France has been one of the coolest countries so far! Not only do they have the first real resemblance of a first world country, but... there is also incredible war history here too!
After feeling like we got the boot from the French Alps, we decided to head to the Normandy and Flanders regions of northern France. In order to do this though we had to pass through Paris... and pass through is exactly what we did! We literally got off a train in Paris, looked at each other and thought "Screw this, why are we here??" and then hoped on the next train out (yay for Eurail passes!) We're not entirely sure why, but the thought of navigating Paris didn't appeal to us, nor did the idea of paying gazillions of Euros to trek through museums that don't particularly interest us. We've sort of come to the conclusion that we need to travel and sightsee according to what is of interest to us and not according to what we "should" be seeing because that's what everyone else does. Neither of us are big art buffs - we've never even talked about the Mona Lisa; it just didn't make sense
to spend time/money to see/do something just to say we did it. So. That means Paris is out. But, beaches of Normandy and World War I and II history is definitely in!
We made it to the terrific little French city of Caen, which is a great hub for travelling to the D-Day beaches, and found a reasonably priced tour in the town of Bayeaux. The tour was really great, but we felt it focused more on quantity rather than quality ... meaning they crammed so much stuff in that we felt we were herded around like school children. The tour was still incredibly worthwhile though - we visited three of the five beaches, the D-Day museum in Arromanches, and the American War Cemetary (a beautiful site that demands much more attention than an hours visit!) One of the most humbling experiences of the day was listening the the memorial bells chime the tune "America the Beautiful" while walking through the cemetary reading the crosses and trying to take in what these soldiers have done for us. Their ages in particular really hit home; a few were older than us, and some were our age... but most of them
were younger by 3-5 years. We were both in awe and felt a great sense of gratitude and compassion for those who fought and died for our freedom. May they rest in peace!
After the amazing tour of Normandy, we wanted to continue on to the "Monument du Canada." Vimy Ridge is a famous WWI victory for Canada and and it was important to us to see the monument. This is what blew us away: No one in France seemed to know what we were talking about when we'd ask about Vimy Ridge! It was an important battle in France and the French Government has donated the entire patch of land to Canada (to say thank you), but anytime we mentioned the town of Vimy to any French person, they'd give us an incredulous look like "What the hell are you talking about??" We heard "Ummm ... Vimy? Is that in France??" far more times than we would have liked to! Uh, yes, it is in France! We eventually managed to get there on our own (yay for google!) and arrived in the tiny town of Vimy around 7pm. As we got off the train and existed the station,
Very interesting is that there is a still a risk of setting off a landmine in this area ... (Vimy Ridge)
we sort of realized why no one really knew what we were talking about - Vimy is a small, lonely little town, as in quite desolate! A friendly older fellow standing outside the train station approached us, perhaps because we looked confused and lost as could be upon realizing we were in the middle of nowhere:
Nice Old Man: "Bonjour!"
Trevor and Kristena: "Bonjour Miseur! Ummm ... Hotel?" (as we point up and down the road in the hopeful direction of any place to sleep.)
Nice Old Man: "Hotel?? Oh no! No Hotel! Not in Vimy ... the nearest one is in Arras and that was the last train in or out of here."
Trevor and Kristena: "Uh oh ... ummm..."
In the end he offered to drive us into Arras (about 20 minutes away ... thank goodness for dumb luck and a strangers kindness!), and he also stopped by the monument so we could get some pictures of it at night! How cool is that??!! The next day we made a whole day trip out of Vimy and managed to catch a tour of the trenches and tunnels! Absolutely perfect! The whole experience was truly humbling and
Souvenirs From Normandy
... everywhere we have been they have some sort of cheesy souvenir
eye opening. Wow, are we ever proud to be Canadian!
We got some great photos and hope that you enjoy!
Trevor and Kristena
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