The Western Front from Start to Finish


AIRPORT TRANSFERS: Since we will be arriving and departing at different times, you will need to make your own arrangements to get in and out of Paris. The simplest and least expensive way is to use the RER. Buy a ticket for 9.50 euro at the airport (the machines take credit cards) and take the RER B to the Chatalet/Les Halles station. Upon arrival, look for a Sortie (exit) with an escalator. Then follow arrows to Forum-Place Carrie. When you arrive at Place Carrie, follow signs to Pte. du Pont Neuf. When outside, continue straight on to Rue de Rivoli. First, cross Rue de Rivoli and then turn left continuing on Rue de Rivoli. At the second little street, turn right (a store called Naf Naf will be on your left). Then turn left at the second little street (after a market) and the hotel is on your right. You might find it useful to print the map on the hotel web page. For your return flight, reverse the directions and when you get to the RER station, follow signs to the RER B Nord, and then take next train that goes to CDG. Alternatively, a taxi from the airport will cost between 50 & 80 euro. There are airport shuttles which will work for departures but not for arrivals. The cost is 26 euro for one person, 18 euro for two or more people. If a large number of us end up leaving at the same time, it might be possible to arrange for a van, but it is doubtful that there will be any savings. Again, the RER is fastest, simplest, and least expensive. And, to encourage you to use it, I will reimburse you for your ticket. For other options you are on your own.


Monday, 5 October, Fly from USA

Tuesday, 6 October, Paris CDG

Again, the easiest and least expensive way to get into central Paris is to take the RER and get off at Chatalet/Les Halles station. Print the map found on the hotel web page, or transfer the information to your own map. Use the rest of the day for recovery from the flight–shower, short nap. Time and energy permitting, take a walk across the bridge and continue on to Notre Dame. Or explore the interesting shops in the area. 7:00 Meet in hotel lobby to walk to dinner in nearby Au Vieux Comptoir. Overnight in the Grand Hotel Dechampaigne, +33 (0)1 42 36 60 00.

Wednesday, 7 October, Depart Paris; Battle of the Marne 1914; overnight in Metz

After breakfast at the hotel (included, every morning), check out of hotel. Our coach will pick us up at 9:00 at the corner of Rue Victoria & Saint-Denis, a short walk from hotel. We will thenl drive 1 hour east of Paris to Meaux, in the heart of the battlefield of the Marne (September 1914). Dr Thomson will give an overall introduction to World War I on the way. 10.15 a.m. visit to the superb modern Musée de la Grande Guerre du Pays de Meaux (opened 2011), a perfect introduction to the war. The museum is adjacent to an American statue given in honour of France’s strong defence here. Free time for lunch in centre of Meaux.
We will then drive 20 minutes to the first of our (almost) “Daily Antidotes to War” – a series of cultural gems and/or changes of pace. Our first “antidote” is a 14:15 visit to the Merovingian Crypt at Jouarre Abbey – one of the earliest religious monuments in France, containing amongst others the tomb of the 7th century founding abbess, a converted ‘barbarian’. Drive on three hours to Metz for the night, the most easterly point of our tour, part of ‘Alsace-Lorraine’ that was taken by Germany after the 1870 Franco-Prussian War.
Overnight in Hotel de la Cathédrale, +33 0387 75 00 02, Metz. Dinner in nearby Le Bistrot de G. 

Thursday, 8 October, The early trenches, autumn 1914 / spring 1915; Two nights in Vienne-le-Chateau

After breakfast, check out of hotel by 9.00 a.m. (with bags loaded onto the coach – though we will begin with a 50m walk to the Cathedral!) start with our Daily Antidote: Metz Cathedral – stunning late Gothic, with modern Marc Chagall windows. Options after (9.45 a.m.): (i) by coach to the Pompidou Centre Metz to take in the Andy Warhol exhibition, or (ii) a one-mile guided walk across the city centre taking in a look at the German features in the city post-1870. Off at 11.15 a.m. 20 minutes to what would have been the French-German border between 1871 and 1919 to see memorials from the 1870 Franco-Prussian War (to put WWI into context) – before a pre-booked lunch in a small village in the St. Mihiel battlefield (U.S. 1918): sample Quiche Lorraine in Lorraine itself ! (€12/head with glass of wine & coffee – I’ll be collecting this from you-cash). 30 minute drive to our walk in preserved trenches from the early months of the war, in the woods; we will go via a brief stop at the U.S. Memorial from 1918. Coffee break in nearby St. Mihiel, then one hour west to the Argonne region, another sector of heavy struggle in the early months of trench warfare.
Overnight in Hotel Le Tulipier, Vienne-le-Chateau, +33 03 26 60 69 90. Dinner in the hotel.

