However, off we went, stopping first at Ypres a town massively damaged by being the front in the first world war. Again, the sheer scale of damage and subsequent rebuilding “as was” was simply amazing. We visited the massive Menin Gate, a huge memorial arch where even today the Last Post is sounded at 8pm and on whose walls are inscribed the names of the allied soldiers whose bodies were never found. There are so many names!
Afterwards we went to the Canadian War Memorial. No graves, but a tall white marble edifice, split in two parts and located on Vimy ridge. Some of the trenches remain, covered by grass, and it is possible to visit some of the underground areas, though we were too late for that. I think I was most moved by the avenue of maple trees that led to the monument, but some of the statuary was eloquent too.
Then to Arras, to a hotel that may once have been grand but was pretty “faded glories” by now. In unpacking the car we discovered there was a false floor in the boot. Removing that allowed most of our luggage to be stored in the boot. Yay!
Arras itself was also badly damaged and in rebuilding, they decided on a unified rather Flemish facade for houses round the squares. This leads to a very charming effect, perhaps a bit spoiled by filling the centres with parked cars.
Still, we had a nice evening meal and slept well despite the noisy square outside.
Tomorrow: Villers-Bretonneux and on to Jumieges.