Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Last year Geoff and I went to Santandor, in spain. Now, geoff cannot fly so we thought we would drive there.

Well, I must admit, although I know how much geoff loves driving I was rather worried about it. But Geoff explained that we would stop in France for a couple of nights to have a rest.
Well, I was very excited about going and off we went.

We drove down to the channel tunnel and although it was a bit claustrophobic, it only took about 30 minutes and it was alright, although to be honest, I was glad to get off.

We were in france.

Geoff, thankfully, knew where to go as I hadn't a clue, and off we dove.

We had not booked anywhere it was just a matter of finding a hotel. Which, luckily we did.

We booked in and after trying to explain what we wanted (bed and breakfast) the receptionist finally understood our broken french.
I cannot speak a word of the language but I must admit that geoff did it quite well, actually.
He had a book but found that quite hard to follow.
Anyway, up we went to the room and as always I was dying to go to the loo. So, I went to the bathroom, coming out of it I said to geoff:
"My god, that's a large loo."
Geoff looked at me a bit puzzled and walked into the bathroom and burst out laughing.
"Annette," He said. "That's not the loo, that's the bidet"


After having breakfast the next day, they only have bread and jam, not a fry up. We got back in the car and started our long drive.
Geoff, by the way, still laughing at me and the 'large loo'.

After about 4-5 hours driving we arrived at Santandor and we had a lovely 10 days and the weather was absolutely beautiful.

Time to go back.
We left santandor and arrived in Bordeaux. my god, what a lovely city that is, we stopped for lunch and drove on.
Finally, we decided, again after a drive of 3-4 hours to stop and have a cup of coffee. This we did and found ourselves in Etaples.

Well, we had a drink and geoff told me about the war graves.
We had to go and visit them.

We arrived at the war graves about 1.30.p.m. got out of the car and walked through the gate. (Picture on the right)
There was a plaque explaining the layout of the graves and a brief history of what happened and how many died.
What made me a geoff smile was that they had said that when the British arrived at Etaples they could not pronounce it properly and called Etaples; eat apples.

But what an honour for all those soldiers that had died there, and there was some graves for the nurses that died there when a bomb landed by the hospital.

Do you know,I have never experienced anything like it.
The silence hit you.
There was a book there and we filled it in saying where we had come from and just a few words to all those that had died in the war.

I have never seen such a momentous place in all my life.

The graves were all in line and everyone of them were named in bold letters and their ranks, ages and regiment were clearly displayed. The graves stones where whiter than white, and you can tell how well kept they are kept. Everyone of them had a pose of flowers at the head of the grave. Some died so young.

There was 10,792 commonwealth buriels of which 658 were german.
This is the list of the number of buriels:

United Kingdom: 8819
Canada: 1145
New Zealand: 260
South Africa: 68
India: 17
Germany: 658

There were 73 people who were unidentified.

There was one Victoria Cross winner. He was:
Major Douglas Reynolds
V C of the Royal Field Artillary.

What utterly amazed us was the dedication of the people who worked there.
Total dedication.

I will never forget my experience of going to those graves and I am so grateful that, although we did not plan it, we were lucky enough to go and see them.

We stayed there for 3 hours.

If ever I had the chance to go back there, I would without hesitation.

God bless them.


dickiebo said...

Many of B's relatives lie in War Graves over there. It is her ambition to visit them, one day.

Noddy said...

Get Geoff to drink Red Bull.....it gives you wings.

I'll get ma coat!

Whichendbites said...

If you find yourself driving through France and you want a decent visit then consider Oradour Sur Glane.

Look it up on the web. There are directions as well as lots more information as well as an excellent visitor centre.

If ever there is one vision of how humans are evil towards other humans then this is it.

I have been there and never have I been so moved by one place.

I have been moved by birth and death but never just stood, looked and thought so deeply.

Annette said...

Dickiebo,Please go if you can. It will be an experiment you will never forget.
It was very emotional.

Noddy,I've tried to get drive to fly but he just will not go.
He says he likes terra firmer, the firmer the territory the less terror!

WEB, I have just looked on the internet and yes, how awful is that?
No-one really knows why, do they?
I would like to go there, maybe someday we will, I hope.

Old Plod said...

Was it Santander in Northern Spain that you visited? If so, you may suggest to Geoff that he considers travelling down to my beautiful City of Plymouth in Devon where you can sail direct to Santander on the Brittany Ferries. Having said that I suspect he wanted to enjoy the delights of the French countryside as well. Our ferries also cross to the French port of Roscoff for your future reference.

I really appreciated your posting about your visit to the War Graves Cemetery at Etaples. I had a very similar emotionally draining experience when I visited the war graves at Kanchanaburi in Thailand where many p.o.w's who were forced to build the so called "death railway" from Bridge over the River Kwai notoriety are laid to rest. Also, my visit to Yad Vashem, the holocaust museum in Israel, reduced me to a trembling wreck at the conclusion of the tour. His Holiness the late Pope John Paul II visited it and declared, "Never again may evil prevail" However, it did happen again, witness the atrocities committed in more recent times in Bosnia, Darfur-Western Sudan, Cambodia and Rwanda. Will we never learn! It is vitally important that following generations are reminded of the sacrifices made by those fine young men and women which allow us to enjoy the freedoms we do today. I am heartened to know that the graves are maintained in pristine condition. Thank you Annette for sharing your experience with us.