RSS

Vimy 2017 Day 8

Day 8 Les Enfants. Even though I am still tired and could have stayed in bed a whole lot longer, I am not a complete zombie and have some vague human semblance. Since we roll out at later time today, maybe that extra hour of sleep helped. Who knows. In any case, I feel better. Maybe it’s because with a better wifi connection, I was able to FaceTime my family last night. As much fun as we’re having gallivanting around Northern Europe, I do miss them.

Okay, we’re on the bus now, making our way to Juno Beach. The whole group was enchanted with the town of Honfleur. What a gorgeous place! It’s almost so picturesque and idyllic that it you can mistake it for fake; Ms. Caza thinks it’s a place you could fall in love in. We walked along the harbourfront to St. Catherine’s Church, which had such an amazing architecture. Except for the foundation, the whole church was made of wood, which is very unusual. It’s shaped like an inverted ship and the inside was breathtaking. I wish we had more time to take it in.

St. Catherine Church, Honfleur, April 2017.

St. Catherine Church, Honfleur, April 2017.

Afterwards we broke up for a little bit and gave the kids a chance to wander around. I did grab some local honey outside the church in the farmers market and then spent most of my time taking pictures. It is certainly a photographers delight. On our way back to the bus, Jason took us through the oldest part of the town and it was amazing. The authentic, narrow cobblestone streets with the gutter running down the middle was something to see. You could tell the buildings were original by their construction and the aging of the wood. I’m glad we went into the town and I would definitely go back some day.

Honfleur, April 2017.

Vimy group, Honfleur, April 2017.

So we are now on the road to the city of Paris…the kids are all excited! Our visit to Normandy was was fantastic, and filled with many new things. The first stop was at the Juno Beach Centre in Courselles-sur-Mer. It’s a neat place, but I’ve seen it twice before, so I went through as quickly as possible. I did spend some time in the gift shop, as I always get the boys a shirt. I was a little challenging trying to find them something, especially Noah, since they really didn’t have any kids sizes. From there it was outside to take a look at the German bunkers and the beach.

The area where the centre is located is at Mike Red Sector, which was assaulted by the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, with the support of tanks from the 1st Hussars. In the past there was one bunker, which you couldn’t see much of due to restricted access. In 2014, they began excavation on another bunker, which is now open to the public. It was really interesting to walk through. The beach was okay, though the tide was up and there was not much to see.

From the Juno Beach Centre we took a short bus ride 5 minutes to the east to Bernieres-sur-Mer. There we had a short walk along the sea wall on what was once Nan White Sector. Assaulted by troops from the Queen’s Own Rifles, this area saw the most intense fighting on June 6, with the QOR taking heavy casualties to capture the beach. The area features a German bunker on the east side of the sector and “Canada House” on the west. Canada House was the first structure captured by Allied troops on D-Day.

Nan White Sector, Bernieres, April 2017.

Canada House, Bernieres, April 2017.

St. Pats group, April 2017.

We jumped on the bus for another short ride east again to St. Aubin-sur-Mer, site of Nan Red Sector. On D-Day, troops from New Brunswick’s North Shore Regiment landed there. Our visit was primarily based on our need to satisfy our gastric desires. We did find some places to eat, but there was also history to see as well. Just like Bernieres, there is a German bunker on the beach, this one featuring a 50mm anti-tank gun. According to the plaque, it knocked out several tanks from the Fort Garry Horse before other tanks silenced it.

We had been to Bernieres on both previous trips, but never to St. Aubin. What a pretty little town! There were many picturesque buildings along the promenade and in the town. Before and after we ate, I spent a lot of time taking pictures and shooting video. The tide was going out, so there was a lot of room on the beach to wander. I would definitely go back in a heartbeat, maybe with more time to look around. That holds true for the whole Juno Beach area.

Nan Red Sector, St. Aubin, April 2017.

