Thursday April 24
This morning after breakfast we drove up to the Flanders region of Belgium, specifically to Ypres. We took a cross country route that passed close by the Fleurbaix and the Le Trou Aide Post cemeteries. The Trou Aide Post cemetery is surrounded by a moat and circled by weeping willow trees, and is considered one of the most beautiful of the Commonwealth cemeteries. It is the final resting place for 356 soldiers who fell on the so-called "Forgotten Front".
The Flanders region is dotted with cemeteries, most being identified with a nationality although many contain fallen soldiers from a number of nations buried within their walls. It is shocking to see so many.
We drove into the centre of Ypres and spent a few hours at the Flanders Field Museum housed in the famous Cloth Hall which was rebuilt after being destroyed during the war. The museum tells the story of WW I in Flanders and has a remarkable series of overlays of maps from the war and present day, as well as a projected series of events over time that show the progress and retreat of various front lines in and around the Ypres. We were thoroughly engrossed in the history of the area and time passed very quickly. When we left the museum it was raining but it soon stopped and we walked over to see the Menin Gate which is another War Memorial to honour those who were missing in action; for whom there is no grave. It is a massive monument.
Our next destination was Passchendaele where we visited the Tyne Cot Cemetery (named by the 50th Northumberland Division as the area reminded them of the Tyneside cottages of Newcastle). It is the largest Commonwealth Cemetery in the World. What a site and what a sight! Another horrific reminder of the incredible loss of life in WW I. By the time we had walked around Tyne Cot, it was time to head back to our hotel in Arras. Our tour of WW I sites was very interesting.
Back at the hotel in Arras, we put our feet up before walking to our favourite square in Arras. We found a restaurant called Le Foucrepe's (sorry no French accents on the iPad). We both had a savoury galette for main course and a sweet crepe for dessert shared with a half litre of rosé wine (well there are some French accents hidden in here). It was delicious. We walked back to the hotel via a slightly different route admiring more of the areas around the main squares in Arras. It is a very picturesque city centre.
Before retiring for the night, we sorted our suitcases to bring to the top all the clothing we will be using on the cycle tour and to pack the other case with clothes we will not be using for the next week.