The church bells rang this morning as I ran towards the town of Misery.
I waved to a solitary farmer, then made my way down the lane and past the chateau. Here and there, lone poppies poked through the wildflowers, and I think I found those almost as poignant as the rows and rows of white gravestones we saw later in the day at Villers-Bretonneux. 46,000 Australians died on the Western Front, and as I ran along the roads they would have marched, it was as though each poppy represented one of them.
Back at Maison Warlop, we had a lovely chat with Neil and Vicky and another couple from England over a very festive breakfast of fresh bread and preserves, brioche with young goat's cheese and great coffee. Hugo was thrilled with his pot of chocolate.
We set off on our journey to visit Ecole Victoria, a school donated by the schoolchildren of Victoria after 1,200 Victorian soldiers died liberating the town. It was amazing to see the school decorated with boomerangs so far from home! The quadrangle where the children play has a large sign above it: "Never forget the Australians", and there is a beautiful
plaque in both English and French in the brickwork on the front of the school.
Nothing had prepared us for the scale of the Australian War Memorial and cemetery outside Villers-Bretonneux. It was truly beautiful - and quite eerie in it's silence, as we were there on our own for well over an hour. I think Isabel and Hugo read every gravestone as we wandered up and down before climbing the stairs to the tower, which looks out over the cemetery and the fields in the valley beyond.
Afterwards, we were all pretty quiet as we reflected on the morning. It felt much more personal to have been right in the places where history happened, and also to read the beautiful words of gratitude from the French people in the town.
I set about getting on with my navigation via google maps as we headed through Amiens toward Giverny. Unusually for me, I had not booked anywhere for us to stay. This usually is far too anxiety provoking - I can be flexible about anything except knowing where I'm sleeping! I think it's a throwback to road trips to Queensland with my dad when I was little
The school at Villers Bretonneux donated by the children of Victoria
where we would just drive "one town further" until finally there was no accommodation available anywhere....
Anyway, we were keen to arrive in Giverny early so that we could work something out, but as we stopped at the last turn-off to the town, disaster struck. We were almost in Giverny when a motorcycle, complete with pillion passenger, came up extremely close to the back of the car - giving Frank quite a shock. Next thing, they were right beside his window, gesturing madly that we had a flat tyre and should "Pull over".
Thank goodness for Neil and Vicky's stories last night. They had warned us that because our car had red temporary number plates, we might be targets for a scam they had fallen prey to not once, but twice in France and Spain. It works like this:
As you stop to turn, or stop at a traffic light, the pillion passenger on a motorbike slashes your tyre. Then, a short time later, the bikers tell you that you have a flat and offer to help you change it. As you change the tyre with their help, an accomplice steals anything he can.
Les Moulin des Chennevieres Giverny
The b&b, which is an old mill, came complete with mechanic!
The huge arched window was in our room, much to Isabel's delight.
got really fired up when Frank and I both realised with an awful sinking feeling what was going on. I gestured back just as madly that they should "Get lost!", and because the motorcyclists realised we were on to them, they took off at breakneck speed. That left us with an awful kerthunking sound in our right rear tyre, and nowhere to stay for the night.
We pulled in eventually where we could see a large family heading out of a gate, and then realised with relief that the place was actually a lovely B&B with a sign out to say they had a room available! Not only that, one of the owners was a mechanic. He used his machinery to undo the wheel nuts and help change the tyre, then inflated the original tyre to see where the damage had been done. I don't think he really believed our story until, sure enough, he found a large slash on the wall of our brand new tyre.
After all the drama, no-one felt like doing anything much, but it was dinner time so we went for a short walk to the Hotel Baudy - a very old hotel
The Lucky family, Giverny
On our way home from dinner at the Hotel Baudy.
frequented by Monet and his friends - for dinner. It was a lovely sunny evening, so we sat outside enjoying a welcome glass of wine and changing the plans for our one day in Giverny to include a police report and a stint at a tyre shop!
The photos from our walk back reinforced to me how lucky we actually were - no-one was hurt, it was only a tyre and a tyre could be easily fixed. We had been a bit spooked by the whole thing, but on entering our huge family room at "Les Moulins des Chenneviere", we were struck by how lovely it was, and began to relax and enjoy ourselves again. Isabel adored the enormous arched window and Hugo was really pleased about all the animals in the big garden - it was a real menagerie, including 2 wallabies and an emu! Not only that, the house was an old mill, so we were lulled to sleep that evening by the pleasant sound of water sloshing rhythmically over the mill wheel and into the river beyond.
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