It’s almost 2300 and the end of a long day. Sometimes you forget how much of a whirlwind these EF Tours can be. This morning we were in Normandy, and now we’re in Paris. Our hotel is some 50km from downtown Paris, but it’s in a very nice area near Disneyland. After our arrival, we quickly went to our rooms and headed over to a nearby mall to try and grab a bite to eat. While the stores were closed, the restaurants were quite busy and there was a lot of options to chose from. It was a nice way to end the evening.

Anyway, I need to go check on the kids before turning in myself. We have a very busy day tomorrow; the commute, Versailles, dinner and a river cruise. I’m sure there will be a lot to talk about in the next post. Until then…

 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 12, 2017 in History, Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Vimy 2017 Day 7

Day 7 boys and girls. Yes, I’m a little more awake today, but barely. I still feel like I’ve been run over by a dump truck, but at least I got some sleep. The key is to be so comatose that you blackout the moment your head hits the pillow; I’m not sure if that is good or bad. We’ll see how tonight goes for a full scientific assessment.

Okay, we’re on the bus, heading toward Normandy. It’s another beautiful morning and it should be a relatively nice in the Calvados region. This is the point where, for the most part, we switch emphasis on the tour. So far we have been visiting sites associated with World War I, but today and tomorrow we will be focussing on World War II. We also see more of the French countryside, and Normandy is a particularly scenic place.

So after two hours of driving and a mandated 45 minute stop, we’re back on the road. We pulled into a Shell Station east of Rouen literally 5 minutes before a bunch of other buses showed up. What fortuitous timing! However, it does make you realize how many other groups are doing the same thing you are. With 260+ EF groups, I would imagine that there are quite a number doing the Beaches & Battlefields Tour; Arromanches is going to be overrun by Canadian teenagers today!

Gas station selfie, April 2017.

We’re back on the bus after a get on get off day. We rolled into Arromanches just after 1300 and made our way down to the main strip just behind the beach. Arromanches is a pretty little town, maybe a little too commercialized, but nice nonetheless. On D-Day, June 6th, 1944, it was the site of the Gold Beach, which was assaulted by the British 50th Division. Once it was secure, engineers began construction on the Mulberry, one of two artificial harbours created by the Allies to land supplies. Reminants of the concrete sections are still visible in water, but unfortunately the tide was too high for us to walk out for up close visit.

Myself and Ms. Caza wandered around to some of shops and picked up a few things for our kids. I’m sure the food and souvenir retails made a killing with all the Canadians wandering around. After just over an hour in the town, we hopped on to the bus for a short 5 minute (well, we did get lost, so it was more like 15 minutes) ride to a theatre to watch a short 360 degree movie on the Normandy Campaign. It was a well done film.

Arromanches, April 2017.

Arromanches, April 2017.

From Arromanches we drove 45 minutes to the southeast, past the city of Caen to the Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery. It’s one of the two Canadian cemerties in Normandy, and contains the graves of over 2900 Canadians, mostly killed fighting in July and August 1944. We held our usual prayer service at the Cross of Sacrifice, and then proceeded to visit the graves of our assigned soldiers. We decided to have the kids visit those belonging to the Lake Superior Regiment, which was from the Lakehead. Today, it is perpetuated by the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment, which I served in during my teens.

Compared to our stop at Tyne Cot, this was a much more intimate and personal visit. Save for a couple of other people, we were the only ones there; it is certainly a sad and lonely place. However, the very act of remembrance that the students carried out brought life to the sadness, for it is through our youth that their memory lives on. The students were very moved by the cemeteries. I find the WWII cemeteries much more personal as most of the graves are identified and bear family inscriptions. They convey, in words, the immense loss and sorrow felt by the families of

 

those that fell. They cut very deep and I always get emotional, as were many of the kids. It is so unfortunate that many of the mothers, fathers, spouses and children of those interred at Bretteville were never able to mourn their loss in person.

