Saturday, 16 April 2016

If it's Thursday it must be Belgium

We're off!
For many years I have always wanted to go to Paris. For many years Mr P-L has wanted to visit Waterloo ( as in the battle of ) and WWI Western Front. So after a year of planning Mr P-L made this all happen.
We started our road trip very early with a five hour drive in our rented motor home to Dover for a crossing on the Channel Tunnel - something else I had always wanted to do! I even managed to get some knitting done much to the amusement of the people walking past!
At Dover
My knitting project for our road trip was A Certain Darkness shawl using my Narnia yarn from Rosie's Moments.
Knitting in the tunnel

When we got to Calais, there was a brief stop to fix the headlight reflectors and many reminders to drive on the right and then an hours drive to our camp site in Ieper ( or Ypres the French spelling ) Belgium. There were some minor detours on the way - you try reading Dutch road signs - but we arrived at a lovely little camp site. I can highly recommend Jeugdstadion camping, it was was small and friendly, very warm clean shower facilities and a real mix of nationalities staying there. We were also within walking distance of the town itself.
Tyne Cot
The next morning we drove to Tyne Cot cemetery - the largest Commonwealth war cemetery. Beautifully kept and very sobering. After the rows of headstones are the names of the missing. Even as I write this now the sheer number of names we saw over the next three days overwhelms me.
In the afternoon we went to Passchendaele Memorial  Museum.
Many of the places we visited had been or were being 'improved' to commemorate the hundred year anniversary of the 1914 to 1918 war. Passchendaele Museum on the outside was a pretty, old house and inside was a modern, huge museum.
Just one of the displays
As we walked from exhibit to exhibit there were interactive displays to engage children and clear uncluttered displays, clearly labelled in Dutch, French and English. there was an extensive underground tunnel section giving a flavour of what it must have been like in the tunnels, and these then led to the trenches outside. It gave me a sense of how awful trench warfare was and how brave the men were who lived and died here were.
In the trenches
When we returned to Ieper we parked in our spot and then walked into town. Mr P-L wanted to visit the Menin Gate Memorial. Again so very many names of young men who had died and couldn't be found. The lists seemed to go on forever with overwhelming sadness.
The chocolate shop we had to visit
Pickle-Lily and I were allowed a lovely wander through a beautiful town. We had to visit one of the many chocolate shops and I even found a fabric shop! After pizza in a local restaurant we went to the Last Post Ceremony that is held at the Menin Gate.
Just a few of the names
This is a daily act of homage to the fallen that is so poignent. It was packed, so if you plan to go, go early. There was a group of American school students there who were so beautifully behaved and a group of English school pupils who weren't until silence fell, there were families and coach parties, there were vetrans proudly wearing blazers, badges and medals. As silence fell it was everyone together listening together.
The Last Post

Having the motor home was wonderful - a place to rest and reflect, and after years of tent camping a bed to sleep in! I slept well that night after so much walking and there was a lot more to come!