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DoughboyFighter

Day Trip From Paris

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DoughboyFighter

I will be in Paris for a weekend in a few months and I would like to see a battlefield while I’m in France. I will be relying entirely upon public transport. I was doing some research into this, but a lot of the information was from 5 to 10 years ago and was wondering if anyone had suggestions on where to visit for a day? My ancestors fought at Amiens, Arras, and Cambrai in 1918, so I was leaning towards one of those, but I am open to any suggestions. I am also open to guide book suggestions.

 

Thank you for the help! 

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nigelcave

Given the public transport issue and given that you would seem to have only a day, I would recommend the TGV to Arras. From there you can get a taxi to Vimy Ridge, which has a range of things for you to see, both on the ground and a little underground. If you are going to Pais in a few months it is likely that the opening of the Visitors Centre and access to the Grange Subway (now a very limited tour) will be at 10 am, but the site and the various cemeteries and the Memorial are effectively open 24/7, certainly in daylight hours. However, you will need a taxi to get there; I think that the Guides in the Visitors Centre would probably ring a taxi for you to get back to Arras.

 

In Arras you have the option of visiting the Wellington Cave, which will give you an insight into the use of old underground workings transformed into shelters for large bodies of men and is well presented. There is a website. You can also visit the Arras Memorial to the Missing and attached cemetery and, if time, the moat of the Vauban ramparts which was used as an execution place: still very atmospheric and chilling, despite recent housing developments. The historic centre of Arras is worth your time, where there are plenty of eateries. Then it is a simple matter of hopping onto the TGV back to Paris.

 

This will involve some cost, particularly in taxis - you would probably get away with one to Vimy, several kilomters and then on the return get it to take you to Wellington Cave; if you wish to see a large German Cemetery, get it to bring you back (or out) via the very large German cemetery near Neuville St Vaast - a stay there could be only a few minutes. Whilst not a particularly satisfactory length of time, it does give you a visual impression of the cost of the war, with its 44,000+ burials. It is a bit of a hike from Wellington Cave to the Arras Memorial and back to the station (which, however, is not far from the historic centre). This would provide you with a full day and is probably the best that can be offered for a taste of the WF in the time available.

 

There are two Battleground Europe books on Vimy (one of which has reasonable coverage of Arras in the touring section) and one on tunnelling specifically in this area - i.e. from Arras to Vimy Ridge; on the other hand - personal interest alert, as I was involved in writing all three of them. Should you opt for these books I suggest that you read them before you go. You might find these too detailed, but between them they do offer detailed guides to all the places mentioned, though not Wellington Cave as you will find it today. However, the audio tour to this site (with an English/French option and a multi lingual guide) is fine. Wellington Cave has an entry fee, everything else is free.

 

There are also, of course, numerous books on Vimy Ridge. Berton's is the most readable, probably, but also really rather inaccurate (occasionally very inaccurate); there are a number of more recent studies. Jack Sheldon has written a book, The German Army on Vimy Ridge, which gives a very full picture of the Ridge area from the perspective of the other side of the wire.

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Ken Lees

I would suggest that you hire a guide*, who will pick you up at the station, take you to the sites of your choice and return you to the station in time for a train back to Paris. 

 

The taxi fares saved would considerably offset the price of an knowledgeable and experienced guide. 

 

Ken

 

*but then I would say that because I am a guide. 

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chaz

having broken down in France and had to get two taxi's one of 15 mins and another of 45 mins both were in excess of €100 (insurance company paid for taxi), one of the the drivers did not speak English and was not sure of our needs, the second a girl, was excellent and spoke good English. Ken's suggestion is good and would avoid unwanted expense and time waiting around leaving more time for sightseeing. prior contact would make most of time for itinerary, a bonus..

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nigelcave

Hmmm. I would reckon something like €60  - €80 would get you to Vimy and, in due course, back again by taxi; not sure what the going day rate for a guide in the Arras area might be. I think there is an advisory on the VAC website (there used to be). Contrast this to the cost of a guide.

 

I suppose it is really a matter of your budget and how much time you can give to it - if a full day is really a full day and you can get, say, eight hours with a guide, then fair enough. But, if so, I would probably avoid the Wellington Cave as that will be two hours or so, allowing for what is almost guaranteed to be time spent in waiting (though there is a useful selection of books for sale and an exhibition). If you go for the Arras option, the N D de L museum (and cemetery, for that matter) is worth a visit, Ecoivres and Mont St Eloi, the German gun shelters in Farbus Wood etc. And of course, given enough time to pre-brief your guide, your tour can be concentrated on your particular interests. 

 

Whichever, public transport is not an efficient option. 

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DoughboyFighter

Thank you for the responses. I am going to look into this more before I make a final decision. The trip is part of a larger trip, and I wasn’t planning on going to France, so I’ll have to see what will fit into the budget. 

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Dave1418

Sorry I was going to add a couple of recommendations but your last post totally contradicts what you originally posted

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DoughboyFighter
2 hours ago, Dave1418 said:

Sorry I was going to add a couple of recommendations but your last post totally contradicts what you originally posted

 When I posted, I wasn’t aware that the cost of a taxi would be more than the ticket to get to Paris. Very sorry. 

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chaz

Didn't want to put you off, but, prices for taxis I quoted were 11pm and 7am weekdays, the European breakdown recovery paid for it so maybe priced because they could. I will add, the 11pm 110 euro one had 57euro on the clock when he picked us up. He had travelled  from Hesdin to Le Parq to pick us up and then delivered us to Bonnieres. Total journey would normally be 15 minutes, took around 5 mins to get to us. I suppose they have to cover the cost of returning to base. 

The other trip was from a local village to Bonnieres then down to Arras, dropped off at Hertz then she had to return to do a school run. 

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DoughboyFighter

Thank you. I will look into it more, but it does seem like traveling to Meaux would be feasible. I read Herwig’s book on the Marne last year and I recall the line being held just outside of Meaux. 

 

I did not mean to brush off everyone’s advice with my last post. This is just an unexpected excursion and I wanted to try to visit a battlefield, because I’m not sure when I’ll be able to return to France. The cost surprised me.

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Sly

Hi there,

 

There are many companies/guides offering Day Tours to the Somme battlefields from Amiens or Arras train station with a pick-up at 9.00am and drop off around 5.00pm. It's easy to come and return from Paris just for the day, and many people do. These tours run daily during the season, cost varies from 130 - 150 euros/person for the full day regular tour (8 hour tour). List of the official companies and guides operating in the Somme here:

https://www.somme-tourisme.com/activites-la-grande-guerre

 

Regards,

Sly

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