This four-star hotel has a permanent World War I exhibition and a memorial corner in the garden.
National Trust Tours is delighted to extend this unique opportunity to experience the “Remembering The Great War (1914-1918)” tour offered by our friends at The New York Times Journeys.
The centennial of the Great War has attracted abundant attention, and 2017 is the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into the war. On this nine-day journey, join experts, travelling to many of the most important sites, from Flanders Fields to Paris, and gaining insight into this terrible time. Though history has sadly proved wrong those who could not imagine a worse conflict than World War I, the four years marking the dawn of modern warfare still resonate for their terrible toll. In this nine-day journey, you will walk the most famous battlefields with a military historian. Discover how the French and British stopped the German onslaught, and how the U.S. entry into the war helped turn the tide. Visit Ypres and Reims, whose great medieval architectural treasures were badly damaged during the war but have been restored, and visit the Paris memorial honoring America’s first combat aviators.
This four-star hotel has a permanent World War I exhibition and a memorial corner in the garden.
Paris, France: Beginning With the End
After arriving in Paris and meeting your fellow Times travelers, transfer by private coach to Ypres, Belgium. En route, visit the reconstructed railroad car in the woods of Compiègne, France, where at 5:15 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, the armistice to end World War I was signed. The same rail car was used in 1940, when Germany and France signed an armistice making Nazi Germany the occupiers of northern France. Hitler deliberately chose the site as revenge for Germany’s defeat in the Great War.
Arrive in Ypres in time for a welcome reception and dinner. The strategic location of Ypres, known as Ieper in Dutch (and Wipers to British soldiers), made it the site of many battles even before the Germans realized they needed to capture it to advance into France in 1914.
Ypres, Belgium: Battle of Ypres
Ypres and its surrounding area were held by the British, French and Belgian armies in desperate battle after battle. The linchpin that halted the German advance to the English Channel, Ypres was once a great medieval city famous for its Cloth Hall. By 1918, the hall and the entire town had been reduced to rubble. Meticulously restored, the Cloth Hall now houses the excellent “In Flanders Fields” museum.
After a visit to the museum and cathedral, walk the city ramparts to the Menin Gate, erected after World War I to commemorate the missing who fought at Ypres. After lunch, tour the Ypres Salient, held by the British Army throughout the war. Among the preserved trenches and bunkers lies the impressive Tyn Cot British Commonwealth Cemetery, as well as the moving Langmark German Cemetery. Close to town
are the bunkers of the Essex Farm Casualty Station, where John McCrae, the author of the immortal poem “In Flanders Field,” served as an army surgeon. End at the village of Passchendaele, where perhaps the bitterest battle of the war took place in 1917.
After dinner, you may want to return to the Menin Gate, where every night buglers play the Last Post in a moving ceremony.
Bony, France: The Somme, 1916
On July 1, 1916, Field Marshal Douglas Haig, the British commander, launched an attack along the Somme River to relieve pressure on the French fighting at Verdun. It was supposed to be a breakthrough battle, but ended as a prolonged conflict. For over four months the fighting raged at now-famous places such as Vimy Ridge, Thiepval and Beaumont-Hamel. Visit these and other sites along the Somme, including the Lochnagar Crater. Many of the troops who fought on the Somme were from the British Commonwealth, and memorials abound to the troops of South Africa, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, as well as Ulster and Wales. After a picnic lunch, continue to the American Military Cemetery at Bony, where many of those who fought in this area are buried. Drive by the Riqueval Tunnel and discuss the American-British attack on the Hindenburg Line on Sept. 29, 1918. End the day in Reims, an attractive cathedral city in the heart of the Champagne region.
Reims, France: First Battle of the Marne, 1914
During the Battle of the Frontiers, the French and British armies were driven back to within 30 miles of Paris. In those desperate days of early September 1914, the German onslaught was finally contained at the Marne River. The Allies quickly counterattacked, and with the help of Gen. Joseph Galliéni’s “Taxi Brigade” — taxis commandeered to drive soldiers from Paris to the front — drove the Germans back across the Aisne River west of Reims. With one last effort, the combined French and British troops fought up to the Chemin des Dames, where they were halted until the end of the war. Visit key locations as you trace these dramatic events of the First Battle of the Marne.
