Day 1 - Friday, November 02:
Evening departure from Toronto to Brussels via Montreal with Air Canada. Dinner and a light breakfast will be served on board.
Day 2 - Saturday, November 03:
Morning arrival in Brussels. Panoramic tour of the Belgian capital, focusing on the Cinquantenaire Complex, a Belgian version of the Arc de Triomphe and the Tuileries Gardens in Paris, where we visit one of Europe’s finest war museums
, including countless weapons and other mementoes of armed conflicts from the Middle Ages to both World Wars. After our lunch break, we check into the first-class NH hotel
, centrally located on charming Sablon Square. Free time to settle in, and dinner in the fine restaurant of our hotel.
Day 3 - Sunday, November 04:
After breakfast, leisurely walking tour of the historical city centre, with sights such as the magnificent Grand’ Place, the popular statue of Manneken Pis, the Galerie de la Reine, a 19th-century shopping mall with luxury boutiques, chocolate shops, and fine cafés and restaurants, and the antique market on Sablon Square. The afternoon is at leisure, but you will receive a ticket for a visit to the world-class Royal Museums of Fine Arts
, conveniently located next-door to our hotel, to admire masterpieces by artists such as Bruegel, Rubens, and Magritte. No group dinner.
Day 4 - Monday, November 05:
Departure from Brussels after breakfast. Heading south, we soon reach the world-famous Battlefield of Waterloo, where we view the Lion Monument and the historic inns that served as headquarters to Wellington and Napoleon during that world-famous battle, fought in June 1815. On to Mons, the Belgian town that witnessed the first battle fought by the British in the Great War and was captured by Canadian troops during the very last hours of the war, on November 11, 1918. Lunch break followed by a visit to the unique St. Symphorien Cemetery, with the graves of soldiers of the three nations – Canada, Britain, and Germany - that were involved in these battles, including the tomb of the Great War’s first British and last Canadian soldier to die, the latter only minutes before the cease-fire went into effect. We then cross into France and briefly explore the Chemin des Dames, a ridge where a disastrous 1917 French offensive triggered mutinies within the French Army. Late-afternoon arrival in the elegant historical city of Reims, and visit to the modest schoolhouse that served as HQ to General Eisenhower and witnessed the German surrender on May 7, 1945. Dinner and overnight in the centrally-located first-class Hotel de la Paix
Day 5 - Tuesday, November 06:
Excursion to Verdun, the quintessential “killing field” of World War I as far as the French are concerned. Our sightseeing program includes the Fort of Douaumont, the massive Douaumont Ossuary, 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. Return to Reims in the afternoon, No group dinner this evening.
Day 6 - Wednesday, November 07:
Departing from Reims after breakfast, we soon reach Vimy, for a comprehensive stunning walking tour of the Canadian Memorial, the newly opened Interpretation Centre and Battlefield Park with its trenches, tunnels and shell craters, commemorating the famous battle fought in April 1917. After a group lunch in the attractive town of Arras, we visit the massive French Memorial and Cemetery of Notre Dame de Lorette as well as the Franco-British and German cemeteries in La Targette. Accommodation in the first-class Parkhotel
in the town of Kortrijk (Courtrai), located just across the Belgian border. No group dinner.
Day 7 - Thursday, November 08:
Today we tour Flanders’ Fields, the World War I battlefields zone in Belgium, stretching from the French border to the North Sea. We begin at Tyne Cot, the world's largest Commonwealth War Cemetery, followed by the Canadian Memorial at Passchendaele, site of the Canadian troops epic 1917 battle. Then on to the Brooding Soldier Monument, stark testament to the first gas attack in 1915. On to the German War Cemetery of Vladslo, with its poignant Käthe Kollwitz sculpture "The Mourning Parents" before arrival at the little seaport of Nieuwpoort, at the mouth of the Yser River. In 1914-1918, the frontline ended here with barbed wire stretched across the beach into the salty North Sea waters. Returning inland we visit Essex Farm Cemetery, where, between surgeries, John McRae composed his famous poem. On to Ieper (Ypres) with its Menin Gate, the foremost British WW I Memorial in Belgium. After dinner we attend the Last Post Ceremony
at the Menin Gate - a daily tradition since the early 1920s! Late return to our hotel in Kortrijk.
