Ieper-Montargne au Perche, 19 September 2014

A day on the road, albiet at a liesurely pace. This took us back into France. We travelled by dual carriage roads as well as smaller roads. Plenty of lovely towns and villages.

We were getting a warning light on the hire car, a Fiat 500. On two occassions we lost power. Just like a computer we turned it off and restarted and the problem disappeared. We rang SixT the car hire company who could not fix it on the original call so said they would ring back. Some hours later and in Montargne au Perche we had not heard from them but found a small Fiat garage. Two rotund Frenchmen fixed the car and also showed us the way to the hotel. All with our limited French and their even less English. A nice encounter. We left a botttle of wine for them with a thank you note when we left the next morning, I hope they got it.

Montargne was a nice town and the hotel was good. Finally a bit of space to do my morning exercises. Dinner was good. All round a pleasant place.

Ieper, 18 September 2014

We are staying in  B&B run by a jolly lady, Magdel,  who certainly does not stint on the breakfast. She offered everthing you might ever have had or thought of for breakfast. Some you might not have! There were 12 jams including Poppy!

We had tried to hire bikes for  todays tour but despite there being 5-6 bike hire businesses in Ieper we could not get any so it was by car that we visited more battlefields. We went through Hell Fire corner, so called as this was an intersection on the road to Menin which was repeatedly shelled. It was called “the most dangerous spot on the planet”.

First stop was Hill 60 where the Australian No1 Tunnelling Company worked. A film was made about this action. At the time, the detonation below Hill60 was the world’s largest man made explosion and there are reports the noise was heard in London. There is a massive crater and also a memorial to the the No1 Tunnelling Co. There are bullet holes in it from WW2.. Had  bit of fun telling a bloke from SA that the bullet holes from WW1, but how come?

We had a picnic lunch at Sanctuary Wood, it was such a peaceful spot.

We returned to Passchendaele to see some other aspects, there are some many cemeteries, memorials and museums.

Dinner in Iepers and a fairly night as we had a bit to cover the next day.

 

Ieper, 17 September 2014

Iepers (Ypres) was the scene of heavy fighting by the British, this includes ANZACS and Canadians, during WW1.In the morning I went to the Flanders Fields Museum and Rosie had a walk around the town and got a picnic lunch.

The Museum is in the old Cloth Hall and on the edge of the GroteMarkt (Grand Market place).

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Iepers was completely destroyed during WW1 and it has been rebuilt basically as it was. The British, at the suggestion of Winston Churchill, wanted to leave it as a reminder/memorial of the war, the locals just wanted to get back to what they had before the war. I am glad they did so as it is a lovely town.

The museum is OK, some interesting displays, but I was wanting to see more on the Australians in WW1. Unsurprising it has a Belgian focus so I should not be too critical. There is one display which I thought was misplaced and silly. Each six months they give a section to a local artist and it was in total contrast to the rest of the museum.

Rosie and I met for a picnic lunch at this spot.

imageAll of this was within minutes of walking of the B&B we were staying at and the Cloth Hall.

After lunch we set off to visit some battle sites. The major ones of Australian action are all within 10-15km of Ieper. We found Alfred Henry Rose, a great uncle of Bruce Rose at Sanctuary Wood. Born in Richmond he was 23 when killed.

We then visted Polgon Wood, scene of a major successful battle for Australian troops.

From there we went to Passchendaele which is often cited as the fighting zone demostrating the futility and carnage of WW1. There were several major battle in this area. Thousand killed for gains of a few 100m.

That evening we went to the Last Post ceremony at Menin Gate. This is held every night for the locals to show memory of what was done. The Menin Gate has almost 55000 names of Commonwealth soldiers whose grave is not known. All others killed are acknowledged at the scores of cemeteries in the area.

The buglers are all volunteers from the local fire brigade.

The evening we were there a group of disabled Australian ex soldiers laid a wreath. There were some other groups who laid wreaths as well but they were not named. It is short but dignified ceremony.

NOTE

There is a lack of photos for the last half of this blog as part way through we uploaded the new Apple operating system to this iPad. Since then each time I try to upload a photo I get a message “HTTP error”. I have tried several ways to get around this but without success. As result the rest of the blog will be text only. I will treating it like an old fashioned hand written diary and a way to record the holiday. I may try and add photos once home. You are welcome to continue to read it if you wish.

Rod

Somme Battlefield Tour, 16 September 2014

We had booked a one day tour of the Somme Battlefields. Pick up was in the centre of Amiens, about 10 min walk from where we were staying at Rue de Dijon. We had a nice group, 3 Aussie including us and 2 Irishmen.

imageThe tour leader and driver was Lea, 30 something year old who was a wealth of knowledge on WW1. She had studied English and then did a year in an English speaking country, North Ireland!

