Vimy Ridge

Trip Start Jun 10, 2007
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Trip End Ongoing


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Saturday, September 1, 2007

We stayed in a town called Arras. It is the closest substantial city to Vimy Ridge about 10km south-west.
We went to the tourist office to see what they had to say about getting there. The options that they had were by train to Vimy and then walk about 6km to the site or take a cab that would cost about 50 euro. They seemed a little sneaky in the tourist office as they really played up the long walk from the train. They said if we came back when we wanted to go (the next day) they would call 'him' and see if he was available or tell us how long we would have to wait for him to take us.  As there are tons of taxis in Arras, we weren't sure why this one guy could only take us. We came to the conclusion that they must have a deal where the driver gives the tourist office employees a cut if they convince the tourists to take a (his) cab.
Although without question it would have been worth the price considering where we were headed, we chose option 3. We took the city bus for €1.70 as far as we could in that direction and walked about 3km to Vimy Ridge.
Meg had already been to the site, but was nice enough to return so that I could scratch something of my life to do list.  My grandfather on my mother's side actually fought at Vimy Ridge and luckily managed to return home safely. So I was really excited to see what he was a part of.

We have heard numerous stories of how difficult it is to get to the site for a visit, but considering the history of what those soldiers did to get there, I think the visitors can manage to deal with it.
The site itself is amazing. There are fields preserved from the battle full of craters made from the unimaginable amount of bombs dropped on the site. You can imagine at least a good glimpse of the hell that they went through. Canada suffered about 11,000 casualties of which about 3,600 died in just a few days. They managed to do something that no other nation could do. In previous attempts in 1914 and 1915, the British and French suffered hundreds of thousands of casualties.
The strategy and story involved here is truly remarkable.  We would encourage anyone to visit or at least look up the history for themselves.

They have also just opened a new visitors centre with reconstructed tunnels and trenches to explore along with giving the monument a touch up. The whole site is an incredibly evocative way to remember Canada's greatest military victory.

Now getting back to Arras is another story. We walked a few km back to our bus stop, but the line that we took to get there was not on the list posted. If it were to arrive, if, it would not be for almost 2 hours. We had a tactical meeting and decided to walk back to town as the bus stop didn't really provide any entertainment and I think Meg could only take so much of my schtick before going crazy.
We began walking down what looked like a two lane highway that was jammed with rush hour traffic. A couple km down it turned into what seemed like a superhighway with transport trucks messing our hair as they wizzed by. We promptly got off at the next exit (without signalling) and had a much more pleasant and safe walk back to town with little chance of becoming road kill.
Once back Meg's cider-sense was tingling and she managed to sniff out another Irish pub where we toasted a fabulous day exploring more of France and our history.

Off to Juno Beach! 
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