11 September 2014

Peronne, Villers Bretoneux, Le Hamel, Albert

Rainy Lille
Drove on, stopped at Lille. It was raining and we left after an hour, heading to Peronne. The town is small but the WW1 museum is packed. The campsite is really soaked. The pool is cool.

Art in Peronne from a WW1 soldier
Today we got John, picked up croissants for brekky and went to Villers Bretoneux; it is "Australie en Picardie". Most of the shops are shut. The newsagent asks where we're from and then gives us a bunch of pins with a French and an Australian flag. The Australian flag
is backwards, so it's an even rarer find.

The local school post war rebuild was paid for by some Australian soldier from Victoria. No other French school has a school hall or a little Australian France museum in there with WW1 memorabilia. The town has kangaroos painted around the place a Rue Victoria, and a Rue Melbourne. The Australian memorial is on the edge of town.
Rue de Kanga named by Aust soldiers

Next stop - Le Hamel and Monash's perfect attack that was all complete in 93 minutes. Some German general studied this attack before formulating their blitzgrieg tactics. All the different parts worked together at the right time to overwhelm the defence. Towards the end, a lot of tanks helped sway the war.

Finally the 1916 museum in Albert about life in the trenches. The location is a medieval tunnel. One touching story was of a Scot who carried an injured Englishman get back to a safe area. Just before they arrived, the Scot was also wounded. When they got to hospital, they had beds next to each other. The Scotsman knew he would die, and gave his kilt to the Englishman.  Now the kilt is in the museum.

Rue de Kanga 2014
Rue de Kanga 1914

We then popped by a few huge craters done by mining engineers going under the enemy trenches.

Waiting for a boat at "Circular Quay"

Dying to be in there

Rue de Victoria, Villers Bretoneux

Rue de Melbourne, Villers Bretoneux

The town hall, Villers Bretoneux

A hug in Villers Bretoneux

Rue de Melbourne, Villers Bretoneux

They get a few visitors

The Aust memorial, Villers Bretoneux

The memorial got smashed in WW2, Villers Bretoneux

Who bagged the Red Baron? At Le Hamel.

Hercules at Le Hamel

Lochnagar crater - a *lot* of TNT

05 September 2014


Practicing moves
Saturday today, went to a couple of shops, then to the big castle in Ghent, called Gravesteen. One room has all kinds of torture instruments -thumbscrews, whips, nails, rack, a cleaver for parts of limbs, brands for brandking someone a criminal. So that's where the expression comes from

To St Michael's for mass and Lucy Changs for dinner.

John managed to score an executive room at the hotel, so we stayed at his place instead of camping, all four of us sleeping in the king bed, while he slept on the couch. Louis still managed to take up half the bed.

Inside the walls

Inside the walls


We set up our tents, including one John borrowed from reception, and headed into town. It's great here! Churches, cathedrals, canals - the historic heart is well preserved and a nice surprise. The beer is excellent.

In the morning, John's tent is half wet inside, and his back is not loving the flat sleeping position. He's not going to camp any more.

We headed to STAM the Stadt museum of Ghent - a history of the town. At one stage it rivaled Paris and Florence. It started as a wool textile centre, got smashed by Calvinists, the local park "had to make way" for a freeway in the 70s. Now it is into steel making, and has a big university. The outskirts are freeways, houses and industrial areas. Spanish took over from the Calvinists - Spanish Netherlands - part of the Habsburg empire, then destroyed by Napoleon. Finally there was a huge pile of lego to make the town. The boys went nuts.

John's happy we picked this town
The afternoon we went to town for a walking tour. An amazing revelation is that Flemish and Dutch are very much the same, just different accent, mainly. We see the canalside warehouses for cereal and wool. After wool got too expensive, they started using linen, then cotton, then everything went to China. Now they're into high tech materials. Finally we visit the amazing St Bavo's Cathedral with all its artwork.

