2021 Northwest Europe
Canadian Battlefield Tour
FROM the Normandy Shores OF FRANCE - to BELGIUM AND THE LIBERATION OF Holland
2021 Northwest Europe Canadian Battlefield Tour
From the Normandy Shores of France to Belgium & the Liberation of Holland
Our Signature Tour - Fall Edition
At a glance
October 2-14, 2021 • France - Belgium - Holland • 13 days
Paris • Bayeux • Dieppe • Amiens • Arras • Ieper • Arnhem • Amsterdam
Juno Beach • Pegasus Bridge • Omaha Beach • Beaumont-Hamel • Dieppe • Vimy Ridge • Passchendaele • Arnhem • Holten and Groesbeek Canadian War Cemeteries • Last Post Ceremony at Menin Gate, Ypres • scroll down to see complete details
Saturday October 2
Departure from Canada for our overnight transatlantic flight to Paris, except for those who may choose to leave for Paris sooner to extend their trip.
Travelers on the optional group flight will enjoy the luxury of gathering at a premium departure lounge prior to boarding.
Sunday October 3
Upon arrival at Charles de Gaulle Airport we will proceed to downtown Paris to drop baggage at the hotel. You are then free to explore this amazing city. In the late afternoon we meet for our Welcome Dinner in the heart of Paris, to share a glass of wine and set the stage for our special journey. Overnight Paris - Mercure Centre Tour Eiffel. [D]
Monday October 4
This morning we depart for the Normandy coast where we will consider pre-D-Day, looking at the 'Atlantic Wall' defenses facing the Allies in the coming invasion. We visit Pegasus Bridge and the Memorial Pegasus Museum where you will learn the story of the pre-dawn paratrooper landings in the region by the British 6th Airborne and the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion.
Free time is given to make a must-see visit to the first house liberated on D-Day, the Café Gondrée, a special place filled with history and charm. We then pause to enjoy lunch with wine at a local brasserie (advanced menu selection).
Our final stop is Longues-sur-Mer, a German coastal artillery position of four large naval guns which posed a serious threat to Allied ships off-shore and the landing beaches themselves. We then make our way to the medieval town of Bayeux for the first of three nights' stay, winding down in the hotel where we gather to chat about the day and raise a toast. Overnight Bayeux - Churchill Hotel Bayeux. [B,L]
Tuesday October 5
This morning we honour the 77th Anniversary of D-Day by walking the sands of Juno Beach at Courseulles-sur-Mer, with story telling and much reflection. A visit inside the Juno Beach Centre is included, along with a tour of the German command bunker. We then walk along the shores to hear personal stories of the men who landed here.
For lunch we invite our guests to walk with us across the canal into Courseulles to explore the local restaurants. We then move east, standing on Juno at Bernières-sur-Mer to observe the famous Canada House and the nearby defenses, along with an invitation to visit inside the historic home.
Next we stop at the Juno sector near St-Aubin-sur-Mer, where a 50-mm German anti-tank gun still sits ominously in its casemate.
In the afternoon we visit the hallowed grounds of Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, the burial place of 2,044 Canadians who fell in the early hours of D-Day and the subsequent liberation of Normandy. Overnight Bayeux - Churchill Hotel Bayeux. [B,L]
Wednesday October 6
Day Five takes us to points west where we first explore the British landing zone code named Gold Beach. This area was selected as one of two sites to construct the man-made Mulberry Harbour where ships could off-load the massive supplies for the invasion force. The view from the cliffs above reveals remnants of the harbour just off-shore. We then walk down into Arromanches, a lovely coastal tourist village, to visit the Musée du Débarquement which wonderfully illustrates how the harbours were designed.
Next up is one of two American landing sectors code named Omaha Beach, depicted by the opening twenty minutes of the Steven Spielberg film Saving Private Ryan. Here the Americans suffered heavy losses, as illustrated by some time of reflection at the Colleville-sur-Mer American War Cemetery which serenely overlooks the Normandy shore below. We then walk Omaha Beach at St-Laurent-sur-Mer before taking a break for lunch with wine at a local restaurant just up the coast - situated on the hill with a view looking directly onto Omaha Beach and the National Guard monument.
We then move further west to Pointe-du-Hoc where the United States Army Rangers famously scaled 100' cliffs to secure the position. We close out the day with a short drive in-land to La Cambe German Cemetery and an opportunity to respectfully consider the losses of the other side. More than 21,000 German soldiers lie here, some having not quite reached their eighteenth birthday. Overnight Bayeux - Churchill Hotel Bayeux. [B,L]
Thursday October 7
Today is a scheduled free morning, allowing you time to explore the local village of Bayeux. You may wish to consider taking in the 1,000-year-old Bayeux Tapestry which depicts events leading to William the Conqueror's invasion of England, or perhaps peek inside the enormous cathedral. Bayeux is also a wonderful location for photography, the town having been mostly spared the destructive fighting of the war.
