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catfishmo

Flanders Field Museum or Memorial Museum Passchendaele?

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catfishmo

Thanks to you all for your advice! Now that we are home, I thought I would report on our experience.

On a Tuesday evening we flew into Lille, picked up our rental car, and drove to Pop. Since it was late and our phone GPS was basically useless, we did not detour at Messine's Ridge as I had hoped.

We found our room at the Amfora Hotel on the square in Pop to be very pleasant and went out for dinner. The 'cafetera' we chose right around the corner by a parking area was somewhat disappointing. I was surprised that they spoke almost no English and had no menu in English.

Wednesday morning while my two teenaged daughters slept late, I went to Lijssenthoek cemetery, and the visitor's center did not disappoint! Since my primary WW1 interest is in medical aspects of the war, I listened to every 'story' on the audio wall and read everything there was to read there. In the hour+ that I was there, I learned a lot and got a good sense of what it would have been like as a CCS 100 years ago.

After a stop by the grocery on the Pop square to buy some picnic food, the girls and I headed to the Passchendaele Museum on this unusually warm day. It was the perfect choice for them! I thought I might need three times as much time to read every everything, but there wasn't that much to read--mostly stuff to see so the girls and I pretty much stayed together. The girls were surprisingly engaged and seemed to enjoy it. The extensive underground trenches were definitely the highlight. The building next door was housing a display about WW1 communications (also an interest of mine) and it was good to see some actual WW1 phones. It was unfortunate they didn't have more exhibits and info about messenger dogs and pigeons.

Our next stop was Tyne Cot just up the road. I was having a hard time explaining to the girls why we were going to see a bunch of grave stones. When we first got there, I was asking myself the same question. But once we actually strolled among the graves, I 'got' it. David's post above hit the nail on the head. When you have an appreciation for the value of human life and can see each grave as a representation of someone's life lost, it is heartbreaking. All those mothers who lost sons, wives who lost husbands, and children who lost fathers. It represents a LOT of sadness. And SO many graves to unknown soldiers! It made me think about the horrific circumstances of war where bodies were blown to smithereens or were so decayed that identification was impossible.

We got a bit turned around so did not go to Essex but found our way to Hooge Crater museum. It was interesting and had a LOT to see cleverly displayed in an old church, but in hindsight, if we had missed it, we wouldn't have missed a lot since much was similar to Passchendaele. We began walking to the hotel next door to see the trenches outside, but it was a further walk than we thought, and we had already seen great trenches at Passchendaele Museum so we headed back to the car.

Our next target was dinner in Ypres. Still directionally challenged, we drove around a lot, but seeing the countryside was part of our education so didn't mind it too much.

Finally found cloth square in Ypres and it was very crowded due to the Ypres Car Rally. We chose a restaurant and learned to appreciate that in America, you tip a hefty 20% but at least the waiter does more than take your order and bring the food! Now about 7 pm, the girls stopped at an ice cream store and got a Belgian waffle (the sweet kind), and we headed to Menin Gate. By 7:15 there were already huge crowds. We did get a 'front row' spot at a metal barricade. At 7:55, they closed off the street and the people standing in the street pushed in so much it obscured our view, but the police officers pushed them back. We watched the ceremony and about 10 people/groups laid wreaths so it took a good while. I think the girls were bored, but I really appreciated that the fallen soldiers are still honored for their sacrifice.

Thursday morning I went to the Town Hall Death Cell and was at Talbot House when they opened the entrance door (which is not on the main street, but around the corner). I wasn't sure what to expect there. I couldn't imagine how it would take several hours to see just a house. What a pleasant surprise I found in MUCH information about soldiers' lives on the Front with poignant quotes from letters. The girls opted not to go and it was probably good. They would not have had the patience to read so much, but it was a gold mine of info for me. I proceeded upstairs to the actual house and picked up my 'ipad tour tablet' and toured the house itself (which took probably 15 min). I had read a fair amount about the house beforehand and could really 'feel' it as a place of refuge for the men--especially the garden. In what had been the bathhouse outside during WW1, they had an interesting exhibit about WW1 chaplains which had me teary eyed. Since we had a long day of driving ahead, I didn't get to spend as long in the garden as I would have liked, but felt like in my two hours there, I pretty much saw all there was to see.