Friday, 9 October, Verdun 1916

All-day tour of the Verdun 1916 battlefield, France’s centre of commemoration for the entire war (no Antidote today I’m afraid!) – around 40 minutes to the east. We’ll also see something of the 1918 US ‘Meuse-Argonne’ battle on our way to/from Verdun itself, including the marker for the ‘Lost Battalion’, and possibly the cratered hilltop of Vauquois.
Overnight in Hotel Le Tulipier, Vienne-le-Chateau. Special “Century Dinner” in the hotel.

Saturday, 10 October, Heart of France’s war 1915-17 – Chemin des Dames & Artois; two nights in Arras

After breakfast and check out, 8:30 departure for 90 minute drive to the Chemin des Dames ridge north of Reims for a 10:30 a.m. guided tour of the Caverne de Dragon caves complex under where the trenches ran. An amazing insight into life at close quarters for troops manning the stalemated trenches – Germans and French shared a water supply underground.
Daily Antidote: a relaxing lunch (independent) in the nearby hilltop cathedral city of Laon: free time to explore, including early Gothic cathedral, plus option of a short city walls walk for those who want. (The Cathedral in Laon is one of the earliest, if not the earliest of the French Gothic Cathedrals.)
Leave at 3.00 p.m. for a further 90 minute drive to Artois, the area around Arras, scene of the heaviest fighting in 1915. Drive across the battlefields on the ridges outside the town – with a visit to the ‘Ring of Memory’ – a stunning brand new memorial (opened 11 November 2014) listing the 600,000 of all nationalities who died in the Nord – Pas de Calais region in 1914-18.
Overnight in Holiday Inn Express, Arras. +33 (0) 3 21 60 88 88. Dinner in nearby restaurant, La Rapiere.

Sunday, 11 October, Somme – 1916

Shifting our emphasis to the British part of the war, we drive 30 minutes south for an all-day tour of the first really large British battle, the Battle of the Somme July-November 1916. Daily Antidote: picnic by the River Somme. (We will need to buy our own lunch supplies along the way.) Backup plan for bad weather (don’t groan!): McDonalds on the edge of the town of Albert!
Overnight in Holiday Inn Express, Arras. +33 (0) 3 21 60 88 88 Dinner in nearby Le Bistrot du Boucher.

Monday, 12 October, British Empire 1915-16 – Loos, Fromelles, Armentières; two nights Ypres

After breakfast and check out, drive 20 minutes north from Arras to the mining district around Loos and Lens. Explore the 1915 Battle of Loos in which Rudyard Kipling’s son went missing – we’ll visit what is thought to be his grave (identified in the 1990’s), together with the Memorial to the Missing where his name still appears.
Daily Antidote: a late-morning/lunch (independent) visit to Louvre-Lens, a new (2011) offshoot of the Louvre, built right in the middle of the old mining district. Includes a stunning 120-metre-long gallery of highlights of the Louvre displayed in chronological order from 3000 BC – 1848 AD (ending with Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People).
Leave at 1:00 for 1 hour 10 minute drive north across the border into Belgium to approach Ypres from ‘behind the lines’. We’ll stop at Lijssenthoek Commonwealth Cemetery, with an excellent Visitors Centre describing the huge tented military hospitals which were set up here. Then 3:30 visit of Talbot House in nearby Poperinghe, a busy town for ‘R&R’. A club founded by a British padré for soldiers of whatever rank, Talbot House was an oasis of calm with a library, chapel, concert room, and tea rooms.
Overnight in Novotel Ieper Centrum, Ieper. +32 57/429600 Early dinner (5:30) on the main square at Vivaldi Restaurant & Tea Room followed by attendance at the daily 8 p.m. Last Post ceremony with buglers from the town’s fire brigade.

Tuesday, 13 October, Ypres 1914-18

Morning tour of Ypres including Passchendaele village, Hill 60 (scene of underground mining), and the Canadian memorial to the first gas attack (1915). Ypres saw actions in every year of the war. At 12:15, 2-course group lunch in Kollebloeme Restaurant.
Daily Antidote: the rest of the afternoon & evening free to enjoy Ypres – take advantage of the chocolate shops (!), enjoy a walk around part of the city’s walls & moat, visit the Flanders Fields museum in the restored Cloth Hall or the small city museum, or simply take a rest.
Overnight in Novotel Ieper Centrum, Ieper. Lunch included, dinner on your own.

Wednesday, 14 October, Vimy & Cambrai-1917; night St Quentin

After breakfast and check out, drive 1 hour south to Vimy Ridge to see the stunning Canadian WWI Memorial on the site of their victory in April 1917 pushing the Germans off the ridge overlooking the mining district. (The best World War I memorial of all.) Then 30 minutes south for lunch in the main square in Cambrai, target of a major British attack in 1917, the first large-scale tank attack. 1.15 p.m. departure for tour of the 1917 Cambrai battlefield, including seeing one of the British tanks which has been preserved.
Daily Antidote: late afternoon visit to nearby Le Cateau for a choice of EITHER the Matisse Museum (he was born in the town; museum opened 2002) OR to the forester’s house (open 2:00 – 4:00 pm daily) where the British poet Wilfred Owen spent his last night. One of the most striking voices from the war, Owen was killed in a canal crossing on 4th November 1918 – we’ll do a short forest walk to the canal, and see Owen’s grave in the village of Ors. 45 minutes south to St Quentin for the night. St Quentin was a major German base just behind their ‘Hindenburg Line’, a strengthened trench system. Overnight in Hôtel Ibis Saint-Quentin Basilique. (+33)3/23674040 Dinner in nearby restaurant Brochette et Cie.

