Legend shops Sweden tour

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SAN DIEGO -- A new holiday shopping tour to Sweden's Crystal Kingdom will mark the first time that Legend Tours will run an off-season package to the country's southern region.

The escorted program, called Four Nights in the Crystal Kingdom, explores the area that is home to renowned glassworks such as Orrefors, founded in 1898, and Sweden's oldest, Kosta Boda, founded in 1742.

"The appeal of getting away from the city to the small towns is what we're trying to tap here," said Janet Nowell, chief operating officer at Legend Tours.

She said a 16% sales increase in Scandinavian tours this summer compared with the same period last year, along with the popularity of the Tivoli Gardens Christmas Market package introduced last year, prompted Legend to expand in the Swedish countryside.

The Crystal Kingdom tour is obviously "a chance to get some shopping done," Nowell said, "but also [to] experience another culture around the holiday period.

"Even though the focus is on the Christmas market, it's tradition vs. commercialism."

During a hyttsill, music and glassworking demonstrations accompany a festive meal. In fact, a series of traditions is presented, including Swedish glass crafting, cuisine, music and even the national holiday ambassador, Lucia -- a young girl who heralds the coming of the spring during the shortest day of winter.

Land-only prices start at $1,098 per person, double, with guaranteed departures from Copenhagen, Denmark, on Nov. 19 and 26.

The commission is 12%, and discount air is available.

The Crystal Kingdom package features accommodations in country inns and small hotels -- its most appealing feature, Nowell said -- as well as four dinners, breakfasts and all transfers.

The holiday shopping tour begins with a motorcoach picking up clients at a central Copenhagen location, and then driving across the Oresund bridge and tunnel link to Sweden and the southeastern province of Smaland.

Clients spend the first evening at a manor house, where a Swedish smorgasbord is served.

On the Nov. 19 departure, the evening is spent at the 14th century, 45-room Toftaholm Manor House in Alvesta.

A former country estate, Toftaholm is situated on the shores of Lake Vidostern.

For the Nov. 26 departure, the first evening's accommodations are at the 90-room Hooks Manor House -- highlighted by Lake Hookasjon, which sits in the middle of its golf course -- located about 12 miles from Jonkoping. The original buildings date from 1778.

The second day of the tour features visits to furniture retailer IKEA and the hand paper mill in Lessebo, where the Swedish Royal Family has their personal stationery made.

The evening is spent in Lessebo at Flustret, a 13-room manor house.

A traditional Swedish meal with herring, pork, sausage, baked potatoes and a curd cake dessert is served at the Kosta Glassworks.

The buffet, referred to in Swedish as a hyttsill, is part of the tradition of the glassworks -- serving not only as a workplace but as a social point for meals and meetings.

Musical entertainment provides a backdrop for the second evening's dinner, and guests keep their drinking glass as a souvenir.

Beauty abounds in a crystal shop at the Kosta Glassworks.Travelers go on to visit the Orrefors and Boda glassworks as well as the Kosta site on the third day of the tour.

Staying with a traditional Swedish theme, clients are greeted with Christmas carols sung by "Lucia" and a choir of other girls and boys upon check-in to the Hotel Amigo in Emmaboda, before dinner is served.

The feast of St. Lucia is celebrated Dec. 13, regarded as the longest night of the year.

Lucia, a role played throughout Sweden by the oldest daughter of the house, traditionally dresses herself in white, dons a crown of lighted candles and awakens her family in the morning by singing song.

The final day of the tour is spent at a Christmas market, offering folk art and traditional handicrafts, food and entertainment.

After the last overnight, clients depart for Copenhagen the next morning.

If fewer than 10 people are confirmed for the tour, transfers across the Oresund Fixed Link will be via rail instead of motorcoach.

Several other departures of the Crystal Kingdom program can be made available for dedicated groups, Nowell said.

For more information on Four Nights in Sweden's Crystal Kingdom, contact Legend Tours at (800) 333-6114, fax (800) 621-1988. To learn more about Sweden's Crystal Kingdom, visit www.glasriket.se.

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