WWI Battlefields

Jul 13th, 2017, 06:55 AM
  #1  
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WWI Battlefields

We will be in Paris in late September. At the conclusion of those days, I am wondering if we could take 2 or 3 days after the 1st of October and see some of the World War 1 battlefields the US was involved in? This is the 100th anniversary of the US joining the Allies so we would like to take advantage of being there this year.
Are there day tours out of Paris to the various battle sites like Argonne Forest, Belleau Woods, Chateau-Thierry, Verdun, Vimy Ridge, Amiens, etc.? To see places like these, would it be better to leave Paris and go on a 2-4 day tour of the sites?
bu67 is offline  
Jul 13th, 2017, 07:55 AM
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We toured ourselves. We trained to Reims for 2 nights to see the town and take a champagne tour. Then we picked up a car and spent 4-5 nights near Verdun. (We had visited the American monuments at Chateau Thierry and Belleau Wood on a previous trip.) We were tracing my great-uncle's war service (he was a pilot), and our focus was the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

Driving was easy in this area, with good signage, etc. If you're familiar with Gettysburg, the sightings of monuments and markers is somewhat similar but spread over a much larger area. Bomb craters are still visible in many places, and though there are now forests you'll see photos in museums and monuments that show what looks like a moonscape at the end of the war. The American Meuse-Argonne Cemetery is absolutely stunning, and the French Douaumont Ossuary left us speechless. There are ruins of French forts from the Napoleonic era that were reinforced for WWI, remains of several trenches and a couple of replica trenches. A few towns were obliterated and never rebuilt, but you can walk paved paths through the town "streets." The area felt almost haunted when we stopped a some of the more isolated monuments.

We didn't drive as far as the Somme battlefields and might do that on a future trip.

Look into Paris-based day tours, but I can't imagine you'd see nearly as much nor have enough time to explore things in depth, esp. the forts and museums.

You might want to read "Back Over There" by Richard Rubin. The author followed the trail of the American Expeditionary Forces and has returned to the battlefields several times.

https://www.amazon.com/Back-Over-The.../dp/B06XYSV8WC
Jean is offline  
Jul 13th, 2017, 10:15 AM
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There aren't as many day tours there as a lot of the closer sites, but there are some. ParisCityvision does one to the Somme area for about 220 euro per person. That sounds like a lot, but it's a long trip and the tour time is 12 hrs. It's a small grup, also. It would be hard to do that on your own efficiently, you'd have to rent a car. The drive alone is a couple hours at least one way.
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Jul 13th, 2017, 10:29 AM
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Just want to put in a good word for visiting Verdun. It's a great place to visit, and of course so many WWIsites to visit there because the battle there lasted for an entire year.

Also want to note the Chemin des Dames, which is a historic ridge road that was a natural barrier that formed a part of the Front. The Caverne du Dragon were natural caves that were used as a makeshift bunker occupied by the French and the Germans, sometimes at the same time. And the ruins at coucy-le-chateau are spectacular.
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Jul 13th, 2017, 10:41 AM
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The Somme tour out of Paris would most likely be very oriented to British involvement and not American.

The author I mentioned above wrote about his visits to the Somme battlefields and towns and being a bit put off by the plethora of tea shops, Union Jacks and countless British tour groups. In contrast, when we were in the Verdun area (October) we only saw one organized tour at one of the forts and were alone at several monuments/sights.

I can highly recommend this hotel and restaurant a few miles south of Verdun. It was used as a hospital during WWI.

http://www.chateaudesmonthairons.fr/com/
Jean is offline  
Jul 13th, 2017, 11:00 AM
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While researching our trip, I had seen photos of the Caverne du Dragon mentioned by shelemm, but we didn't go in that direction. The caves look quite intact and well maintained. In contrast, Fort Douaumont near Verdun has been left to the elements. Four years of shelling turned the 'roof' into swiss cheese, and 100 years of water seepage have taken their toll. Perhaps in another century, the fort will have all but disappeared.

One bit of trivia we were told: It's been estimated that 150 shells were dropped for every square meter of the Verdun area battlefields.
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Jul 13th, 2017, 11:23 AM
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If I were doing this, I'd relocate someplace near Reims or Verdun and do enough research in advance so that I could do my own touring.


Concur with Jean's description of the Somme--we did our own Somme tour a few years ago, with the focus on Albert. The City was somewhat of a British outpost in France, with many Union Jacks on display and British tour groups. However, the masses of poppies on the graves and memorials were very touching. WWI is almost forgotten in the US, but for the British, at least, it is very much alive.
dwdvagamundo is offline  
Jul 13th, 2017, 01:25 PM
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Following this thread. We are planning to go but find rural France easy to navigate in a car. I also have a Great Uncle that we have been researching. My husband has been doing that. He was gassed so suffered till he died.
Macross is offline  
Jul 13th, 2017, 01:33 PM
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We visited Dormans last year. It has a wonderful memorial chapel to the Battle of the Marne.
We only went because my maiden name is Dorman, but I am so glad we did.
I am told there is good champagne to be had nearby but I don't like champagne so didn't investigate it.

