The Liberation of Europe – From Paris to Amsterdam
Pay your respects and see the sights and cities of Europe; Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam
World War II was the biggest and deadliest war in history, involving more than 30 countries. However, it was here in cities, towns and battlefields of Europe where many young men and women lost their lives fighting tyranny. And as time goes by, we must not forget those fell and although the horrendous conditions are difficult to imagine, this tour will amplify the experiences of these brave people and further bring an understanding to life before and during the Liberation of Europe. From the moment you arrive in Paris, the history of WWII comes to you, as you arrive in Charles De Gaulle airport, the former President and army officer who led French resistance against Nazi Germany. On this journey of discovery, you will travel across Northern Europe to see some of the most famous cities in the world.
Throughout France, Belgium and the Netherlands, there are many commemorations to the victims and events of WWII and we can personalise the tour to suit your group, depending on your historical interest.
‘Paris outraged, Paris shattered, Paris martyred – but Paris liberated’
After arriving in the beautiful city of Paris, head to your hotel in the centre of the city where you will be based for the next three nights. Settle in and then start exploring. This city is full of a never-ending stream of famous sights, museums, shops and restaurants. Perhaps begin your Paris experience with a visit to Musée d’Orsay on the left bank of the river Seine. The building was once a railway station, built in the Beaux-Arts style where iron and glass were common features. Nowadays, a huge number of mainly French artworks are on display here, including paintings, sculptures, furniture and photography. The museum also holds a a great number of Impressionist works, as the movement originated right here in Paris.
Paris and Versailles
It’s now time to venture out of Paris and, along with a driver and guide, travel to Versailles to visit the Palace of Versailles. Once the principal residence of the French royal family, it is now a historical monument and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Palace contains 2,300 rooms and on your guided tour you will see a selection of these, including the King’s Grand Apartments and the Hall of Mirrors. These rooms are extremely impressive, with grand furniture and ornate decoration. Spend some time looking round the vast and beautiful palace gardens, where you will also find the smaller and more intimate residences of the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon. Upon your return to Paris, why not pay a visit to the Eiffel Tower, one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. The top viewing level is 276 metres high and provides amazing views all over Paris.
Last day in Paris
Today is your last full day in Paris so make the most of it by visiting the best of what the city has to offer. Start with a visit to the Louvre. This museum houses the world-renowned painting the Mona Lisa, plus lots more stunning works of art. The building itself is a sight to behold with the distinctive glass pyramid. After you’ve finished here, why not take a stroll through the Jardin de Tuileries? Take a seat by the garden’s large lake and spend a moment relaxing, watching the world go by. Then continue down the Champs-Élysées, one of the most famous shopping streets in the world. Marvel at the beauty that is on offer in the shops and perhaps pop in for a holiday treat! Stop off at one of the cafes and sample a delicious macaroon. At the end of the Champs-Élysées is the Arc de Triomphe, the biggest arch in the world. It stands right in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle, named after the famous general who led French resistance and, if time permits, a visit to the top is always worthwhile.
Travel to Normandy
Get ready to leave the hustle and bustle of the Capital city and travel at a leisurely rate through France to Caen. Break up the journey by making a stop off en route, perhaps at the lovely seaside town of Honfleur. Here you will find a picturesque harbour that is lined with 16th to 18th century townhouses. After a spot of lunch and a walk along the beach, continue your journey to Caen where you will be staying for the night.
The beaches of Normandy
Whilst in Normandy, today is the perfect opportunity to visit Juno Beach, one of the five beaches of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France in the Normandy Landings during World War II. Juno Beach was the responsibility of the Canadian Army, with 2 brigades aiming to cut the Caen-Bayeux road, seize the airport to the West of Caen and link the beach to the two British beaches on either side. Whilst you are here visit the Juno Beach Centre, Canada’s Second World War museum. The centre pays homage to all Canadians who lost their life during the war and their aim is preserve their legacy for future generations. After spending some time here, continue to Rouen where you will be staying for the night. Known as the “city of a hundred spires”, the medieval buildings and half-timbered houses hint at the city’s rich past. Marvel at the ‘Gros Horloge’, a great astronomical clock which is one of the city’s most popular sites!
Giverny and Monet’s Gardens
Today, set off for the drive back to Paris, perhaps this time stopping along the way at Giverny. Giverny is a picturesque village that was the home of Claude Monet for over 40 years. The artist’s former home and elaborate gardens, where he produced his famed water lily series, are now the Fondation Claude Monet. Why not pay a visit here and enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the Clos Normand, which is the flower garden, and the Japanese inspired water garden. You can also visit the house itself and here you will find a great number of examples of work by Monet himself plus his Impressionist friends. The rooms have been restored with precision to reflect what life would have been like for Monet when he lived and painted here. Then, continue to Paris to catch the train to Brussels, where you will spend the next two nights.
