enter, entrants must post the travel photo they wish to enter in the comments section of the competition post including a caption of where the photo was taken. Once submitted, entries cannot be amended in any way. The entrant agrees that Newmarket Holidays may use the photographs they submit for marketing purposes.
Late, illegible, incomplete, defaced or corrupt entries sent through agencies and third parties will not be accepted. One winner will be selected by the Newmarket Holidays’ design studio. All entries must be received by midnight on Thursday, February 23rd 2016.The winner will be contacted by the Promoter within 14 days of the closing date of the prize draw. Should the Promoter be unable to contact the winner or should the winner be unable to accept the prize, the Promoter reserves the right to award the prize to an alternative winner. The prize as described is available on the date of publication. Should the prize become unavailable, a substitute of equal value shall be provided. The prize is £25 vouchers for John Lewis but the competition is in no way connected to, or in partnership with John Lewis. The prize is subject to availability, non transferable and there are no cash alternatives. The winner may be required to participate in reasonable publicity on behalf of the Promoter.
Events may occur that render the prize draw itself or the awarding of the prize impossible due to reasons beyond the control of the Promoter and accordingly the Promoter may at its absolute discretion vary or amend the promotion and the entrant agrees that no liability shall attach to the Promoter as a result thereof.
These Terms and Conditions are to be interpreted in accordance with English law and any dispute arising out of these Terms or their subject matter is subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English Courts.
Promoter:
The Newmarket Group
Cantium House
Railway Approach
Wallington
Surrey SM6 0BP


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Meet tour manager – Eddie Brooks

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This week we interviewed tour manager Eddie Brooks who has been working with Newmarket Holidays for around 12 years. He’s guided so many of our tours and we receive great feedback about him from our customers. He’s always cheery – nothing is too much trouble and we can really rely on him to remain calm when, from time-to-time, things don’t happen quite as they should.

1. Which tours have you guided with Newmarket and which is your favourite?

For tours I’ve guided, the list is pretty long! In the UK there’s the Cotswolds, Scarborough and the Highlands. In Ireland I’ve guided Dublin and Killarney. In Europe there’s The Rhine,  Amsterdam and Maastricht, Brussels, Ghent and Bruges, Austria, Luxembourg – the list goes on. I have covered so many tours that it’s really difficult to pick a favourite… they are all great trips. My favourite at the moment – well it’s perhaps a toss-up between Germany and the Netherlands – although the biggest buzz I get is definitely covering the Andre Rieu concerts in Maastricht.

2. What do you enjoy most about the job?

Without any doubt it’s the people; the people you meet and the fun you have. For me, they go hand in hand; to have fun you need people and if you have people you have the perfect ingredient to have fun.

3. What makes a great tour manager?

There are all the obvious ones; confidence, being a people person, understanding, humour, empathy etc. But as we are all individuals I don’t think there is any one or any one hundred things that make a great tour manager. I know many excellent tour managers but there are no two alike. I do think that they use their individual abilities to the utmost for the benefit of their passengers.

4. What in particular do you bring to the job?

Besides a lot of laughs, I talk to every single passenger on the coach and ask them questions. I like to find out their expectations – what they want to do and see while on tour – I then do my utmost to cover all the points. I always give out area maps as we approach the place we are visiting. The maps will already have points of interest marked on them – especially those that the passengers particularly want to see. I then cover the usual points of interest in my commentary along with additional points that the passengers have mentioned to me. It makes a tour altogether more personal.

5. What piece of kit would you not leave the home without?

My Samsung tablet and tea, coffee, hot chocolate, cups, lids, sugar and milk… everything I need to make hot drinks for the passengers if the coach does not have any on board. Serving drinks is a very easy way to start conversations.

6. Do any funny/touching moments with customers stick out in your memory?

We left Norwich on our way to the Royal Horse Show at Windsor during the Queen’s Jubilee year. We stopped at Birchanger Services and South Mimms for a break and to pick up passengers. Everyone got off the coach at each stop to stretch their legs. When we arrived at Windsor a lady came to me almost in tears – she said that she needed a shoe shop. I thought she had broken a strap or a heel but had to restrain my laughter when I saw what she had done. She had boarded the coach in Norwich and even though she had been off the coach twice, she only realized when she arrived at Windsor that she had forgotten to put her shoes on when she left home. She was wearing yellow fluffy flip flop house slippers and was very upset. Google was on hand and a shoe shop quickly located.

7. Which destination is at the top of your bucket list?

As a holiday destination; Russia.


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Meet the Newmarket team – Stephanie Blackmun

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We recently had a quick chat with Stephanie Blackmun – our cheery Sales and Customer Service Supervisor. Steph loves her job and has worked with Newmarket Holidays for around five years, during which time she’s been lucky to experience several Newmarket tours – from India and Canada to Lapland and Andre Rieu. We wanted to know a little more about Steph’s day-to-day life in the office and find out what she enjoys doing on her holidays.

 

Hi Steph, what’s your position at Newmarket Holidays and how long have you worked here?

My position is Sales and Customer Service Supervisor and I’ve been with the company around five years.

What do you enjoy most about working for Newmarket?

I love the fact that every day is different… a different customer, holiday and experience. Every person you speak to will offer you their feedback and tips on the destinations they have visited so I pick up so many new snippets of information about our tours. Likewise, it’s great to share my experiences to help our customers to make the most out of their holiday.

What’s the best place you’ve ever visited and why?

Oooh this is a tough one… anyone who knows me knows how much I love travelling and I rarely go back to the same place twice.  However, I have to say that India has my heart at the moment. There is so much to do and see; great weather, friendly people, beautiful food, lots of culture and you get so much for your money. The first time I went to India was on our India, Tigers & The Taj Mahal tour which is a great introduction to the country and I highly recommend it. The Taj Mahal was a sight I will never forget and definitely one to tick off the bucket list. I recently came back from Sri Lanka and fell in love all over again; it’s such a diverse place to visit. There was so much natural beauty, as well as gorgeous beaches and interesting temples. Plus I saw turtles and actually came up close to a leopard in Yala National Park!

What’s your favourite thing to do on holiday?

Definitely sightseeing. Don’t get me wrong I love to sit back, relax and sunbathe but you can’t beat exploring a new place or country.

You’ve been on quite a few Newmarket tours. Which ones are now on your bucket list?

As well as the tours above I have been to see the Blackpool Illuminations by coach, taken in Amsterdam and the Bulbfields on our lovely MS Olympia and I have seen many of the London theatre shows. I would absolutely love to do our tour to South Africa, or even Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam as these parts of the world I am yet to explore.

Who is your hero?

My hero would have to be my grandfather who is no longer with us but from a very young age encouraged us to try new things and experience new cultures. We visited Portugal for our annual family holiday and my grandfather encouraged further travels. He thought I should experience the world and spread my wings whilst I could.

What three things would you take on a desert island?

I would take a good book as I love reading and could then use it to light a fire. Also I’d take a mirror to use as a rescue signal and lots of water.

Very practical! And if you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Ooh again a tricky one as I love my food! I would have to say my all time favourite would be seafood –  especially mussels.

Can you tell us an interesting fact about yourself?

I have raised around £10k for various charities over the years. Also, something that most people don’t know is I am teaching myself to knit. If anyone has any tips or easy patterns please get in touch!

Thanks Steph – it was lovely to chat!

If you’d like to speak to Stephanie about any of the Newmarket tours she’s completed then please email social@newmarketholidays.co.uk and we can arrange for her to give you a call.