Thanks to all the wonderful posters and advice on this forum! Following your suggestions, I am now considering staying outside of Bruges as we are more interested in the Ypres/Flanders Field Museum than Bruges itself for a few days in late November. Don't worry Bruges fans, we just visited the lovely city in May! Is there a town/city that would serve as a decent base to spend a few days exploring the WWI sites of this area? We are willing to forgo are usual qualifier of "Charming" for "Convenient, safe and friendly" for this leg of the trip if needed. We will be visiting friends near Bruges for a meal or two, so perhaps something in the triangle of Bruges/Ypres/Flanders Field.
Why not stay in Ypres? It’s a lovely town and has a fantastic WWI museum lodged in a beautiful old guild hall.
You talk about visiting Ypres late November. Do you know that coming 11 November will be the 100 year commemoration of the end of WWI there? The Last Post ceremony will be at 11 minutes past 11 am instead of the usual daily 8 pm.
I agree with Patricia that Ypres/Ieper is certainly a loveley place to stay, but if you change plans and want to stay there during the days of the commemoration expect that hotels, B&B’s will be fully booked, maybe already now. Nearby Poperinge can be an alternative, Zonnebeke or Veurne closer to the coast, nevertheless Ypres remains the most attractive. Further, however think there is not much to do there but Diksmuide halfway between Bruges and Ypres can be an option for it's central location if the plan is to visit places only in Belgium.
However if you will visit Saint-Omer for the V2 sites hill town Cassel/Kassel is worth considering as a place for sleeping too. There are restaurants with terraces overlooking the flat countryside, the same from the old windmill at the highest point there. I like the place and make most of the time a stop if being in the neighbourhood, but that’s my opinion. If you have enough time put Vimy Ridge between Lens and Arras too on your list together with nearby Notre Dame de Lorette, the “Anneau de la Mémoire” with 600.000 names in alphabetic order is a moving monument.
I agree with Patricia and Wil about Ypres. We stayed there and loved it.
I just ordered a map of the region so I can start plotting out these various suggestions (and routes from another thread)! I am relieved to hear that Ypres has such a good reputation as there are several lodging options available. And Wil, unfortunately we are just barely going to miss the Armistice Day commemorations. I wish I would have planned that end of it better when I bought our flights:(
I had a feel you didn’t know about the commemoration and it’s indeed such a pitty just missing it, nevertheless I hope you will have a worthwhile stay there in Ypres.
Thanks for posting. I am trying to cobble together a trip to WWI sites in Belgium and northern France before or after visiting the Bastogne area. I have been trying to use Amiens as a base, but Ypres just might be the town for me.
Please give us a report when you return from your trip - imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and all!
We booked our tickets for this trip in January (part of a larger round trip ticket). I have learned so much since then about WWI, I feel foolish for not considering being in Europe for the centennial! Even in the last week or two I have started connecting the dots about the sites in Belgium. Both from the friendly folks here on the forum and this fantastic website http://www.ww1battlefields.co.uk/
Also the Major & Mrs. Holt's series and maps have been immensely helpful! In the spring we visited many WWI & WWII sites in France and the RS France boards were a treasure trove of helpful information. I will definitely report back as we are spending time both in the Bastogne and Ypres regions on this trip.
" I have been wanting to use Amiens as a base...." That's a certainly a good choice. Amiens was in the thick of the fighting in 1914 and 1918. Amiens on the Somme was the strategic objective to be reached by M+30 (thirty days after mobilisation was complete) according to the German plan. The British cemeteries in the surrounding country side attest to the horrific fighting and slaughter. The German one is at Fricourt
Or, another city as a base is Arras, the General HQ for the British. Between Amiens and Arras the British cemeteries dot the countryside. Regardless, which place you choose as a base, it's best to have a rental car to get max exposure.
Here is a nice article about Ypres from the New York Times.
You may want to read Rick's detailed comments in the "Near Bruges" section of his Belgium book, re some tips and challenges for visiting the various Ypres Battles sites by car. Visiting the site without a guide or tour is complicated by the fact that there were 5 battles spread over the period 1914 - 1918, which covered a relatively large geographical area.