THE IN­SID­ERS YPRES, BEL­GIUM

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - MAT McLACH­LAN BAT­TLE­FIELD TOURS Mat McLach­lan is one of Aus­tralia’s lead­ing war his­to­ri­ans and bat­tle­field guides. He is the founder of Mat McLach­lan Bat­tle­field Tours, which con­ducts es­corted war-themed trips to Europe, Asia and Ocea­nia; bat­tle­fields.c

GO: Ypres, in Flan­ders Fields, was an im­por­tant strate­gic land­mark for the Al­lied forces to hold in World War I, and it came un­der sig­nif­i­cant fire, with five ma­jor bat­tles tak­ing place in and around the me­dieval town. Not a sin­gle build­ing was left un­marked but the en­tire town, in­clud­ing the Great Cloth Hall and St Martin’s Cathe­dral, has since been re­stored. A mem­o­rable time to visit, of course, is Armistice Day on Novem­ber 11; vis­it­flan­ders.com/en.

EX­PLORE: With moats, stone walls and tow­ers, the for­ti­fi­ca­tions of Ypres are the best pre­served in Bel­gium, with a his­tory that dates back more than 1000 years. The Ram­parts Route is a leisurely 2.6km walk that pro­vides in­for­ma­tion pan­els along the way on the his­tory of the precinct. Re­minders of World War I are never far away, with the route in­clud­ing one of the world’s most beau­ti­ful mil­i­tary ceme­ter­ies and sev­eral con­crete ma­chine-gun bunkers used to de­fend the town in 1918.

LEARN: Lo­cated in Ypres’s fa­mous Cloth Hall, the In Flan­ders Fields Mu­seum re­veals per­sonal sto­ries that bring to life the re­al­i­ties of the con­flict, pro­vid­ing an ex­cel­lent pre­lude to a tour of the bat­tle­grounds; in­flan­der­s­fields.be/en.

RE­FLECT: The Menin Gate dis­plays the names of 54,000 com­mon­wealth sol­diers, in­clud­ing more than 6000 Aus­tralians, miss­ing in ac­tion. At 8pm daily, the Last Post is sounded, cre­at­ing a poignant ex­pe­ri­ence. Tyne Cot Ceme­tery, the largest Com­mon­wealth mil­i­tary burial ground in the world, is also a must to visit.

EAT: There are many great Flem­ish dishes, in­clud­ing mus­sels, stews, vol-au-vents, Bel­gian en­dives, pas­tries and desserts, plus hun­dreds of va­ri­eties of lo­cal beers. A num­ber of ex­cel­lent res­tau­rants serv­ing lo­cal fare are lo­cated on Ypres’s Grote Markt (main square); I rec­om­mend In ’t Klein Stad­huis, in a her­itage-listed build­ing next to the town hall; in­hetk­le­in­stad­huis.be/en.

STAY: Main Street Ho­tel is a quirky bou­tique prop­erty that pro­vides out­stand­ing ser­vice and fa­cil­i­ties. Lo­cated in the heart of town, it of­fers six in­di­vid­u­ally themed guest rooms, some fea­tur­ing a pri­vate ter­race and with en­tic­ing names such as Wild, Glory, Pot­tery and Ex­per­i­ment; main­street-ho­tel.be.

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