July 17, Rouen to Vimy Ridge and Brugge
This morning we quickly packed up to leave Rouen then took a walk up the street to the Joan of Arc Tower (it was here in Rouen where she was burned at the stake) then back to the car to be off the street by 9:00 am or get a ticket. I would like to have had an extra hour or two to look around but our time is short. We navigated our way from Rouen up to Vimy the site of The Vimy Ridge Memorial standing on the highest point of the 14km long Vimy Ridge. The memorial is a dedication to the Canadian World War I soldiers. After two failed attempts by French soldiers to dislodge the Germans from the ridge in 1914 and 1915, it became heavily fortified. Then, on the 9th day of April 1917, four divisions of Canadian soldiers in line on a front four miles wide attacked and captured the ridge after four days of intense fighting. 3598 Canadians gave their lives in this battle. There are the names of 11,285 Canadian soldiers killed in France carved on the walls at the base of the memorial. At the front, there is a figure of a woman cloaked in a veil, eyes downcast which represents Canada, a young nation mourning her dead. Two towering white pylons reach skyward in the middle of the memorial. In the surrounding 107 acre site, there is a preserved battlefield showing the pock marks from all the artillery fire and mine craters as well as trenches and another Canadian cemetery. We hit the road again, driving north out of France into Belgium. We arrived in Brugge but the directions I had printed were to get to the hotel where there is no parking. There is a parkade on the outskirts of the city where you pay 3.50 euro for 24 hours and get free bus ride for both of us to and from the city centre where our hotel is. We kind of got lost, I knew we were past where we needed to be so we got turned around, and finally got on the right track and found the parkade. We rode the bus in and got dropped off about a block from the hotel which is along one of the canals that run through the old town. We checked in, dropped off our gear and headed out to explore. First we found ourselves in the centre square with a big bell tower where there is a guy who actually plays the bells on a contraption somewhat like a piano. We wandered through the square checking out the cafe's and then started going in and out of all the chocolate shops. Mmmmm it smells so good inside those places. After more walking and exploring, we purchased a chocolate bar for after dinner. We actually had our desert first. We sat at a cafe and ordered a desert waffle with ice cream whip cream strawberries and chocolate ($14.50) a water ($3.25) and a coffee ($3.75 ), so $21.50 euro, $26.50CDN for dessert. Ouch, but it was yummy. We then bought supper at a burger joint, a supreme hamburger and supreme chicken burger with large fries $12.50 euro, almost half the price of our dessert. Then we set off to see the hotel Carolyn stayed at while here and we strolled for about an hour along the canals taking photos and watching ducks. I hope the weather holds up. It has been pleasant the past couple of days with some sun, some cloud and temps in high teens to low 20's. There are small boats that cruise the canals so in the morning we plan on going for a ride before leaving town. Time permitting we might go to Ypres before returning the car in Paris and heading to Berlin next.