Vimy Centennial 1917-2017

A fascinating exploration of the battlefields of France and Belgium, focusing on the Canadian contribution in Flanders’ Fields, the Somme, Mons, Normandy, and of course Vimy Ridge, where the commemorations on April 9 will constitute one of the tour’s highlights! Comfortable superior tourist-class/3-star hotels, meals, and history lectures by your tour escort, Michael Quinn, and also by Jacques Pauwels, author of a number of books on both World Wars.

BOOKING INFORMATION

April 04 - 15, 2017

$2,975 CAD

based on "land only" and double occupancy Single supplement: $565 A non-stop return flight from Toronto to Brussels is available at $798, including all airport taxes, security fees, and fuel surcharges

VIEW TERMS & CONDITIONS DOWNLOAD PDF OF ITINERARY

*If the tour is SOLD OUT, please contact us to be added to the waitlist.


ITINERARY

Day 1 - Tuesday, April 04:

Around 6PM, departure from Toronto to Brussels on the non-stop flight of SN Brussels Airlines. Dinner and a light breakfast will be served on board.

Day 2 - Wednesday, April 05:

Arrival at Brussels Airport around 7:30AM. You will be taken on a panoramic tour of the capital of Belgium and of the European Union, including all the important sights: the Atomium, emblem of the city since the World Exposition held here in 1958; the Cinquantenaire Complex with its “Arc de Triomphe”; the Royal Palace; St. Michael’s Cathedral, the imposing Palace of Justice; and of course the magnificent Grand Place, one of the most beautiful square in the world! Afterwards we check into the first-class Holiday Inn Brussels Airport. The rest of the day is at leisure.

Tour members arriving too late to participate in the city tour, e.g. on account of individual flight arrangements, should transfer via the hotel’s free shuttle service to the Holiday Inn; they may be able to visit Brussels in the afternoon, taking advantage of the convenient rail connection between the airport and downtown Brussels; please contact Pauwels Travel if you are interested.

Day 3 - Thursday, April 06:

Departure after breakfast. We motor via the Battlefield of Waterloo to Mons, the Belgian town close to the French border where, at least from the British perspective, the Great War’s fighting started and ended. Visit to St. Symphorien Cemetery, with the graves of soldiers of the three nations – Canada, Britain, and Germany - that were involved in the two battles of Mons, including the grave of the Great War’s first British and last Canadian soldier to die, the latter only minutes before the cease-fire went into effect. Continue to Kortijk (French: Courtrai), strategically located near the Belgian-French border, on the cusp of the battlefields of World War I in both countries. Check into the centrally located 3-star Centerhotel, and free time to settle in (http://www.centerhotel.be). Dinner in a nearby restaurant.

Day 4 - Friday, April 07:

Today we first visit the Caribou Memorial in Kortijk, commemorating the Newfoundland Regiment’s role in the fighting here at the end of WW I. Then we cross into France and motor a short distance to Vimy for a comprehensive tour of the stunning Canadian Memorial and Battlefield Park with its trenches, tunnels and shell craters, including a guided tour of the underground tunnel complex and trenches. Afterwards we visit the massive French War Cemetery and amazing new “Ring of Memory” memorial at Notre Dame de Lorette as well as the Franco-British and German cemeteries at La Targette. Return to our hotel in Kortrijk in late afternoon.

Day 5 - Saturday, April 08:

Today we tour Flanders’ Fields, the World War I battlefields zone in Belgium, stretching from the French border to the North Sea. Visits to the town of Ieper (Ypres), with the Menin Gate Memorial and the Flanders’ Fields Museum, located inside the town’s emblematic Cloth Hall; the Canadian Memorial in Passchendaele, in whose muddy fields Canadian troops fought an epic battle in 1917; Tyne Cot Cemetery, the largest Commonwealth War Cemetery in the world; the Brooding Soldier Monument, commemorating the men who fell during the first gas attack in 1915; Essex Farm Cemetery, where John McRae composed his famous poem; the German War Cemetery of Vladslo, site of the poignant Käthe Kollwitz sculpture "The Mourning Parents"; and the little seaport of Nieuwpoort, at the mouth of the Yser River, where in 1914-1918 the frontline ended with barbed wire stretched across the beach and into the salty water of the North Sea. Dinner in a restaurant in the old town of Ieper, and afterwards we attend the daily Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate, a tradition since the early 1920s! (www.greatwar.co.uk/events/menin-gate-lastpost-ceremony.htm). Late return to our hotel in Kortrijk.