On our way of town I took my picture with the new statue to 'Ginger' on the square. I had written the tourism office in Pop and the gal who replied mentioned my name (Ginger) really caught her attention since they had just unveiled the statue. The story of 'Ginger' really brings a human element to the war. http://users.telenet.be/aandeschreve/ginger.htm.

The only thing I was really sorry not to see was a model train exhibit housed at the Gasthuiskapel (chapel?). The exhibit didn't open till 1:00 and we needed to get out of town.

On our way to Auxerre (south of Paris--to see Guedelon, a castle they are building from the ground up using 12th century methods) we detoured to Boulogne sur Mer as I wanted to see the town that had played such an important medical role during WW1 as a center for stationary hospitals and port for Blighty. I am SO glad we did! We strolled along the incredibly wide beach (which was fun for the girls) and I could see the long wharves, the town above on the bluff and imagine what it would have been like buzzing with military vehicles and soldiers a hundred years ago. I really wish we'd had time to explore the city more. It looked much more interesting that what I anticipated.

I am really glad we were able to visit these sites in Belgium where I could get a first hand look at the landscape etc. (important since I am an author), but I must say of all the WW1 'stuff' I saw, the WW1 exhibit at the Imperial War Museum in London was probably the best. I spent seven hours there... I read everything there was to read and saw everything. They did an excellent job giving an overview of the war, presenting the material somewhat chronologically and also topically (sections on medical, recruitment, women's roles in war, aeroplanes, etc). I was also gratified that my 9 months of WW1 studies last year were, for the most part, thorough and accurate. I didn't have any earth shattering WW1 revelations, but my visits certainly enhanced my knowledge and fleshed out details.

Again, my sincere thanks to you all for helping me plan this trip! Below I have pasted my notes with info gleaned from TripAdvisor.com, websites, and this forum that includes the nuts and bolts info which could be helpful to others in planning a visit to Pop & Ypres.

