2024 Northwest Europe
Canadian Battlefield Tour
From the Normandy Shores OF France
to the Liberation of Holland
to the Liberation of Holland
2024 Northwest Europe Canadian Battlefield Tour
From the Normandy Shores of France to Belgium & the Liberation of Holland
the Spring Edition of our Signature Tour
At a glance
April 21 to May 6, 2024 • France, Belgium, Holland • 16 days
Paris • Bayeux • Dieppe • Amiens • Arras • Ieper • Vlissingen • Nijmegen • Amsterdam
Juno Beach • Omaha Beach • Beaumont Hamel • Dieppe • Vimy Ridge • Flanders & Passchendaele • The Scheldt • Arnhem • May 4th Commemoration at Holten Canadian War Cemetery • Last Post Ceremony at Menin Gate, Ypres • scroll down to see complete details
Saturday April 20
For many of our Canadian travelers it is departure day, for the overnight transatlantic flight to France. Some travelers may choose to leave for Europe sooner to extend the start of the trip - let us know if we can quote you on pre-tour accommodations.
Guests who have other travels already in progress, or guests from other points of origin including the United Kingdom, the United States and elsewhere, will meet the start of the tour on Day 1 in Paris.
Sunday April 21
In the mid-afternoon all clients can check into the group hotel. In the meantime, luggage is stored in the hotel baggage lock-up. Today you are free to explore Paris, the City of Light. In the evening we gather in the heart of Paris for our Welcome Dinner, to share a glass of wine and set the stage for our special journey. Overnight Paris - hotel tbc. [D]
Monday April 22
Enjoy a full free day at your leisure in Paris. Sightseeing highlights include The Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay, the Arc de Triomphe, Jardins de Luxembourg, Père Lachaise Cemetery, the Eiffel Tower, shopping along the Champs-Élysées, and so much more! Overnight Paris - hotel tbc. [B]
Tuesday April 23
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 our hotel 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 - hotel tbc. [B,L]
Wednesday April 24
This morning we mark the upcoming 80th 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 featured, along with a tour of the underground German command bunker just out front.
We then walk along the shore to hear personal stories of the men who landed here.
After a pause for lunch in Courseulles we move east, to the Juno sector at St-Aubin-sur-Mer where a 50-mm German anti-tank gun still sits ominously in its casemate. From here we venture along the shore a short distance to Bernières-sur-Mer to observe the famous Canada House and the nearby defenses.
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 - hotel tbc. [B,L]
Thursday April 25
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 needed 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 the famous American landing sector 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 take 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 amazing 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 even reached their eighteenth birthday. Overnight Bayeux - hotel tbc. [B,L]
Friday April 26
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, stopping for a visit at Ardennes Abbey 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 - hotel tbc. [B]
Saturday April 27
We begin the day with a morning stroll along the main beach of Dieppe 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, arguably Canada's darkest hour of WW2, followed by a visit to Pourville to the southwest and Merritt's Bridge. 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 which line 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 inland and back in time to World War 1. Overnight Amiens - hotel tbc. [B]
Sunday April 28
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 - hotel tbc. [B,L]
Monday April 29
Each Canadian ought to visit Vimy Ridge once in their lifetime and today is your day. Our first stop of the day Hill 70, often called "The Forgotten Victory," where a new monument was finally erected in 2017. A short distance south 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.
In the afternoon we visit Vimy. 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.
We then say au revoir to France and drive north across the border into Belgium, to the enchanting small town of Ieper (Ypres) in the province of West Flanders. At 8pm the Last Post Ceremony will take place at the Menin Gate, as it has every evening since 1928. Overnight Ieper - hotel tbc. [B,L]
Tuesday April 30
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, which commemorates the Canadians who suffered the first gas attacks of the Great War in 1915. We will visit Essex Farm ... it is here, in the province of West Flanders, that Canadian LCol 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 - hotel tbc. [B]
Wednesday May 1
Our Wednesday morning will see us visit a number of interesting sites in the very southwest corner of the Netherlands. We will look at the crossing of the Leopold Canal and the fight for the Breskens Pocket. This is the beginning of the Battle of the Scheldt, a costly battle for Canada and a crucial success story for the allied war effort.
We pause for lunch at the Canada-Poland Museum in Adegem, Belgium, to see their amazing one-of-a-kind collection followed by a group lunch in their wonderful, historic hall.
We will visit monuments at Eede, as well as Hickman's Bridge and the Hoofdplaat monument. Each visit tells a part of the story of the Canadians and the fierce fighting that took place in this region, as the liberation of Holland began. Of particular interest will be a walk to an original Bailey Bridge, still in place exactly where it was constructed by the Engineers in 1944. Overnight Vlissingen - hotel tbc. [B,L]
Thursday May 2
We continue our journey through the Scheldt region today, with a visit to the Walcheren monument to hear about the battle for the causeway, a seemingly impossible objective.
We also make a visit to Woensdrecht where we are joined by one of Holland's top WWII historians. He grew up here, and was just a young boy when the fighting raged in the streets. He will share the vivid stories of Canadian sacrifice in the fight to free the Dutch people in his little village. We then visit Bergen-op-Zoom Canadian War Cemetery to pay our respects.
After lunch we stop for a visit at the rarely visited monument at Kapelsche Veer, following in the direction taken by the Canadians as they gradually moved northeastward toward the German border in the fall of '44. Overnight Nijmegen - hotel tbc. [B,L]
Wednesday May 3
This morning we venture a short distance north to Arnhem and the John Frost Bridge - "a bridge too far" - to discuss the now infamous Operation Market Garden of September 1944 and the small but pivotal role played by the Canadians. Further north, we stop in at the tiny village of Rha to recall its liberation in April 1945 and the high price paid to free its citizens. It is then time for lunch at leisure in the picturesque town of Zutphen.
The group then takes a tour of the superb Freedom Museum in Groesbeek, followed by a visit around the corner to Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery, the largest Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery 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 final months of the war. Overnight Nijmegen - hotel tbc. [B,L]
Thursday May 4
Today is Remembrance Day in the Netherlands, when the entire country pauses at 8pm for a national moment of remembrance. On this day, at 11am, we attend the annual remembrance service at Holten Canadian War Cemetery in the forest just outside of town. We see how the local school children are made central to the event, which usually features pipes & drums, members of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 005 Europe, dignitaries, and most especially, Canadian veterans.
At the conclusion of the event we take lunch in the forest nearby, to enjoy a typical Dutch meal. We then travel to the coast for two nights in the capital city of Amsterdam, famous for its canals and picturesque bridges. Overnight Amsterdam - hotel tbc. [B,L]
Friday May 5
The battlefield portion of the tour is over but your trip is not! Today is Liberation Day - enjoy a full free day at your leisure in Amsterdam. Your day might include a visit to the Rijksmuseum or the Van Gogh Museum, or perhaps the Anne Frank House. The flower market is a great place for souvenirs, and the Leidseplein and the Rembrandtplein are great places for food and people-watching! Overnight Amsterdam - hotel tbc. [B]
Saturday May 6
This morning is departure day for those Canadians returning home on the optional group flight - buffet or box breakfast is included, depending on departure time from the hotel. Some travelers may choose to remain in Europe longer to extend the end of the trip - let us know if we can quote you on post-tour accommodations.
Others guests will depart for home or continue their travels on other routes. [B]