Note: This itinerary features longer daily cruising on larger waterways, so it is different from a gentler-paced canal cruise, with limited opportunities for walking and cycling along towpaths en route. However, there is a wide selection of fascinating escorted excursions during the voyage.
Sunday, Day 1 Courtrai
Guests are met at their choice of location in Bruges and transferred by private chauffeured minibus to Panache for a Champagne welcome and an introduction to your crew and barge. Time perhaps for a walk or cycle ride before dinner on board.
Monday, Day 2 Courtrai to Lille (Don)
This morning we cruise to Lille along the beautiful River Lys near Ypres which the Australian troops called “Wipers” and the centre of intense, sustained fighting between German and Allied forces in WW1. After lunch, we visit sites in and around Ypres, including the medieval Cloth Hall that now houses the “In Flanders Fields” museum – a moving pictorial comment on the futility of the conflict. We will also visit the Christmas Truce Cross, the Pool of Peace crater and the site where Lt. John McCrae wrote the moving poem “In Flanders Fields”, the Essex Farm dressing station. Early dinner ashore at 6.30pm in a traditional Belgian restaurant, then afterwards we attend the moving daily Last Post ceremony at 8pm at the Menin Gate Memorial.
Tuesday, Day 3 Lille (Don) to Arleux
Today we cruise to Arleux and the beginning of the Canal du Nord. After lunch, we visit the National Necroplis, the largest of all French military cemeteries and wonder at the magnificent ‘Ring of Remembrance’, the recently-inaugurated International Memorial of Notre Dame de Lorette, engraved with the names of 580,000 soldiers killed in Northern France during World War One. We also head off to visit the battlefields of Arras and Vimy Ridge. Dinner on board.
Wednesday, Day 4 Arleux to Ruyaulcourt
After breakfast, we tour the historic centre of Arras with its magnificent City Hall and Belfry, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and also enjoy some time exploring the impressive traditional market. We then visit the fascinating Wellington Quarry, an underground memorial to the thousands of Allied soldiers that were barracked there in preparation for the battle of Arras in 1917. We then return to the barge for a cruise under the New Zealand Engineers Bridge, amazingly built in a week in 1918 under continuous German fire. The canal itself was the scene of the Battle of Canal du Nord in September 1918. Being located in the heart of the battlefields, it was substantially destroyed and no attempt was made to reinstate and complete it until the early 1960s. After lunch back on board, we continue cruising on to our evening mooring at Ruyaulcourt. Dinner on board.
Thursday, Day 5 Ruyaulcourt to Péronne
This morning, we pass through the 3 mile Ruyaulcourt Tunnel and cruise on down towards Péronne. Later, we head to the Somme and the site of the first day of the Battle of the Somme, where 23,000 men died in one day on July 1st, 1916. We visit the moving Thiepval memorial: a monument to 75,000 “missing” from this battle, and the visitor centre has wonderful archival film footage and photographs from the era. Afterwards, we can visit a choice of memorials or museums, such as the Historial de la Grand Guerre, or perhaps visit the famous little town of Pozières to see the Gibraltar bunker, the ancient Windmill monument and infamous Tommy Café. Return to the barge for dinner on board.
Friday, Day 6 Péronne to Pont-l’Éveque (Noyon)
The liberation of Villers-Bretonneux in 1918 claimed over 1,200 Australian soldiers’ lives. Every year, the ANZAC Day ceremony is held at the town’s memorial where over 10,000 Australian servicemen are commemorated. This morning we visit this incredible village, which remains a living tribute to the Australian soldiers who liberated it. Highlights are Victoria School (this was built by money raised from children in Victoria after WW1), a fascinating and moving visit and pictorial museum in the town centre, the Australian National War Memorial and Le Hamel, memorial site of General Monash’s astounding 93 minute victorious battle over the Germans. Alternatively, there is the option to visit the nearby city of Amiens, with its magnificent Gothic cathedral. After lunch we cruise the final leg of our journey along the Western Front to Pont-l’Éveque. Gala dinner aboard.
Saturday, Day 7 Pont-l’Éveque (Noyon)
After breakfast, guests are transferred by private chauffeured minibus to the Hotel Westminster in Paris.
*This is a sample itinerary and is subject to change.