Brettevile-sur-Laize Cemetery, April 2017.

Brettevile-sur-Laize Cemetery, April 2017.

Brettevile-sur-Laize Cemetery, April 2017.

Brettevile-sur-Laize Cemetery, April 2017.

Brettevile-sur-Laize Cemetery, April 2017.

In about 40 minutes we’ll arrive in Honfleur, our last destination of the day. It is located northeast of Caen, just up the Channel coast. It’s a small fishing town of approximately 8100 people, but apparently very picturesque. We are for sure going for a quick visit tomorrow and maybe even tonight. We’ll see how things go once we finish dinner.

Dinner tonight at our hotel in Honfleur was fantastic. They faked us out a bit first by bringing salad and some quiche; we thought that was it. However, they rolled out a full plate of roasted chicken and potatoes as a second course, which were awesome. It was by far the best meal on the trip so far. The hotel is quite interesting, more like a motel, with the doors opening out in a dual-building, two-storey configuration. We were a bit worried about how we would keep the kids contained, but they seem to be respecting the boundaries so far. We did a room check and many are already prepped for bed. They know tomorrow will be another busy day, with visits to Honfleur, Juno Beach and our transfer to Paris.

Well, it’s time to turn in. We are not leaving as early as we have been the last few days, but I’d to get up well before the kids so I can shave. My hair is starting to look a little hippyish. The wifi here in Honfleur is decent, so I’m hoping it’s just as good in Paris, so I should be back tomorrow with more news and photos. Until then…

 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 11, 2017 in History, Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Vimy 2017 Day 6

Day 6 everyone. Yep, no smart@ss remarks this morning. Tired. Very tired. Too tired to think of clever adjectives or metaphors to describe the tired. I feel, and probably look, like an extra from the walking dead. Why you ask? I think I was still feeling the effects from yesterday’s ordeal in the sun, which has left me with nice burns around my neck (from the camera strap) and right behind my knees (the direct result of going in shorts yesterday). My roommate, who shall remain nameless, can also rouse said undead from miles away with their snoring. Oops, sorry, almost fell asleep trying to write the next sentence.

Alright, so we’re now on the bus toward Albert and rendezvous with the Basilica for mass. It’s about an hour away, so it gives me some time to reflect on our day yesterday. After sleeping on it, I still feel that there was more of a festive feel to Vimy 100. To me, I would equate it to Canada Day than to Remembrance Day. I think that the solemnity was somewhat missing, but that is going to happen with big events such as this. However, there was some semblance of what occurred at Vimy. We were sitting beside a group from Halifax and had a chance to chat with them. There were so many Canadians from all over the country, it was a real representation of the spirit of Vimy.

We’re back on the bus after mass at Notre Dame des Brebieres. What a beautiful church. The parish priest was very friendly and appreciative of our visit. Unfortunately he did not speak good English, so we had to put some of our French Immersion students to work. The mass was quaint even though many of us could only vaguely follow along. St. Ignatius students Madison and Brooklyn, along with our student Braeden, helped with the readings. Afterwards, the priest thanked us for coming to mass and we were able to grab photos of the church. On my way out, I had a interesting conversation with a few French ladies in my broken French. My Italian instincts kept kicking in and instead of “oui,” I kept answering “si.” Oh well, I think they got the idea.

Notre Dame des Brebieres, April 2017.

Notre Dame des Brebieres, April 2017.

A short drive later, we were at the Beaumont Hamel National Monument. It honours the sacrifice of the Newfoundland Regiment on July 1, 1916, the opening day of the Battle of the Somme. Their contribution to the battle lasted mere minutes, with the unit suffering 85% casualties in an attempt to capture the German trenches. After the war, it was decided to preserve a portion of the battlefield in honour of the Newfoundlanders contribution to the war. One can walk through parts of the trenches, see other trench remains, visit a number of cemeteries and take in the memorial. Even though there were quite a number of groups at the site, it gave our students a much more intimate tour of a battlefield.