The sights of Brussels
Spend the day exploring all the sights of Brussels. Perhaps start with a visit to the famous Atomium, a towering steel atom sculpture that is one of the city’s most well-known landmarks. Travel to the top most sphere for views all across Brussels. Or perhaps walk to the Grand Place, also known as Grote Markt. Dating back almost 300 years, the square is surrounded by beautiful buildings. The best way to sample delicious Belgian food, is to go to the Aux Armes De Bruxelles restaurant. Specialising in traditional Belgian dishes, this restaurant is the perfect combination of excellent food and a great atmosphere. In the afternoon, why not learn about what Brussels is really famous for and go on a tour that incorporates beer and chocolate?
Antwerp; The city of Diamonds
Before taking the train to Antwerp, perhaps there will be time to squeeze in waffle, another Belgian speciality. Once you arrive in Antwerp, the setting for The Battle of the Scheldt in World War II, a series of military operations led by the First Canadian Army, with Canadian, Polish and British units. When here, start your day with a visit to the diamond district. Antwerp is well-known for its diamond trade and here you will find a large number of diamond shops. Explore the city further and visit the old town’s historical centre, with its Flemish Renaissance architecture and very impressive cathedral. The city also has a great number of museums, bars and restaurant. Your city centre hotel is where you will be based for the night.
The Battle of the Scheldt
This morning, leave Antwerp and travel on to Tilburg in the Netherlands, your home for the next three nights. Once famous for its many wool factories, the city now holds a university, a number of different districts, shopping and plenty of restaurants. This afternoon, begin your journey through the Netherlands. A driver will collect you from the hotel and take you to the Canadian War Cemetery at Bergen Op Zoom. Here 1,189 soldiers have been laid to rest, marked by bright white gravestones. The majority of Canadian soldiers that lost their lives, did so fighting in the Battle of the Scheldt.
Today marks Remembrance Day in the Netherlands, a day where all soldiers and civilians who lost their lives are remembered. Whether it was during the war or in peacekeeping missions since it ended, all those who gave their lives in World War II are remembered all across the country. And Tilburg is no different. All day long flowers are laid on the statues located all over the city. The most famous statue in Tilburg is the bronze statue of a Scottish bagpipe player. Here wreaths are laid at his feet. At 8pm, a 2 minute silence is observed across the country, a poignant moment to reflect on the past.
On May 5th, the Liberation Day is celebrated in the Netherlands, to mark the end of the Nazi Occupation during World War II. A must see on this historic day is the stained glass window in the Palace-Town Hall. Once a country retreat for King William II, it is now part of the town hall and the window commemorates the liberation of Tilburg, the distress suffered by the people and the rebuilding of the city. Other memorials in the town honour the freedom fighters, the Jewish victims, students and railway workers.
Groesbeek & The Canadian War Cemetery
Today you travel outside of Tilburg and onto Groesbeek to visit the biggest Canadian War Cemetery in the country. Here 2,338 Canadian soldiers are buried. This cemetery is unique as many of the soldiers were actually brought here from nearby Germany. This cemetery also contains a Cross of Sacrifice, an elongated Latin cross that is present in all Commonwealth war cemeteries that contain more than 40 graves. As they do in war cemeteries all over the Netherlands, local Dutch families tend to the graves. Afterwards, pay a visit to the Freedom Museum in the town of Groesbeek. The museum, built in the shape of a parachute, tells the complete story of the liberation of the country. This evening, you will then travel to your hotel in the Amersfoort area.
Holten & The Man With Two Hats
Today, we visit the third Canadian Cemetery in the Netherlands, this time in Holten. 1,355 Canadian soldiers are buried here and the majority lost their lives in the final stages of the war. An information centre has opened at this cemetery where you can learn more. Then continue on to the town of Apeldoorn, home to the Canadian monument ‘The Man With Two Hats’. The man holds a hat in each hand, designed to symbolise the duality of war and peace, oppression and freedom, death and life and joy and sadness. The statue’s ‘twin’ is located in Ottawa, to express the bond between Canada and the Netherlands. Then, it’s time to leave this area behind and head to the bustling capital of Amsterdam. Travel by train from Amersfoort to the central station and then head to your central Amsterdam hotel, home for the next 2 nights.
Amsterdam; The City of Lights
This morning begin exploring this cosmopolitan city. The city boasts a great number of fantastic museums from Van Gogh to the Rijksmuseum. There are canals to walk by, plenty of shops and restaurants all over the city. Why not visit the Anne Frank museum to learn all about her life and struggles? In the evening, stroll through the brightly lit centre, taking some time to relax before departing the following day.
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