Thursday, 15 October, U.S. 1918 – Hindenburg Line, Chateau-Thierry, Belleau Wood; night Chateau-Thierry

Two US divisions fought within the British Army throughout – we’ll visit their memorial to the 29 September 1918 battle to take the Hindenburg Line, just outside St Quentin. Then 90 mins south past Reims to Champagne country.
Daily Antidote: a drive through the champagne fields to Epernay for lunch break (leave 1:40 p.m.), and a short visit to the cellars of Champagne Mercier. Then 50 minutes west to Chateau-Thierry: take in the view from the impressive U.S. Memorial on Hill 205 overlooking the town and the River Marne, see where American machine-gunners held off the Germans in May 1918, then out to nearby Belleau Wood. Visit the memorials in the woods to the Marines who fought here in June 1918, and the U.S. Cemetery nearby.
Overnight in BEST WESTERN Hôtel ile de France, Chateau-Thierry, Dinner in the hotel

Friday, 16 October, 1918: Aisne, Soissons & Compiegne, Paris

End of the war, final day of the trip. 30 minute drive to look at some of the American fighting in July/August 1918 heading up from the Meuse to the River Aisne, centering on Fère-en-Tardenois near which Quentin Roosevelt (TR’s eldest son) was shot down. Visit the Oise-Aisne US Cemetery. North 75 minutes through the territory of the turning-point Battle of Soissons (“2nd Battle of the Marne”) – a French attack on 18 July 1918 with significant U.S. involvement – to the Armistice site: the clearing in the woods outside Compiègne where the Armistice was signed. ‘Flunch’ stop on outskirts of Compiégne. Daily Antidote: drive 40 minutes west to finish with a visit to the spectacular Chateau of Chantilly (walk in the grounds and/or explore the Chateau itself, or its famous stables). Leave at 3.45 p.m. – approx. 1 hour back to Paris Overnight in the Grand Hotel Dechampaigne, Dinner again in nearby Au Vieux Comptoir. 

Saturday, 17 October, Fly home or Paris Option

Yes, you can opt to fly home today (see above for Airport transfer directions), but why not stick around and enjoy the weekend in a great city? I’ll include enough transportation tickets so you can go anywhere in the city along with hotel, breakfast, and some great dinners.
Overnight in the Grand Hotel Dechampaigne, Dinner in another one of our five favorite restaurants in the area.

Sunday, 18 October, Free day in Paris

Sunday can be a magical day in Paris. If the weather is nice, join the locals and head for a park. If not, head for a museum.
Overnight in the Grand Hotel Dechampaigne, Dinner in yet another one of our five favorite restaurants in the area.

Monday, 19 October, Return to USA

Transfer to CDG either by RER or shared taxi in time for your return flight.

Laurence Barker Single 10/6 DL 171 (MSP) 8:35 10/19 DL 99 (DTW) 10:50
Richard & Ann Adams Double 10/4 AA 48, 7:35 10/17 AA 49. 11:30
Gail Jarratt & Evelyn Rogers Twin 10/2 AA 48, 7:35 10/17 AA 787, 11:30
Dale Fleishman & Ron Jenkins Double 10/6 EJ 2781 (MXP), 13:10 10/19 AF 1019 (ATL) 11:00 
Carrol Smith & Sharon Budd Twin 10/6,AA48, 7:35-C  10/2, IA542,12:55-S 10/19 AA49, 11:30 (C) 10/19 IA 543, 14:10 (S)
Margaret Cowden & Chris Larkin Double  10/5, Train 10/19 UA 55 (EWR) 13:10
Thurman Adkins & Maureen Nowotny Twin 10/6 US 786 (CLT) 8:35 10/19 FinAir5775 (ORD) 10:00
Alan Cutler Single Early  Train
Jim Ernest & Sue Edwards Twin 10/6 BA0316 (LHR) 17:20 10/17 VY8252, 09:35 (ORY)
Joe Dondero Single 10/6 DL8517, 8:10 10/19 DL 99 (DTW) 10:50
Tom, Melissa, & Shawn Mieras Triple 10/5 AA48 (DFW), 7:35 10/17 AA49, 11:30
Julie Larkin Single 10/5, Train 10/19 BA 06 (LHR) 14:00
Rebecca Marti Single 10/6, AF 65 (LAX), 11:20 10/17 DL 33, (SEA) 13:30
Ben & Gail Pummer Double 10/6, DL8517, (ATL) 8:10 10/17, DL83 (ATL), 8:30