Newfoundland Memorial, April 2017.

Newfoundland fallen, Paril 2017.

We’re on our way back to the hotel in Lille after spending quite a bit of time in Arras. What a gorgeous city! The kids had several hours to walk around the city centre, shop and grab some food. I really enjoyed the architecture; I sent photos to my brother, who is an architect, as I thought he would appreciate the designs of the various buildings. Afterwards, we walked a short distance to the Artois Expo, which was run by EF. They had all kinds of displays and interactive booths for travellers to explore regarding WWI. It was a well put together exhibit. Kudos to EF!

Arras City Centre, April 2017.

After dinner, which was in the hotel again, we decided to take a little walk into downtown Lille. It was a nice way to end the day and keep the kids busy. Our Tour Director Jason indicated to us that Lille would be different from places like Ypres and Arras, much more cosmopolitan. It certainly was, but also had much of that old European cultural charm. We were able to see some great architecture and a bit of the nightlife of the city. I think everyone enjoyed the evening out.

Lille City Centre, April 2017.

Well, I think it’s time to retire for the evening. We have another busy day tomorrow. The bus leaves early as we are making our way to the Normandy region, which is about 4 hours away. We will visit Arromanches on the coast and then the Bretteville-sur-Laize Cemetery. I better turn it before it gets too late-back tomorrow. Until then…

 

 

http://www.worldwar1.com/heritage/leaningv.htm

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 10, 2017 in History, Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Vimy 2017 Day 5

Ugh. Day 5 children. I feel like a bag of poop; I know, wonderful analogy first thing in the morning Dave. It is what it is though. I fell asleep quick and slept well, but all those nights without sleep have caught up to me. Maybe it’s fitting that today is the April 9th, the day we go to Vimy and commemorate the 100th anniversary of one of the most important military (and otherwise) events in our country’s short history. I’m sure all of the those men were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as they crouched in those trenches. I guess I shouldn’t complain too much.

I was up at 0500, but I didn’t go to bed until almost 0030. The wifi at this hotel is not very good, and I had to spend a lot of time fiddling around with their blog, trying to upload pictures and getting them inserted into the post. I know, first world problems. Whatever the case, it is still an issue and my issue to deal with. I had to use some of the precious data on my phone to expedite the process after a lot of frustration using the wifi. I need to run right now and wake up the kids. I know they’ll appreciate the 0600 knock on the door from “Dadistel” (my latest nickname-thanks Ben Grassia).

It’s a crisp and clear morning. The sky is starting to lighten in twilight, as night gives way to dawn. I want to get a photo as the sun comes up. It’s supposed to be 23 today, very unlike it was 100 years ago, when the attack commenced in a blinding snowstorm. Hopefully I don’t burn in the sun.

Early morning in Lille, April 2017.

We are on the road right now, on our way to our drop off point. It’s a beautiful morning right now, a bit hazy, but it looks like it’s going to be a great day. The haze gives the countryside almost mystical feel. I think there’s a lot of mixed emotions as we head towards the Vimy site, probably not unlike was like 100 years ago. Maybe that gives us a little bit of a sense of what the soldiers were feeling before the attack.

So we’re here in the city of Liévin and we’re having our bus “fueled up” and “bombed up” for the celebration. Very fitting for the day; it’s almost like a military operation, with groups of people coming out bringing boxes of food and water for a bus. It’s going to be a long day at Vimy and we need all of this food and water to get us through the day. It really gives you an idea of the scope and magnitude of the celebration and all the planning that went into it, much like Vimy.

So it’s 10 o’clock now we’re in the city of Lens and we’re standing in a massive queue waiting to get the shuttle bus to go to Vimy Ridge. There are hundreds of people standing here…it’s just an amazing thing to be part of. There are groups people from all walks of life; military, civilian and police. I see members of the Canadian Grenadier Guards, Queen’s Own Rifles, cadets and many military members, current and former here waiting for the buses. Everything is proceeding with clockwork like precision.

