2023 Northwest Europe
Canadian Battlefield Tour
follow the Maple Leaf Route
From Juno beach to Amsterdam
From Juno beach to Amsterdam
2023 Northwest Europe Canadian Battlefield Tour
At a glance
September 8-20, 2023 • France, Belgium, Holland • 13 days
Bayeux • Dieppe • Amiens • Arras • Ieper • Bergen op Zoom • Amsterdam
A balanced mix of WWI and WWI • Juno Beach • Omaha Beach • The Royal Newfoundland Regiment & the Trail of the Caribou • Canada’s Great War Monuments including Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele, St. Julien • The Battle of the Scheldt • Canada's Hundred Days • The Last Post Ceremony • and much more • scroll down to see complete details
Thursday September 7
For many of our 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 and spend time exploring the beautiful city of Paris - 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.
Friday September 8
Upon arrival in Paris, we set out on our journey to Normandy, where many amazing historical sights await us. Along the way we will pause for an informal lunch break, and give you ample time to recline. You will travel by luxury air-conditioned coach with on-board facilities and free Wi-Fi (subject to an occasional limitation of coverage as we journey through the countryside on the roads less traveled).
Upon arrival in Normandy for the first of four nights, guests will have a couple of hours to unpack, rest and recharge. In the late afternoon we gather for our Welcome Dinner, to share a glass and set the stage for our very special journey. Overnight Normandy - hotel tbc. [D]
Saturday September 9
This morning is a nice slow start, to ensure you have a chance for additional rest to adjust to the European time zone. We have also designed your tour specifically to be in Bayeux on this Saturday morning so that you can take in the wonderful local Bayeux Market! Stroll amongst the stalls, then pop over to the main street for a cup of tea. Enjoy a nice, relaxed morning in this beautiful medieval town.
At mid-day we meet back at the hotel and board the coach for a short drive to the coast, to begin our battlefield touring looking at WWII. We visit the town of Arromanches, within the British landing zone known as 'Gold Beach.' This location 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 allied forces. The view from the cliffs above reveals remnants of the harbour just off-shore. We then walk down the hill into town for free time to enjoy lunch and explore, following which we visit the Musée du Débarquement which wonderfully illustrates how the harbours were designed.
We then move west to the famous American landing sector code named Omaha Beach, the landings here depicted so vividly in the opening twenty minutes of Steven Spielberg's motion picture 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. Overnight Normandy - hotel tbc. [B]
Sunday September 10
This morning we remember D-Day by walking the sands of Juno Beach with story telling and much reflection. We begin at the town of St-Aubin-sur-Mer where a 50-mm German gun still sits ominously in its casemate. A walk through the back streets reveals the exact route taken by the Canadians as they approached the defenders from behind.
We continue our journey along the Juno sector with visits on the beach at Bernières-sur-Mer to see Canada House and the nearby defenses. A short drive west takes us to further points at Courseulles-sur-Mer, where we pause for a group lunch.
Next is a much anticipated visit to the Juno Beach Centre, your home away from home in Normandy. Your visit includes a guided tour of the German command bunkers hiding beneath the dunes.
We wind down the afternoon with a walk along the shore to hear personal stories of the men who landed here. Overnight Normandy - hotel tbc. [B,L]
Monday September 11
Day Four takes us to points inland from the beaches, where the allies made decisive gains in the first days after D-Day to ensure a toe-hold on the continent.
We follow the Canadians to Bretteville l'Orgueilleuse, Putot-en-Bessin, Buron, Authie, Carpiquet Airport and Le Mesnil Patry, as they make their way gradually inland from the beach in the first hours and days following the landings of D-Day.
We also make an important stop at the Abbey Ardennes, where Canadian soldiers were illegally executed in the early days of June 1944. Overnight Normandy - hotel tbc. [B,L]
Tuesday September 12
Our final stop in the Juno Beach sector is a morning visit to the hallowed grounds of Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, the burial place of 2,044 Canadians who fell on D-Day and in the subsequent Battle of Normandy.