Have a picnic lunch en route before returning to Reims for a visit to the 800-year-old Cathedral of Notre-Dame, known for its abundance of sculptured figures and its magnificent tapestries. Parts of the cathedral were severely damaged by German shellfire during the early days of the Great War, and restoration work is continuing. Continue to Fort de la Pompelle, also known as Fort Herbillon, which served as part of the fortification belt in the Séré de Rivières system during the war.
This afternoon, visit the Centre d’interprétation Marne 14-18 museum for an in-depth look at the war and the impact it had on civilians and soldiers alike. Conclude the day with a tour of the cellars of one of the major Champagne houses to discover the art of Champagne making. Dinner tonight is on your own in Reims.
Meaux, France: Second Battle of the Marne, 1918
Head to Meaux and the new Musée de la Grand Guerre, whose extensive exhibits put the Great War into historical and cultural contexts. The museum includes exhibits on the technological developments in such areas as artillery, camouflage, communications and equipment, including the use of chemical weapons, previously deemed too horrible to use in action. In 1918, the Valley of the Marne again became a battlefield, with Americans fighting at Château-Thierry and Belleau Wood. Château-Thierry was one of the first actions of the American Expeditionary Forces under Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing.
The second battle marks the tide’s turning in favor of the Allies, but at great human cost. Visit the magnificent Château-Thierry American monument overlooking the Marne Valley: On one side of the monument are an engraved map and orientation table showing American military operations in the region and significant battle sites. After a picnic lunch, walk through the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, and learn the history of this evocative resting place. On the hillside above the cemetery sits the lovely Romanesque Belleau Chapel, its walls inscribed with the names of more than a thousand Americans whose remains were never recovered or identified.
Return to Reims for an evening at leisure.
Verdun, France: The Meuse Argonne
Drive through the Meuse-Argonne region to the spectacular Pennsylvania Memorial in Varennes-en-Argonne. The massive Greek-style monument was erected by the state of Pennsylvania in honor of its sons who gave their lives in France. Visit the nearby Argonne Museum for a curator-led tour of its American weapons, uniforms and private collections. Stop by the Missouri First World War Monument at Cheppy, then continue to the U.S. Meuse-Argonne Military Cemetery, the largest American military cemetery in Europe, with more than 14,200 war dead, and have time to walk the battlefields.
Spend the remainder of the afternoon exploring the Romagne 14-18 Museum, home to the private collection of Jean-Paul de Vries at Romagne-sous-Montfaucon. Return to Verdun for dinner as a group.
Verdun, France: Verdun & Saint-Mihiel
Start the day in Verdun, where from 1914 to 1918 France withstood the might of the German army. Explore the battered and sacred French battlefields and forts of the area, beginning with a visit to the Douaumont Ossuary, which contains the remains of both French and German soldiers. Continue on to Fort Douaumont for a guided tour of the fortified bastion and the underground casements, followed by a visit to the Verdun Memorial and museum, along with the adjacent vanished village of Fleury-devant-Douaumont.
After lunch, continue to Saint-Mihiel. In September 1918, Saint-Mihiel was a salient, a German-controlled area behind French lines. The attack at the Saint-Mihiel Salient, one of the first U.S. solo offensives in the war, was part of a plan by General Pershing to break through the German lines and capture the fortified city of Metz, relieving a threat of a German approach to Paris. The attack caught the Germans as they were retreating, and the battle was one of the most important and successful American campaigns in World War I. Under the leadership of General Pershing, later military leaders such as George Marshall, Douglas MacArthur and George Patton all made their mark. Meet with a Saint-Mihiel official to gain an understanding of what it was like to live through these great battles at the Apremont-la-Forêt war trenches.
At the majestic Montsec American Monument, view a bronze relief map illustrating the military operations that took place here. Return to Verdun for an evening at leisure.
Paris, France: On to Paris
Depart for Paris – on the way visiting the poignant Lafayette Escadrille Memorial, commemorating the American expatriates who served with French forces before the United States officially entered the war. A director will welcome you to this oft-forgotten site, which highlights the story of these volunteers — America’s first combat pilots — who flew for France from April 1916 through the end of the war. This evening, gather for a farewell dinner.
Spend your last few hours enjoying the city before heading to the airport for your individual flights home.