Today we caught the train north to the town of Arras and then a short taxi ride out into the country side to visit Vimy Ridge. On April 9th 1917, the Canadians took this strategic ridge at a considerable cost of lives. My Grandfather Keith (my mother’s father…only 24 at the time), fought not far from here at Ypres in the battle of Sanctuary Woods in 1916. We read his story before coming here… nose to nose with the Germans in trenches so close they could hear each other working, his arm was shattered by shrapnel. Yet, he stayed another day, pulling grenade pins with his teeth and throwing with his good arm. And so, with that sobering thought, we entered the tunnels and trenches with nervous anticipation and came out the other end so thankful I never had to do that, so humbled by their bravery and so proud to be Canadian. Bonus, the designer of the beautiful and giant Canadian monument was an Allward (with 2 l’s). Standing there now amid the pastoral fields of grazing sheep and yellow canola, it’s difficult to imagine their hell.
Returning to Arras, we had streetside lunch (best Cobb Salad ever!!) and explored this ancient town with it’s unique architecture and Cathedrals. It was here that Joan of Arc was captured and held prisoner before her execution. What we didn’t have time to see were the miles of underground tunnels carved through the chalk. Down there, 20,000 soldiers gathered for the battle of Vimy Ridge. It must be very impressive. During WW2, the tunnels served as bomb shelters for the civilians. Again, our freedom is taken for granted but that is where it comes from. We did have time, however, to climb the bell tower for a 360 degree view of the town and country side. Plus a minute or two to peek into St. Jean Baptiste church for a quick stained glass fix. Nice!
Back to Paris for an evening stroll along the Seine to see the “City of Lights”. Not disappointed! At 10pm the Eiffel Tower erupted into a dazzling 5-minute display of sparkling LED lights that dance feverishly over the entire structure. It looked like some futuristic space craft about to launch. And after 5 minutes, it stopped flashing and settled into the beautiful golden icon that it is. Wow and wowsers! That was something.
We carried on via foot and subway towards our apartment, passing other well-lit must-sees like Moulin Rouge (in the very amusing red light district) and Sacre Coeur, so regal and white.
And then home and to bed. What a day!! And if you think that was something, just wait until tomorrow. Here’s a teaser…. think glass ☺