It is time to depart the landing beaches and begin our journey north, stopping in historic Honfleur for lunch. This little medieval port town has a direct connection to the founding of Canada.
We then say goodbye to Lower Normandy and continue our travels along the channel coast. Overnight Dieppe - hotel tbc. [B]
Wednesday September 13
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 One. Overnight Amiens - hotel tba. [B]
Thursday September 14
Day Seven 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 restaurant hidden from view offering an outstanding menu.
We will visit the Thiepval Memorial, the largest Commonwealth War Graves monument in the world 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 also includes a visit to the Lochnagar Crater, and the monument at Courcelette. Overnight Arras - hotel tbc. [B,L]
Friday September 15
Each Canadian ought to visit Vimy Ridge once in their lifetime and today is your day. The Canadian National Vimy Memorial is arguably the most impressive of all the war monuments in Europe. We will take a guided tour of the 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.
We then pause for a delicious lunch, and capture a few more points of interest in the area.
To conclude the day we bring you another very special visit and unique to our battlefield tours. We take you for a guided tour of the Commonwealth War Graves' factory in Beaurains, France - the CWGC Experience. This is the fascinating facility where the soldiers' headstones are carved with meticulous reverence and care. You will get a behind-the-scenes look at the work of the skilled craftsmen, and it is is also an opportunity to learn about their amazing horticulture and how it transforms cemeteries and memorials around the world into true gardens of peace. Overnight Arras - hotel tbc. [B,L]
Saturday September 16
Today we continue our exploration of the WW1, with visits to Canadian memorials mostly overlooked by all others. We'll travel into the French countryside learning the importance of the battles that have become known as 'Canada's 100 Days.' We encounter the Royal Newfoundland Regiment's Caribou Monuments at Masnières and Monchy-le-Preux, and we visit with the Canadian Corps at Bourlon Wood and Dury. Once again Canada will distinguish itself in key battles that will bring about the end of The Great War, punctuated by individual acts of bravery which will earn numerous Victoria Crosses, among them, 'The Magnificent Seven.'
We pause mid-day for a group lunch in historic Cambrai. The day also includes a very special guided tour of the Cambrai Tank 1917 Museum, where the remains of an extremely rare WW1 tank have been preserved in a new and modern exhibit. We conclude the day across the border in Belgium, for two nights in the province of West Flanders. Overnight Ieper (Ypres) - hotel tbc. [B,L]
Sunday September 17
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. Travelers have the option to take a leisurely 30-min walk between stops, through the Passchendaele countryside.
We return to Ieper for free time in the afternoon. The Last Post Ceremony takes place at the historic Menin Gate at 8pm, just as it has every evening since 1928. Selected travelers will be invited to lay a wreath on behalf of the tour group. Overnight Ieper (Ypres) - hotel tbc. [B]
Monday September 18
Moving forwarding in time, we resume our exploration of WWII with visits to monuments and battlefield sites connected to the Battle of the Scheldt and the Breskens Pocket, two of Canada's key contributions to the war effort. You will see a genuine Bailey Bridge, still in use today nearly 80 years after it was constructed by the Royal Canadian Engineers. Visits include the Leopold Canal, and the important monument at Hoofdplaat which illustrates the difficult challenges facing the allied forces.
After a group lunch nearby, we visit the monuments at Walcheren and Woensdrecht, winding up the day with a visit to the Canadian War Cemetery at Bergen op Zoom. Overnight Bergen op Zoom - hotel tba. [B,L]
Tuesday September 19
Our Tuesday morning will see us make our final battlefield visit, to discuss the 1945 liberation of the Netherlands at Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery near the German border. We'll then gather for a Farewell Lunch, to reflect upon all that we have seen and share great Canadian pride as we raise a glass to the liberators.
Then, it's onward to Amsterdam in the mid-afternoon. Your might wish to consider 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 you might wish to consider a canal boat cruise for the perfect way to learn the history of this amazing capital city. Overnight Amsterdam - hotel tbc. [B,L]
Wednesday September 20
This morning is departure day for those returning home - 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. [B]