A rainy day in Nord-de-Pas-Calais


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Europe » France » Nord-Pas de Calais » Saint-Omer
August 24th 2013
Published: August 30th 2013
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It had to happen at some time although we probably would have preferred the drizzly rain to have occurred when we were driving between destinations.

Never mind however because we have an indoor attraction to go to today and the tour of it will take a couple of hours at least.And what an absolutely amazing place it turned out to be and so well preserved and displayed.More about that in a minute.

We have everything we could need in this apartment and we are already thinking that we shall be sorry to have to move on when the time comes.

Romuald had told us that the nearest large town of St Omer had a very good market on a Saturday morning and so we headed for that first fearing that with the drizzle it might not be on or as extensive as it might usually be in dry weather.

Because we have been blessed with so many fine, sunny days and the buildings in towns and villages look so much more attractive and interesting when the sun is shining.And so it was today as we entered St Omer where the stone buildings all looked grey and drab under the overcast sky.

As we expected the streets were narrow in this previously walled city which was established in the 7th century.Today little of the original wall remains as they were removed as the town's residential building needs extended with industries established in the area.

We were wrong about the market on being on or reduced in size because of the drizzly rain.There were cars everywhere at the area where the market was being held and not a car park within a kilometre.We decided not to bother with the market and headed instead for Wizernes a couple of kilometres further on from St Omer and to the attraction we were heading for,La Coupole(The Dome).

It was here that the Germans,from 1943 -1945, built a massive fully reinforced concrete bunker in the side of a disused chalk quarry to launch their V-2 rockets aimed at England.

The site has been very well preserved and contains the tunnels dug for the operation of the launching of the rockets and also a history museum about life under the German occupation in NorthWest France including a memorial to the people of the area who were shot or deported during the occupation.

Although it was cool outside with the drizzly rain falling,it was even cooler when we entered the underground bunker and we were pleased we had our sweaters on.The tour starts with a heartrending video featuring a woman who had come to the area as a child with her family from Poland before the war started but caught up along with her family and sent to Auschwitz in a round up by the Nazis in 1942.She was one of the very small number who survived and was freed by the Allies in 1945.

As part of the entry fee you receive an audio guide that started up as you came to each exhibition to give you the background of what you were looking at.There was also a number of films taken during the period showing the building of the bunker complex,the development of the V-1 and V-2 also about Wernher von Braun who was the mastermind behind the development of the rocket and a member of the Nazi party.Interestingly,the Americans whisked him and many other German space and rocket scientists off to the USA at the end of the war where he became the principal in the US Space Programme and the development of the Saturn Rocket.

We spent a very informative 2 1/2 hours in the underground bunker and were pleased we had it to come to considering the drizzly rain.For more information on La Coupole for those readers who may visit the area the website is www.lacoupole-france.co.uk/history-centre/ We would certainly recommend it to anyone with an interest in the history of WW2,the V-1 and V-2 rockets and also life under the German occupiers in NorthWest France.

The rain hadn't let up so after finding a supermarket for some essential items to fill the larder we headed back for the apartment and a very late lunch.

The rain finally stopped around 4pm and we took ourselves out for a walk around the 5 or 6 streets that make up the village just to get some exercise.There wasn't anyone out and about although we had the feeling the locals were watching us from behind their curtains.

Hopefully tomorrow the weather will have improved to at least be dry for the day as we plan a drive to the WW1 battlefields and cemeteries south east of Buysschuere and also the NZ memorial at Longueval and the Wellington Quarry Museum in Arras(more about that tomorrow)

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