A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: gaddingabout

Ypres / Lille / Brussels/ Amsterdam - Thursday, 21 July 2011

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Cool and overcast - I'm getting sick of this - have had the same clothes on for days! This is supposed to be summer!

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Checked out of the hotel and said goodbye to Julie and Bryan. Judy, Phil and I met our guide for the day (Kathy's boss, Sylvester) and took off. We went to Hill 60 at Zellibeck, Mesen (Messine), Mud Corner, the British Cemetery (11,447 missing)

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and into Le Bizet for lunch. In the town is the border between France and Belgium, so we went and stood with a foot in each country. We are such tourists! Bought some Belgian chocolates and had lunch in a cafe called "The Australian - Cat and Pat". We were "the entertainment" as the other patrons were laughing at my attempts to speak French. Had the Belgian version of a ploughman's lunch and a beer that was 9%. I could hardly stand up after that!

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After lunch we went to Mt Kemmel, Polygon Wood and Buttes Cemetery, Pashedale and Tynecot, where I had been in 2007 with the Governor-General.

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Sylvester drove us to Lille and dropped Judy off at her hotel, near the station and then us at the railway station. He wasn't as good a guide as Kathy!

Our train to Brussells was 30 minutes late, but thank goodness our connecting train (from Paris) to Amsterdam was running late too, so we managed our connection, with verbal assistance from other passengers, with minutes to spare. We had already purchased our tickets in Australia and if we had missed our connection - well, too bad, you don't get put onto another train, you just lose your money. The train was full. Just out of Antwerp it stopped, saying there was a problem with the electricity, but after five minutes it got going again. Apparently this happens all the time.

Finally arrived in Amsterdam and caught a taxi to the Rho Hotel. Not a very celubrious entrance - down a lane off the main square, Damm Square, but in a very good position and quite a huge big foyer.

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Took ages to check in and tried to find our room on the third floor. It was like a rabbit warren with stairs and corridors going everywhere! Got into the room - no bath. Back down to reception and had to change rooms - now on the first floor - room 125. More corridors and stairs and ramps. I have no idea where I am. I hope we don't have to get out of here in a hurry because I wouldn't have a clue.

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We went for a walk at about 10.30 pm to find a snack for dinner. The streets are full of people, mainly young ones (high on drugs) - it's a bit scary. We found our Scenic Tours Rendezvous Hotel, within very easy walking distance of the Rho and is very posh!

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Not like the Rho. We had traditional Dutch pea soup for dinner at 11.00 pm which was very nice. Did some window shopping and were in bed by 11.30 pm. A very long day.

Posted by gaddingabout 03:37 Archived in Belgium Comments (0)

Amiens / Ypres - Wednesday, 20 July 2011

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Cool, cloudy and drizzly

First call this morning was Bancourt to see where Julie's uncle was buried.

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Then Bullecourt, then to Arras and down into the tunnels that the New Zealander's dug out - 19 kms of them. They lived down there for months and the tunnels were huge and very easy to walk through - stacks and stacks of head room, for even the tallest person. There are still signs painted on the walls down there, with arrows showing directions to Sick Bay, the Mess Hall etc. The Germans had no idea that the New Zealanders were living underground, and at the precise moment, attacked the Germans and won the day. However, under British command, they stopped and gave the Germans time to regroup and retaliate. There is a suggestion that if the Allies had pressed on that day, the Germans would have been defeated and World War One would have ended a lot sooner. Who knows?

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Had lunch in Albert

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and then visited a German War Cemetery. 45,000 iron crosses set in the grass - no gardens like our war cemeteries, just trees. Very nice too.

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Visited the British Memorial at Thiepoal. Huge and very impressive. Went to Vimy Ridge and saw the Canadian War Memorial. It is amazing. Then Fromelles, Cobblers Corner, VC corner and then into Ypres where we were staying the night.

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All of us were staying at the same hotel (the Novotel) so after checking in, we all met in the foyer and went to the Menin Gate for the 8.00 pm Last Post Ceremony by the Ypres Fire Brigade. These guys have been conducting this ceremony every night since World War One, except for a break in World War Two, when the Germans were occupying the area. I had witnessed this ceremony in 2007 when I travelled to Belgium with the Governor-General and it was even more emotional the second time around. 55,000 names of missing allied soldiers on the walls. What a dreadful waste. We wandered around the Menin Gate taking photos

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and then went to dinner and chatted with some UK school teachers. I had fish and chips and salad and Phil had spajhetti bolonaise plus a Belgian beer.

We said goodbye to Kathy. She was a great guide.

Back to the hotel and into bed. The hotel room was okay and it had a bath which was lovely.

Posted by gaddingabout 02:56 Archived in France Comments (0)

Amiens - Tuesday, 19 July 2011

WW1 Battlefield Tour

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Overcast, drizzly and cool.

Met an Australian couple at breakfast, Barry and Ann from Adelaide. They had Vegemite too! (We always take a jar of Vegemite with us when we travel the world.) Breakfast was nice. Juice, cereal, yoghurt, ham, cheese and lovely fresh bread.

Our tour guide arrived, Kathy, an English girl who has lived in Amiens for 20 years and is married to a French man. It's great that we can understand her and she is excellent. She knows absolutely EVERYTHING about the battlefields. There are three other Australians with us on this World War One Battlefield Tour - Judy from Glen Waverley, Victoria, and Julie and Bryan from Sorrento, Victoria.

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The countryside is just lovely - so rural and peaceful.

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It's hard to imagine such horrible things happened here in 1916-1918. We visited Villers-Bretonneux and found Phil's great uncle Harold William Sweaney.

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Also, Le Hemel, Mont St Quentin, Peronne, Pozieres, Le Beouf Guards at Bapaume, Thiepoal, and then via Albert back to Amiens.

