KC Friends 2023 with Steve Bourque

These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war. Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender's poem. You are men who in your lives fought for life...and left the vivid air signed with your honor'...

– President Ronald Reagan

This tour takes you from the Normandy beaches across France to Belgium and the Rhine River Valley. It generally follows the route of the First U.S. Army during World War II. However, while this concept gives us a direction, its trajectory will send us across hundreds of years of European history, culture, and architecture. It is designed to accommodate diversions and opportunities on the way.

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Highlights

  • Giverny
  • Bayeux Tapestry Museum 
  • Normandy: American sites
  • Breakout sites
  • Rouen
  • Hürtgen Forest
  • Cologne, Remagen, Koblenz
  • Battle of the Bulge sites

Day-By-Day Itinerary

DAY 1 Arrival, Giverny, Honfleur, Caen

The group meets at 8 a.m. outside the Hilton Hotel at Charles de Gaulle airport. By 9 a.m., we are off to visit Monet’s Garden in Giverny, about an hour and a half from the airport. Claude Monet, one of France’s most celebrated artists and founder of the Impressionist style, did much of his work at his home in Giverny. We will plan to spend about two hours touring the grounds. Then, we will drive an hour and a half west to the English Channel, stop in the old port of Honfleur for a long lunch, and visit one of the world’s most historic old ports. Then it is off to Caen, home of William the Conqueror and the primary objective for the D-Day assault. There will be a welcome reception as we settle into our Normandy hotel.

DAY2 Commonwealth Beaches

Day two is an overview of the Commonwealth Beaches, including Pegasus Bridge, Arromanches (Mulberry Harbor), and the artillery battery at Longues-Sur-Mer. From there, we travel to Bayeux, the only important city in Normandy not destroyed during the war. After lunch, we can visit the Bayeux Tapestry Museum and wander the old town. 

DAY 3 Airborne and Utah Beach

On day three, we will visit places associated with U.S. VII Corps's assault on the Cotentin Peninsula. Stops include Sainte-Mère-Église, the Airborne Museum, Crisbecq Battery, Utah Beach, and the Utah Beach Museum. Lunch will probably be in the town square of Sainte-Mère-Église, with Private Steele's mannequin hanging from the church steeple. 

DAY 4 Omaha Beach

On day 4, we will concentrate on some of the most famous locations in American military history: Omaha Beach. We will start the morning at the American military cemetery at Colleville sur Mer, starting at the visitor center and progressing to the cemetery grounds and overlook. From there, we will move to the German defenses overlooking the landing beach Fox Green. Then to lunch at a restaurant on the beach. From there to the Verville Draw, Dog Green, made famous by Robert Mitchum portraying Norm Cota in The Longest Day, and Tom Hanks, who portrayed a Ranger company commander landing there in Saving Private Ryan. Next, we visit Pont du Hoc, the site of the Ranger Assault on June 6, and later the site of one of Ronald Reagan's most impressive speeches:

These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war. Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender's poem. You are men who in your lives fought for life...and left the vivid air signed with your honor'...

DAY 5 Breakout

On Day 5, we follow the American forces as they break out of the Normandy Peninsula. The first stop is St. Lô, a city American bombing destroyed and, later, the starting point for Operation Cobra, the most significant American ground operation in history. Then we will follow the route of Patton's Third Army as it passes Avranches, Pontaubault, and arrives outside Le Mont St. Michel. Next, we will spend several hours at the old abbey, one of the world's most famous landmarks. Once done, we will drive to the old harbor of Saint-Malo, with its rich history of seafaring and great seafood.

DAY 6 Travel To Rouen

On Day 6, we reposition and return to the Seine River valley. After a several-hour trip, with stops, we will arrive at Rouen, the capital of Upper Normandy. One of the great cities of France, many remember it as the execution site for Joan of Arc, in the center of the old town. Once one of the most important harbors in France, it was also one of the principal cities responsible for settling Canada and much of the Mississippi Valley. Its cathedral and old town are impressive. It is a lovely city to visit and spend the evening in its local restaurants and cafes.

