A Travellerspoint blog

November 2014


The first of two weeks in a unit near King's Cross Station

semi-overcast 8 °C

After a week in the quiet countryside of Cornwall we are now ready for the delights and sights of London. Our train pulled into Paddington Station early and so we arrived at Kings Cross half an hour earlier than expected. We contacted Elaine who met us at the unit. We rented a very nice one bedroom flat just across the street from St Pancras Kings Cross Station. The entrance is between Mc Donald's and Crystal Kebab. The position is unsurpassed. However, the downside is that there are 43 steps up a narrow staircase to the front door.

Sunday morning was a late start with Skype calls to family then a Bacon, eggs and tomato breakfast before we bought our Oyster Cards and travelled to Lambeth North tube station (the scene of my accident on Friday, 13 January 2012) for a visit to the Imperial War Museum.
The Imperial War Museum
Displays like this Spitfire hang from the Atrium
Car wreck from Baghdad
Fifth floor displays - just one of 160 Victoria Cross winners displayed
Lord Ashcroft donated his very comprehensive collection of 160 VC winners.
Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery's staff car from which he visited his soldiers in the front lines.
United Nations vehicle with the former dictator of Iraq in the background

We visited the very popular World War 1 exhibition along with hordes of other visitors.
WW1 British tank
WW1 aircraft
Display from The Somme, Menin Gate
Leaving the Imperial War Museum at 4.30 pm in the afternoon
London bus with the destination of Oxford Circus

Monday saw us visit Windsor Castle then the Tower of London. Windsor Castle dates from William the Conqueror in 1066 and started life as a fortification around 20 miles from London.

Windsor Castle - home of the sovereign for more than 900 years.
The walls of Windsor Castle, the oldest castle in continuous use in the world.
Colleen chats to the constabulary.
Entrance road into Windsor Castle
The State Apartments
St Georges Hall in the State Apartments.
The Round Tower at Windsor Castle
The Moat and Round Tower
St George Chapel -the royal chapel has the burials of Henry V111 and King George V1 and the Queen Mother.
St George Chapel
Guardsman on duty

After lunch we took the national rail back to Paddington then the circle line to Tower Hill to visit the Tower of London.
A squirrel just outside the tube station.
The four towers of the White Tower
Changing of the guard. Notice the Beefeater on the left. They have been guarding the Royal Jewels for 500 years.
The rack in Bloody Tower
Traitors Gate
The Royal Jewels -no photography. Wow, what a collection!!
Tower Bridge is just a short walk away.
Some of the 888 246 ceramic poppies set up for Remembrance Day on 11 November - one for each of the British soldiers killed in WW1.
St Pancras Station at night....I mean at 5.00pm.

On Tuesday we went out to the National Motor Museum out near Heathrow Airport. While they have 240 cars on display, the majority are US vehicles. It is expensive at £30 per adult entry (2x$60 approx).
One of my favourites was the 1955 Mercedes Benz Gullwing
Colleen walks away from the 2010 Roller which had a price tag of $433 000
Mr Bean's Mini
Herbie's VW
Batman's vehicles

After our visit, we caught the train back to Paddington to take the Circle Line to Baker Street.
The Beatle's Store in Baker Street
One of the most famous addresses that does not exist in reality is 221B Baker Street, home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes.

We walked from Baker Street to Lord's Cricket Ground, also known as the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). Lord's Cricket Ground, generally known as Lord's, is a cricket venue in St John's Wood, London. Named after its founder, Thomas Lord, it is owned by Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and is the home of Middlesex County Cricket Club, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB). Lord's is widely referred to as the "home of cricket" and is home to the world's oldest sporting museum.

I didn't think I would enjoy this as much as I did. Colleen is the cricket tragic but the MCC Guide, Richard, was so entertaining and knowledgeable. In the Team Dressing Rooms, he recounted who sat where in the seating. Apparently, cricketers are way up there in superstitions as sportsmen and have favourite routines. Unknowingly, I sat in Shane Warne's favourite spot.

