A thorough exploration of the battlefields of France and Belgium, focusing on the Canadian contributions in Flanders’ Fields, at Vimy, the Somme, Mons, and of course Normandy, but also including Verdun and other “killing fields” of the Great War. An unforgettable Remembrance Day commemoration in Flanders' Fields will be an absolute highlight! Excellent hotels and meals, and history lectures by your tour escort, Michael Quinn.
November 03 - 16, 2016
based on double occupancy. Single room supplement: $695.00 CAD (Pay entire tour by cheque and save $125.00)
*If the tour is SOLD OUT, please contact us to be added to the waitlist.
Evening departure from Toronto to Paris with Air Canada. Dinner and a light breakfast will be served on board.
Early morning arrival in Paris, and transfer by private coach to the village of Rethondes, near Compiègne, for a visit to the “Glade of the Armistice,” featuring the (reconstructed) railway car that served as Marshal Foch’s HQ, in which the Germans surrendered on November 11, 1918 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glade_of_the_Armistice). On via Soissons to the historic city of Reims, where we check into the centrally located superior 3-star Hotel Continental, (http://www.grandhotelcontinental.com/fr/index.php#index.php). Free time to settle in before a late afternoon short walking tour of this attractive city, including the magnificent Gothic Cathedral, carefully restored after its destruction during the First World War. Dinner in the hotel’s fine restaurant.
Full-day excursion to Verdun, the quintessential French “killing field” of World War I. Our sightseeing program includes the infamous fort and the massive ossuary of Douaumont, the “Trench of the Bayonets”, the old town of Verdun itself, and the Voie Sacrée (“Sacred Way”), the only road through which supplies could reach the besieged city during the terrible battle that was fought there in 1916 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Verdun). Return to Reims in the late afternoon and evening at leisure.
After breakfast we visit the "war room", where General Eisenhower accepted the German surrender at the end of the Second World War, on May 7, 1945. Then we leave Reims to explore the Chemin des Dames, a ridge dotted with memorials, cemeteries and artifacts associated with the 1917 murderous spring French offensive that triggered mutinies within the French Army. On to Vimy for a comprehensive tour of the stunning Canadian Memorial and Battlefield Park including a guided tour of the underground tunnel complex and trenches. In the afternoon, a visit to the massive French Ossuary and Cemetery of Notre Dame de Lorette as well as the Franco-British and German cemeteries in La Targette. Late afternoon arrival in the charming town of Arras, capital of the Artois region, where we check into the comfortable Holiday Inn Express. Evening stroll to admire the elegant facades of the Grand' Place before dinner in a typical brasserie.
This morning we follow the Canadian army's line of advance at the end of the Great War via Cambrai to Mons, the town just across the Belgian border where the British fought their first battle in 1914 and which was taken by Canadian troops during the very last hours of the war, on the morning of November 11, 1918. 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. After lunch, we continue to the Battlefield of Waterloo to view the famous Lion Monument and the historic inns that served as headquarters to Wellington and Napoleon. Dinner and overnight in the Best Western Hotel County House in Brussels (http://book.bestwestern.com/bestwestern/BE/Brussels-hotels/BEST-WESTERNCounty-House-of-Brussels/Hotel-Overview.do?propertyCode=92611).
Following breakfast, panoramic city tour of the Belgian capital, including the Royal Palace, the Palace of Justice, and of course the magnificent Grand’ Place. Also visit to the War Museum with its fabulous collection of weapons, uniforms, and airplanes of both World Wars. The remainder of the day is free to enjoy Brussels on your own. Your host will suggest attractive options such as a visit to the superb Museum of Ancient and Modern Art, shopping in the Galeries St. Hubert, tasting waffles or chocolates...and all sorts of fine dining opportunities!
