WWII TOUR, APRIL 2018 - THE DOCTORS
A ten-day trip from the beaches of Normandy to the ruins of Hitler's house and the Eagle's Nest. Centered on WWII, this tour will also include a good dose of culture, excellent food, proper beer, and a great time to be had by all. Custom designed by GBC Tours, the cost is $4,250 and will include all ground transportation from the time we first meet up until you are dropped at the airport to fly home, lodgings, listed events, breakfasts, and a few memorable meals...
Travelers are to book flights into Charles de Gaulle airport on April 20th and a return flight out of Munich, Germany for the return to the USA on April 29th. These flights are to be coordinated within the group to ensure that we arrive and leave within the same window.
Here is what's on deck...
DAY ONE: Friday, April 20th
Board flights from your respective airports for Charles de Gaulle airport. All flights will have been coordinated through GBC Tours to ensure that everyone arrives within a one-and-a-half hour window, so that no one finds themselves waiting two or three hours for others to arrive, making for a very brutal day of jetlag.
DAY TWO: Saturday, April 21st
Arrive into CDG between 0900 and 1030hrs. Take a taxi from the airport to the Hilton Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport just adjacent. We'll meet in the lobby sitting area to avoid any cluster or confusion at the gates.
Upon linking up, we'll head out and towards the coastline of Normandy. We'll stop at a restaurant/rest area on the autoroute, once free of Paris traffic.
After nearly three hours of driving, we'll reach the far eastern flank of the invasion beaches. We'll enjoy a leisurely post-flight pace and explore Pegasus Bridge, the very first objective of Operation Overlord, and a command bunker-turned-museum at Ouistreham, key objective of Sword Beach.
We'll make our way west to Juno and Gold Beaches, arriving in the seaside town of Arromanches. It is here where we'll see remnants of the mulberry harbor which sustained the great landing, allowing troops and supplies to be put ashore. The town is also the location of a moving 360 degree cinema, which tells the story of Overlord and the actions leading to the liberation of Paris, complete with footage and recordings from the period. Just fifteen minutes away will be our very last history stop for the day: a formidable gun battery which delivered fire onto the American and English invasion beaches.
We'll head to our hotel, get checked in and freshened up, and then head out for an early dinner together, before letting people finally get some sleep or even just relax after a very long travel day.
OVERNIGHT: BAYEUX, FRANCE
DAY THREE: Sunday, April 22nd
Today will be completely focused on the American sector of Operation Overlord. After a proper night of rest and everyone's internal clocks on European time, we'll have breakfast at our hotel and then head for St. Mere Eglise and a beautiful museum complex dedicated to the 82nd and 101st Airborne units who dropped in on the night of June 5, 1944, to seize key bridges and crossroads which would greatly aid in the success of the amphibious landings on the morning of June 6th.
After visiting this museum and the famous church on the nearby town square, we'll take a short trip up the road to the landing beach of Utah.
From here we'll head over to Pointe du Hoc, stopping for a delicious meal at a charming fishing village located on the water. At Pointe du Hoc, we'll visit the remnants of a giant German gun battery and walk along the edge of the cliffs where American Rangers scaled up to grab this key objective. Here we'll see vivid reminders of the fury of American bombers and naval gunfire in form of wrecked bunkers and massive craters.
Our final objective for the day will be the Omaha beachhead and its memorials and war-torn bunkers, completed by a somber walk through the moving rows of crosses at the American Military Cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer. This will make for a most fitting conclusion to our survey of Operation Overlord and the sacrifices made here.
OVERNIGHT: BAYEUX, FRANCE
DAY FOUR: Monday, April 23rd
As part of this customized and compressed itinerary, we'll make a couple of lengthy drives to cover the key stops we've chosen to focus upon on this tour.
After breakfast and hotel checkout, we'll make a drive nearly six hours in duration, stopping for lunch and to visit a WWI museum as we cross what was the Western Front for four years of bloody conflict as we make our way into Belgium for the next leg of our WWII tour.
Our stop for the next two nights will be a lovely hotel, nestled in the rocky hills and forests of the Ardennes, where the famous Battle of the Bulge began in December of 1944.
The hotel where we'll be staying is run by a first class chef and his hotelier wife. They have a fantastic bar full of spirits, wine, and the best Belgian beer; a top notch kitchen which will serve us five course meals for the next two nights we spend here; and a lovely raised deck where we can relax, take in the scenery, and enjoy a round or three...
OVERNIGHT: MARCOURT, BELGIUM
DAY FIVE: Tuesday, April 24th
After breakfast, we'll load up and drive 30 minutes over to Bastogne to begin a day of sights and studies of the Battle of the Bulge. Our first stop will be the giant star-shaped memorial at Mardasson - an imposing structure listing all of the states of the Union, all of the units involved in the fighting, and giant tablets which re-tell the story of the clash that occurred here in what was supposed to be a sleepy, restful area of the Western Front in WWII. It was anything but...
We'll spend an hour and a half at the adjacent museum, which has undergone a giant renovation project to better portray the events of this German counter-offensive and the Allied response.