Colleen on the corner of the ground pointing to the Ashes. In the Museum, we saw the original ashes. It is surprisingly small. No photography was allowed.
The Pavilion built 1898.
Colleen on the top floor of the Tavern Stand. Here are the most expensive seats. A member can loan the club £12 000 repayable after 75 years if they want to sit in a particular seat. Tickets by ballot for next year's Test Match are held on 15 December this year. Last year they were sold out 5 times over in 24 hours.
View of Lord's Cricket Ground from the JP Morgan Media Centre

Wednesday, 26 November was a very late start for us as we are getting a little tired. We thought we would stay around close to the centre of London. We visited one of our favourites - Westminster Abbey.
The tube to Westminster takes us also to the Houses of Parliament. Here is Elizabeth Tower with the bell called Big Ben.
The Great North Door of Westminster Abbey
North Cloister of Westminster Abbey
East cloister of Westminster Abbey
View across the Cloister Garth to the North Tower
View from Poet's Corner to the Great North Door of Westminster Abbey
Great West Door of Westminster Abbey

After lunch we visited the Churchill War Rooms which were built under the Treasury Building in 1940.
The Treasury Building, 1 Horse Guards Street
Hyde Park
The Cabinet Meeting Room
The secure hot phone that linked Churchill with the US President
Churchill's Dining Room
Meeting room for the General Staff
Churchill's kitchen in the War Rooms
Map showing Churchills's overseas travel including the battlefields during the war years - 104 462 miles by air, sea, train and are between 1940 and 1945 when he was aged 65 to 70.
Displays in the Churchill War Rooms
The Map Room
Churchill's Bedroom
Horse Guards Parade

We had a short visit to Leicster Square to visit the M& M World shop. It had the atmosphere of an Apple store with the glitz, religiosity and showmanship. You could even personalise your messages on the M&Ms.
The M&M World Store

Thursday 27 November started off very overcast but turned out to be a sunny/cloudy day with no showers. So we decided to take the District Line out to Hampton Court approximately 30 miles away.

Hampton Court Palace is a royal palace in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, Greater London, in the historic county of Middlesex. It was originally built for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, a favourite of King Henry VIII, circa 1514; in 1529, as Wolsey fell from favour, the palace was passed to the King Henry V111, who enlarged it.

The following century, King William III's massive rebuilding and expansion project intended to rival Versailles was begun. Work halted in 1694, leaving the palace in two distinct contrasting architectural styles, domestic Tudor and Baroque. While the palace's styles are an accident of fate, a unity exists due to the use of pink bricks and a symmetrical, if vague, balancing of successive low wings.

The main entrance to Hampton Court Castle
History of the castle
Main Entrance
The Base Court of the castle. there was a large party of school children on the tour so we elected to do our own tour.
Henry V111 kitchens. Meat for an average year was 1000 head of oxen, 500 yearlings, 1000 deer, 8500 head of sheep and 50 wild boar.
Just one of many rooms of King Henry V111's kitchens.
The Clock Court
The Great Fountain Garden
Staircase up into William 111's Apartments
The Home Park
King William 111s Bedroom
King Henry V111s Great Hall
King Henry V111s Private Dining Room
The Hampton Court Maze. No, we decided not to do it as we wanted to get to Wimbledon for a 2 o'clock tour.

We had to change trains twice and then a brisk walk to get to Wimbledon for our 2 o'clock guided tour. We had done this tour before in 2011 but it turned out to be a very enjoyable experience once again.
2013 Gentlemans and Ladies Singles Champions.
The trophies
No 1 Court - only used for Championships and Davis Court when needed
The Hill properly named Aorangi Hill as the land was owned by the Kiwi Expatriate Football Club before the All England Tennis Club.
The roofed area of Centre Court as seen from the Hill.
Court No 18 scene of the longest tennis match ever - 11 hours and 5 minutes over 3 days
The longest tennis match ever. The previous record was 5 hours and 5 minutes.
The Media Room - Tennis Nut Colleen being interviewed by a very minor media official.
The Holy Grail - Centre Court, Wimbledon
Lleyton Hewitt and Roger Federer.