First location was the Adelaide Cemetery at Villiers Brettoneaux. This was where the body of the unknown soldier was taken to be interred at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

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Villiers Brettoneaux is the village that was recaptured by the Australian soldiers on the 25 April 1918. The village including the primary school had been destroyed by artillery fire. School children in Victoria raised the money to rebuild the school. As a result there is widespread acknowledgement in the village of Australia. There is a Victoria cafe, a Melbourne street, kangaroos motifs, everywhere including the village offices, and a special museum at the school.

This shot was taken from the museum of the playground, note the sign.

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It is an excellent museum and I wish I could have spent more time there.

Just outside of the village is the Australian War Memorial.  A few shots

imageimageimageThis one from the top of the tower.

After VB we went to Lochnagar Crater, a site of tunneling work and subsequent explosion during the war. It is privately owned and well preserved. There was a bus load of Germans there at the same time as us!image

At the entrance there is a sign that due to the risk of ground subsistence you enter at your own risk. Our “nanny state” would not allow access if this were in Australia!

These memorials are all over the battlefield sites, you look from a memorial or crater and behind is field full of sugar beet, potatoes or recently ploughed.

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Lunch was a Albert and then we went to the British Memorial at Thiepval

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This one is massive but both Rosie and I thought the Australian one at VB was the better. Not as grand, simpler but more dignified.

We went to a few more sites including one with old trenches which are now grassed in and not much of a photo.

After the tour we returned to Amiens got the car and headed to Ieper (Ypres as the French spell it). The whole Somme region is very fertile and agriculture a major industry. Farm machinery is frequently on the road. This is a load of spuds being towed behind a tractor at 40 kph. We passed as quickly as possible!

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Debrovnik – Amiens, 15 September 2014

Today was a big moving day. We were going from Debrovnik via Zagreb and Paris to Amiens. Car, plane, plane and car. It meant a 4am pick up outside one of the gates at Debrovnik.  Doubt if many have seen it this empty of people.

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Rosie waiting for the car.

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The flight to Zagreb and then Paris was OK. Croatian Airlines not bad although a bit casual with departing at the advertised time.

Paris was different. We had an Eurocar booked but the line was 25 m long and not moving. We found out there was an Air France airline strike, a common affair we heard , and lots were trying to get a car. We made enquires at SixT and got a car at the same rate as a Eurocar booked some months in advance.

Off we went to Amiens. Got there and checked into a lovely B&B. The interior design was very simple and uncluttered. I liked it; Rosie did not. The hostess was an artists and liked big light shades.

imageAnother one in the sitting room.

imageAmiens is a lovely city and we were impressed with what we saw. It has a magnificent cathedral, unfortunately my iPhone was low on power so I could not get any pictures. A bit of trivia. During WW1 it was sand bagged to the roof to protect it from shelling.

Tomorrow were are due to tour the Somme battlefields which I was looking forward to greatly.

 

 

Dubrovnik, 14 September 2014

We went off for breakfast to the square pictured in the last post . Most underwhelming meal so far, maybe  not so if I am  remembering it now after 5 days!  Plans for the day were to walk the city walls and then get a cable car up the hill next to the city. Some compulsion to get high views!

To access the walls you pay a modest amount and then start climbing up the stairs. You can only go anti clock wise but the views are stunning. Again great weather.

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The old city is surrounded on 3 sides by water.

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After we had gone about 3/4 the way round we saw this little place immediately outside the wall where you can get drinks and coffee. We had seen enough and so came down and went to one similar, there are only 2.

imageA really great place for a drink, pity my photos did not come across from the iphone to this blog. Some do some don’t which is frustrating.

We set off for the cable car but did not go on it as the queue was too long.

After lunch Peter and I went for a swim at the same place we had the drink. Popular spot for the locals to swim, except it can only accommodate about 10 swimmers as access is by jumping off the rocks  and then coming back by a step ladder.

Dubrovnik, 13 September 2014

We got to Dubrovnik mid afternoon. We were staying within the walls of the old city in a self catering apartment. We had arranged with our host to be met at a handy car park near one of the gates. Here is Jan standing guard over some of the cases while we try and be conspicuous and so be found by our host.

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We were found and set off into this amazing area. It is all within the walls of a city built in the 7-8 Centuries. There are no cars and some streets/walkways are very narrow.

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imageThis is a shot of the main street. The surface looked like marble, polished from all the foot traffic.

image Looking the other way. Tap on the photo and have a look at a bigger photo, notice the digital clock below the clock face? Didn’t know they had those in the 8C!

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There are some steep steps, this was taken near the apartment which was half way up these steps.

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Looking from down at the top we were about half way down and to the left. There were a lots of restaurants here. We had dinner at one on the next night but more about that in the next publication.

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