Touring the North of France and Belgian World War 1 fields is an extraordinary experience of devastation and quiet loss. Driving for hours past countless graveside cemeteries big and small, tiny closed villages and scarily small stretches of land that were viciously fought over for months on end can be quite emotionally exhausting.
After a long day, you’re in search of a stiff whisky to cheers the terrible lost, and a hearty meal to settle what can be a cold and shaken soul who’s realised the immensity of sacrifice (and the waste and needlessness of it all).
A nice place to rest your head is The Albion hotel, located within the ancient ramparts of Ypres.
The recently renovated 23 rooms are clean and friendly, and only 5 minutes walk to the infamous 8pm Last Post beneath the Menin Gate.
For a restoring bite to eat after the Last Post, head 5 minute walk back into Ypres town proper to local eatery Het Zilveren Hoofd for a restoring steak frietjes.
In the morning, a simple Albion breakfast gets you on your way before exploring the streets of Ypres. Once bombed beyond repair, they were fully reconstructed by its citizens from the rubble of the bombed-out buildings, making it and extremely charming place to wander and picture the ‘before’ and ‘after’, the complete devastation and recovery, of World War 1’s greatest city casualties.
The Hotel Albion also offers great advice about world war one tours for the many war cemeteries and surrounding battlefields including Messines Ridge (Battle of Messines), Toronto Avenue Memorial, and Tyne Cot Australian War Museum.
The short drive down into France to see Commonwealth Thiepval Memorial and Hamel Memorial makes the tiny but significant town of Albert a good place to base yourself. There the fated golden Angel statue perches steadily (now) on the Albert Church, overseeing the bloody wastelands around it and guarding the excellent Musee Somme located deep in its bowels.
It’s both humbling and horrific to see the extent of the disaster on these lonely Belgian and Northern French soils. Lest we ever forget, these places are still here to be visited and will serve an important reminder of needless human horror forever more.
The Albion Ypres
Address: St. Jacobsstraat 28, 8900 Ieper, Belgium
Telephone: 0032 57 200 220