Friday, 28 November was supposed to be a fine sunny day. The weather bureau was partly right, it didn't rain. Our first visit for the day was to Kensington Palace. Here are a few photos from there.
The Gold Gates which lead to the private quarters of the Palace where Charles and Diana lived. This was the gate where floral tributes swamped the area as people expressed their sorrow at the death of Princess Diana.
The main entrance to Kensington Palace
View from the King's Apartments over Kensington Park.
Queen Victoria grew up in Kensington Palace. This is her childhood doll's house.
Exhibition of dresses. This belonged to Queen Elizabeth in the early 60s.

We caught the tube to Victoria to the Royal Mews of Buckingham Palace and the Royal Gallery.
The. Courtyard of the Mews is pretty ordinary and is used as a car park by palace workers.
The Diamond Jubilee State Coach
The Diamond Jubilee State Coach was built in Australia.
The Mews houses the Queen's five official vehicles. This 1950 Rolls Royce Phantom IV was ordered by the Princess Elizabeth before her marriage to Prince Philip. The Queen has five official vehicles and they are numbered 1 to 5 as they do not have registration or number plates.
The Gold State Coach was built 252 years ago and is used for coronations.

We had a short visit to the Royal Gallery. there was a magnificent exhibition by the Prince of Wales photographer of his visit to Greece, the Ottoman Empire and Egypt some 160 years ago. The black and white photographs really show a different world.
There was an exhibition called 'Gold' as well. The photo below shows an 8.5 kg solid plate.

Buckingham Palace always attracts crowds at any time of the day.
Buckingham Palace

Colleen and I walked from Buckingham Palace down to the Wellington Arch. we were rather surprised to find it has small galleries inside accessible by lift. There was quite a view also from the top. Like many other victory arches, it has a Quadriga on top (the four horse chariot).
The Wellington Arch on Hyde Park Corner.
Part of the display inside showed Field Marshall Earl Haig, British Commander in WW1.
The Australian War Memorial commemorating both World Wars was opened by PM John Howard in 2003. This is where Australia commemorates Anzac Day in London.

Late afternoon, we decided to fit in a visit to the London Transport Museum before finding a nice restaurant around Covent Garden or Leicester Square.
Horse drawn bus from London circa 1900. Each coach required 6 changes of horses per day (total 12) making about 50 000 horses needed in London.
Underground steam train used in the early years of the London Underground in the 1860s.
London bus used to transport troops in France. Convoys of around 80 buses were used to ferry troops to and from the front line. At one time there were around 1 000 London buses in France.
This is 'Ole Bill' one of the many buses sent to France early in the war. In 1920, it was repainted to its original colours and pressed back into service as a London bus.
London buses

As this London part of the blog is getting a bit lengthy, I have decided to publish it now and do a separate one for the next week we have here in London. We leave in Friday 5 December for Dubai where we will gave a three night stopover. We will arrive back in Brisbane in Tuesday 9 December.

Posted by Kangatraveller 00:37 Archived in England Comments (0)


A week in a unique part of England

Oh what a journey to get here! We are staying at Clowance Estate outside Praze-An-Beeble which is south west of Truro.

Cornwall is a ceremonial county and unitary authority area of England, within the United Kingdom. Cornwall is a peninsula bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar. Yes, there is a city of Launceston.

Cornwall has a population of 536,000 and covers an area of 3,563 km2. The administrative centre, and only city in Cornwall, is Truro, although the town of St Austell has the largest population. Traditionally, mining (tin mining and later copper from the Middle ages), fishing (pilchards) and agriculture are the main industries. The railways led the increasingly important industry of tourism.