Waiting in Lens, April 2017.

It’s now almost 1 o’clock and we’re sitting below the base of Vimy Ridge in the sweltering heat. It is unbelievable how many people are here, literally tens of thousands of people. It is a very different atmosphere than 2012. With the pouring rain we had that year, it was a very sombre affair and very sad. In some ways it feels like we’re at a rock concert with a very festive like atmosphere. I’m sure the tone will change when the time for the ceremony begins, but for now it feels a lot different than it has in the past. There’s almost like a whole village created here at the ridge; tents for VIPs, facilities, stands for the media and the display on the memorial itself.

The Memorial, April 2017.

The crowd at Vimy, April 2017.

The Vimy 100 ceremony, April 2017.

That was one of the best experiences of my life and quite possibly one of the worst. It was one of the most memorable experiences and one of the most nightmarish. I am completely and utterly exhausted and so is everybody else. I just want to go back to the hotel and go to sleep. The end of the day was absolutely crazy.

After hours of sitting in baking under the sun, the ceremony started at approximately 3 o’clock. There was a slight delay with the arrival of the dignitaries but after that they got everything started. It unfolded in 4 movements, each preceded by actors such as Paul Gross reading letters from the war. There were speeches from the Governor General, the Prime Minister and the Prince of Wales. Interspersed were performances by musicians and choirs and fly past of historic biplanes. As I mentioned earlier, it did feel more festive than in 2012, but there were moments of emotion, such as when the whole crowd, however many thousands were there, accompanied the band in playing “O Canada.”

With the kids clearly beat, and some bordering on the verge of heat exhaustion, we decided to duck out a few minutes early to get into the queue for the buses. Unfortunately we were hit with a double whammy. They blocked our exit from the front area of the monument (the part that faces east) just as we got there, and the reason they did, was all the VIPs, the GG, the Royals and the PM all passed by right where we had been standing. Had we stayed in that spot, we may have been able to meet them and certainly get some real good photos and video. Damn!

Once the ceremony was over, things got a little messy, definitely much less organized than the morning. We had difficulty leaving the area through the main exit and the crowd was very agitated after a long day in the heat. When they did let everyone through, we had a real hard time keeping everyone together and organized. This was very poorly organized on the part of the planners and created a great deal of stress. Fortunately we got everyone, in small groups, on the shuttle and back to the bus in Lens. I’m sure the kids will definitely remember their experience at Vimy 100 for many years to come.

We had dinner again at the hotel and everyone now is ready for bed. I think we all had a bit too much sun, very evidenced by sleepy behaviour and possibly sunburnt faces. I know that for myself, even after several applications of sunscreen, I am beet red in a few places that I missed. Tomorrow is a much more relaxed but early day, with visits to Albert for church, Beaumont Hamel and Arras. I going to turn in, but tomorrow’s a new day. Until then…

 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 9, 2017 in History, Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Vimy 2017 Day 4

Oy vey. It’s a sleepy morning today kids. I did not have a very good sleep last night. I’m not sure how much sleep I actually got, but it wasn’t much. I really feel like I’m running on fumes. In any case, I’m a big boy, so I’ll have to suck it up and get in my rear in gear. Today we’re leaving our hotel and heading first to Anne Frank House for a short visit. I’ll check in again once we’re back on the bus.

Amsterdam selfies, April 2017.

Amsterdam canal, April 2017.

Okay, so we’re back on the bus. A visit to the Anne Frank House is something one does not easily forget. It certainly puts a real human face on the price of conflict and in particular hatred. All of the kids are familiar with the story of Anne Frank and they were all very quiet as they left. No one should ever forget war, but particularly instances of genocide than have left an indelible mark on history. Fittingly, there’s a beautiful church next to Anne Frank House, the Westerkerk. It would have been nice to go inside and say a little prayer; the incongruity wasn’t lost on me. A Catholic, in a Dutch Reform Church praying for those lost in the Holocaust.

