Pop culture, and now travel, turning attention to World War I

By Felicity Long
InsightAs world conflicts go, World War I tends to be overshadowed by the drama of World War II, which has continued to inspire movies, TV shows and books for decades, long after the last shot was fired.

One reason WWI is often forgotten is that it ended in 1918, so most veterans of that war died long ago. Also, it had less obvious villains and less plentiful newsreel footage.

Popular culture has turned its attention to the Great War more frequently in recent years, with the play-turned-film “War Horse” and the megahit TV series “Downton Abbey” turning a spotlight on the conflict and the period immediately following it.

FelicityLongAnd we expect to see interest increase even more next year, as Europe gears up to mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the conflict. Not only will destinations with important battle sites, such as Belgium and France, hold ceremonies to commemorate the events of the war, but a recent uptick in media attention has brought this sometimes overlooked period back onto mainstream radar.

Tours have already sprung up around “Downton Abbey,” and hotels such as Rocco Forte’s Brown’s Hotel in London and Ellenborough Park, a 15th century manor house in the Cotswolds, created packages built around Highclere Castle, where the show is filmed.

Virgin Vacations is offering a weeklong Four-Star London-Downton Abbey tour Oct. 31 that also offers exclusive access to Highclere at a benefit hosted by the castle’s owners.

To mark the 100th anniversary of the war next year, European Waterways created a World War One Commemorative Cruise through Belgium and northern France aboard the 12-passenger Panache from May 18 to 25. The cruise plies the River Lys to battlefields and Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, where passengers can attend a ceremony of remembrance with buglers that takes place every evening as well as to the battle sites in Somme and along the Canal du Nord, where the Allied Forces fought the Germans during the Hundred Days Offensive. Finally, the tour also includes a visit to the Forest of Compiegne, site of the signing of the Armistice on Nov. 11, 1918.

Obviously, this itinerary takes in the kinds of sites that draw history buffs, but it will be interesting to see if the renewed interest in WWI in the media will translate into a wider audience.  
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