After a 5.30 am wake up in Paris and the Eurostar to St Pancras in London, we had a mad dash to Paddington to catch a Great Western Rail train to Truro and then a bus from Truro to Camborne ( as a viaduct was under repair on the rail line). A taxi picked us up and delivered us to our accommodation at Clowance Estate.
The Clowance Estate has many lodges and units. This is the road to our three bedroom lodge.
Our home for the next week
There is also a 9 hole golf course.
Golf course
Colleen in the kitchen of our A Frame three bedroom, two bathroom lodge. There is a sauna as well.

On Monday,, we joined a tour with two other couples for a day around The Lizard.
Porthleven in on the west coast of The Lizard.
The inner harbour at Porthlevin.
Mullion Cove
The retirement home on the cliff top at Mullion Cove
Mullion Cove
The Mullion Cove Hotel
Lizard Point- notice one of many helicopters on manoeuvres from RNAS Culdrose, the largest helicopter base in Europe.
Lizard Point, the most southerly facing harbour in Great Britain
Lizard Point
Lizard Point is a huge outcrop of Serpentine
Old Norman church at Lizard is more than a thousand years old.
The bell is more than 600 years old
The village of Lizard
Coastline at Lizard Point
Thatch roof houses at Lizard
This is a typical two lane road in this area. We had to clear debris before we could go on.
Looking down to Falmouth Harbour, one of the deepest after Sydney Harbour
Falmouth Harbour
We passed RNAS Culdrose on our way back. Both Princes William and Harry have served at this base which is the largest helicopter base in Europe. We saw a large number of helicopters flying around this area.

We really got what we came for in Cornwall - beautiful scenery, a very good resort for R&R and one week in one place with no unpacking and packing.
On Thursday, we took the short walk to Praze-an-Beeble for lunch.
While it is only half a mile walk into Praze-an-Beeble, the road is narrow with no footpaths for most if it and it carries quite a heavy body of traffic.
The village
The pub, St Aubyn's Arms Steak and Ale House
The Chippy and Cafe

Saturday morning was the reverse journey to our accommodation in London for the next two weeks. Firstly, a taxi to Camborne, bus to Truro then a 6 hour train journey to Paddington then the underground to Kings Cross.

Posted by Kangatraveller 10:33 Archived in England Comments (0)


A more leisurely revisiting of some favourite places and a few new ones

13 °C

We arrived back in Paris on Saturday night, 8 November. Our taxi from Gare Du Nord cost 25 € within sight of our hotel. We decided to walk the extra distance after we were caught in a traffic jamb. The taxi on Thursday going the same route cost 10€.

After vowing to have an easy day we couldn't help ourselves getting on the Metro to Concorde and walking the entire length of the Champs Élysées both sides. here are a few photos from this mostly grey and overcast day.
Place de la Concorde
The Palais Royale
getting ready for the Christmas Markets
Well dressed Parisians even on a Sunday afternoon
The Arc de Triomphe
View from near the Arc de Triomphe
A quiet Sunday on the Champs Élysées
The Lido - no plans to go again.

On Monday 10 November, we took the subway over to the south side of the Seine. Our Metro station was undergoing renovations so we hopped off at the station past it. We had a very good walk as we fumbled our way to where we wanted to go - 24 Rue Edgar Faure where Fat Tyre Bike Tours were located. They were the first to offer Segway Tours. Colleen and I signed up for a three hour Segway tour of Paris starting at 2.00pm.

We retired to an artisan Boulangerie for lunch before we could change our minds.

When we returned at 1.30pm we met Costi, our leader. The six of us - two Americans, two Mexicans and we two Australians, had a short introduction to the Segway and quickly learned to find our centre balance and how to lean forward and back to start and stop.