Westerkerk, April 2017.

So we’re on the road now, heading toward Belgium and the Tyne Cot Commonwealth Cemetery outside of Passchendaele. I guess it has been and will be an emotional day for the kids. First Anne Frank, and now their first cemetery. Tyne Cot is a very large cemetery, larger than most. Many of the Commonwealth cemeteries from WWI were created were the men were initially buried, so there are many small cemeteries scattered around a wide area. This is what makes Tyne Cot and it’s 11,000 burials so unique.

In addition to the graves, there are many names (over 33,000 in fact) recognized on the Tyne Cot Memorial. The Commonwealth Graves Commission, which oversees all of these cemeteries, originally intended the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres to hold the names of all the missing in the area. Unfortunately, when they began to add the names, they realized it would not be able to contain the vast number of names of the missing. They used an arbitrary cut-off date of August 15, 1917; everyone after that date would be remembered at a memorial at the Tyne Cot Cemetery.

After a stop for lunch, we are back on the road. I feel much better now that I have some food in my belly. You won’t believe where some of the kids ate at. We’re currently passing through the Belgian city of Antwerp. I really wish I could see more of Belgium; it looks like such a beautiful country. I love the countryside, with the rolling hills, farms and gorgeous scenery. It will take us another 1.5 hours to reach Tyne Cot, so I think I’ll just sit back and enjoy the view.

McDoanld’s, Belgian-Dutch border, April 2017.

Whew, back on the bus. What a busy last few hours of the day. The visit to Tyne Cot was solemn and everything we expected. I think it made a big impression on the kids, none whom I imagine have ever been to a military cemetery. After a brief prayer service, the students visited the graves of their assigned soldiers. I did not visit a specific grave, but rather followed some of the students as they walked around the cemetery.

Tyne Cot prayer service, April 2017.

Tyne Cot Cemetery, April 2017.

Grave of Private McMillan, 52nd Battalion, April 2017.

From there, we took a short 10 minute ride into Ypres. With all of the groups visiting the area (there are 250+ EF groups expected to be at Vimy alone), we had to park outside of the city centre and walk in through the Menin Gate. I’ve already mentioned that I love the city of Ypres as it such a beautiful place. Even though much of it was destroyed during WWI, and was rebuilt, it is still breathtaking. I think many of the kids actually gasped when they got to the main square, the Grote Market and saw the Cloth Hall.

Everyone had just over an hour to walk around and explore, which unfortunately is nowhere near enough to see the city. I grabbed some frites, the national food of Belgium, just to say that I did. Afterwards, I joined the hordes of Canadians who descended on the chocolate stores to pick up some genuine Belgian product. The Leonidas Store had a “Canadian” special, which I partook in like all the other sheep. Twenty Euro got me a bag full of chocolate and since I’m an adult, a neat bottle of beer (I’m not much of a drinker, but the bottle was certainly a collectable).

After we reconvened, albeit a bit late, we headed to the Menin Gate for the Last Post Ceremony. There were a lot of people, mainly due to all the tourist groups in the city. Since we needed to be on the other side of the gate, we hiked around to the eastern side. We didn’t have the best spot to see the ceremony, but we were all glad that we did. There was an honour guard from the Queen’s Own Rifles, which added a Canadian flare to this solemn event which takes place everyday at 2000. I’ll post some video once I get back home.

Cloth Hall, April 2017.

    Menin Gate, April 2017.

