5 Vimy and other Normandy sites
We've had a few challenging days picking up the rental car and finding our way out of downtown Paris and Arras to start the war memorial portion of the trip. Driving in Paris was a little more intense than in Iceland! But we made it to our campsite (thanks to Tracey's navigation skills) and it was a nice site located close to Arras. Our main objective was to visit the Vimy Ridge memorial and it was a very humbling experience. Seeing the conditions of the trenches where the Canadians had to live for months on end awaiting the word to battle was one thing. We toured one part of the tunnel system that was used to get under the Germans as well. But to see how close the German positions were to them was quite shocking...the lines were only 35 m apart here. I've heard about it being close quarters all my life but seeing it really puts a new appreciation for those who served our country.
I think for me, watching our girls walk into the Canadian cemetery with all the headstones also choked me up. What a different world it could have been. We also went to a memorial that has the names of 590,000 soldiers from both sides who lost their lives in northern France in WWI.
We also visited Beaumont-Hamel where the Royal Newfoundland regiment served and had more than 80% casualty rate on one day alone. Again, very humbling. So, together with Vimy, we've now seen the only two Canadian NHSs that are outside of Canada.
Next on the "war history" tour was the Juno Beach centre at Courselles-sur-Mer. The centre takes a great multi-media approach to presenting Canada's role in D-Day. Lots of great displays and a couple of very moving films. The guided tour of the beach and fortification remains was also very good. The founders of the centre insisted that the guides be Canadians of the same age of those who participated in D-Day, and our guide was a young fellow from Saskatchewan and he did a good job. And that pretty much concluded our War remembrances for this trip. I think the girls would like something a bit more light; they have appreciated it all the same.
On the lighter side, we took the girls to the bar for the first time. Eleanor wanted to watch the France vs Iceland football game and there was a bar at our campground so we went. (She had tried to get tickets but it was sold out). Quite the experience to be in a crowd singing their national anthem and cheering on their team. The first few minutes seemed like Iceland was going to give them a run, but France lit on fire in front of the home crowd and scored some amazing goals.
Oh yeah, Eleanor said that some Europeans must be pretty disappointed when they come to our campgrounds - no restaurant, bar, bakery truck, or wifi.
Over the last couple of days we've also visited Mont St.-Michel (France's first World Heritage Site) and St. Malo, where Stu made a point of finding #4 Rue Vauborel and taking pictures of storm drains (those who've read "the book" will know why).
So, that catches things up over the last 4 days or so. Tomorrow, we head for Nantes to trade in our car for bikes and find out if we packed light enough for our bike trip. We saw some bikers today with some nice, big panniers so we hope we get the same!