7:15am. Showered. Packed. Fed. Ready to roll for the day.
Today is Good Friday, the most solemn holiday in the Christian calendar; somewhat fitting that we are headed to Dieppe, scene of Canada’s worst military defeat. Visiting the graves of Canadians killed on the beach is probably a good way to remember the crucifixion of Jesus. Sacrifice.
I am a bit tired today; I was up to midnight finishing yesterday’s blog. Then it was an unending parade of people, conversations, door knocks and door clicks in the hallway. I don’t know which school these kids were from, but it was very annoying since my alarm was set for 5:50. The 2:00am phone hang up was the coup de grace (I thought it was the wake up call). Needless to say I’m a bit tired. Probably why I started off the day in fine form. As I finished my first helping of food at breakfast I then remembered it was Good Friday…as a practicing Catholic, today is one of the few days of abstinence left on the calendar. So I guess I blew it with the sausages I ate; I think God will understand.
While we drive to Dieppe I wanted to comment on one of those curiosities of Europe that I experienced yesterday. I’d never been in a “unisex” washroom before, so I shall explain. Basically guys and girls enter through the same door; the guys go to the urinals one way and the girls have stalls the other. However, the girls walk by the guys who are only covered by a chest high wall. Kinda awkward watching ladies walk by and vice versa while you do your business. Interesting.
So we were almost an hour and a half late getting to Dieppe because of the traffic in Paris, but we were all excited go be there nonetheless. I’ve taught Gr. 10 students about the Dieppe Raid for almost 10 years now, but it was an amazing experience to actually walk the beaches. Standing on the shore you are just awestruck by the huge headlands to the east and west. You can feel the shingle underfoot that disabled the tanks. You’re amazed at the distance the soldiers had to run to get off the beach. It was just an experience to walk on a beach that so many Canadians died on. I picked up a few rocks for myself and my boys.
The city of Dieppe itself is quite pretty and I wish we had more time to explore it. I didn’t eat lunch today, choosing rather to spend some time by myself. I went back to the beach and walked around a bit more, just soaking in the experience.
Beach at Dieppe from the West Headlands.
From the beaches we visited the castle on the west headlands; from there it really gives you an idea of how difficult the landing was. I wish we had more time to explore the castle, but we were pressed for time. There were some bunkers on the cliff we looked at and it gave you a view from the German perspective. We couldn’t dwell though, as we needed to visit the cemetery before heading to our hotel in Rouen.
The Dieppe Cemetery is tucked in a quiet little corner away from the city; maybe it was better that way. I’d never been to a Canadian war cemetery before and it was an eye-opening experience. There are over 700 burials in the cemetery and I was proud to be there. After taking some pictures and video, I began to walk around and look at the graves; there were
Unknown Canadian burial, Dieppe Cemetery.
so many names. As I circulated, I started to read the inscriptions on the headstones (families could add text to them for a fee). Overwhelmed, I tried to do it again and I had to walk away…it was way too emotional. So I sat down on a bench and played with my phone to distract myself. The best part of the experience was watching the kids…watching, reading, crying…I was proud.
On the bus again, we drove to Rouen and our hotel. There wasn’t time to check in, so we walked to our restaurant for dinner. Tonight our restaurant was called “69,” which solicited laughs and smirks from everyone on the bus. The meal was roast pork and potatoes (again), which was good, but the portions were to small! The creme brulee desert was awesome!
After eating we made our way to the hotel, visiting a few places along the way. The best by far was the Rouen Cathedral…Gothic architecture at its finest! We went inside the church, trying not to disturb mass. What a spectacular interior! We didn’t make mass for Good Friday, but at least we got into a church.
So it’s already past midnight and we have an early morning again to go to Normandy.