Alright, it’s now 2300 and we’re preparing for bed. It was a late check in after the Menin Gate Ceremony and dinner at the hotel in Lille, France. Tomorrow is the big day and a long day. We need to leave the hotel by 0745 and arrive by 0900. Today was very warm and tomorrow’s supposed to be hotter, upwards of 22C! I think all might melt..thankfully I have a hat to protect my shiny dome and I believe we have enough sunscreen to go around. On that note, I better turn it as I have to be up very early. There will be lots of news from the ceremony. Until then…

 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 8, 2017 in History, Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Vimy 2017 Day 3

Good morning! It’s Day 3 kids. I’m sitting in the lobby waiting for 0845, which will be our departure time to head into Amsterdam. I had a fairly decent sleep last night, having gone to bed shortly after checking on the kids at 2200. The breakfast buffet was great and now I’m ready to roll on our adventures for today. Hopefully all of the kids will be ready on time.

So we’re here near the centre of Amsterdam waiting for our tour guide to show up. We were a bit late getting here, which was due to a road closure that affected the bus arriving at our hotel. Our guide this morning is Larae, who will be showing us some of the notable points of this beautiful city.

Alright, so we’re back on the bus after a busy day. Larae was a great guide, taking us around parts of the city before we ended up the Rembrandt Hoose. We actually visited this same place during the 2014 tour and it is really neat. It is a farm, and they have milk cows which are used to make delicious Gouda. We had a tour of the facility and got a nice explanation of how it is made. They also make wood clogs and they gave us a demonstration of the process. Interesting to see. Afterwards, we were given samples of Gouda and time to buy some souvenirs in their gift shop. I picked up a few things for my family which I hope they like.

Rembrandt Hoose, April 2017.

Clog making, April 2017.

Windmill, April 2017.

After a quick stop at a nearby windmill, we proceeded back into the city centre for the remainder of the tour. Larae had some fantastic information and stories to share about the history and culture of Amsterdam. When the tour ended, we were brought close to the Royal Palace, or the Koninklijk Paleis, where everyone had an opportunity to grab a bite to eat and take a quick look around. For me, lunch was ham and Swiss on a croissant.

Our next stop was near the Amsterdam Centraal Station, where we embarked on a boat for a 1 hour canal tour of the city. I knew this would be great, as we did it in 2014 and it was an amazing way to see the city. It would have been nice if the boat was more open, which makes it easier to take pictures and video, but it was good nonetheless. The canals make this place such an interesting and unique city. I really would like to visit here more often to be able to see more its amazing culture and architecture.

Streets of Amsterdam, Paril 2017.

Streets of Amsterdam, Paril 2017.

After that tour was over, we slowly made our way to near the Rijksmuseum, which is the largest museum in Amsterdam, where we had a chance to see the “I (am) Amsterdam” sign. Our bus picked us up there and brought us to our dinner destination, which was a place called Drovers Dog. The food was okay at this Australian themed restaurant, in Amsterdam, but I think the kids found the portions to be a bit light. The dessert was good though, with cool wooden spoons (not like the wooden sticks we ate ice cream with as kids). When we arrived back at the hotel, many proceeded to get food from one of the hotel restaurants to satisfy their unquenched appetites.

Wooden spoon, April 2017.

We just finished checking on the kids, who are now in their rooms for the evening. Tomorrow is a busy day, as we have a 1000 appointment at the Anne Frank House, and then we are off to Tyne Cot Cemetery and Ypres in Belgium. So on that note, I better turn in. I’ll be back tomorrow with all the details of our day. Until then…

 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 7, 2017 in History, Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Vimy 2017 Day 2

Hey, hey kids! Sorry, I had to get a Krusty the Clown reference in there. Anywho, it’s Day 2! Thanks to the miracle of modern air travel and Sir Sandford Fleming all those years ago, it’s the next day. So I’m running on about 4 hours sleep, which means I have no idea how coherent my thoughts are, but whatever. I don’t get paid to write this.

Anyway, it’s 0700 local time, we’re just off the coast of Norway and 1100km from our destination. We certainly took a very adventurous route, not the usual more direct one. Normally we pass below Ireland, but this time our flight plan took us on a big sweeping arc to the north, over Greenland, Iceland and toward Germany from the northwest. I would assume the guys driving er flying the plane know what they are doing. I’m sure it’s not their first rodeo.