Day 8 - Friday, November 09:
A stop at the Caribou Memorial, commemorating the Newfoundland Regiment’s role in the fighting here in Kortijk at the end of WWI. Then we motor to the area where the Canadian Army fought the “Battle of the Scheldt” in the fall of 1944. Visit to the sites of the battles of Moerbrugge and Moerkerke and intimate Remembrance Service at the Canadian War Cemetery in Adegem. After lunch a tour of the local Canadian War Museum and socialize with members of the Belgian-Canadian Association. We briefly enter Holland at the border crossing that witnessed Queen Wilhelmina’s return to her homeland after the war - and years of exile in Canada! 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 do, via the bridge now known as the Manitoba Dragoons Bridge. We check into the centrally located Hotel t'Zand
. No group dinner.
Day 9 - Saturday, November 10:
Guided morning walking tour of Bruges. Highlights; the Belfry, symbol of the city, the Church of Our Lady, the Gothic Town Hall, Medieval St. John’s Hospital, the scenic canals that crisscross the town, the Lake of Love, and the romantic Beguinage. Remainder of the day at leisure to shop or explore Bruges individually. But this evening, a group dinner in our hotel.
Day 10 - Sunday, November 11:
This morning we return to the town of Ieper (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, a visit to the excellent inter-active War Museum
, located in the upper floor of the famous Cloth Hall, a wonderful medieval building that was destroyed during WWI but carefully rebuilt afterwards. Time also to visit the Chapel of St. George with its remembrance memorials and plaques. Return to Bruges in late afternoon and evening at leisure. No group dinner.
Day 11 - Monday, November 12:
Morning departure from Bruges. We cross back into 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. Our tour will include the Newfoundland Caribou Monument (and adjoining information centre) at Beaumont-Hamel, the Ulster Memorial Tower, the massive British Memorial of Thiepval, and the Canadian Monument of Courcelette. Entering the province of Normandy, we head for the port of Dieppe, scene of Operation Jubilee, a 1942 Allied raid against the German Atlantic Wall which cost a lot of Canadian lives. Visit to the landing beach, the Canadian Memorial, and the Canadian War Cemetery. On for dinner and overnight to another Normandy seaport, picturesque and historic 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 first-class Hotel Mercure
. Group dinner in a typical restaurant.
Day 12 - Tuesday, November 13:
Two days of sightseeing in the area of the Normandy Beaches where Allied forces landed on D-Day, 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. Other sights included will be Ardenne Abbey, with its memorial to Canadian POWs executed there by SS troops; Bretteville Canadian War Cemetery, in the area where the battle of the Falaise Gap was fought; remains of the artificial Mulberry Harbour in Arromanches; the famous Pegasus Bridge; the huge American Memorial at Omaha Beach; and the town of Bayeux, where we will view the famous Tapestry, depicting William the Conqueror’s 1066 conquest of England. No group dinners scheduled for days 13 and 14.
Day 13 - Wednesday, November 14:
Day 14 - Thursday, November 15:
Departure from Honfleur after breakfast. We motor to Rethondes, a hamlet in the Forest of Compiègne where the Armistice
was signed on November 11, 1918 in the railway carriage that served as HQ of Allied Commander in Chief, Marshal Foch; it is also here that the French capitulated on June 22, 1940. Afterwards we enjoy a gourmet Au Revoir lunch in a traditional country restaurant. Then we cross back into Belgium for our overnight in the Holiday Inn hotel near Brussels Airport.
Day 15 - Friday, November 16:
After breakfast, short transfer (by hotel shuttle service) to Brussels Airport in time for the departure of our return flight to Toronto via Montreal with Air Canada. Lunch and a light snack will be served before the late afternoon arrival in Toronto.