~Ginger

Poperinge/Ypres
**Most touristy sites are closed on Monday!
-Messines Ridge: Enroute to Pop from Lille, go by Messine's Ridge
-Hotel Amfora-- “on the square” Grote Markt 36; 8970 Poperinge
-Bfast is good but EXPENSIVE
-8 rooms; flat-screen TV, free Internet & toiletries. Phones, safes, turndown service, tour/ticket assistance and a picnic area.
-For a room with an extra bed (for a 3rd person) cost is 30 Euros/night. Hotel rates do not include tax of 1.50/person/night.
-Phone: Amfora at +3257339405 Hotels.com 24/7 in USA: 800-246-8357
-Check in 3-6 pm. Ck out 11 am.
-(Ypres) Market Square:
- “The Market Square is a lovely Belgian location containing all the amenities. Hotels, restaurants, bars, chocolate shops, museums, souvenirs. The best time to visit the square is at night. The whole square is lit up, particularly around the Cloth Hall (Flanders Field museum), and the view is wonderful. From the Square you can look towards the Menin Gate which is also lit up at night.”
-(Ypres) Menin Gate (next to Flanders Museum)
-People raved about the 8 pm nightly ceremony. Arrive early so you can see. Take Kleenex...
-To get OOT, make way out on Menin side of gate = lighter crowds
-Poperinge Town Hall Death Cell: In back of town hall look for red door/gate.
-6 am-10 pm; Free
-Talbot House Poperinge:
-Cost: 8 Euros. Allot 2 hrs
-Location: Just off the main square—poor signage, entrance off side road; rude staff
-Open 10-5:30. Last ticket sold 4:30
-Model train exhibit: The Gasthuiskapel is currently hosting an exhibition on those train movements... with its scale model... Several railroad scenes are depicted, ranging from medical intake in the station building..." The exhibition is in the ‘Gasthuiskapel’ that is an old chapel in the centre of Poperinge (near Talbot House?), in the Gasthuisstreet. Location: Gasthuiskapel, Gasthuisstraat 1A, Poperinge
-Price: 3 euro for an adult.
-Hours: 1pm to 6pm
-Statue of Ginger: at the Grote Markt, in the centre, in front of the pub A la poupée. That used to be the bar from her parents during WWI. You can read her story in English on this website: http://users.telenet.be/aandeschreve/ginger.htm
-Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery.
-open 9-6. Allot: 1 - 1.5 hours; Free
-Site of field hospitals; #1 rated attraction in Pops; 11,000 graves, visitor's center; really cool walkway that sun shines thru posts showing number of deaths that day.
-Ypres one day tour outline by Chris on Long, Long Road.
-Hooge Crater Museum: http://www.hoogecrater.com/nl
-Hours: 10-6
-Cost: 4.50 me; girls 2 (Euros)
-Location: four kilometers east of Ypres, near the theme park "Bellewaerde." It is easily accessible along the main roads.
- “The Hooge Crater Cemetery across the road is not to be missed either.” “The first aid and hospital equipment is worth a look.” “there is a trench system to explore outside.” “With an original 1916 Ford T ambulance and a replica of a Fokker DR1”
-Scant parking
-Might be good place to eat—reasonably priced (lunch)
-Free potty
-Hotel Kasteelhof 'T Hooghe trenches: Trenches behind hotel. 7 min from Flanders Field museum. 1 Euro. May not feel need to visit if see trenches at Passchendaele museum & Hooge museum. 10-7
- Passchendaele Memorial Museum: http://mmp.zonnebeke.be/(see website for directions) Lots of hands-on; real trenches
-9-6 last ticket sold 4:30
-Allot 2-3 hours
-Cost 7.5 Euros
-Free potty
-Restaurant outside museum is good
-Tyne Cott Cemetery (just up road from Passchendaele Museum)
-Essex Farm Cemetery (just northwest of Ypres)
-Castles to drive by: (west of Pops??)
-DeLovie: Army hqtrs
-Castle 't Couthof: Hospital that treated civilians and Belgian soldiers.
-Flanders Field Museum:
-Cost: Me 9 Euros; girls 5 euros. Climbing bell tower for 2 euros extra is worth it for view
-Hours: 10-6 allot 2 hours
-Contact info: Lakanhallen - Grote Markt 34, Ieper (Ypres) B-8900, Belgium 32 0 57 239 220
-Consider taking train from Pop to Ypres if traffic is bad
-Parking in Ypres: parking on Hornwerk just outside the moat which is little used, out through the Menin Gate, first right.
-Free parking in Pop: On same street as Talbot House is a free public parking lot. Have to look close to see sign. Drive under an arch to the lot.
-Recommended places to eat in Ypres: All three are situated in the Grote Market.
In 't KleinStadhuis ( The best of the three - excellent)
Les Halles (Very good)
Markt 22 (Also good but would be my third choice)

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Don

Hi,

I enjoyed reading about your trip. I intend to make a trip myself for the first time in September. Your notes will be of great help to me.

Gerry

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WilliamRev

Glad to hear that the trip was such a success, and I very much enjoyed reading about it. (Sorry to hear that the staff at Talbot House were rude - you didn't mention it in your narrative account, but it appears in your notes at the end).

William

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catfishmo

Hi,

I enjoyed reading about your trip. I intend to make a trip myself for the first time in September. Your notes will be of great help to me.

Gerry

Glad to hear that the trip was such a success, and I very much enjoyed reading about it. (Sorry to hear that the staff at Talbot House were rude - you didn't mention it in your narrative account, but it appears in your notes at the end).