Both of us thought we may have difficulty in riding this contraption but after a little practice and actually setting off single file we adapted quickly. Our first stop was at the Ecole Militaire we had a fabulous view also of the nearby Eiffel Tower. Here are some pictures taken during our travels from the bast to the Ecole Militaire, over the Alexander 111 Bridge over the Seine then past the Grand Palais to the Champs Élysée, the Place de Concorde, The Tuileries Garden, the Louvre then back over the Seine past the Quay D'Orsay and back to Rue Edgar Faure after a long ride back along the banks of the Seine.
Walking back from Commerce Metro to Dupleix Place
First practise at handling the Segway
The Ecole Militaire, the parade grounds across the road now house the Eiffel Tower. Napoleon Bonaparte was a student at this school.
L'Hotel Invalides - built by King Louis XIV as a hospital for wounded soldiers.
Musee de L'Armee - Army Museum
The River Seine viewed from Alexander 111 bridge
One of the statues on the end of the bridge with the Palais Royale in the background
The Obelisk in the Place de La Concorde
Plaque showing where the guillotine stood which was used to decapitate King Louis XVI a and Queen Antoinette (and about 3 000 others).
Statue in the grounds of the Tuileries with the Louvre in the bckground
The replica Arc de Triomphe used as the gateway from the Louvre to the Tuileries.
Colleen on her Segway on the north bank of the Seine
The bridge over the Seine with locks installed by people to express their love for each other.
The Quay D'Orsay Museum was built in a disused railway station
View west down the Seine showing the Palais Royale in the background
Colleen and I with the Eiffel Tower in the background
Us again on our Segways.

Tuesday, 11 November is Armistice Day holiday in France. many places were closed. We took the wonderful Metro to Abbesses Station which surely must have about 100 steps up to ground level before we walked up another couple of hundred steps to Sacre Coeur Cathedral at Montmatre.
The narrow and steep roads of Montmatre.
The view from the top.
Cathedral of Sacre Coeur
Inside the Cathedral

We caught the Metro to Notre Dame de Champs station as it is closest to Luxembourg Palace and Les Jardin de Luxembourg. The Palace and grounds were built in 1614 for Marie de Medici, the wife of King Henry IV of France.

A pink Cadillac parked on the corner. Around the corner was a convertible Mustang.
Walkways and chairs abound in these gardens
One of many statues in the gardens
The Palais with the pond to the right of picture
The L'Orangarie of the Palais
This is just one example of how cars are parked in these crowded streets.

Wednesday 12 November proved to be a beautiful sunny day with clear skies in the morning and some cloud in the afternoon. So, we changed our plans for the day and went first to the Musee de l'Orangerie and then had lunch on a restaurant just off the Champs Elysee. After lunch we walked up the Champs Elysee to the Arc de Triomphe and took the lift up to the top to sample the magnificent 360 views.

The Musée de l'Orangerie is an art gallery of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings located in the west corner of the Tuileries Gardens next to the Place de la Concorde in Paris. Though most famous for being the permanent home for Eight Water Lilies murals by Claude Monet, the museum also contains works by Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri Rousseau, Alfred Sisley, Chaim Soutine, and Maurice Utrillo, among others. We were lucky enough to see a major exhibition of the work of Emile Bernard (1868-1941).

Women on the Nile by Emile Bernard

We were disappointed that Claude monet's home at Giverny was closed for the winter so we went to the Musee de l'Orangerie to see his water lilies.

The 8 panorama panels of Monet's Les Nympheas (The Water Lilies) are displayed in two oval rooms lit by natural light.
One of the panels of The Water Lilies
The Musee de l'Orangerie
The Musee de l'Orangerie is set in one corner of the beautiful Tuileries Gadens
Auguste Rodin's Le Baiser bronze sculpture is displayed in the grounds in front of the Musee de l'orangerie.

