Written by Laura Whatley
Every year we accompany some of our groups on their trips away, to understand how the experience works for our schools. This year, Lynsey and I visited Ypres, as part of a WW1 Battlefields trip with Queen Elizabeth II School. We spent 4 days on a coach tour of the area, taking in many visits, and a lot of ‘firsts’ for us both!
We started by meeting our group at London Gatwick as they arrived from the Isle of Man before meeting with our coach and departing for the Eurotunnel at Folkestone for a quick 35 minute crossing of the channel.
After a short drive from Calais, we arrived at the Ypres Lodge, Belgium. Our accommodation is a great option for large school groups, looking for basic yet functional accommodation. Meals are provided for the group and packed lunches are created by the students each day for their day of exploring. The large communal space is a good area for students to hang out after a long day of exploring. The town of Ieper is a 15/20 minute walk away, which our group opted to do every evening!The town itself is small and relaxed, with many cafes, restaurants and chocolate shops to pick up the essential gifts.
The town of Ypres probably most famous for the Last Post Ceremony, which is conducted every evening of the year at the Menin Gate to commemorate those who lost their lives in WW1. The remembrance ceremony is conducted rain or shine, and manages to attracts crowds wishing to pay they respects to the fallen. This is a must see for any WW1 Battlefields trip.
We also spent one day visiting the many military cemeteries in the area. First we visited Tyne Cot, which has the largest number of burials contained in any Commonwealth cemetery of either war. The cemetery is well maintained, and the visitor centre makes this an interesting visit for students. We also visited St Julien Canadian memorial and Langemark German Cemetery to see the contrast between cemeteries.
Other visits this day included Sanctuary Wood Museum. Here students can walk through the trenches, and look at the thousands of pieces of war memorabilia on show. Our group also opted to add on a visit to the memorial museum Passchendaele. All of the visits are within such close proximity to each other, only a 20-30 minute coach ride separates them. This is great for groups, as few visits require booking, and the itinerary can be extremely flexible!.
On our last day we visited Bellewarde theme park. This theme park is good for all ages and provides relaxed fun. Its extremely popular with Belgians, and would be great on a summers day due to quite a few water rides! This is a great visit to round of f your trip in Belgium. Our group also decided to experience Belgian ‘culture’ by booking a brunch of waffles and pancakes at a local cafe for their last day.
Thank you Queen Elizabeth II High School for letting us come away with you! We hope you enjoyed your trip as much as we did!
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