We didn’t make it to Champagne from Euro Disney instead deciding to take the most direct route which saw us spend the night in Lille – which is a French town on the border with Belgium. Staying in Lille lets us spend the following day around Ypres. The Ypres Salient is where, between 1914 and 1918, hundreds of thousands of soldiers fought as part of the Western Front in World War I. Although armies from many countries fought at the Ypres Salient it is primarily the Commonwealth countries who were there continuously and so many Commonwealth cemeteries and monuments exist in the area. By October 1918 the Ypres Salient had claimed 185,000 Commonwealth lives.
We did a particular driving tour called “The Flanders Fields Route” which takes you past most of the significant sites. We purchased the tour map and directions from the Tourist Information in Ypres for a few Euro. As you drive around you see many small war cemeteries. Generally these cemeteries are where advanced dressing stations or casualty clearing stations were associated with each respective battlefield.
Of note we stopped at the Tyne Cot Cemetery which is considered the biggest military cemetery on the continent. There are 11,956 Commonwealth (1,500 Australian) Soldiers buried there as well as 34,957 missing soldiers with their names engraved on memorials around the Cemetery. We also stopped at Langemark which is one of the largest German cemetery’s however in contrast they did not have individual graves but rather it consisted primarily of one large plot with 40,000 German soldiers all buried together and their names on a stone wall that borders it.
Tyne Cot Cemetery Langemark Cemetery
The Sanctuary Wood Museum is a good stop with kids. It has preserved a war landscape with trenches, craters and vaulted passages. It was raining and very muddy that day and I think the girls got some appreciation of what it was like as they walked in and around the trenches. Kerrie and I were surprised at the shell craters and just how large some of them where. Sanctuary Wood also has a good collection of photographs which gave you some appreciation for the devastation and how bombed and destroyed the villages and terrain were.
Lille was a sizable city to stay in and it provided the girls with some shopping in the morning before we headed off to Ypres – Emily bought some more shoes, shoes are something of a fetish for her. Being on the border also meant that the café in Lille where we had dinner had the right combination of Belgium Beer and French Cuisine. Unfortunately we got to the café at around 5:30pm and ordered drinks only to find out that they did not start dinner until 7:00pm – so that meant a few more beers had to be drunk before dinner. The girls were good at making their apple juices last!!!
The café had snails which Molly and I like very much – as you can see by the photo Emily was less impressed when she tried one. They are basically smothered in garlic and butter so not much to taste but garlic – they are however very chewy.
Em Eating a Snail