Thursday, 15 June 2017

Menin Gate, Passendale and Pegasus Bridge.

We were heading back to France or rather Belgium for  a 10 day visit. This time we were heading for Folkstone and the tunnel courtesy of Tesco vouchers. Enough vouchers for two crossings from our trusty Tesco credit card and we were off! Booking the crossing was fairly hassle free, you had to phone to use the vouchers, but worth it for a freebie. 

So it was with some trepidation that we pulled up at the Eurotunnel terminal at Folkestone after a fairly uneventful journey.  We were greeted with an automated checking in process and were soon in the waiting area. It appeared fairly chaotic but we were given a letter and just had to wait to be loaded. Once parked up, we didn't have long to wait. Down into the bowels of the train we drove and just as I was getting a bit twitchy and wondering if the tunnel was such a good idea, we had arrived! 20 minutes later we were in Carrefour at Euro Cite doing our shopping. A cross channel jaunt of just over 30 minutes and not a drop of sea water to be seen. Totally easy and certainly a trip we will make again.

We made our way eventually to our farmers field at Escalles to be greeted with the dreaded "Complet" sign on the gate. Fortunately, Madam recognised us from previous trips and after a moments hesitation gave us the last pitch. Reserved for another customer who hadn't shown up. Lucky! In a beautiful orangey evening glow we had arrived, obviously a "shepherds delight" evening, tomorrow would be a beautiful day.

We ambled down to the village where we had a lovely meal in a local restaurant.

The next morning we rose to sunshine. As we knew we only had a shortish drive to Ypres we took our time taking in the scenery before we left. Les Erables campsite is in a beautiful spot and on a clear day you can make out the White Cliffs of Dover and track the comings and goings across the channel.

Our next stop was Belguim and Ypres, or as it is now known, Leper! We backtracked through Calais and crossed the Belgian border. Madam Satnag seemed to know where she was going. We were making for Camping Jeugstadion. We had actually booked this campsite as we knew it got really busy. Finding the campsite was pretty straightforward although it was not very well signposted. We were lucky as reception was open and very soon we were settled on a very nice pitch on the grass.We set off for a little roam and found our way around the site and down to The Menin Gate. The last post is played every evening at 8 pm so we wanted to know where were were going. A lovely walk along the canal, through the tunnel and we were in the town. The Menin Gate is very imposing and surrounded by a park.

 We saw these De Havilland Gypsy Moths in the sky over Ypre. Just managed to grab the camera in time.

It is amazing to look at all the names of the soldiers who died from all parts of the world. Every night since 1928 the last post has sounded here. The first night we went down there were Scottish Pipes and Drums the second night a choral group. The ceremony is very emotional and usually well attended by people from all over the world.

People of all ages and nationalities come to pay their respects to the fallen and many lay wreaths for relatives. Certainly something not to be missed if in Ypres.

Our last day in Ypres was spent looking around the fabulous Flanders Field Museum in the imposing Cloth Hall.

Hard to believe that this building was almost completely destroyed during the war and then rebuilt. The museum is a good introduction to the First World War and is very well documented through many interactive displays.

St Martins Cathedral is also well worth a visit. We opted out of the climb to the top of the bell tower but the interior of the cathedral is beautiful.

This modern interpretation of Christ is very thought provoking.

Later we sampled the local beer in the square, watching the world go by.

Our next stop was back in France, we left early and returned via Passendale and the memorial museum. Here we travelled into the trenches and couldn't really imagine how awful it must have been for all those young men. On a bright summers day the trenches were dark and forbidding. At Passendale they have reconstructed the  trenches for visitors.

The museum here follows personal lives of the soldiers but clearly shows the horrors of war. We finished our time in Belgium visiting the Tyne Cot Cemetery the largest Commonwealth Cemetery in the world. Beautifully kept, a sad place.

We loved Belgium, the people we met were all so friendly and helpful and there were certainly places we would like to go to and explore further. Another visit definitely beckons.

Now ready for a change we headed back into France, first to Peronne, somewhere we won't be going to again and then onwards to  Neufchatel En Bray. Camping St Claire. A lovely pitch on a great site. A couple of days for R & R and a chance to ride the bikes.

We managed a few trips on the cycle path, a meal in the restaurant and a few bottles of nice wine.

Our final destination beckoned. Ouistram Camping Bella Rive. We arrived by lunchtime. The campsite is being refurbished and they are building a new pool. Less space for the night stopper but we were given a nice pitch on the quieter side of the camp. What a lovely two days we had.

 Again we were able to ride the bikes, almost to Caen and as far as Pegasus Bridge. We watched as the bridge was raised and enjoyed the atmosphere of all the people dressed in their 40's outfits and driving original vehicles and boats. Quite a relaxed atmosphere, certainly helped by the sunshine.

A visit to the Pegasus Memorial Museum rounded off our visit beautifully.

Looking forward to the next trip! Au revoir France.