Departure from Brussels after breakfast to Flanders Fields, the Belgian sector of World War I battlefields, stretching from the French border to the North Sea. Visits to 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; 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, time permitting, 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. Late-afternoon arrival in Bruges, arguably the best preserved medieval town in all of Europe. In 1944, Bruges was liberated by a Canadian Army unit from Manitoba, entering the town, as we will, via the bridge now known as the Canada Bridge. We check into the centrally located Hotel Zand (www.hotel-zand-brugge.be) and a group dinner this evening in the cozy hotel dining room.
This morning we motor to the town of Ieper (French: Ypres), hub of “Flanders Fields,” to attend the moving Remembrance Day Ceremony at the Menin Gate, the principal British War Memorial in the area. After a group lunch in a typical restaurant, visit to the excellent Flanders Fields War Museum, located in the famous Cloth Hall, a wonderful medieval building destroyed during WW I but carefully rebuilt in the following decades. (www.inflandersfields.be). Our last stop of the day before returning to Bruges will be to the St. George Memorial Chapel with its remembrance memorials and plaques to the fallen.
Today we explore the area along the nearby Belgian-Dutch border where the Canadian Army fought the famous “Battle of the Scheldt” in the fall of 1944. After short visits to memorials at Moerbrugge and Moerkerke we visit the Canadian War Cemetery in the village of Adegem, located on the banks of the Leopold Canal, and conduct a memorial service together with members of the local Belgian-Canadian Association who will also join us for lunch in the nearby Canadian War Museum. Afternoon return to Bruges and remainder of day at leisure with opportunity to visit the marvelous museums of the Memling or Groening.
Departing from Bruges, we return to France and motor to the Somme Battlefield, scene of General Haig’s “Big Push”, i.e. the great British offensive launched on July 1, 1916. Sites will include the Newfoundland Caribou Monument (and adjoining Interpretation Centre) at Beaumont-Hamel, the Ulster Memorial Tower, the massive British Memorial of Thiepval, and the Canadian Monument of Courcelette (www.ww1battlefields.co.uk/somme.html). In mid-afternoon we arrive at the Normandy port of Dieppe, where, in August 1942, Canadian troops suffered many losses on its beach during Operation Jubilee, an Allied test raid against the defenses of the German Atlantic Wall. After visits to the Canadian Memorial on the infamous beach and the Canadian War Cemetery we continue to the picturesque and historic seaport of Honfleur, whence Samuel de Champlain sailed for Canada in 1608 to found the city of Quebec and the colony of New France. Accommodation in the Ibis Styles Hotel (www.ibis.com/gb/hotel-8124-ibis-styles-honfleur-centre-historique/index.shtml), and dinner at leisure.
Full-day tour of the Normandy Beaches that witnessed the landing of Allied troops on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Focus will be on the Canadian sector, Juno Beach, with the towns of Bernières and Courseulles, the Juno Beach Centre, Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, and Ardenne Abbey, where several Canadian POWs were executed by SS troops. 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.
Departure from Honfleur after breakfast. We motor to Rouen, Normandy's capital, for a leisurely stroll through its old town, including the market square where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431. After a gourmet Au Revoir lunch in a traditional restaurant, we continue to Hotel Campanile in Roissy, near Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (www.campanile.com/en/hotels/campanile-roissy). The evening is free to pack your suitcase, but it may also be possible to take a sidetrip (by suburban train) to Paris!
After breakfast, transfer (by hotel shuttle service) to Charles de Gaulle Airport in time for the departure of our return flight to Toronto with Air Canada. Lunch and a light snack will be served before the afternoon arrival.
- Economy class return flight with Air Canada from Toronto to Paris. - Accommodation in superior tourist-class (3-star) hotels, based on double occupancy; the single room supplement is $ 695.00 CAD. - Meals: buffet breakfast daily and a total of seven 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 (Meals included in addition to daily breakfast: L- lunch; D- dinner)
- ***The standard combination of airport taxes/security fees/fuel surcharges, presently (March 2016) $594.00 CAD, but subject to change. - Meals other than those mentioned above. - Beverages with dinners. - Coach driver’s gratuity, estimated at $35.00 CAD. - All expenses of a personal nature. - Travel insurance, available upon request.