11.06.2015 - 15.06.2015 18 °C
Train from Munich was a sensible way to arrive in Lille, although stops and train changes in both Cologne (Kohn) and Brussels (Bruxelles) (and I do wonder why we anglicise the names of cities - surely we should just live with the local names!?) did stretch the friendship a bit! But we had a great view of the countryside along the way - noticing the changing green from deep, verdant in Bavaria to lime and fading in Normandy.
We met Julia and Neil the next morning from their Eurostar trip from London, and took possession of our hire car. Then our adventures started! We first had to work out the car and the SATNAV and then we had to find our way to Le Madeleine and our accommodation. There was the freeway then the narrow streets to cope with, and then we were greeted with a narrow steel staircase to a first floor apartment, then again a spiral staircase to the bedrooms! We felt we'd hit the jackpot! In fact, it all seemed a little stressful at the time, but it was all OK, and it was great to be sharing time with friends.
Julia was in search of her great uncle's grave and knew it was in The Strand War Grave cemetery around Messin, near Ypres, so after a slow lunch of pate and cheese we headed off. We made a number of stops, not taking into account the fact that there are numerous Aust cemeteries in the region - but we did know it (or the related battle and field hospital) was near a wood! We finally found the right cemetery and successfully found the grave. It was quite special for Julia, as it had been for Trev in Malta, and in fact it was very touching for all four of us - put some real context into the trip.
We went to Ypres (where we had a slight altercation with a stop sign) and made our way to the Mennin Gate in time to see (or listen to in my case) the evening ceremony. We were in a crowd of a couple of hundred of tourists, school groups and some returned service people wearing part uniforms and medals and mostly stood waiting patiently. Purely by coincidence, the reading that evening was about a young soldier from NSW who served on the Western Front - which made it all seem closer to us. The minute's silence followed by wreath laying, then of course the sounding of the bugle of the Last Post completed the evening.