On the weekend of 20th January we were kindly invited to attend the Discovery Tour 2017. Tour operators from all over the country were met by coaches in the UK and transported to the town of Ypres where we would be able to meet a number of hoteliers and companies who cater for the tourism market. It felt most odd but a welcome change for us to be the guests on a tour and not the organisers!
We stayed at our usual hotel in Ypres, the family run Albion, which over the years has become our home away from home and, as always, the group received a warm welcome by Ruth and her team.
The weekend began with a visit to the In Flanders Fields Museum, housed in the stunning Cloth Hall. As a tour guide, I don’t always walk around the museum with my groups as I have been so many times, but it made a refreshing change to slowly walk through without worrying about my group, talk to the people who work there and take time to look at all the exhibits.
That evening, the group attended the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate. I never tire of this incredibly moving ceremony and is even more meaningful for me as my Grandfather, Rifleman William James Eden, is remembered on this memorial.
It is very different being there on a cold winter evening compared to a warm weekend in spring or summer, but there were still quite a few people there to show their respects. We last attended the ceremony in November when we were there with our Armistice Tour. We attend Armistice every year with a small group and take part in the Poppy Parade walking up to the Menin Gate and the Last Post Remembrance Ceremony and in the afternoon we attend the Great War Remembered Concert. The following day, we take the group on a battlefield tour of the Ypres Salient.
The Discovery Tour organisers also put on a number of battlefield tours for us to attend. We chose the Messines Battlefield Tour which was conducted by Simon Louagie. This year sees the 100th anniversary of the battle of Messines and, as we are conducting our own battlefield tour for this, it seemed appropriate to opt for this one and Simon did an excellent job.
In the afternoon, the Albion hotel held a Tourism Fair. This was well worth attending as we met up with many old associates like Niek from the Hooge Crater Museum and Cafe and some new suppliers who we feel sure will enhance our battlefield tours.
In the evening we had the chance to visit the Flanders Lodge Hotel for a Gala Dinner and the whole experience was wonderful.
On Sunday we boarded our coach again and travelled to the Somme where the Mayor of Albert held a reception at the Town Hall welcoming the group and telling us of the work that has been carried out on the Somme for the four years marking the centenary of the Great War. Lunch was held at the Poppies, a popular hostel with schools and groups in Albert. We then boarded our coaches and headed for Calais and home.
This was a great, well organised weekend and incredibly useful for all the tour operators who attended.