Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Day 31 - Notre Dame de Lorette, Cambrai to Dover and on to Ramsgate. Dinner at Bon Apetit

Thursday 26th April 2012
From our itinerary:
We check out this morning and drive to Arras to see the Fauberge d’Amiens monument to the Missing and cemetery.  Following this visit we will take lunch and then drop V & E at the train station and then drive to Calais and return to the UK on the ferry.
It’s been a while since we discussed breakfast.  Here at Hotel Beatus the usual options are available, breads, pastries, cereals or cooked options. The stand out thing is the little tubs of obviously commercially made yoghurt. They come in little pottery tubs sealed as is usual for other brands you find in plastic containers. The yoghurt is nice. We haven’t come across any yoghurt that can compare to that which is produced by a local dairy at home… except the yoghurt in the hangop in Amsterdam.
We’re well and truly packed up, checked out and on the road just after 9 am.  Fortunately the weather has improved somewhat today, some light rain but the clouds are higher and it is not quite so cold or windy.
Memorials in Cambrai
We start by having a look around Cambrai. Just a quick look from the car.  We note the shrapnel damage to the city landmarks and hear a bit about the battles that have taken place around Cambrai.  We pause at the local park to see some memorial plaques.  Somewhere we went there was a cut out of an Aussie digger in amongst the flower beds in the park… was it here in Cambrai?? I’m not sure.  Bill expresses a level of envy at the widespread love affair the people of Belgium and France have with Australia.  There’s nothing like it for the United Kingdom and he wishes there was.  It is strange. It really is.  I can only assume that there was something in the culture of the Great War diggers that really captured the hearts of those they met.  As Chris has also commented to me over dinner one night, the Australians were superb shock troops. Perhaps this, and a deeply egalitarian philosophy of life sowed seeds which have borne this fruit.  Oh. Hang on...I know,  maybe it was that the Aussie diggers were all volunteers. We had no conscription.  Yes.. that must be it.  It must be a gratitude borne of amazement that so many very fine men would volunteer to come over, and go through so much to help out.
Is this Victory leading French forces?
My position in the car doesn’t really lend itself to getting photos of the memorials we just talk about as we drive past.  I manage to get a photo of the large French memorial. Bill does tell us what the various elements represent, but without writing notes as we go along my memory fails.  I think it is victory leading her forces.. I had thought perhaps it was France but I’m pretty sure that was my guess but I was wrong.  A little later we pass a French memorial which includes one of their Generals.  This area of France has a mind boggling array of memorials. After so many days my head is spinning and we are all pretty exhausted after Anzac Day.
We’re making our way across to Arras. 
Vis En Artois British Cemetery
Vis En Artois British Cemetery calls for a stop. The details Bill provides us and the memorial information boards is becoming something of a fatigue induced blur.
Monchy Les Roux French Memorial. Widow and child looking down at the helmet of dead husband and father
37th Division British Memorial
Our next major stop is the Fauberge d’Amiens monument to the missing and cemetery.  Mainly a United Kingdom cemetery there are small numbers of dead from other nations, including some Germans and just a very few burials from WWII.  The design of the memorial is striking. It’s another by Lutyens.  The voids in the design are quite intentionally representative of the void left in the lifes of families when their sons, brothers, husbands and fathers never returned.  
Fauborg D'Amiens Cemetery
There is symbolism too in the globe atop the pillar. This is the Arras Flying Services Memorial and it bears the names of 991 men of the Royal Flying Corps who died on the front in the Great War. The pilots who took part in the battle of Arras in 1917 called it bloody April.  In one month the Royal Flying Corps lost 316 out of 730 pilots.  There was certainly a greater role for aerial bombing and operations in the Great War than I had realized.  The development of air forces has been on my list of things to learn more about for a while and there’s been a few things across the course of our travels that have suggested this is something I really should get on with.
Fauberg D'Amiens Cemetery
From the cemetery we head to the Citadel of Arras.  This is a mightily historic place and is of particular interest for both Great War and WWII history.  218 resistance members of various nationalities were shot here in WWII.  Unfortunately for us, the Citadel is closed.  Never mind, Bill has another site on his list and we head there now.  It’s not long before we’re pulling up at Notre Dame de Lorette.