The first thing we saw once in town
The ugly modern structures are "needed" she says, due to all the new people coming in. Oh well. We walk around the church some more, then go for sushi.The rain pours overnight and its windy. John's tent, which is a bit of a joke, has leaked a lot. He moves to the Holiday Inn at the old Expo site. A ghost industrial area, very bizarre. Multiple freeways, and so few things.

At the STAM museum

Walking tour. She lives the modern stuff

In the cathedral of St Bavo's

Been working out?

Karate kids


Working on the kiddie crane
It's a big industrial area where it rains a lot. There's an important harbour. Once we got here, we went round in circles, stopped at a cafe to get internet, then found a hotel that was about 500m away. Was suffereing digital withdrawal by now.

John had his own room, so decided to eat 2 meals tonight, entree and main. It didn't last long, but was nice to eat. Got up at 5am for a fire alarm. Seems like someone was smoking. Trouble is that the smoking area was right out the front, so all the smoke wafts up the stairwell. Definitely able to smell it even up on the 4th floor. We all wait in the street for around 5 minutes for the firies to give the all clear.
Rotterdam is nice in parts

At 10 we got down to the maritime museum. If it the area, keep driving. In the first room, there's a model of Rotterdam. Ollie pronounces 'this is boring!'. So we go straight to the kids section where they can practice loading/unloading on a kiddie sized crane or two. Sex and the sea is a little bit interesting, but mainly just stories from the sailors about whores.

Sandwiches are bought to eat on the road to Ghent.

Time to check out the dog

Muiderslot castle

Muiderslot - nice!
This is the castle that Marie saw at the miniature museum. It's close to Amsterdam, about 15ks out.

It's a great castle, fully refurbished. You can see some furnished rooms. They've even left some spices and odd foods like nuts and fruit on a table in the kitchen, cooking gear, bedding. Then you can see the towers and watch ways in your own time. In one room, there's a pair of jousting seats to make a video game. Louis won that (best of 3) against Ollie.

John could live here
Then we tried finding the scenic route to Rotterdam, but sadly spent ages on the freeways instead.

Spices from the spice islands

The living room

A courtyard in the middle.

Ready to fight when the lord say so

Nice exterior

You need to be strong to wear this kind of thing

Den Haag and the Madurodam miniature park

Waiting to board the ferry in Madurodam
Set off late around 10 to the Hague/Den Haag. John thanks everyone and says no worries. Even when the wait people ask would you like to choose your side dish, he says no worries, I'm happy with whichever. Good, but you have to choose one!

Windmills galore
Got to Maduram miniature world. You can see all of the Netherlands here in an afternoon. Windmills, castles, churches, trains, power plants and office blocks all in small. The birds like smokestacks and ships. Marie took a photo of a castle which we then went to see the following day.

A quick trip to the World Court is v. interesting. Shame we're too late to get a headset for a proper tour of the museum. Great seeing all the famous people in the pictures.

Lovely castle

John lands

The flying fox near the camp ground
Spent the morning on a flying fox near the camp. Met two fabulous guys and their hyperactive dogs who got super excited when the boys flied on the flying fox.

Had beautiful sandwiches at the airport, then waited in the crowd near the magic doors for John to turn up. The flight was good no problems. He did not sleep too much as he was worried about getting through the flight with no stomach upsets.

Went to Haarlem for the afternoon. What a nice introduction to the place, apart from accidentally walking past the small red light street. Every part of town is beautiful.

At the campground, we'd hired a canvas one with 4 bunk beds. The boys slept toe to toe and by miracle it worked.

The next day we walked around Amsterdam trying to find bikes to rent. Finally got some, nearly crashing around, bells ringing. All riders get peed off as we go on the wrong side of the path, the boys wobble around etc. Ollie sticks to the left stopping motorbikes from overtaking and stopping the oncoming traffic.

After rolling through so many 4 fours, the guy told us after that you give way to the right. Wished I'd known.

Dinner is fried rice and chicken. John is surviving.

Louis in Haarlem

Back at the skate park near the camp site.

Lunch in the dam

Dinner at the camp ground