In the afternoon we depart Bayeux, first stopping for a visit at the Abbey d'Ardenne near Caen, an important Canadian pilgrimage, before saying goodbye to Lower Normandy and continuing our journey northeast along the coast to Dieppe for the night. Overnight Dieppe - Windsor Hotel. [B]
Friday October 8
We begin the day with a morning stroll along the main beach to consider Operation Jubilee - the plans, the execution and the after-math of the August 1942 raid that went horribly wrong.
The raid entailed three Canadian attack zones and we next move northeast to the beach at Puys, followed by a visit to Pourville to the southwest. We conclude the visit of the battlefields with a view of Dieppe from the coastal cliffs above, then head back into the center of town to pause for lunch - allowing time to explore the many restaurants lining the inner harbour.
Our final stop is the Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery, tucked away up the hill and beyond the edge of town which beckons Canadians to visit. Listen here to CBC's Robert Bowman and his broadcast from Dieppe the day after the raid. We then depart the coast and resume our journey into northern France as we move back in time to World War One. Overnight Amiens - Mercure Cathedrale. [B]
Saturday October 9
Day eight is steeped in history as we wind our way into the French countryside to consider the Battle of the Somme, one of the largest, bloodiest and most destructive battles of World War One. You will be intrigued with a guided tour at Beaumont-Hamel - it is here that the Newfoundland Regiment was nearly wiped out in the first few hours of the attack. This proudly Canadian battleground is one of the best preserved sites in all of the western front.
Our lunch stop is in the midst of the Somme battlefield region, at a local high restaurant hidden from view offering an outstanding menu, with wine. Next is a visit to see the impressive Thiepval Memorial, the largest Commonwealth War Graves monument in the world and on which are inscribed the names of over 72,000 soldiers who fell during the Battle of the Somme and have no known grave (including one very special name).
The day includes a visit to the Lochnagar Crater and additional points of interest in the region. Overnight Arras - Mercure Centre Gare. [B,L]
Sunday October 10
Each Canadian ought to visit Vimy Ridge once in their lifetime and today is your day. We will take a guided tour of the underground tunnels which reveal how soldiers lived and prepared for battle beneath the earth. We also walk the above-ground trenches for a first-hand feel of trench warfare. Ample time is then given to be at, on and around the Vimy Monument, arguably the most impressive of all the war monuments in Europe.
A short distance down the ridge takes us into Souchez for quick stops at points of interest, along with a delicious lunch with wine at a well-known establishment filled with charm. The tour then pays tribute to the Battle of Hill 70, often called "The Forgotten Victory," where a new monument was finally erected in 2017.
We then say au revoir to France and drive north across the border into Belgium, to the enchanting small town of Ieper (Ypres). At 8pm the Last Post Ceremony will take place at the Menin Gate, as it has every evening since 1928. Overnight Ieper - Albion Hotel. [B,L]
Monday October 11
Ieper (Ypres) was the center of fierce, prolonged, bloody fighting in World War I and the remnants of this are all around. We pass Hellfire Corner on our way to the monument at Hill 62 (Sanctuary Wood).
Our morning includes The Brooding Soldier at St. Julien, a favourite monument for many. We will visit Essex Farm ... it is here, in the province of West Flanders, that Canadian LtCol John McCrae penned his famous poem In Flanders Fields. We also visit the monument to the Battle of Passchendaele at Crest Farm, and nearby Tyne Cot Cemetery, the largest Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in the world.
We return to Ieper for free time in the afternoon. The Last Post Ceremony takes place again at 8pm and selected travelers will be invited to lay a wreath on behalf of the tour group. Overnight Ieper - Albion Hotel. [B,L]
Tuesday October 12
This morning we say goodbye to Belgium as our journey takes us across the border, into the Netherlands, heading northeast just as the Canadian Army did in 1944. We pause during our journey for lunch with wine at a local Dutch restaurant situated steps from the German border.
Our first stop is a visit to Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery, one of the largest Commonwealth War Graves Cemeteries in Holland and the resting place of a recipient of the Victoria Cross. Here are buried many of the young men who fell in the Rhineland battles as the Allies moved across the border into Germany in the spring of 1945.
We wind down the afternoon with a visit to the famous John Frost Bridge - "A Bridge Too Far," to learn about the failed Operation Market-Garden of September 1944. Overnight Arnhem - Best Western Haarhuis. [B,L]
Wednesday October 13
This morning we make our final tour stop, at Holten Canadian War Cemetery in the forest just outside of town. The young men who fell in the final months of WWII are laid to rest here. In addition to the great work of the CWGC, local school children help tend the graves.
We then pause for a farewell lunch in the forest nearby, to enjoy a typical Dutch lunch and to raise a glass in honour of all those who have served our nation. We round out the day in Amsterdam with a canal boat cruise. Overnight Amsterdam - Hampshire Hotel - The Manor. [B,L]