Today was an amazing day in Northern France! We began by eating a fantastic breakfast at the hotel (included with price!) and then headed to Arras’ Hero Square. Driving in town is exciting: narrow streets and plenty of aggressive pedestrians. Walking through town was particularly hard on Pierson and Jack, who witnessed a jaywalking pigeon get run over, guts and brains smearing on the cobblestones. Pierson had just commented on how it was amazing pigeons never got hit!
We then headed out north to Vimy. The lane off of the highway is meticulously groomed, large trees flank the drive and shade the lane. It winds through green, shell-cratered fields that are kept down by brave little flocks of sheep. The first stop was to the Vimy memorial, an incredible piece of architecture, and a must-see for Canadians when in France. Beautiful statues honour all of the unknown Canadian soldiers who died in combat in France during WWI. An astounding 11,000!
Then it was to the Interpretive centre where good old Canadian kids act as interpreters, take visitors on tours of the trenches and tunnels that wind throughout the grounds.
The family then jumped back in the van for a trip back into Arras where we went 12 metres underground into the Boves, tunnels created in the 11 century when the French were busy mining chalk. The incredible labyrinth left are used as discos, bars, cellars, and for tourists. The same tour then led us up the belfry (no bats) for an excellent view of the square and surrounding town.
We also had time to step into the church of St. John the Baptiste, it’s inspiring gothic arches and vaulted ceilings adorned with wonderful stained glass and a huge copy of what Chris is pretty sure is a Renoir (maybe a copy?).
The day was capped off with a late supper, and the whole family went down early for bed. Another amazing day awaits tomorrow.
Huge highlights included meeting Canadian families at the Vimy memorial, and sharing in their admiration and appreciation for what past generations of soldiers have done for France and Canada, and also being excited in each other’s travel plans.
The surprise of the day came in a Canadian cemetery near the Vimy memorial that had a small plaque leaning against a head stone that was donated by Lindsay Thurber students in 2001. Wow!
Looking for more serendipitous events tomorrow.