The memorial is very moving especially considering the weather we had that day.
Okay, I know we have been home for almost three weeks and this latest (and last) blog entry is long overdue. We had many things waiting for our attention when we arrived, not to mention volunteer shifts at the library and local thrift store. Dale and Pat (Dianne’s brother and sister-in-law) arrived for a week of fun and games (and a chance to update some of my spreadsheets for scoring our card games). But now to the blog. Flight to Brussels
Getting to Toulouse to catch the plane was fairly straightforward. The flight was RyanAir which went into Brussels Charleroi rather than the main Brussels airport. Mistake. The flight was what you would expect from RyanAir and the airport itself was OK. It was looking a little dark as we got ready to leave the plane. Just as we started down the stairs to the tarmac, the skies opened up and it poured. The wind whipped the rain into a frenzy and in the few seconds it took to get to the terminal we were soaked. It did seem pretty funny after the fact.
The Charleroi airport is a long way from downtown Brussels. The bus trip took
The view from Vimy
You could see for miles in every direction.
almost an hour. It’s worth checking your airport if you are flying into Brussels. Vimy
Long term blog readers will remember that we met Bob and Rita in Italy in 2016. They knew we missed out on visiting the Canadian Vimy memorial on our last trip to France so they decided they should take us to the site. So, the first thing we did on visiting Belgium was to drive back into France.
The memorial is truly spectacular and its setting is incredible. The day we were there was overcast and windy. It provided a somber background that seemed somewhat appropriate considering what the site represented. The view from the ridge showed how useful it was to be on the high ground. A good portion of the area is fenced off with flocks of sheep wandering around keeping the grass trimmed. The signs told us it was, even after 100 years, too dangerous to mow the lawns manually due to unexploded ordinances. And yet, solders could man the trenches in the same area.
The World War One cemeteries are amazing… and humbling. Row upon row of headstones. The saddest ones are those “Known only unto God”,
Memorial up close
There were quite a few people there when we arrived but they left early. We had the place to ourselves for a while.
and some that display the age of the soldier. Many were 18 and 19 years old. Gent
Last time we were in Belgium, Bob and Rita took us to Brugges. This time we visited Ghent (Gent on the road signs). Another beautiful city with plenty of canals. Architecture is always a favourite of ours and it is quite different from what we have been seeing in France. Even the cathedrals have differences which, after the number of cathedrals we have visited, are welcome.
Bob and Rita’s granddaughter, Sarah, who had studied one year at the University of Victoria, is now studying at the University of Gent and we were happy to be able to visit with her and her family again. King’s Gardens
The King of Belgium has some pretty spectacular gardens. Three weeks a year they are open to the public. I can’t imagine the work required to make sure the flowers peak at just the right time. The crowds were huge but orderly. Parking was a challenge but Bob is quite adept at working his way through traffic. We think he is a closet Italian driver.
Our weather luck held once again.
The sheep can graze where ever they want even though there are unexploded munitions somewhere in the ground. Soldiers used to live in this environment.
The weather forecast for our Belgium visit wasn’t too promising but the only rain we had this day came while we were walking in the huge buildings.
Apparently there is a move afoot to split the gardens into two: one for the King and one for the public. The King is apparently not in favour of this change. Based on the size of the gardens, I am not sure one would notice if one had just half of them. Africa Museum
I was surprised to see an African Museum in Brussels until I remembered that the Congo used to be the Belgian Congo. Reading displays about Patrice Lumumba, the first president of the independent Congo, brought back many memories from our teenage years. The displays were very well presented and there were many videos of Congolese people telling their stories, luckily with subtitles in four languages.
The property on which the museum is located is huge with many trees and waterways. We were able to take a very pleasant stroll along one of them which led up to the Spanish House. Built in the 1600s, it has since been turned into a very pleasant restaurant. We
The tunnels honeycombed the ridge. As was pointed out by the guide they didn't have the great lighting we had that day.
aren’t sure what happened in the intervening years as the signs were just in Flemish and there is no danger we would be able to read them. I did know the Spanish controlled the Netherlands, which included Belgium at one point, so that may have been a factor.
We stopped for cappuccinos and snacks but Bob decided he had to have a Belgian beer. Not too long after we got settled outside, the clouds formed up and a gentle rain started to fall. Nothing could stop Bob from enjoying his beer.
This was the last full day of our trip. We were sad to see the end of an adventure that saw a lot of new as well as old favourite spots. On the way home
Our flight left at 10:00 am, luckily from Brussels airport not Charleroi, as Bob agreed to drive us even though it was an early start. The traffic on the ring road was already ridiculous but Bob knows all the short cuts. Our route was Brussels-Frankfurt-Calgary-Victoria. We had a four hour layover in Calgary so lots of time for customs etc. Before we went to bed the night before the flight
we got an email from Air Canada that, due to the snow fall in Calgary, our flight from Frankfurt was going to be delayed four hours. Yikes. That was going to make the connection in Calgary tricky. I woke up about 2:30 and checked my mail. Double yikes. The flight was now delayed 8 hours. So much for the Calgary connection.
The Frankfurt airport is huge and actually a pleasant place to spend 10 hours. Lots of interesting shops and restaurants, plenty of seating and lots of counters where you can charge your computer and get caught up on your blogs. Air Canada even provided a very nice meal in a very nice restaurant. Not just a coupon for a sandwich and coffee but a proper meal served by pleasant wait staff with drinks (if you wanted one) and dessert.
The nine hour flight went by quickly and we arrived in Calgary about 11:00 pm. They assured us we would have a hotel room and, while there was a bit of confusion, we did manage to grab a few hours’ sleep before we had to catch the first morning flight. Air Canada gets a lot of abuse for
Notre-Dame de Lorette cemetery
This was the location of the furthest penetration into France during WW I. The number of headstones is staggering. This may be the largest military cemetery in France but it is far from the only one.
its service but we certainly had no complaints on this run.
Our son, Russell, picked us up and dropped us at our car (it’s an even longer story) and we caught the afternoon ferry back to Pender. We left home on February 19th
so it was good to be home.
We have been asked where our next adventure will be. We aren’t sure but we know this is ToBeContinued!
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