Notre Dame de Lorette French National Memorial. The battles of Artois were as costly in French lives as the better known battle of Verdun 
It may be stating the obvious for some but the reason you have things called Notre Dame everywhere is because it translates as “our lady” and France is/was a catholic country.  In this particular case the basilica dedicated to the mother of Christ is an important national memorial.  I don’t recall the figure Bill gave us and various websites give different numbers but there’s something like 40,000 sets of remains interred in the grounds.  Most are the dead from the Great War and there are also unknown soldiers from other conflicts as well as the ashes of victims of the concentration camps in WWII. The battles fought here over a year or so were responsible for as many casualties as the more famous battle for Verdun. 
Notre Dame de Lorette basilica
Hubby and I make for the basilica as our first stop.  There’s no one else around and the church is quiet and peaceful inspiring quietness within ourselves also.  The interior comes as a surprise, beautifully decorated with colourful mosaics and quite different to other sites we’ve visited on our trip.  On a side wall is a memorial to Louise de Bettignies who was shot as a spy by the Germans during the Great War.  It is only a small place and does not take a long time to see. Bill has told us that the funds for construction of the basilica were raised by the widows as a tribute and this adds to the atmosphere for us as we contemplate.
The Lantern Tower over at Notre Dame de Lorette. Cemetery and ossuary  hold the remains of  more than 40,000  soldiers as well as the ashes of many concentration camp victims.
We don’t have a lot of time to wander around so we move straight over to the lantern tower where the volunteer guards are on duty standing vigil.  At night a memorial beam of light flashes out across the land. Ceremonies performed weekly reignite an eternal flame. We enter quietly and move across to the coffins that contain the three unknown soldiers and stand with heads bowed for a minutes silence.  As we go to move a guard speaks to us in French and beyond bonjour of course I’m at a loss.  He goes on “English?” “Australian”.  He apologises for not having much English language but effectively communicates to us that we should head up to the museum upstairs.  It’s a small place but it has some very interesting exhibits about the war, photographs and some extraordinary trench art. 
The guard is waiting for us when we come down, requesting that we sign their visitors book.  Across the commonwealth memorial sites there are little metal cabinets at the entrances which contain lists of the dead and almost always a visitors book for people to sign and note some thoughts if they would like to.  It is handy to have a pen with you.
We still have a few minutes to walk along some of the graves and give a thought to the men they represent, then it’s back to the car.  As we climb in Bill asks us “Did you find the grave of General Barbot?”  “Oh.  Aah… no…. “ Pause “We’re Aussies Bill." haha. "The chances of us remembering to look for the grave of a general were never very high really.”  Haha. Bill's a good bloke and he has a laugh with us.  As we drive down and away from this moving national memorial we make a point of looking at the old derelict church in the village. 
It’s time to adjourn for lunch.  Don’t ask me where but the cobbled market place and general ambience of the town was lovely and much like other towns in the area we’ve visited.  Food was OK, not terribly memorable evidently but nothing particularly wrong with it either. 
We drop V & E to their train and say our farewells.  We’ve had a great few days together. We couldn’t have asked for better travel companions.  We on the other hand continue on to Calais and on the way I seek and receive a recommendation from Bill for a biography of Douglas Macarthur.  Australians generally have an inherited hatred of Douglas McArthur. I’ve read a history of the Korean War by a British historian and that did nothing to increase my regard for him either, but I wouldn’t mind reading something that is inclined to put across his better characteristics. One presumes he must have at least some redeeming qualities.
At Calais we have to present our passports and along the way we’ve completed or immigration forms.  I find it very interesting to see how the set up works. We are directed to a particular queue for boarding.  The seas are high and there’s a stiff wind (southerly – south west 35 – 40 knots) causing the ferries to be running a half hour or more late.  As we sit parked in the queue watching customs officials with sniffer dogs nosing around nearby trucks Chris appears at the drivers window.  They had been planning on taking a later ferry but it seems they’ve skipped lunch and made a dash with plans of eating on the boat.  Ironically Chris’s vehicle is boarded before ours but it’s all good and before long hubby and I are exploring the ferry and finding ourselves a desirable possie (position) for the ride over to Dover.  The ferry has lots of shops and bars and an opportunity for currency exchange.
The view from the ferry for quite some time is of sandy French beaches. Despite the conditions the ferry is very stable and it causes my sea-sick prone husband no worries at all.  Naturally the novelty wears off of course and before long, like everyone else we’re just sitting comfortably reading waiting for the appearance of the famous white cliffs.