The Champs Elysee is always a good place to walk and people watch. We strolled up to the Arc de Triomphe. The Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile (Arch of Triumph of the Star) is one of the most famous monuments in Paris. It stands in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle (originally named Place de l'Étoile), at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. It should not be confused with a smaller arch, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, which stands west of the Louvre. The Arc de Triomphe honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.
Napoleon promised the troops after the victory at Austerlitz that they would return home under a triumphal arch.
View East along the Champs Elysee
View west along the Avenue de la Grande Armee
View to the north showing the spires of Sacre Coeur
View to the south showing the Eiffel Tower to the right and the gold dome of the Hotel des Invalides to the left.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Eternal Flame light in 1921.

Thursday 13 November saw us visit Saint-Chapelle. The Sainte-Chapelle is a royal medieval Gothic chapel, located near the Palais de la Cité, on the Île de la Cité in the heart of Paris, France.

Begun some time after 1239 and consecrated on 26 April 1248, the Sainte-Chapelle is considered among the highest achievements of the Rayonnant period of Gothic architecture. Its erection was commissioned by King Louis IX of France to house his collection of Passion Relics, including Christ's Crown of Thorns - one of the most important relics in medieval Christendom.

Along with the Conciergerie, the Sainte-Chapelle is one of the earliest surviving buildings of the Capetian royal palace on the Île de la Cité. Although damaged during the French revolution, and restored in the 19th century, it retains one of the most extensive in-situ collections of 13th-century stained glass anywhere in the world.

Some information about the stained glass windows
The stained glass windows 15.5 metres in height
The upper level with the amazing stained glass windows 1242 to 1248

We decided to have another visit to Notre Dame de Paris. Notre-Dame de Paris, also known as Notre-Dame Cathedral or simply Notre-Dame, is a historic Catholic cathedral on the eastern half of the Île de la Cité in the fourth arrondissement of Paris, France. The cathedral is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and among the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world. The naturalism of its sculptures and stained glass are in contrast with earlier Romanesque architecture. Construction started in 1160 and was mostly complete by 1350.
Cathedral Notre Dame
Statue of Charlemagne in the grounds. Charlemagne, also known as Charles the Great or Charles I, was the King of the Franks from 768, the King of Italy from 774, and from 800 the first emperor in western Europe since the collapse of the Western Roman Empire three centuries earlier.
The beautiful carved doors
The nave of the Cathedral
The western stained glass window

After lunch we made our way to the Louvre.The Louvre or the Louvre Museum is one of the world's largest museums and a historic monument. A central landmark of Paris, France, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement (district). Nearly 35,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st century are exhibited over an area of 60,600 square metres. The Louvre is the world's most visited museum, and receives more than 10 million visitors a year.

The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace, originally built as a fortress in the late 12th century under Philip II. Remnants of the fortress are visible in the basement of the museum. The building was extended many times to form the present Louvre Palace. In 1682, Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles for his household, leaving the Louvre primarily as a place to display the royal collection, including, from 1692, a collection of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture. In 1692, the building was occupied by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres and the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, which in 1699 held the first of a series of salons. The Académie remained at the Louvre for 100 years. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly decreed that the Louvre should be used as a museum to display the nation's masterpieces.

The Museum was opened on 10 August 1793 with many exhibits mainly confiscated from churches and royalty.
One of the walkways into the museum

The museum entrance is under the glass pyramid. The Louvre Pyramid is a large glass and metal pyramid, surrounded by three smaller pyramids, in the main courtyard (Cour Napoléon) of the Louvre Palace in Paris. The large pyramid serves as the main entrance to the Louvre Museum. Completed in 1989, it has become a landmark of the city of Paris. Designed by architect I.M. Pei it was designed to allow people to descend into the Pyramid lobby before ascending into the Louvre buildings to cater for the huge number of people visiting the museum.

The pyramid viewed from one of the wings of the Louvre when we entered.
The pyramid viewed from the second floor of the Louvre just before we left at closing time.

