A striking monument

Trip Start May 25, 2007
Trip End Oct 29, 2007

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Flag of France  ,
Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Spending the night in the airport seems to be a right of passage for any backpacker, and I guess I'm no different.  I really only had to kill about 6 hours so it really wasn't that bad.  I couldn't find anywhere to lie down as all the comfy chairs were taken so I just read for a while (Dan Brown's Angels and Demons...pretty good) and dozed when I could.

The next several hours was just some good old fashioned traveling:  Fly from Dublin to Charleois, Belgium; bus across the boarder to Lille, France;  then another train to Arras.  Then, with everything and everyone in French,  got to navigate the twisted streets to the Hostel.  The place is an HI hostel but it was OK:  All I needed was a place to sleep, even if it was entirely occupied by the French Snoring Brigade.

I was in Arras because it was the closest place to Vimy Ridge that I could find a cheap bed.  What I hadn't counted on was as how difficult it would be to get to the memorial site.  Renting a car was out of  the question as I still value my (and other people's) life, and I arrived to late to book a tour bus.  So this morning I discovered again how awesome I am.

With no one really able to speak English, I managed to piece together that I could take a city bus nearly to the town of Vimy, where the driver could tell I wanted the 'Memoriale Canadien'.  He let me out along the side of the highway next to a blocked off access road that pointed in the direction of the memorial.  So I just hiked the 2km along the abandoned road and voila!

The actual memorial has been beautifully restored and is an imposing sight.  The photos tell the story better than I could so check those out.  The rest of the site also includes a couple of cemeteries and a guided tour of the underground tunnels the allies built to organize the assault.  The site is staffed by Canadian students and they've all got a pretty sweet summer gig, if you ask me.

Getting back to town was another adventure.  the bus dropped me off at 11:00am and didn't return until 5:45 pm which is too much time to kill at the memorial unless you want to curl up for a nap between the headstones.  So I just walked for an hour until I got into the town of Vimy, managed to buy a bottle of water, and just waited at the shelter for the bus to come. 

Today's itinerary isn't what I would recommend anyone planning on visiting Vimy Ridge to copy, but if you are traveling cheaply without a car then it seems to be the only way.  And it makes for a good story :)
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