We also followed the Chemin des Dames for a while.
hetismij2 is offline  
Jul 13th, 2017, 02:40 PM
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http://www.usaww1.com/American-Exped...leau-Wood.php4

Chateau Thierry has a huge memorial to WW 1 American soldiers -perched high on a hill.

Not far from Reims.
PalenQ is offline  
Jul 13th, 2017, 02:50 PM
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FYI, there are several large monuments to American soldiers throughout the area. Some relate to troops from a particular state (Missouri, Pennsylvania), some to particular army units and some commemorating specific battles. Each town we drive through had its own memorial with the name of every man from that town who was killed. It was assumed there would never be another war like this one, "the war to end all wars."
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Jul 13th, 2017, 02:54 PM
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Rin Tin Tin was also in WW 1

http://americanhistory.si.edu/blog/w...-and-rintintin

He is buried in Paris' Cat and Dog Cemetery - returned there after he died in California after becoming a Hollywood star.
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Jul 13th, 2017, 04:13 PM
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Here's a link to Le Cimetière des Chiens et Autres Animaux Domestiques:
http://www.coolstuffinparis.com/ceme...tery-paris.php

Those who want something offbeat in Paris can hardly do better than a visit to this small, intriguing burial ground. I particularly liked the headstone that entombed the dog's favorite tennis ball as part of the tribute. It cements the idea that pets and their owners become very much alike.
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Jul 13th, 2017, 06:02 PM
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About five years ago, I took the train from Paris to Lille where I picked up a rental car. I drove to Ypres, Belgium where I stayed three nights and did day tours. Then I drove to a country chateau near Reims and spent three nights touring the Somme and Verdun. I was traveling alone but managed quite well. I took with me printouts with directions to each cemetery and memorial that I wanted to visit and each evening prior to my visit, I programmed my car's GPS. A few ears ago, on this site, Ansel Adorne wrote wonderful trip reports for WWI battlefields. I am sure that you can still find them. They were very helpful to me and extremely evocative
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Jul 17th, 2017, 06:10 PM
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All excellent comments and suggestions. Thank you!

For Jean: Chateau des Monthairons appears to be full those first few days of October. I'll look around and see what else is available in the area.
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Jul 18th, 2017, 03:54 AM
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We stayed in Amiens and Lille - travelled there by train. Although we were only interested in Australian sites and hired a guide to drive us you could do the same .
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Jul 20th, 2017, 05:46 PM
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After staring at Google Earth, reading all of your suggestions, I'm thinking of renting a car when we leave Paris and drive to Reims. We could stay there for 3 or 4 nights and take day trips to Belleau Woods, Chateau Thierry, Verdun, etc. How does that sound to you WWI battlefield travelers?
Also, after spending 3 or 4 days in that area, we would either drive back to Paris or find another place to turn in the rental car. Once that is done, we will head back to London, by either Eurostar or train/ferry.
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Jul 20th, 2017, 10:12 PM
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If it was me, I'd rent the car in Paris and stop at Chateau-Thierry, Belleau-Wood and the French memorial at Dormans on the way to Reims where I'd stay the first night. If I wanted to explore Reims, perhaps take a champagne tour, then I'd spend the second night in Reims. Otherwise, I'd move on and stay somewhere in/near Verdun. I admit my interests are primarily the Battle of Verdun and the Meuse-Argonne offensive. I enjoyed Reims a lot but would find it too far west for my particular WWI interests.

There are sights you could see on the way from Reims to Verdun. Suippes (Second Battle of the Marne), Vallee Moreau (restored German rest camp), Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, Montfaucon... The next day see Fort Douaumont and the Ossuary, Verdun Memorial (museum), one of the destroyed villages and, if you have any time left, the sights of Verdun (Monument to Victory, underground citadel)

http://www.meusetourism.com/en/thing...-18-sites.html

Look at the Hotel Les Jardins du Mess on the river in Verdun. Great location. Free parking.

http://www.lesjardinsdumess.fr/?lang=en

FWIW, if you didn't want to drive all the way back to Paris, there is an Avis rental offices in Reims very near the train station.
Jean is offline  
Jul 21st, 2017, 05:33 AM
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bu67--

We rented our car at CDG when we arrived in Paris and drove to Reims, had lunch, then drove on to Metz, stopping at some of the WWI sites along the way. It is a very easy drive.

If we were to leave from Paris, I'd probably train to Reims and rent the car there to avoid fighting Paris traffic.
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