DAY 7 Travel to Lille

On day 7, we move north, generally along the path of the British and Canadian forces. On the way, we will stop at the well-preserved remains of a V-1 Launcher site, complete with a mock-up on the rail, ready to fire at London. Then we will shift centuries and return to 1415 and the location of the Battle of Agincourt. According to Shakespeare, Henry the Vth's speech ends with:

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile, This day shall gentle his condition;

And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here, And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day

Then we jump to Lille's Grand Place, a prime example of Flemish architecture, which began in the 1500s. With great food and impressive sites, it will be an excellent location to rest on our journey.

DAY 8 Lille to Spa, Hürtgen, Aachen

Day 8 gets us into the border area so hotly contested during the war. From Lille, we travel to Spa Belgium. A favorite resort for the nobility of 18th and 19th Century Europe. In World War I, it was the headquarters of the German Army during its last offensive in 1918 and the location of the Kaiser's abdication. In World War II, the town again served as a headquarters for a German army and, later, General Courtney Hodges's U.S. First Army. From here, he directed operations in Aachen, the Hürtgen Forest, and the Battle of the Bulge. From there, it is a short drive to the edge of the Ardennes and the crossroads of Malmedy, one of many tragic massacre sites across this part of Europe. The local town will be a good place for lunch. Then a drive through the Hürtgen Forest, the location for one of the longest, largest, and least successful operations in American history. On the way, we will pass some of the remnants of the German Siegfried Line. Then it is into Aachen, the capital of Charlemagne's empire in the ninth century, the First Reich. It is an impressive old town center, an excellent place for an introduction to German culture and architecture.

DAY 9 Cologne, Remagen, Koblenz

On day 9, we leave one great city for another, driving to Kôln on the Rhine. Begun during the Roman Empire, it grew into one of Germany's most important trading and cultural centers. We will take time to wander, shop, and eat lunch. Then it is south to the remains of the Ludendorff Bridge in the town of Remagen on the Rhine. It was here, in April 1945, that American forces first crossed this imposing river. Then we continue south along this famous river to another old Roman city, Koblenz. We will start at the Eherenbreitstein fortress, the home of American forces during the Rhineland's occupation after World War I. Then down to the city and the Deutsches Ecke (German Corner), full of great sites and places to eat.

DAY 10 Trier, American Cemetery-Luxembourg, Bastogne

On our tenth day, we will leave the Rhine and head southwest into the ancient Franco-German borderlands. We will stop at the ancient Roman city of Trier when heading down the Mosel River. With its old Roman gate, coliseum, and the outstanding wine, it is a fitting stop in the middle of the day. From there, we continue south to the American Cemetery in Luxembourg. Among the American soldiers buried in the beautiful but tragic setting is General George S. Patton Jr., who rests at a prominent place at the head of his troops. Then it is back into the coach and through the Ardennes to Bastogne, the site of one of the most famous American battlefields. We will check into the hotel, wander the town center, and eat dinner.

DAY 11 Bulge area, Verdun, Reims

We will start Day 11 with a tour around the Bastogne area, including the overlook of Foy, made famous in the Stephen Ambrose book, Band of Brothers and the relief site where Creighton Abrams's 37th Armor, the spearhead of Patton's army, joined the 101st Division defenders. From there, we will change conflicts again and visit Verdun, one of Europe's most extensive and tragic battlefields. We will have time for a brief visit at one or two locations and then into the Vauban-era city for lunch. Then we travel east to Reims. In its cathedral, in 1429, Joan of Arc crowned the French king in the middle of the Hundred Years War. It was also here, in May 1945, that Dwight Eisenhower accepted the surrender of the German Army, thus ending the war in Europe. The city has a lively pedestrian and dining area for us to spend our last evening together.

DAY 12 Return to Paris

Day 12 ends our journey. We will leave Reims in enough time to get to CDG by 9 a.m. Those who need earlier flights may find it wise to schedule for the following day. Others may wish to extend in Paris for a few days.

Tour Dates

  • Sept 30 - Oct 12, 2023
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TOUR COST: $4,490

Prices are per person based on double occupancy. If rooming alone, there is a single occupancy supplement of $700.

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