William

My notes are the notes I made before I left that I compiled from several sources. The rude staff was a comment made on TripAdvisor, if I recall. Actually, the lady who opened Talbot House ( a few minutes late) wasn't very friendly. However, there was a lady in the house that offered me a cup of tea while I toured the garden and she was very nice.

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Herekawe

Hi Ginger

Great to read that you had a good time.

Never mind about Messines Ridge etc. as you can get that on your next visit.

I am assuming that your quick visit gave you a taste and like me you will be back to see the rest at some stage.

Cheers

James

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WilliamRev

My notes are the notes I made before I left that I compiled from several sources. The rude staff was a comment made on TripAdvisor, if I recall. Actually, the lady who opened Talbot House ( a few minutes late) wasn't very friendly. However, there was a lady in the house that offered me a cup of tea while I toured the garden and she was very nice.

Ah, that's good news! (I don't suppose that anyone is at their friendliest when they have had to rush to work and are obviously running a bit late :whistle: ).

William

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catfishmo

Hi Ginger

Great to read that you had a good time.

Never mind about Messines Ridge etc. as you can get that on your next visit.

I am assuming that your quick visit gave you a taste and like me you will be back to see the rest at some stage.

Cheers

James

It was a good taste. I would like to have had more time to 'feel' the landscape and get a sense of what it would have been like to be a soldier living and marching around in the area. But it is a LONG way from North Carolina : )

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Phil Wood

**Most touristy sites are closed on Monday!

It's not difficult to get the impression that France and Belgium are closed on a Monday.

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Mark Hone

The staff at theTalbot House museum can be a bit variable in my experience- the same lady has been friendly and frosty on different occasions. The people making the tea in the house are the volunteer wardens.

Glad to know that you had a mostly enjoyable visit.

Interesting to hear about the statue of 'Ginger' outside 'A La Poupee'. The cafe used to make a lot of Ginger and its World War One connection but my wife and I were surprised to see that almost all of that had been removed when we visited last year.

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BloodMedic
Since my primary WW1 interest is in medical aspects of the war

There was no mention of you visiting the grave of Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse VC & Bar, MC who is buried between Poperinge and Ypres at Brandhoek New Military Cemetery, Vlamertinge His military headstone carries, uniquely, a representation of two Victoria Crosses the only headstone in the whole of the WW1 cemeteries.

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Poprad

Ginger (and other U.S. types touring the WF), if you plan to go back I can give you an "American" perspective and some U.S. related sites to see (such as the Mt Kemmel monument, the Waregem "Flanders Fields" U.S. cemetery, others). I spent 3 years living in the region and was able to do quite a bit of the Western Front, and focused on AEF related sites where possible.

So, for anyone interested in an AEF focused trip, or just viewing the WF from an American viewpoint, I'd be happy to offer my advice. It's free and worth every damn penny.

Great trip report by the way.

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Ray Tomlinson

We went to the Paschendaele museum this morning. It was largely deserted at 9.00 am. The only problem is that, to see it properly, you need a couple of days in there.

Anyone visiting Hooge should avoid parking on the cycle lanes - it upsets the local plod (and the cyclists).

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John P. Moore

I visited the IFF museum in 1917 and found it rather Bizarre, especially in comparison to the many other WW I and WW II museums in Europe that I have visited over the years. I mentioned that observation to a friend in Canada who had visited the Salient during the previous year. He told me that the Paschendaele museum was vastly superior and recommended that I go there. I did so the next day and received a discount on admission by showing my IFF ticket stub. I felt that Paschendaele exhibits were much better laid out and more extensive. Excellent dioramas. The extensive displays of artillery ammunition and weaponry were particularly impressive. My only complaint about the Passchendaele museum were the screaming school kids running through the museum and the trenches. I expect to visit the Paschendaele museum again next June when I am back in the Salient.  

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