We'll then take a short drive to one of the perimeter defenses of Bastogne: a key road junction which was vital to German armor - and denied it by a hodgepodge of American troops who wouldn't give up. This perimeter defense is still visible today and is none other than the very foxholes of one Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne, known forever to WWII buffs as the "Band of Brothers."
Lunch in Bastogne itself will be next on the agenda, with an obligatory visit to bust of Gen. Anthony "Nuts" McAuliffe and the Sherman tank still parked in the main square. We'll dine at a proper Belgian restaurant on some local delicacies, before we have some time to stroll around the town of Bastogne.
At 2pm, we'll visit the Bastogne Barracks for a personal guided tour of where the HQ of the Bastogne defenses was located. And when all is said and done, we'll head over into a wooded hamlet not far away and embark on another private tour: the remarkable brewery of Achouffe, one of Belgium's very best beer makers.
Finished with an epic day of sights, we'll head back to our hotel and be regaled with a final, fantastic meal and post-dinner drinks on the terrace.
OVERNIGHT: MARCOURT, BELGIUM
DAY SIX: Wednesday, April 25th
Travel day, Part II
This will be our second long day of travel, but our time on the road will be interspersed with two important stops...
After breakfast and hotel checkout, we will drive south into Luxembourg and visit the National Military History Museum in Diekirch, which is heavily dedicated to the Battle of the Bulge. Giant display cases full of firearms and heavy weapons, mannequins dressed in full battle gear, and a large hall full of military vehicles make for a memorable stop to further comprehend the enormity of it all.
We'll then drive to the outskirts of the capital city and visit the American Military Cemetery of Luxembourg. And here, among the many crosses and giant memorial tablets and maps is the grave of one George S. Patton.
Our "invasion" of Germany now begins as we make our way towards Munich. We'll head into the rolling, green hills and mountains of the Eiffel and Mosel River valleys, crossing the vaunted Siegfried Line, before getting onto the Autobahn and driving to Augsburg.
OVERNIGHT: AUGSBURG, GERMANY
DAY SEVEN: Thursday, April 26th
From here on out, it's going to be easy sledding in the most beautiful of environments... We'll check out of our hotel in Augsburg after breakfast and make the drive to Dachau's famous concentration camp for a giant dose of perspective. We'll visit the grounds with a private tour guide and learn all about the regime that so many American and Allied boys sacrificed everything to conquer.
From Dachau, it will be a short drive to Munich, and we'll head into the heart of the old city for an authentic German meal and some delicious beer.
Afterwards, we'll enjoy an orientation walk around the Altstadt (old city) and retrace the steps of the famous "Beer Hall Putsch" which ended up being the event that propelled Hitler into fame - and then power. We'll then take some time to explore a few famous shops and churches, to get a feel for this charming capital seat of Bavaria...
Before the traffic gets heavy, we'll duck out of Munich and make a final two hour drive to our home for the next three nights: Berchtesgaden. Tucked away in the Bavarian Alps, ringed by mountains, it was here that Hitler chose a small Alpine house to reside while finishing his memoir, "Mein Kampf." As his popularity grew and his wealth increased through the sales of his book, he purchased a home here, which would later be greatly expanded. And when he rose to the office of Chancellor, all of the leading Nazi officials would move here to be close to their beloved Führer.
OVERNIGHT: BERCHTESGADEN, GERMANY
DAY EIGHT: Friday, April 27th
Wake up in one of the most picturesque settings there is and enjoy a wonderful breakfast at your mountaintop hotel before we head out to explore some final remnants of WWII...
First up will be a stroll from our five star hotel down the hill to the grounds of the Hotel zum Türken. This famous hotel was taken over by the Nazi Party in the mid 1930s because of its vantage point: it overlooked Hitler's sprawling mountainside home, the Berghof. This hotel was converted into the quarters of Hitler's personal security detachment. We'll take a tour of their bunker complex, which winds down into the rock and underneath Hitler's house.
We'll then walk over to the bus station where we'll board a coach that will take us up a very narrow, winding road to the elevator station. From here we'll go up through solid rock and arrive inside the famous Eagle's Nest: a retreat built atop the mountain for Hitler's 50th birthday present. We'll take in an unbelievable view of the surrounding area, hike up a ways for some photographs, and have a beer at the cafe.
After we return down from the Eagle's Nest, we'll make a short drive over to the restaurant of one of Bavaria's best chefs for a meal and a view like none other.
From here, we'll drive down into town for a few historical sights, such as the cemetery, the former second Chancellery of the Third Reich, and the walking street of this charming Alpine town.
And for a final treat for the day, we'll drive over to Salzburg, Austria for another walking tour in one of Europe's best preserved old cities, shopping, taking in the sights and culture, and finishing it all with a meal and beers at our favorite beer hall in the entire world...
This will be a day to remember, for sure.
OVERNIGHT: BERCHTESGADEN, GERMANY
DAY NINE: Saturday, April 28th
Free day to explore, based upon a group vote after weighing out many wonderful options...
DAY TEN: Sunday, April 29th
With hearts content, minds enriched, and bellies full, we'll make the two and a half hour drive to Munich and board a plane bound for home.