SOME NOTES FOR FIRST TIME VISITORSGETTING THERE
Verdun is best reached from Calais via the A26 and the A4. Direct it takes more than five hours cruising at the normal speed, as it is approximately 450 KM from Calais. There is also a train link to Verdun, with a direct line from Paris with frequent services. Buses in the area around Verdun are few and far between, so you would have to either rent a car or bicycle. There are several car rental offices in Verdun. Enquire with the Tourist Office about bikes.
There are numerous hotels in Verdun, to suit all tastes and pockets: a full list is available on the Verdun Tourist Office web site (see below). Personally I have used the Formule 1 Hotel on the Avenue de Metz: the 49 rooms here are only 28.00 - 29.00 €, with optional breakfast at extra cost. Rooms have a double bed, bunk bed, wash basin and colour TV. There are several shared toilets and shower units on each corridor. Although the hotel is open 24 hours, if you turn up outside of the main hours you will need a credit card to get in. There is no restaurant, but there is another hotel with a restaurant nearby, an Italian restaurant opposite and MacDonald's and a trucker's café just down the road. For those wanting something 'cheap and cheerful' this is ideal - and it only takes a few minutes in the car to get to the battlefields. It is always wise to make a booking. For details/bookings contact:
Hotel Fomule 1*, 50 Avenue de Metz,
55100 VERDUN, FRANCE.
Phone: 0033 8 91 70 54 23. Fax: 0033 3 29 83 78 75.
The following have been recommended by contributors to the Old Front Line:
Hotel La Cloche D'Or**, 10,
place Saint Paul, 55100 VERDUN, FRANCE.
Phone: 0033 3 29 86 03 60. Fax: 0033 3 29 83 73 96.
10 rooms: from 44.00 to 44.00 €.
Hotel Coq Hardi***, 8 avenue de
la Victoire, 55100 VERDUN.
Tel: 0033 3 29 86 36 36. Fax: 0033 3 29 86 09 21.
Restaurant. 40 rooms from 87.00 to 205.00 €.
Hotel St. Paul**, 12 St. Paul
Place 5100 VERDUN, FRANCE.
Tel: 0033 3 29 86 02 60. Fax: 0033 3 29 86 02 16.
Restaurant. Rooms from 40.00 - 60.00 €.
Hotel-Restaurant, Carrefour du Rozelier, 55100 HAUDAINVILLE - VERDUN,
Phone: 0033 3 29 84 50 5. Fax: 0033 3 29 84 48 42.
39 rooms: from 50.00 to 68.00 €.
Hotel-Restaurant,48, avenue de Metz, 55100 VERDUN.
Phone: 0033 3 29 83 94 94. Fax: 0033 3 29 83 94 95.
40 rooms: from 51.00 to 68.00 €.
There is a full list on the Verdun Tourist Office site.
There is an excellent camping site in Verdun itself, which is very cheap and has good facilities. It does get busy in the summer months, however. It is called Les Breuils and close to the Citadelle. There is another camping site on the battlefield itself, at Charny sur Meuse, but I have never used this one and it's facilities appear somewhat more basic. I have also noticed that it is not open all year round. Details of both:
Les Breuils, Campsite, Ste
Madrigal/Camping les Breuil, 55100 VERDUN, FRANCE.
Phone: 0033 3 29 86 15 31. Fax: 0033 3 29 86 75 76.
Camping Sous le Moulin,
Campsite, 55100 CHARNY SUR MEUSE, FRANCE.
Phone: 0033 3 29 84 28 35. Fax: 0033 3 29 84 67 99.
BED & BREAKFAST
The only one that I know of one the battlefield itself is the "Village Gaulois" at Marre. It has nine bedrooms (including a family room which sleeps four), a restaurant, and there is also space for Camping Cars. Prices are 50.00 - 100.00 €. Details are:
Village Gaulouis Hotel-Restaurant**,
Marre par Charny, 55100 VERDUN, FRANCE.
Phone: 0033 3 29 85 03 45. Fax: 0033 3 29 85 00 09.
If anyone knows of any others then drop me an EMAIL with the details.
