Le Tour de France: History & Culture

Combine your love of competitive sports with visiting places of historic interest, here are some suggestions

Recommended stage: #9 – Arras Citadelle > Roubaix

Summary:
For cycling fans with an interest in history, there is no better – or more poignant – area of France to visit that Arras.

The WWI memorial at Arras commemorates the forces from the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand who died in the Arras sector between 1916 and 1918.

Those listed on the memorial include a number of British sportsmen who died during this time, including the Army’s first black Officer, Walter Tull, who played for Tottenham Hotspur and Northampton Town.

Stage Date:
Sunday July 15th

Stage Details:
Stage #9 – Arras Citadelle > Roubaix

Arras & The Tour de France

The first appearance of Arras on the Tour de France map was 27 years ago for a stage leading to Le Havre. That day, on July 11th 1991, Frenchman Thierry Marie looked especially eager to return to his native Normandy.

Fast-forward to 2004, and Arras hosted the finish of the team time trial that the US Postal team won in crushing fashion. In 2015, Arras was the start of a stage to Amiens won by Germany’s Andre Greipel.

Away from Le Tour de France, Paris-Arras race took place between 1923 and 1959 and was revived in 2010 as the Paris-Arras Tour.

Activities

With more than 50 tour operators in the region working specifically on Remembrance tourism, there is a comprehensive mix of the styles of tour available. These tours can range from more educational tour operators to general tour operators in the region who may offer a more rounded experience.

The best of which are: Spirit of Remembrance, Advance! Bespoke Battlefield Tours, Bartletts Battlefield, Battlefield Tours, Bird Battlefield Tours, Rifleman Tours and Skylark Battlefield Tours.

Many of these operators offer full packages that can range from a long weekend to a week-long tour. Examples include:

1. British Military Cemetery, Arras Memorial,
The cemetery comprises the tombs of 2,652 Commonwealth soldiers and a number of German prisoners of war. The compound’s wall bears the names of the 35,928 fighters from Britain, New Zealand and South Africa killed in the Arras area and whose bodies were never found. A memorial is also dedicated to the Royal Flying Corps who died on the Western front during WWI.

2. Notre-Dame-de-Lorette National Necropolis
After WWI, the hill of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette was chosen to host the remains of French soldiers initially buried in more than 150 cemeteries in Artois, Flanders Yser and the Belgian coastline. The necropolis comprises 20,000 graves while 22,000 unidentified bodies were regrouped in eight mass tombs. A plaque pays tribute to Francois Faber, the Giant of Colombes, winner of the 1909 Tour de France, killed in action at Mount St Eloi in May, 1915. While his body was never found, a pair of red trousers with the name of Faber sawn on a pocket was later discovered.

3. National Memorial Park of Canada
Canada’s Memorial Park in Vimy was given by France to Canada to honour the sacrifice of human lives by this young nation. It is located on the highest point of the Vimy Hill, which is 14-km long. On April 9, 1917, four divisions of the Canadian army, helped by Britain’s 5th division, attacked the hill. The memorial pays homage to all the Canadian soldiers who fought in WWI.

Recommended Accommodation:

1. Grand Palace Hotel, Arras
Located in the centre of Arras, The Grand Place Hotel is a charming boutique hotel with luxury decorations and fittings. It’s the perfect location to explore Arras and the magnificent UNESCO World Heritage site. http://grandplacehotel.fr

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