First World War tour advice appreciated.

Nov 27th, 2018, 07:13 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 2,539
First World War tour advice appreciated.

I usually do extensive research before a trip, and have a good idea of how long to spend in each location. While idly checking flights to Paris, a good price came up for next fall, and I want to be ready to jump on it. I like to be much further along in planning before I come here with questions, but I don’t have that luxury now, so I’m hoping to get some basic advice.

We’ll be going to the Canadian First World War sites, that’s the impetus for this trip, so Ypes, Vimy, Passchendaele, Dieppe, Dunkirk, Juno Beach. While in the north, we’ll also go to Mont St. Michel for a night. We may or may not stop in Paris for a few days, and will train somewhere to pick up a car.

Basically loop from perhaps Reims or Amiens to the Belgian and French sites, then Dunkirk, Dieppe, Rouen, Bayeux, Hornfleur, Mt. St. Michel in an order that makes sense.

We prefer to have bases if possible. Any recommendations on where to base and for how long in each location. We’re planning on up to three weeks.

I’d really appreciate some preliminary input. Many thanks.
sugarmaple is offline  
Nov 28th, 2018, 03:13 AM
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 4,760
Confusing post. That is why this has been sitting here with no answers.
Your route does not 100% clear. You have given names but no real route.
Some of the locations mentioned are obviously not WW1 related.
Some locations have very little left in the way of historical WW1or WW2 sites left.
Not picking up your car straight after a flight is an excellent plan.
Please let us have more information. Time of year, route and exact length of stay.
Maybe why you have chosen the following.
Dunkirk, Dieppe, Rouen, Bayeux, Hornfleur, Mt. St. Michel.
They are a little way of the idea of visiting Canadian WW1 battle sites.
ribeirasacra is offline  
Nov 28th, 2018, 04:16 AM
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 102
When you tour the sites around Ypres, Talbot House in nearby Poperinghe might interest you. It's a museum that was an 'Everyman's Club' for UK forces during the war. You can now rent rooms there.

We stayed 2 days last week. The docent who happened to be there is an accomplished author of several WW1 books, and a Canadian. She looked up my Great-Grandads' Canadian Army service record and forwarded it to me. Very nice of her. (He was killed in the war, his body never ID'd, memorialized at Vimy).

It is a great place to immerse your self in that time period, and convenient for exploring the local cemeteries, museums and sites.
bdokeefe is offline  
Nov 28th, 2018, 05:03 AM
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 1,691
My recommendations would be Ypres, for the WW1 sites
and Courseulles-sur-Mer in Normandy.

(I avoid categorical statements but the Canadian cemetery in Courseulles-sur-Mer is a "must visit")

In addition to the sites you mentioned I would recommend Hil l62 and Hill 60.

This site might help you with planning
CWGC | Links
cdnyul is offline  
Nov 28th, 2018, 05:43 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 47,708
I agree this is a confusing post and a bit "all over the map." Speaking of which, you might do what some of us ancient folks do and get your hands on a large paper map of the area and some push-pins - use them to plot your route, and understand the scale of the map to know how long it's going to take you to get from one place to another.

I also don't understand how a particular interest in WWI has led you to pinpoint these places, all of which are fascinating and worthy of a visit, but not what I would choose if WWI was the object of my travels. I admit to not knowing a whole lot about Canadian sites in particular, though. I'm sure there are associations of experts on that topic whose archives you could mine.

Last edited by StCirq; Nov 28th, 2018 at 06:04 AM.
StCirq is offline  
Nov 28th, 2018, 07:40 AM
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 2,585
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission does an admirable job of tending the graveyards for all the Commonwealth countries in both 20th-Century wars. The link given above supplies lots of information with a Canadian slant. As you choose your destinations you can Google for individual memorials and institutions; there are lots of webpages.
You know Vimy. I have stayed in Arras as a base to the region. Arras itself has plenty of history in both wars and easy rail connection to Paris.
Dieppe can be seen in a half day, including lunch. It is such a tragic place. There is a small, privately-run museum dedicated to the raid. The walk along the pebble beach is lined with small monuments to each of the regiments decimated there.
I strongly recommend taking a full-day guided tour of the Normandy beaches, selecting a company that focuses on the Commonwealth troops. I do not recommend the Canadian war museum there; it has a particular attitude to promote and does so in a flash-bang manner. Taking a tour is not so much for transport as for the expertise and background the guide will offer. I prefer Caen, a much bigger town than Bayeux, as a base.

Last edited by Southam; Nov 28th, 2018 at 07:42 AM.
Southam is offline  
Nov 28th, 2018, 09:21 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 2,539
In the cold light of morning, I can see what a confusing post that was. Apologies, and thanks to those who responded so kindly, and to those who provided specific recommendations. Let me try again to make more sense.