In the winter months, the weather can be very severe in this part of France, with many of the minor roads impassable with snow or ice. It also has a tendency to rain heavily in the first few and last few months of the year. The best time of year to go is around March/April and September/ October. In the summer months the trees in the forest are fully grown and it is more difficult to see the trenches, bunkers and shell holes. Also at this time of year the infamous 'Verdun mosquito' descends on the battlefield - and if you are prone to bites then go prepared! You can also check weather at www.meteo.fr
The 'Yellow Series' Michelin maps are good for getting you there on the roads, they are useless for exploring the battlefield in detail - the one for this area is sheet No 57 Verdun - Wissembourg (1/200,000). Better is the IGN 'Green Series' No 10 Reims-Verdun, which is 1/100,000. There are several IGN 'Blue Series' maps for the area, but a special IGN sheet covering the whole battlefield is available:
FORÊTS DE VERDUN ET DU MORT HOMME
It is 1/25,000 scale, and has all the memorials, cemeteries, forts, ouvrages and even individual trenches marked on it. With the latter, I always took these to indicate a general area of trenches, but while doing the research for Walking Verdun, I discovered that they are actual trenches which match up with maps from 1916. This map is essential for ANY visit to Verdun: whether by car, bike or on foot. You can buy it direct from the IGN web site, or it is available in most shops and museums in the Verdun battlefield area.
The address for the Tourist Office is:
Maison de Tourisme Verdun
Place de la Nation
TEL: 0033 184.108.40.206.18. - FAX: 0033 220.127.116.11.42.
BOOKS ABOUT VERDUN
Because of the nationality of the combatants, most books about Verdun are either in French or German. The best one in English is:
Horne, Alistair The Price of Glory (reprinted by Penguin Books)
Probably the first guide book in English to appear about Verdun was the Michelin Guide Verdun and the battles for its possession (Michelin Tyre Co 1919). This book was reprinted by G.H.Smith & Sons of Eastingwold, York, England in 1994 and is available from most Military Booksellers.
Christina Holstein, a locally based battlefield guide and Verdun historian, had published Fort Douaumont in the 'Battleground Europe' series and also Walking Verdun.
Rose Coombes' Before Endeavours Fade (After The Battle publications) does have a section on the Verdun battlefield, but it is limited in its scope. John Giles' The Western Front Then and Now (After The Battle) is also useful, but again there is only one chapter about Verdun.
If your French is up to it there are numerous guidebooks and pamphlets, although there are English translations of some of these available (i.e. at Forts Douaumont and Vaux). The best book in French is arguably Jacques Péricard's VERDUN 1916. Originally published in the 1930s, Péricard's book is largely an oral history of the battle, with hundreds of personal testimonies - some of which make grim reading. Long out of print, the Mémorial at Fleury republished a paperback edition (610 pages of it!) in 1997. Copies are for sale there. The book includes many unique photographs. Highly recommended.
One of the best guidebooks in French is Yves Buffetaut's Les Batailles de Verdun (Tallandier 1993). It is available at the Mémorial at Fleury and elsewhere. Yves Buffetaut is one of France's leading military historians, and he has published several other books about Verdun, including the excellent Verdun: images de l'enfer (Tallandier 1996) which is a large format fully illustrated history of the battle. I hope an English version of the latter might appear one day.
For details of Verdun books available on Amazon click here.
A word of warning I will no doubt repeat elsewhere. Unlike the Somme and Flanders, 'field walking', metal detecting and other 'military archeology' activities are not permitted at Verdun. Remember that the whole battlefield is one vast mass grave, and that more than 1,000 shells fell for every square meter - which means a lot of duds! If you are caught engaging in this type of activity, or are found with a metal detector or 'souvenirs' in your possession, you can face a huge fine of thousands of Euros, your car can be impounded, you may be imprisoned (albeit temporarily) and the French Police may contact their colleagues in England to arrange a visit to your home in England to see what else you may have. Is it really worth it?
ANY QUESTIONS, OR IF I CAN HELP WITH A VISIT TO VERDUN, EMAIL ME:
PLEASE NOT I DO NOT STOCK TOURIST INFO LEAFLETS
EMAIL PAUL REED