Trip Start Aug 23, 1996
574Trip End Ongoing
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Sometimes, you can't let things get you down, and with my recent health issues, it can be quite hard living life with only one arm. People tell me to be positive, but you can't always, so I decided to keep living the David way of life. So armed with the knowledge that I had a spot booked on a train to Calais, we quickly put a trip together. We decided to double the fun, so we grabbed Ed and Lucia of Zento fame, Euro here we come. Ed had other reasons to celebrate. I had managed to scam him into a good paying job within the walls of BT, so he wanted me to celebrate, and as it's been six weeks since any form of alcohol has passed through my lips, I was looking forward to a few bevvies of Belgium beer.
Meeting in Arras
Once off of the train, the heavens opened. Fuck it. We decided to go to Arras first as it's meant to be a nice town. We parked in the main square. This is France but all the buildings were built in a Flemish way. It was weird. As I walked, I saw a familiar face. Here we were in Arras, and one of my closest friends from BT, Paul and his girl Julie were standing there. They had just completed a three week driving trip of Europe. Spun me out !!! We said our hi's and byes and moved on. The locals had set up a market, now I am a not the greatest lover of French people, but they do set up good markets. Ed and Lucia were amazed at the quality of the fruit and veg. We bought some Chevre, as you do, looked at the rabbits, chicken, ducks and geese that were for sale before it was time to move on
I know deep down in every Canadian's heart, they love their King Brian and Queen Celine, but to try and hide the fact, they always build these huge fuck off monuments. Now the one at Vimy Ridge, is very impressive. In fact I forgot about Adams and Dion straight away. It's very impressive, with over 11000 names of missing Canadians who fought in the battle of Vimy Ridge. Down the road, we had a tour of the tunnels. Both the French and Canadians had dug these out. Mini me had told me that the tour was shit. Actually, I was impressed. The girl who lead us, talked a good story, and forty five minutes later, we exited out another hole. We walked around the trenches, checking out the craters. All around were old craters with sheep in them. There is still a lot of UXB's around, so we sat there a while awaiting for a sheep to hit one. It's one of my dreams in life to see a flying sheep !!!
Another massive monument, built by the British to honour the missing British and Frenchmen. I have been here before, but my surrogate father Simon, had mentioned that he had a relative emblazoned on Pillar 11 Face C. Armed with the knowledge, I grabbed the monopod that my mate Iain had so kindly leant me, and went searching. Pillar and face found, there it was. Duncton HR. I took the photos, and we moved on.
Royal Ulster Tower
It's a weird little memorial. A replica of a tower from Ireland, completely out of place, but fitting in at the same time. Inside was full of poppy wreaths and little crosses remembering the dead. A coach load of school kids turned up, so we exited, stage left.
There is something eerie looking down at the largest crater that's left from WW1. Everytime I go, it send shivers down my spine, just thinking of the amount of ordinance that was used to create the hole. Also the amount of man power used to dig in, is quite amazing. Then there is the cross on the far side which states that a man went missing in 1916 and they found his body in 1998. It's things like these that keep bringing me back to these historic fields.
I have a link to a photo. During WW1, a certain Corporal A Hitler was stationed here, and there is a picture of him in '42, going back to his bunker and pointing it out. I wanted to do the same, but the weather was shit and time was running out, so we drove over to the Australian memorial. It is of one Australian soldier carrying another one back to his side. Apparently, the injured one, called out, "don't forget me", so being a good Aussie, he went back and helped his fallen comrade. It's a nice memorial, and all around are pieces of old bunkers
The V Breaking
Not long after, Ed sceamed out that he had the vaso ready ??? As we crossed over to Belgium, Ed reached over, hugged and thanked me for being a good Uncle. His Belgium virginity was gone. He loved that I was so gentle and then told me, I could do the same in any new country !!!
Many years ago, Paul, Al and me rode here and there was a beach volleyball tournament going on. Once again, it was on. We dumped our bags in our rooms at the Shellhole, and went back to the main square. Ed, seeing that there were only girls playing, and as it was pouring, he decided that wet t-shirt beach volleyball watching would be a good thing to do. Being a man, I joined him. It was very enjoyable !!! Next was the Walkers bar for beers. I hit the Bockors. They went down a treat, then it was time for the last post at the Menin Gate. It was it's usual sombre self. Once finished, I walked around looking at the names and countries, and for the very first time, I realised that there were no names from New Zealand. Apparently, when they decided to build the gate, all the Commonwealth nations decided to build one big memorial, well all except the Kiwis. A little disappointing, but their loss. We moved onto a little restaurant because both Lucy and I wanted Flemish Beef Stew with frites. It is so good. Ed, being the vege that he is, joined us !!! For a vege, he got right into it. Washed down with more beer, chocolate mousse and hot chocolates, we retired back to the Shellhole. The bar was open, so we poured a few more bers down, as you do.
It had been a great first day, well except the rain. Still we had seen loads of stuff, and running into Paul and Julie was quite scary, but I'm not kidding myself, it is hard taking photos with one hand, but I survived and tomorrow is a new day. Look out Flanders, you are up next !!!