“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” – John Steinbeck
There are no truer words spoken. I am finally over jetlag, and let me say, the older you get the harder it seems to recover from. Now that my mind isn’t foggy, I can give the proper amount of reflection to my European trip. People ask me daily “How was your trip?” In one word, astounding might fit, or maybe I need to make up a word. How about Fantastical? My trip was everything I hoped it would be, it was things I didn’t want it to be, and in many ways it was more then I could have ever expected.
For the next little while, I plan to write once a week about my amazing experiences and share some photos with you in the process. I was inspired by this blog, my new friend Sunshine often posts pictures of her travels in England.
Our first day arriving at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris felt surreal. Foggy from lack of sleep, gray and rainy day, signs I recognized except the English above the french was missing. Mom was waiting at the gate for us. She swept us up away to the traffic lanes outside, where Dad pulled up to the curb an a Caravan to escort us to destinations unknown. The plan was to head to Calais, France and spend the night. We all wanted to get to Bruges, Belgium. So Calais would be the first stop. What we didn’t expect, was the gems would would find off the beaten path. Phoebe, our trusty GPS, lead us on an expedition towards a campsite. But first we wanted to stop and pay our respects to my Grandma’s Cousin Fred. On the way, the driver spotted a sign that said Vimy Ridge. Being Canadian, we couldn’t just drive by such an importance piece to our Nation’s History, so we stopped. Remember this is our first day in Europe, and still Vimy ridge remained a one of my greatest memories of the trip.
We didn’t see the monolith at first, we were looking at the battle fields that were heavily damaged by shells that created huge craters. It was an overcast day, you could visualize the battle conditions. It was a somber site.
We walked up to the giant monolith and the path took us through a maple grove, I was speechless.
Our children were busy asking everyone questions, trying to understand what they were seeing. I am so thankful I was able to share this experience with the Offspring. It was amazing for me to see the pristine landscape, and to understand the battle took place almost 100 years ago. I no longer have family around who can share their first-hand experiences, but we do have the stories of what it was like. I can picture it vividly now as it must have been for the boys in battle who were not much older than Genetic Offspring, or the same age as my nephew.
As we approached the Monolith, quiet hush fell on our family. This massive structure with gorgeous carvings, was not only beautiful to look at, but humbling as well.
It felt strangely disrespectful to walk on the monument itself. But stairs guide you to read inscriptions, find names of soldiers who might be family and to see the views of the French country side below. The sculptures were beautiful and moving, I felt I needed to do a bit of research about the artist when I came home. The Canadian War Museum has custody of seventeen of the plaster figures created by Canadian sculptor Walter Allward (1875-1955) between 1925 and 1930 for the Vimy Memorial in France. They are now the only legacy of Canada’s most important memorial commission in which the artist’s own hand is clearly present. The stone memorial and figures in France are the work of professional stonecarvers working from his designs.
Allward had quite the vision.
We had wandered through the cimetière. This really affected Genetic Offspring. His friends and male cousins were similar in age to the boys buried beneath the stones. Far to many boys were “known only unto God”.
Surrounding the cimetière were the battle fields. There were signs posted saying there was still live munitions left in the ground. The areas were outlined by electric fences, only sheep were allowed to cross.
The picture does not give the scope nor depth to these craters. In fact just merely writing about this place cannot possibly do it justice. This was one of those experiences where actually being there provides meaning to the monumental sacrifice Mothers made for their country.
I was so very proud of our Canadian Government for the work and effort put into this place to preserve it for generations to come. I am equally thankful to the French Government for donating the land this place sits on. I cannot express how proud I was to be a Canadian that day.