At Le Beouf Guards, Bapaume, we found the grave of my great uncle Harold Dean Anderson and put a poppy and an Aussie flag on it. It was drizzling but still a calm and beautiful place, with birds singing. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission have a lot to be proud of. These war cemeteries in France and Belgium are so well looked after. It is a credit to them. As you arrive at the front gate of the cemetery, there is a book there with all the names of the people buried there, and what row they are in. Very easy to find people if you know which cemetery they are buried in.

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(A little aside here. On our way back from somewhere in 2010, we called into Bangkok for a stopover and on a shopping trip, Phil bought the latest version of his ubeaut Lumix camera. I mean, this is a camera that can take photos in a moving bus and they are not even blurred. So, after putting the poppy and the Aussie flag on my great uncle's grave, I took some photos with my superceded Lumix (Phil's hand me down) and then asked him to take a couple of photos of me standing beside the grave. He did and then we left and headed off for other places. That night when we were looking through our photos taken that day, the two of me standing by the grave were blurred!! We just couldn't believe it. That camera has never taken another blurred shot ever!)

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At the Villiers Bretonneux school and museum, they have a sign that says "Never Forget Australia" and it was so nice to be wandering around the war museum and hearing the voices of children playing and laughing in the school yard next door. Inside the museum, there is a drawing of an Australia soldier and a sign that says "This man is a hero". Very emotional experience. The French were so grateful for our help in World War One.

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We had lunch at Peronne (baguettes)

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and returned to our hotel at about 6 pm. Amiens has a population of 120,000 and there are cars parked everywhere, but NO PEOPLE. I don't know where they are.

We walked down to the river for dinner and found a nice restaurant with a great manager who read the whole menu to us in English - Bruschetta plus ham, cheese and melon salad for me and a local dish for Phil - ficille picardie. During dinner we chatted with the guys at the table next to us - one from Japan and one from Brussels who were in Amiens on business for Toyota.

At 10.30 pm (still daylight) we walked up to the cathedral for the sound and light show. Absolutely amazing - the cathedral itself is so stunning but in the sound and light show, each statue was intricately coloured, even to the rouge on their cheeks. How they do it, I just don't know but it was certainly worth a look. We met Judy there. Into bed at midnight after a very busy and sobering day.

Amiens is a very pretty city, with a river and lots of hanging baskets as only the French can do.

Some more photos of a pretty amazing day.

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Posted by gaddingabout 02:31 Archived in France Comments (0)

Kuala Lumpur / Paris / Amiens - Monday, 18 July 2011

Our flight finally took off with not many passengers on board, so everyone moved seats and Phil was able to sleep all night on a row of five seats. The food was good but they didn't hand out any toiletry packs so I couldn't clean my teeth - they felt awful! I slept pretty well, but kept waking up and drifting off to sleep again.

We landed in Paris at about 6.30 am and proceeded through customs and immigration. It was a breeze. No cards to fill in - just stamp the passport and off you go!

I am very surprised (though I don't know why because we are in France), but no one speaks English! We finally found someone to help us and then we were on the train from the airport to Paris Norde and then to Amiens.

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Because of line work, we all had to get off the train at Brettonville and take a bus to Amiens. Same caper as the UK in April - dragging bloody bags up and down steps at stations with no escalators or lifts.

Amiens is huge - a lot bigger than I expected. The hotel "All Seasons" is pretty average and our room was small and disappointing. We asked to be changed and were moved to the top floor in the attic with huge beams everywhere, but the room was huge. It had recently been decorated and was very nice, fresh, roomy and clean.

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We went for a walk and it started to rain, so we ducked into a restaurant (Le Petit Resto) for a snack and ended up having a three course meal! Thank goodness for my French/English phrase book, because they couldn't speak English and we couldn't speak French. However, we ended up ordering a prawn and salad entree for Phil and a ham and salad entree for me. Then we ordered steak for Phil and supposedly fish with an au gratin crust for me. The steak was fine but my fish was like a fish stew - fish, scallops and mussels, all mushed up in gravy and served with rice! Yuk! So poor Phil had to eat it for me and I had the steak. We had some red and white wine and a delicious chocolate dessert that we shared.

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The rain had stopped by the time we had finished eating so we walked around Amiens and went into the Notre Dame Cathedral. Just amazing. There is even a statue of Joan of Arc in there.

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Walked through the lovely streets of Amiens on the way back to the hotel. Very pretty place.

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Arrived back at the hotel and just sat on the bed to watch some TV before going out for dinner and of course, both fell asleep, missed dinner and woke up the next morning. The bed is huge and very comfortable - obviously!

Posted by gaddingabout 02:04 Archived in France Comments (0)

Sydney / Kuala Lumpur - Sunday, 17 July 2011

Sydney / Kuala Lumpur - Sunday, 17 July 2011

We had a leisurely breakfast at the Mecure, after a very nice sleep in, then drove to the International Terminal. We always park the hire car on the street outside the Mecure all night to avoid paying exhorbitant parking fees in the hotel grounds.

The flight left early afternoon and was full (Malaysian Airlines) and the first leg to Kuala Lumpur went well. Nice food. The flight was 8 1/2 hrs long and we arrived in KL at about 8.30 pm. Our connecting flight to Paris was supposed to leave three hours later, but due to some delay, we had to wait four hours. This was a long time and we were very tired when we finally boarded.

On the first flight from Sydney to KL, I watched "Julie Julia", "Juno", and "Toast". All very entertaining and read my book "The Bastard of Istanbul". (Getting in the mood for our trip to Turkey).

Phil watched "The Adjustment Bureau", "The Lincoln Lawyer", "Toast" and "The Negoitator"

Posted by gaddingabout 02:03 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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