Monday, 11 July 2016

T4rdis2 Tour 2 - Day 8 - 11 Northern France

Day 8
Friday 8th July 2016.  Sunny and warm all day

This morning we left our camp site at Long and headed into Amiens to see if we could find a parking pace so that we could pay a second visit to France's largest Cathedral, and it was all very easy, we drove into town and slid into a dedicated motorhome parking spot in no time!  Then it was but a short walk, and we were once again admiring the splender of the building that was started in 1220, and took 300 years to complete.

Miraculously, it also managed to survive 2 world wars more or less unscathed, which must at least in part have been because of the massive protection work that took place to prevent damage to the doorways and statues around the cathedral's base.  Huge wooden beams on ramped surfaces were installed, and these supported thousands of sand bags that protected the building from bullets and flying shrapnel.

As it would have looked with all the sandbags insitu.

Once we were inside our awe was still inspired, however  because of it's massiveness, and also because of it's modern seating (wicker and wooden chairs), it did seem to loose some of it's grandeur.  Having said that, it was impossible not to be impressed by, amongst other things,  the Nave that soared to 138 feet high with 126 supporting pillars, and by the choir stalls that are delicately carved with over 4,000 biblical and mythical figures.

The other thing that really took our notice was the huge organ  that was completely dismantled to protect it from the ravages of the First World War.  But then it's reconstruction, which took place in 1937, was so complex that they didn't dismantle it again for the 2nd World War.  It must be a fantastic thing to hear it full voice!

Once we had completed our tour of the Cathedral we returned to T4rdis2 with an aim to visit some of the World War One memorial sites, and first on our list was The Lochnagar Crater.  This impressive dent in the ground measures 91 metres across and is 21 metres deep and is the result of an explosion that marked the launch of the Battle of the Somme. There is a wooden walkway all around it, and on every board there is a small memorial plaque for some of the individuals who lost their lives in that battle

Next, we planned to visit the Franco-British Memorial, but by the time we got there it was closing so a very kind gentleman invited us to return in the morning, which we did, but still didn't manage to enter!

Day 9
Saturday 9th July 2016.  Very hot and Sunny till late into the evening

We'd stopped over on a roadside Aire in the little town of Bapaume overnight with the specific intention of going back to see the Franco-British Memorial which commemorates the 72,205 men of the British and South African armies who died or went missing the Somme during the war.

However, when we arrived, it was to be told that the memorial and the grounds were closed to the public  today and tomorrow because The Royal British Legion were holding a Memorial Service, and were expecting over 400 guests each day!  Therefore, we gave up on that one for now, and headed for Vimy Ridge where the huge Canadian Monument stands.

It is said that at daybreak on April 9th 1917 the Canadian Corps, aided by British troops stormed the Ridge and proceeded to take it from the Germans in a hard fought but swift victory. However, the cost was high with over 10,000 casualties, many of whom were Canadian and who's bodies were never recovered.  Therefore, their names, along with others who don't have a grave, are amongst the 11,285   that are carved into the walls of the monument.

At the site we also visited the 'Welcome' centre where we learnt more about the battles that took place, and also about the personnel struggles of individuals who had to endure the terrible deprivations of living in the trenches for months on end.  An audio visual display told of how the soldiers dealt with such things as trench foot, and how they had to iron their clothes to rid them of lice! Apparently they 'popped' in the heat!  Outside, in the grounds the trenches have been reconstructed for visitors to walk around,  but their 'dry' walls and bases  clearly don't represent what it must have been like during The Great War!

After our visit we had lunch in the very hot sunshine, and then contemplated what to do next.   We decided to head Southwest towards the Champagne region but it was a bit to far to make it all the way in one hop, especially in view of the sweltering heat. Therefore, we picked out another Free Aire at a place called Le Nouvion En Thierache, which was only about 60kms away, however as it's presently harvest time in this region of France, there must have been a million tractors on the road, and it seemed as if we got stuck behind at least half of them!

Happily, when we got there the Aire turned out to be a brand new one, with a lovely outlook over parkland and lakes in front, and with chateau and forest behind.  It's Johns birthday tomorrow so we're going to stay put for a couple of days and gift ourselves some time to enjoy  this lovely weather, with little more to do than stroll if we feel like it, or put our feet up and sip cider if we don't.

Day 10
Sunday 10th July 2016 - Boiling Hot!

Happy Birthday John - soixante-deux Today xxx

Birthday Boy in the trenches!

As planned, we had a quite day,  John did a bit of pottering and fixing around the van, and I did a bit of blogging and a bit of not much else. We put our chairs out in the afternoon and sunned ourselves, and while doing so, we kept our  fingers crossed that the local insect population wouldn't feast on us! (that and a good coat of insect repellent).  Later, when it cooled down a bit, I cooked  a nice evening meal that involved a bird that quacks a lot, and generally we took a day off from planning routes and identifying places to rest our weary heads.  However, on Monday it would be back to the 'office' and work as usual!

The evening sunset as seen from T4rdis2's window

Day 11
Monday 11th July 2016 -  Hot and Muggy, occasional sunshine, brief showers in the evening

This morning we left our Aire at  Le Nouvion and headed for the Champagne region, specifically to the Valley de la Meuse.  Here it is said that the Meuse River meanders through the Ardennes past spectacular scenery of wild gorges, woods and warped rock formations, so we have high hopes of this area!  On the way we stopped of at Rocroi which is a star shaped citadel that was built in the 16th century, but apart from the walk around the ramparts, there wasn't much there to hold our interest, however we did linger long enough to enjoy our lunch there.

T4rdis2 is in the middle
Then we pushed on to what we hoped would be our home for the next few days - at Bogny Sur Meuse.  We new the orange banner Aire there could only take 5 vans, so we were extremely pleased when we found only 2  leaving plenty of room for us. T4rdis2 is therefore snuggled up right on the bank of the River Meuse and we have already had the pleasure of watching all manor of bird life pottering by.

Did I say pleasure, I'm not quite sure the sight of a large heron sitting outside a burrow, and then swallowing the still wriggling bunny or rat would fit into that category, but it was fascinating all the same.

Fairy Horse Bayart who could leap over
the valley carrying 4 brothers on his back
From our vantage point we could  also see the '4 Fils Aymont' monument high up on the gorge side above us, so to fill our afternoon we decided to take a stroll up to it, and after about 200 steps and several hills, we were rewarded with The Legend of The Fairy horse  'Bayart' who was said to have carried 4 brothers to and fro around the gorge.  We were also rewarded with fantastic views of the winding river, along with it's cycle tracks below us - it will be bikes out and more exploring tomorrow!

But for now my computer battery is almost flat so I think it's time to sign off and do a bit more bird watching along the river bank.
Bye for now xx