We’ll be going in mid-September for up to three weeks. We will be either going into Paris for a couple of days, or training directly from CDG.

As mentioned, WWI is the impetus for this trip. The other locations to the west I included because they seem interesting and beautiful, and are in close enough proximity.

I thought we would train to Reims for the Cathedral and the champagne, maybe stay there two (three?) nights.

Drive from there to Ypes, where we want to be there for the nightly Last Post. We’ll take a tour of the Northern Salient, and possibly one Behind the Lines in Poperinge. It's only about 53K to Dunkirk, so if there's interest we can do that. Two or three nights? I'd rather extra time than not enough.

Go from there to the Vimy Ridge, and stay in Arras. Southam, would you base here for the Normandy beach tour? Three nights?

That’s as much as I have so far. My thinking is to go to the Ypres area first, and then generally work our way west. Does this sound reasonable in terms of a route and time spent in each location? We’re flexible enough with days that we can add or subtract, or even add another location in this mix if those with experience in the area have suggestions.

So this is the first part of the trip, once I get this sorted, I can look at the rest of the route.

Hope this makes a wee bit more sense, and thanks again.
sugarmaple is offline  
Nov 28th, 2018, 10:12 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 78,322
Basically loop from perhaps Reims or Amiens to the Belgian and French sites, then Dunkirk, Dieppe, Rouen, Bayeux, Hornfleur, Mt. St. Michel in an order that makes sense.

We prefer to have bases if possible. Any recommendations on where to base and for how long in each location. We’re planning on up to three weeks.

I'd take train from Paris or CDG Airport to Reims - car-free a whole day there if interested in Champagne tours and famous cathedral where French royals were crowned - WW 2 Room was where Allies plotted final assault on Berlin - seats and name plates and war maps still on wall.

Might hit Compiegne on way to Amiens - see the train siding in forest with cars where Germans surrendered to Allies and where in WW2 France officially gave up in same train car that Hitler then blew up - now a memorial with reconstructed or similar train car:

Amiens should be neat for French sites in that area Ypres for Flemish but don't miss Bruges if in the area very long.
Honfleur en route to Bayeux - the perfect base for D-day Beach sites. Stay at Mont-Saint-MIchel - lots of hotels on mainland opposite island with parking - if staying on Mont have to walk to your hotel from close by parking lots near entrance to the Mont - go to Rennes and take TGV train back to Paris or drive back via Giverny to the airport.

Book trains in advance for discounted fares -' which many find easy-peasy to use vs site - for lots on trains and booking own tickets online check; BETS-European Rail Experts and

If you stay in Reims - nice town - nearby Chateau-Thierry has a large WW1 American military cemetery/monument:
PalenQ is offline  
Nov 28th, 2018, 10:21 AM
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 1,691
As St-CIrq said, a paper map of the areas would help with planning.

I have used this two:

The second one contains a large part of Belgium as, up to Ypres and Dunkerque.

Not Southam, but I would not use Arras as a base for Normandy.
cdnyul is offline  
Nov 28th, 2018, 11:48 AM
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 1,530
In addition to Vimy, I would recommend visiting the Beaumont-Hamel Memorial and battlefield a little south of Arras near Albert. Like Vimy, the site is managed by Canada and commemorates the devastating loss of most of the Newfoundland regiment there. The young Canadian student/guides are excellent.

Do a search on this forum for some wonderful, evocative trip reports by AnselmAdorne.
MaineGG is offline  
Nov 28th, 2018, 12:10 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 2,539
Maine, that memorial is already on the list, thanks.

cdnyul, I’ll head over to Chapters and have a look at the maps. Michelin maps always come with us.

pal, thanks for all the suggestions, I’m thinking Honfleur for three nights.

so how many nights in Arras? Ypes?

I'm beginning to see some order out of my chaotic initial post.
sugarmaple is offline  
Nov 28th, 2018, 03:50 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 78,322
Think that Verdun is not that far east of Reims and I was awed there by the intact trenches and vastness of the most lethal battle of WW1:
PalenQ is offline  
Nov 28th, 2018, 05:41 PM
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 2,783
Originally Posted by PalenQ View Post
Think that Verdun is not that far east of Reims and I was awed there by the intact trenches and vastness of the most lethal battle of WW1:
Us, too. Last August, we went directly from CDG to Reims (cathedral and champagne) and then to Verdun. The trenches, cemeteries, and museums were outstanding. Also Fleury - very moving.
scdreamer is offline  
Nov 28th, 2018, 08:31 PM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 3,499
Originally Posted by MaineGG View Post
Do a search on this forum for some wonderful, evocative trip reports by AnselmAdorne.
Thanks, MaineGG.

I’ve been travelling and haven’t posted on Fodor’s for ages, but I just happened upon this tread today.

