When the last Discovery Tour was held in 2012, it was aimed at introducing tour operators to the Somme region and preparing them for the centenary of the First World War. This fourth edition of the Discovery Tour, includes both the Somme and the Salient and is not only about promoting those regions to new customers - it is also a way of saying "thank you" to those who have regulary brought groups to Flanders and Northern France and, in doing so, have become our partners in tourism.
The itinerary will be specifically tailored to reflect your interests as a tour operator, and will clearly show all that tourism in Ieper and Albert has to offer. Even those who have already been before, could be surprised by the range of experiences now available. Through our website, you will be able to register ahead of the Tour for the programme which most interests you.
Selected tour operators will be personally invited to take part in the Discovery Tour. The event is strictly by invitation only and those who accept will then be consulted on specific aspects of the programme, to ensure that their particular interests are catered for.
The winter of 2017 has been chosen as this is traditionally a calm period and an ideal moment to prepare for a tourist season which is likely to extend right through to the close of the centenary commemorations in 2018.
For invitees who register to go on the Discovery Tour, the cost of travelling to and from Belgium and France and of hotel accommodation with breakfast and dinner included, will be entirely met by the organisers. Our partners, Galloway Travel, Lucketts Travel, Greys of Ely and Bibby's of Ingleton, have agreed to collect participants from a variety of pick up points throughout the UK and drive them down to Dover. The ferry crossing is being sponsored by P&O Ferries. As our guest for this weekend, you will be able to be "the tourist" for a change! Just sit back and relax and let us do the work for you!
|16:00||Arrival at hotels in Ypres|
|17:00||Introduction on the educational services of the In Flanders Fields Museum|
Visit to In Flanders Fields museum
Located in the historic Cloth Hall, this modern, interactive museum was completely renewed in 2012 and is named after the poem by John McCrae, written just a few kilometres from the town centre. The permanent exhibition tells the story of the invasion of Belgium in 1914 and of how the troop movement of the first months gradually stagnated into 4 years of trench warfare. It also features the Armistice and the ways in which the war has been commemorated over the past 100 years.
Reception at the Cloth Hall
Having toured the museum, you will now be guests at a reception within the medieval "Lakenhallen". In the Middle Ages, this building was the centre of the cloth trade in the thriving town of Ypres. Its magnificence was literally shattered during the early months of the First World War. The building caught fire after being bombarded by shells and by 1918, just a jagged tooth of the imposing tower remained standing. Faithfully rebuilt during the post-War years, today it's hard to believe that this place was the victim of such destruction.
Walk from Cloth Hall to Menin Gate
A chance to admire the results of the post-War reconstruction of Ypres, as you walk across the Market Square. The buildings around the square were all constructed in the decades after 1918 and bear witness to the determination of the Flemish people - and of the "Ieperlingen" in particular - to reclaim their land and rebuild their homes.
Last Post ceremony & laying of wreaths
There has been a gateway into Ypres from the Menin Road since medieval times - but none as impressive as the one which now stands on that spot. Designed in 1921 and unveiled 6 years later, the Menin Gate is a memorial to more than 54,000 soldiers of Commonwealth countries who have no known grave. Each night of the year at 8pm, volunteer firemen from the local fire station play "The Last Post" to honour the missing and all those who died during the '14-'18 war.
|20:30||Evening meal at participating hotels & restaurants|
|07:00||Breakfast at hotels|
Guided tour around Ypres WWI sites
The Ypres Salient was the scene of major battles throughout the 4 years of the war. The landscape today still bears witness to the conflict and is punctuated by more than 240 cemetaries and memorials which are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. You will have the opportunity to register ahead of the trip, for one ofthe 4 different tours taking place this morning.
Lunch at Yperley
Return to the Market Square of Ypres, to enjoy lunch at this magnificient French renaissance-style building, recently restored as a suite of function rooms.
Tourism fair at Albion Hotel
At the newly renovated Albion Hotel, partner of the Discovery Tour 2017, you will have the opportunity to gather information from representatives of different branches of local tourism.
Time to explore the town centre, its shops, its hotels and its restaurants - and maybe to sample some Belgian specialities: chocolate and beer!
|20:00||Gala dinner at Flanders Lodge|
|07:30||Breakfast at hotels|
|08:30||Depart for Albert, France|
Visit to the Lochnagar Mine Crater at La Boiselle
This is the largest man-made mine crater created during the First World War on the Western Front. The mine was laid by a tunnelling company of the British Royal Engineers and exploded on the morning of 1st July 1916, at the launch of the British offensive against the German lines - the Battle of the Somme.
Reception at the Town Hall of Albert
The town of Albert was a key location during the Battle of the Somme and suffered enormous shell damage, situated as it was just 3 miles from the front line. Like Ypres, the town was completely rebuilt in the post-war years.
Lunch & presentation at The Poppies Albert
This accommodation centre for groups is located in the very centre of the 14-18 battlefields of the Somme, close to Lille, Arras, Amiens and less than a 2-hour drive from Paris.
The programme for the afternoon will reflect the particular interests of the group and will be planned after prior consultation with those taking part in the Discovery Tour.