Day 6 - Sunday, April 09:

Today, on the 100th anniversary of the great battle, we attend the official commemorations at Vimy Ridge (www.vimyfoundation.ca/vimy-100).

Day 7 - Monday, April 10:

Departure from Kortrijk after breakfast. We tour the region of France that witnessed the 1916 Battle of the Somme, with sights such as the Newfoundland Caribou Monument (and adjoining information centre) at Beaumont-Hamel; the Ulster Tower; the massive British Memorial of Thiepval; and the Canadian Monuments of Courcelette and Le Quesnel (www.ww1battlefields.co.uk/somme.html). On for dinner and overnight to the picturesque and historic seaport of Honfleur, in Normandy, whence Samuel de Champlain sailed for Canada in 1608 to found the city of Quebec and the colony of New France. Overnight in the 3-star Hotel Ibis Styles (http://www.mercure.com/gb/hotel-0986-mercure-honfleur-hotel/index.shtml) and dinner in a nearby restaurant.

Day 8 - Tuesday, April 11:

Today we tour the Normandy Beaches that witnessed the landing of Allied troops on DDay, June 6, 1944. We focus on the Canadian sector, Juno Beach, where we visit the towns of Bernières and Courseulles, the Juno Beach Centre, and Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, and Ardenne Abbey, where SS troops executed a number of Canadian POWs. Stops will also be included at the remains of the artificial Mulberry Harbour in Arromanches, the famous Pegasus Bridge, and the town of Caen. Return to Honfleur in late afternoon and free evening. No group dinner. 

Day 9 - Wednesday, April 12:

Departure from Honfleur after breakfast. We cross the Seine Estuary near Le Havre via the amazing Normandie Bridge (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pont_de_Normandie) and motor to the seaport of Dieppe, scene of Operation Jubilee, a controversial Allied raid against the German Atlantic Wall in 1942, where many Canadian lives were lost. Visit to the landing beach, the Canadian Memorial, and the Canadian War Cemetery. On to Boulogne and the nearby village of Wimereux to pause at the tomb of John McCrae (www.webmatters.net/cwgc/wimereux_com.htm). A little further, in Audinghen, a village on Cape Gris Nez, we stop to see the big German guns used to shell Dover, visible (on a clear day) on the other side of the narrowest stretch of the English Channel! Then we continue via the coastal highway to Calais and Dunkirk, the Belgian border, and Bruges, arguably the best preserved medieval town in all of Europe. We enter the city via Canada Bridge, so named because it was also used by the Canadian troops (Manitoba Dragoons) when they liberated this city in early September 1944. Dinner and overnight in the centrally located 3-star Hotel Zand (http://www.portinari.be/EN/HM).

Day 10 - Thursday, April 13:

In the morning, leisurely walking tour of old Bruges, with as highlights the main square with the majestic Belfry, symbol of the city, the Church of Our Lady (with a statue by Michelangelo!), the Gothic Town Hall, medieval St. John’s Hospital, the scenic canals that crisscross the town, the Lake of Love, and the romantic Beguinage. The rest of the day is at leisure.

Day 11 - Friday, April 14:

Morning exploration of the nearby area – on both sides of the Belgian-Dutch border - where in the fall of 1944 the Canadian Army fought the “Battle of the Scheldt,” with sights such as the Leopold Canal, the Monument to Queen Wilhelmina’s return to Holland, the Canadian War Cemetery in Adegem (with a short ceremony), and the nearby Canadian War Museum, where we will enjoy a group lunch and socialize with members of the Belgian-Canadian Association. Return to Bruges and rest of the day at leisure.

Day 12 - Saturday, April 15:

After an early breakfast, transfer to Brussels Airport in time for the late morning departure of our nonstop return flight to Toronto. Lunch and a light snack will be served before the mid-afternoon arrival in Toronto.

ITINERARY PDF

EXPLORE THE AREA

INCLUDED

- Accommodation in superior tourist-class/3-star hotels, based on double occupancy – single supplement: $565. - Meals: buffet breakfast daily and a total of five full-course dinners or sometimes full lunches. - Overland transportation via private coach. - Sightseeing, visits, and excursions as indicated in the itinerary, including admission. - Hotel taxes and gratuities. - Services of an expert Pauwels tour guide.

NOT INCLUDED

- All expenses of a personal nature. - Meals other than those mentioned above. - Beverages with dinners. - Coach driver’s gratuity, estimated at $35. - Travel insurance: available upon request.

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