Morning over the North Sea, April 2017.

So I’m sitting here half awake waiting for breakfast to arrive. God I’m dying of thirst! I don’t feel too bad, as what little sleep I got wasn’t too horrible. The neck pillow really helped, though the accommodations here in steerage aren’t the greatest. You just can’t seem to get comfortable…my butt is sore! I guess we’ll be on be ground soon enough and I can stretch my legs and my posterior.

The kids are crazy hyper right now, probably since most of them haven’t really slept much. I’m sure they are driving everyone around us nuts with their teenager conversations. Maybe they’ll be happier with some breakfast. Apparently it’s the good ole standby, banana bread. Not that I don’t like banana bread, but it’s not my usual morning meal. Hold on, it’s cinnamon banana bread. Fancy. I guess it doesn’t matter, since I’m not really that hungry but rather thirsty. So I had myself like 6 or 7 Dr. Peppers…wait, wrong movie.

We’re on the ground now in Munich. Gluten tag! It was really nice to get off that airplane after 8 hours…it was getting a little stuffy. It was also nice to stretch my legs and get the blood going. I demolished a whole bottle of water; I guess I was thirsty. Anyway, Munich has a nice airport; very modern. The kids had a chance to get some food, look at the shops and relax.

Unfortunately when we landed we got some bad news. I received a text from the St. Ignatius group and their plane had to turn around 1.5 hours into the flight overseas. They were supposed to go to Frankfurt, and beat us to Amsterdam. Now we’re waiting to hear when they’ll meet up with us. Hopefully it won’t be too long. Our fingers are crossed.

Alright, we’re up in the air and on our way to Amsterdam. I think all of the hyper energy from before is passing into exhaustion. We have been going for more an 24 hours now, many of us with very little sleep. Some of the kids did grab some sleep in the airport, but I’m sure everyone will sleep much better tonight.

A frequent topic of conversation has been our agenda once we land. After retrieving our bags and meeting our Tour Director Jason, we are supposed to proceed to the hotel. Beyond that I had to tell the kids I did not know. Maybe something is happening before, after or in conjunction with dinner, but that’s up to Jason to decide. For myself it will be nice to get out of airports, breathe some fresh air and relax. Not that I will ever relax on this trip, but it makes me feel much better that we are almost at our destination. Well, they are coming with snacks and beverages (except for Zach, who managed to end up in business class and gets meal), so I’m shutting down for now.

Amsterdam airport, April 2017.

Amsterdam airport, April 2017.

Okay, so it’s almost time for bed. The last part of the day was a lot more relaxed and easy. So we’re all checked into the hotel and the kids are getting ready for lights out. Our hotel is literally 5 minutes from the airport, which made things very simple. It took us a bit to get checked in, but we’ve been spending a lot of time waiting the last few days anyway. The hotel is very nice, though the rooms are a bit tight. I know Mr. Marcon and I could use a bit more space in our room.

Amsterdam rooms, April 2017.

We had dinner in the hotel, which was very good. It was buffet style, which let the kids eat their fill. There was all kinds of salad, chicken, roasted potatoes and fish. Quite the spread! Desert was awesome too.

After dinner we had a chance, with our Tour Director Jason, to brief the kids on tomorrow’s agenda. The good news is that St. Ignatius finally made it to Europe, and should be here from Frankfurt very shortly. So we will leave the hotel after breakfast for a guided tour of Amsterdam in the morning. Following lunch, we will have a canal cruise which will take a few hours. Then there will be more walking and time for some shopping. Should be a nice day.

Hotel fountain, April 2017.

Anyway, I better get running. Our hotel has tons of EF travellers in it, so it will be an early morning and a busy breakfast. I’ll be back tomorrow with all the details. Until then…

 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 6, 2017 in History, Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,