As we near the coast of England the white cliffs come into view. As is predictable the windows of the deck are crusted with salt and the visibility is very poor.  If we were outside it would be a lovely view.  Heading toward France it would be a lovely view.  Fatigue overcomes enthusiasm for cliffs. We chill out and wait for Bill to indicate a move to the vehicle is warranted.  The address for Enterprise Car Rental on the car hire voucher seems a little vague to Bill, but he knows the general area they are indicating and it turns out that Enterprise is very well signposted and easy to find.  We bid a fond farewell to Bill with thanks for a wonderful tour and head on in to claim our car.  Help is offered with our luggage. Yes, thanks :o) We have been allocated a Vauxhall Corsa. Paperwork completed we head off after I have taken a few photos. 
 I wasn’t aware of missing England while we were away, but I am flooded with happiness to be back.  Happiness, and a new level of enthusiasm for the adventures to come over the last week of our trip.  It’s a huge shame that we don’t have time for a look at Dover Castle. Bill has recommended it too.  We’ll just have to come back some time! It’s 11.5 C or so the temperature guage of our vehicle tells us. Positively balmy. I might need to lose a layer.
We install tomtom and program our destination. We shall go to Ramsgate via Deal thankyou tomtom. All goes swimmingly. I do love a driving holiday. So good to have a car again and free to wander as we please. It seems like no time until we’re in Deal and driving past Deal Castle. Wow. What an awesome little castle.  
Spring Flowers at Deal Castle
We turn onto the beach front parade. Lots of characterful little boats are pulled up on the shingle beach.  We turn around and find a parking space in a street nearby the castle and take a walk.  Last entry is 5:30 pm and it is now 5:40. What a shame. Deal Castle looks awesome. Hubby comments that he loves the castles with moats. :o) Yes, we’ll have to come back some time.  
Deal Castle
From the castle we turn the corner towards the beach front for a closer look at the boats. We take a walk on the shingle beach. I like it a lot. At least you can take a walk and not get filthy… but it would be a killer in bare feet says hubby. Yeah. I suppose so. 
Fishing boats on the shingle beach at Deal
People are jogging or walking briskly along the waterfront parkland. There’s a stiff breeze blowing.  A father watches over his boys as they kick a football around. It’s not long before we’re turning the corner back to the car. Deal is a lovely little place.
To find our parking spot, we had to ignore Tomtom. Oh $#%$. She’s throwing a tantie. No go. She insists there’s no satellite signal available. Oh yeah. *O*&.  We drive around cursing the moody bloody thing and eventually find a petrol station where we figure we’ll find a map. I abandoned our back up road atlas when we dropped of the previous hire vehicle. Useless bloody thing it was.  We have a choice here. We can buy another one of the things we tossed. No. Too big and heavy. Not useful enough.  I opt for a smaller directory for Kent only. Hoping that tomtom will get over her moodiness.
With our little map we find our way to Ramsgate and our accommodation for this evening. Redcot House. What a delightful B&B.  We settle in and then head out to grab something to eat.  Ramsgate is a nice little place too and we find easy parking nearby the restaurant strip facing the harbour and the channel were ships heading on another ferry route are plying the waters.  We’ve got an open mind about where and what we might want to eat but we end up in the place I had noted on the manifesto. Bon Appetit.

So to the meal:  complementary home made bread with balsamic and oil and olive tapenade.  They have put the oil and balsamic in one dish.  The dish is critical if this arrangement is going to work. This time it is a narrow tall dish. Useless. In this situation the oil hits the bread and is so deep that you can’t get any balsamic with it.  Grr.
Hubby wins the ordering. He easily leaves me in the dust with his choice of Garlic Tiger Tail Sizzler flambed in Vermouth £7.95. Not that there’s anything wrong with my Mussels Provencale £6.95.
Can I make up ground in the main course? Hubby Duo of Barbary duck, balsamic glazed breast, leg croustade, red cabbage, Biarritz potatoes and ginger pear £16.95.  Mine: tomato garlic and thyme linguine with sunblushed tomato dressed in leaves. £10.95.  Not good enough to draw even I’m afraid.
Dessert: … dessert… can you believe we skipped dessert?  I’m struggling with that idea even now.

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