The bittersweet taste of the northern fields

Trip Start Apr 02, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of France  ,
Monday, April 13, 2009

Our final day of our short trip to France was really only to be spent driving back, filling up on goods from French supermarkets on the way, but as we whizzed through the fields of northern France I by chance spotted a sign for the Canadian World War I memorial at Vimy. Having been told about it prior to leaving for France (and possessing an aroused interest thanks to Band of Brothers), I suggested a visit, which was warmly endorsed by Ed who had been to the memorial before.

The land as we approached the site transformed rapidly from flat green fields and motorways to rolling hilly grass knolls, formed by craters where bombs had ripped into the soil and which evoked grey and gruesome images of wounded soldiers, similar to those I had recently seen in Band of Brothers. But despite these visualisations, the war memorial erected there sits in the most tranquil of settings. Birds twittered in the trees, the dew on the green grass glowed in the morning sun and two white marble pillars stand proudly erect in honour of the once blood-stained killing fields they inhabit.

We walked around the site, chatting to a Canadian guide who informed us of the recent anniversary of Canada's victory there - a pinnacle of the allies' victory in the World War. The land was generously given to Canada by France to honour the events that took place there, and provides for one pf the most beautiful war memorials I have ever seen. The statues are skilfully carved and gracefully guard the memorial within; a lone figure of shrouded marble gazes over the fields, with her back towards the pillars, seemingly pausing to remember the atrocities they saw and encouraging the visitor to do the same.

Having admired the memorial, we decided we were all keen to view the trenches maintained within the grounds. These were walked and we played like kids in the hideouts, imitating the activities of soldiers of a time better left in the past. The site also proffers an informative museum and is well-worth a visit for, well, anybody - everybody!

We continued our journey Calais and raided the only supermarket we found open, which was fortunately huge, to stock up. More bottles of wine were bought (totalling over 40 that we returned to England with), as well as fine (read: expensive) foie gras, several types of creamy cheese, slices of smoked and cured ham and lots of chocolate! We drove home, finally making it back to my house as it grew dark, and tucked into our purchases, enjoying the classic French meal with rich red wine, savouring that last little piece of French culture and cuisine before we had to return to the hum-drum of the mundane that marks the end of any holiday. :(
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