I almost hate to bring these up, but they do provide a sense of time and place, and they can also be helpful in logistics, such as what one can cover in one, two, or three days.

sugar maple, here are two links that are directly related to your interest in the Great War:

A Duty Nobly Done — Anselm and Margriet in Flanders and Picardy

Not Gone From Memory Or From Love — The Western Front Revisited

I’d recommend that your read them in the order listed, they are sort of a Part I and a Part II.

There is a third Great War trip report, but it focuses on the French and Germans in Verdun (and to a lesser extent, the Americans and Germans in Meuse-Argonne). If you do go to Reims, you could easily spend a few days in Verdun, but there is no Canadian connection, so it may not pique your interest. But here you are:

“… I fear’d to set my foot upon a dead man’s cheek” - Anselm in northern France

Like others, I am a bit confused. You mentioned that the impetus of your trip is Canada and the Great War, but Dunkirk, Dieppe, and the Normandy beaches are, of course, WWII sites. I haven’t been to any of those, but I am sure you could add them on and cover Canada in two wars.

But as far as the Great War is concerned, I echo MaineGG’s suggestion about pushing south into the Somme and visiting the Beaumont-Hamel memorial. Besides being one of the best-preserved battlefields of the Great War (although the forests around Verdun are equally haunting), it shines a light on the soul of Newfoundland.

In terms of timing, I would think three nights in Ypres and two near Albert (or Arras or Amiens) would allow you to attend the Last Post ceremony at Menin Gate, to visit Vancouver Corner, the museum in Passchendaele, Essex Farm Cemetery (where our John McCrae wrote In Flanders Fields, plus Tyne Cot, and Langemark Cemeteries. You could easily see Vimy on your drive south to the Somme, where you can then see Beaumont-Hamel, plus many other memorials on the Somme. Theipval is particularly moving.

If I can help in any other way, do let me know.
AnselmAdorne is online now  
Nov 28th, 2018, 11:33 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 2,114
it's a good while since we've been in that area, but we visited a lot of those places and found them very moving.

We were just overwhelmed by the Newfoundland Memorial. I think it's already on your list but make it an essential.
margo_oz is offline  
Nov 28th, 2018, 11:58 PM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 21,957
This photo report I made might give you a few ideas: World War I cemeteries of the Pas de Calais | Any Port in a Storm
kerouac is offline  
Nov 29th, 2018, 12:36 AM
Join Date: Jun 2016
Posts: 3,019
We have a tour with Patrick on Friday. We are meeting him in Ypres. I will let you know what we think. We have always done on our own but his tour sounds great so giving it a try. It is the Ypres Salient tour/ 2XploreFlanders Fields Battlefields tour. I found him through a guy on trip advisor. Beaumont Hamel Newfoundland Memorial, I can't recommend enough. If I had to pick one place that one be it. We did the Somme and Verdun last Feb and back now for Flanders Field. Read some of Major & Mrs Holt's guidebooks. There have been many documentaries for 2018 anniversary on Acorn/Britbox. We watched one coming over on Air Canada.
Macross is online now  
Nov 29th, 2018, 02:38 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 17,355
Don't base in Arras to tour the WW2 beaches, just too far.
I'd try google maps for time and distances and add at least 25% to their times, moving around Normandy can be a slow hack.
I wouldn't stay in Caen, yes it is bigger and ... so what. I would stay in Bayeaux which along with the tapestry has a nice historical centre and is worth a wander around in its own right.

While I understand the focus on Canadian history, if you have time I might also drop down to Strasbourg from Reims (pron Rence) and visit a German fort from this period it just gives you an idea of why so many people had to die in the mud in Belgium as going further south was a complete no-no (though actually the line followed the line of the Vosges some 50km west) . If you do this you might also pop into the centre of Strasbourg for another medievel city centre.

Last edited by bilboburgler; Nov 29th, 2018 at 02:42 AM.
bilboburgler is offline  
Nov 29th, 2018, 05:19 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 47,708
I would also stay in Bayeux as opposed to Caen. It has quite a nice selection of hotels and restaurants and, having been spared bombing, retains its lovely historical culture.
StCirq is offline  
Nov 29th, 2018, 08:01 AM
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 2,585
KEROUAC: Your photos of the memorial at Notre Dame de Lorette are a revelation. The concept is so far away from standard, and over-used, 20th-century design. Clearly the Vietnam wall in Washington was influential -- all names, no military hardware. The brilliant effect of that wall, whether intended or not, is that the person reading the names sees his or her own face reflected in the shiny stone. Notre Dame de Lorette also appears to join the sorrowful pinnacle at Vimy in avoiding any sense of triumph or call-to-arms. Now it's a must-see for me.
Southam is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 03:43 PM.