We were picked up by Galloway Coaches at Dover and boarded the P&O ferry over to Belgium.
Simon from the Peace Village Hostel greeted us with a champagne reception which we loved. We were introduced to other tour operators and thoroughly enjoyed a welcome meeting, letting us know about all the upcoming events for 2017 in Ypres.
We then talked to exhibitors and gained lots of information about what school children can experience whilst staying in Ypres. Simon gave us a tour around the Peace Village and Lisa and I both learned that the hostel will gladly do their best to please all schools with any requests. After our dinner, once it got dark, Simon took a small group of us around the cemetery nearby. We learnt that not all the soldiers who were found had identities, This was very sad to know.
We had an early start after breakfast and started our morning of visiting northern sites in the Ypres Salient. Visits included Yorkshire Trench & Entry Point North, Welsh Memorial Park & Hedd Wyn Memorial and Langemark German Cemetery.
We then visited Flanders Fields museum. Lisa and I found this museum very informative and brought to life what people experienced during World War 1.
After a delicious lunch, we visited the Hooge Crater Museum which is voted the best privately owned museum in Flanders. It offers a range of interesting displays as well as a historic film. Simon then took the group for a walk through the fields telling us stories about people in the war which the whole group were engrossed in.
Later in the afternoon we visited the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917
This hands-on museum gives groups the chance to smell, touch and experience trench life, and descend into a dug-out. The grounds were beautiful and the weather was sunny so we had a great, if moving, afternoon.
The Peace Village put on a lovely evening meal which we really enjoyed!
We started the morning following an evacuation route used during the war. Remarkably, some hospital buildings can still be found today.
We then visited cemeteries such as Essex Farm ADS Cemetery, Vlamertinge New Military Cemetery, and Brandhoek MDS & New Military Cemetery.
We had the chance to write a remembrance message on a small cross and put it onto a grave which was a lovely thing to do.
Galloway Coaches then drove us into Poperinge to visit the Death Cells and Talbot House. We found Talbot House, which was used by soldiers for some well needed R&R, to be a very interesting and enjoyable visit, looking at life behind the lines, an authentic Concert Hall and of course the actual soldiers club.
After dinner we were taken to Menin Gate for the daily act of remembrance, which is carried out by the local fire brigade every night at 8pm. The ceremony has been held every evening since 1928, and last July saw the 30,000! We found it to be very moving, as we know all of those who experience it do. One member of our group laid a wreath to remember a member of their family who fought in the war, which was a very fitting way to bring the trip towards its close.
We ended the night chocolate shopping at Leonidas Chocolaterie. We stocked up on plenty of their special offerings – yum!!