The best way to visit the Meuse-Argonne, Verdun, or other battlefields on the Western Front is by car; and the most convenient alternative is to rent a car from one of the well-known international rental agencies at one’s arriving Airport–generally CDG. Period. But, there are always those American travelers reluctant to drive overseas and/or who are arriving/have guests arriving from other locations in Europe. This post will explore non-car travel and meeting location alternatives.
Using the Meuse-Argonne as an example: One must consider that the offensive occurred along a twenty-mile front and that the northern-most advance of the Doughboys was almost forty miles! Thus, the battlefield covers a very large area. Also, train and bus transportation in this rural region of France are almost non-existent nowadays; and hiring a cab from Verdun is generally not a realistic option–even if one speaks French well. Therefore, the only real alternative is to hire a tour guide / travel with a friend that is willing to drive as well.
TGV Gare de Meuse as a Meeting Point
In that case, the easiest meeting place is probably the (TGV) Gare de Meuse, which is situated on the TGV (French high-speed train) line that runs between Paris and Strasbourg–about a half hour south of Verdun. This station opened in 2007 and is quite modern with good parking. There are numerous trains to/from Paris and two or three trains arriving directly from CDG each day. In both cases, the travel time from Paris/CDG is around one hour. However, the station has no car rental agency. Taking the local bus to Verdun will cost about 4 Euros but will take almost an hour. Taking a cab can be faster, but it will cost between 35 and 50 Euros. Once one arrives in Verdun, one is again faced with few transportation alternatives.
TGV Gare Champagne-Ardenne as a Meeting Point / Car Rental Location
This gare is situated in Bezannes, just south of Reims. Like the Gare de Meuse, it was opened in 2007 and is quite modern with good parking. Unlike the Gare de Meuse, this gare HAS an Avis car rental agency. However, it is still approximately a 70-minute trip to the Western edge of the Meuse-Argonne and a 90-minute trip to Verdun; making it a less-than-ideal meeting point–unless one wants to visit the Champagne fields as well.
Overcoming Fears of Driving in Europe
Technology should lessen one’s fears of driving in Europe: Most cars can now be ordered with satellite navigation, and one can find numerous travel websites devoted to international driving on-line. Both of these make driving in Europe less daunting. Also, once one gets away from large cities, the battlefields are generally situated in rural areas where encountering more than a few vehicles at one time is rare. Finally, it has never been easier to rent automatic transmission cars in Europe. For all of these reasons, the Webmaster encourages readers to rent a car.
However, in the Webmaster’s opinion there is one group of drivers that should not drive in Europe: Drivers that do not have a very good feel for where their car is on the road. European roads can be very narrow compared to most U.S. roads and there is much less physical room for safety. Maneuvering a car through narrow town streets filled with parked cars, etc. can be a bit of a challenge. “Inches to spare” is often the case. Thus, when driving in Europe–whether in towns or on back roads–one has to be very aware of one’s position on the road.
Using Travel Website Rome2rio.com to Find Route Alternatives
Valerie Young, one of the Webmaster’s first clients in 2017, turned the Webmaster on to this travel website. It is extremely easy to use–just plug in the current location and desired destination. The site will calculate a variety of alternatives that include car, bus, train, airplane and combinations of those. It also gives a cost estimate for each of the itineraries. The Webmaster has never booked an itinerary with the site, but Valerie has used it several times. In fact, she booked a five-stage trip from Luxembourg City to Northeastern Holland to continue the next leg of her 2017 adventure in Europe. (The Webmaster was amazed that all connections worked. His advice to her had been to rent a car one-way and drive the distance.)
Using Discount Travel Website Trainline.eu to Find Cheap Rail Alternatives
Graham Gaulke, the Webmaster’s son, became quite a fan of this discount travel website during the five months that he lived in France. It allowed him to visit friends and sites in Belgium, France and Germany without killing the budget. In many cases, he could purchase TGV tickets for 30-40 Euros instead of 100+ Euros on the TGV website.
But there are a few negatives: The rates are non-flexible rates. Thus, if one misses the train for which the ticket was purchased, one will likely have to purchase a new ticket. Also, most of the ticket machines do not accept 100 Euro bills, so readers must remember to use credit cards or small denomination bills.
Readers are encouraged to share other travel tips by leaving a message on this post.