Trip Start Aug 02, 2012
182Trip End Aug 02, 2013
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
When we arrived in Verdun, the tourist info centre was closed for lunch (most places in France are closed from 12-2pm). So we decided to check out the town centre of Verdun which is entered by crossing the Chausse bridge and entering via the Chausse gate (Verdun used to be a fortified town and this is one of the still standing original gates). We hadn’t had lunch yet and the cafes and restaurants along the river’s edge were very inviting, especially in the heat. So we sought some shade at a restaurant facing out onto the river. We ordered a croque monsieur each (Megs had the “à l’ancienne” – which is gruyere, ham, béchamel sauce and I had the “crème fraiche” – which was the same but with crème fraiche (sort of like whipping cream) instead of béchamel. Each order came with a side of green salad and we thoroughly enjoyed the meal as we watched the canal boats drift by.
We were re-energized to continue our touring and by the time we were done lunch, the TI (Tourist Information) was open. We picked up our brochures on the surrounding battlefields and monuments and purchased tickets to the Memorial du Verdun and the Ossuaire du Douaumont (Douaumont Ossuary). We then drove out to Memorial du Verdun and checked into our campsite on the way. The memorial was very informative and well laid out, not to mention, a stark reminder that the freedom we enjoy today had a hefty price. We then took a short walk outside to the Ville de Fleury. It was very eerie walking through the surrounding forests which literally looked like a rolling moonscape, except it was covered in grass and we were surrounded by trees.
The next morning we made our way to the Ossuaire du Douaumont. We walked around the inside of the memorial where each stone is marked with the names of the 130,000 French and German soldiers whose remains were not found. The memorial is about 130 meters long and at the centre, there is a tower with a bell at the very top that is rung 4 times a day in remembrance. On the outside face of the memorial, they have the crests of the cities that contributed to the building of the memorial (we spotted Ottawa and Montreal among them).
Having finished at the Ossuaire, we made our way into Verdun to pick up some stamps at La Poste but it turned out that it was an unmanned post office and therefore they didn’t actually sell you real stamps by the piece – you had to buy a roll of them or just get your letter stamped by a machine. For those of you that know of Megs’ philatelic pursuits, this just wouldn’t do because there would be no interesting stamps to add to her collection. So with the post office being a bust, we decided to sample a delicacy that Verdun is famous for – “Dragées de Verdun” (Sugared Almonds of Verdun). The treat originated when an apothecary in 1220 had a stroke of genius and took an almond that he was using to make some cakes and coated it with a layer of sugar and honey. Then, to make it easier to transport, he baked his new delicacy in an oven. The production of these “dragées” really took off when King Louis XIV found out about this confection. Very quickly, this product became popular in the palaces of France and abroad and in each room, a jar of sugared almonds was often found (perhaps this accounts for the poor tooth condition).
Having finished at the almond factory, we drove out to an area of France known as the Les Vosges. The drive was pretty uneventful except that along the way, I got complacent with my navigation since we were on a D (departmental) road (this is the second biggest type of road after an autoroute) and we were pretty much driving in a single direction. We were still using our Michelin road atlas (I think we’ve only used the GPS a couple of times since the start of the trip and mostly just to find a very particular address in a big town when we don’t have a local map) and I forgot to tell Megs about an upcoming fork in the road. Well, we got to it quicker than I had anticipated and Megs was asking me which way to go as we entered the roundabout. I had lost my place in the map book (as I was busy typing up part of this blog entry) and told her to take one of the exits that I thought sounded familiar. After an 8 km scenic detour along a white road (these are the smallest types of road and are usually only big enough for one car at a time), we were back on track to Gérardmer, in the heart of the Vosges mountains.