Today is my birthday and I don't think I could have a better location to celebrate in.
This morning I woke up in London and tonight I go to bed in the beautiful city of Arras in Northern France. Arras is the capital of the Pas du Calais department and is located on the Scarpe river near the Somme region. The city is famous for its architecture and historic buildings and has a long history dating back to pre Roman times. The region itself is quite stunning.
The trip over on the Eurostar was a first for us both as we have previously only done the crossing of the channel by Ferry. It was very fast, quiet and relaxing. We got off in the city of Lille about 55km from Arras and picked up another rental car - no Audi this time but a spanking new VW golf - very nice. We had quite an interesting departure because like London the first 15 mins of driving was in teeming rain! The worst part of that was I was trying to concentrate on driving on the wrong side of the road in a left hand drive car with a GPS that was mucking us around a bit. Never fear - we managed to sort it all out and we arrived in Arras 40 mins later safe and sound without one car getting upset around me! After check in to our hotel we took a walk and found the city square. So colourful and full of life restaurants and bars full of people enjoying daylight saving!
We found a restaurant and had dinner - yes I had snails - I love them!! Following dinner we walked in the rain back to the hotel - me pushing Ruth past the patisseries and shoe shops all the way! She bought herself some genuine macaroons to tide her over until tomorrow afternoon. She has rediscovered her love of all things French again!
Tomorrow is the day we will drive about 10km north west of the city to the village of Maroeuil to see the grave of my great uncle William Ward who was killed in action in WW1 on the first day of the Somme offensive. I have long wanted to do this trip since my late grandfather George Ward (his brother) told me about him. I have searched records, found his location and read a lot about Arras and Maroeuil. The fact I am now here is humbling and very thought provoking. William is registered as being 18 by the army, however family history shows him as just 16. I have 2 flags to place on his grave - 1 English and 1 Australian representing this young mans family from both sides of the world. This is the heritage of our family that has brought me here. I know that it will be emotional but I also know that I will be very proud and thankful of his sacrifice. I will have pictures tomorrow lol.
After that - on Thursday, we are off to our most favourite city in the World - Paris! It may be advisable to give Ruth 10 Euros only and no access to cards during those 5 or 6 days. Fat chance of that happening I think!!
Thanks everyone who sent me birthday greetings. I am blessed to have so many friends out there that thought of me today. It was a fantastic day