There are many items of interest in the Louvre so I have picked just a few of the best known art works.
Art works on display
Another favourite piece - Les Noces de Cana by Paolo Caliari, known as Veronese 1568. This very large oil painting is on the opposite wall to the most famous painting - The Mona Lisa.
The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vincilarge_AA09B50CAF5A1726A16B53A3D3D26C31.jpg
Jacqueline Louis David's Inauguration of Napoleon 1
Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, also known as Venus de Milo.

Friday 14 November was another day at the Louvre. It is really hard to imagine the scale of the art collections. Some people think they can see it all in one day.....absolutely no chance even if they were on roller skates.

On Friday night we saw How to be a Parisian in One Hour. Trip Adviser recommended it as number 10 of 792 things to see and do in Paris. Olivier Giraud is a thirty year old comedian who manages to poke fun at the French and all nationalities and has the audience engaged.

We leave on the Eurostar on Saturday for London and then a quick change to a slow train that will take us almost across England to Camborne in Cornwall. We have a week at the Clowance Estate which is half a mile outside Praze-An-Beeble.

Posted by Kangatraveller 23:56 Archived in France Comments (0)

FRANCE - The Battlefields of WW1

Paris and the Battlefields Tour of Flanders and the Somme

10 °C

Thursday, 7 November we flew from Dublin to Paris. After leaving most of our luggage at our Paris hotel we took the fast train to Amiens for a two night stay for a private tour of the battlefields.
The Western Front in Flanders around Ypres
The Western Front on the Somme in Northern France
Casualties of the Great War - Australia had 62 000 killed with many more wounded and missing out of a total number of 331 000 in uniform. Australia's total population was 4.86 million.

Amiens and the First World War

At the start of the war, in August 1914, Amiens had been the Advance Base for the British Expeditionary Force. It was captured by the German Army on 31 August 1914, but recaptured by the French on 28 September. The proximity of Amiens to the Western Front and its importance as a rail hub, made it a vital British logistic centre, especially during the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

Amiens was one of the key objectives of the German Spring Offensive which was launched on 27 March 1918. The German 2nd Army pushed back the British 5th Army, who fought a series of defensive actions. Eventually, on 4 April, the Germans succeeded in capturing Villers-Bretonneux which overlooked Amiens, only for it to be retaken by an Australian counterattack that night. During the fighting, Amiens was bombarded by German artillery and aircraft; more than 2,000 buildings were destroyed. On 8 August 1918, a successful Allied counter strike,, the Battle of Amiens, was the opening phase of the Hundred Days Offensive, which led directly to the Armistice with Germany that ended the war.

On Friday 7 November, we met our guide Brian who picked us up from our hotel at 9.30 am. We headed north into Belgium to tour the Western Front battlefields around Ypres and then to stay for dinner in Ypres so we could attend the daily event of the Last Post at Mennen Gate. This ceremony is held every night of the year except Christmas night. We went on a quiet night with only about 1500 people present. We were advised to get there early (an hour and a half before the event) so we could get a good vantage point. The Mennen Gate has the names of 55 000 soldiers from the Commonwealth who are missing and therefore have no known grave.

The Notre Dame D'Amiens is the largest cathedral in France and was built between 1226 to 1232. The Cathedral is so big that the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris would fit twice inside this cathedral.
Notice to commemorate the Australian Imperial Forces is mounted inside the cathedral.
The War Memorial at Fromelles was opened in 2010.
Signage at the Fromelles Memorial
The land was a gift from the French people. The remains of some Australian soldiers were found in mass graves across the road from the Memorial.
Colleen and our guide Brian, standing near some of the graves. Some of the graves have the inscription - An Australian Soldier with the words 'Known Unto God' at the bottom of the headstone.
Headstone of one of the many soldiers who have been identified in recent times.

One of the displays in the Messines Museum
The New Zealand Memorial in Messines
The Town Hall with Clock Tower at Ypres
Note the destruction of the Town Hall and Cathedral in Ypres and then how it looked at 1919 at the end of the Great War
The five Australians Divisons served along the Western Front. The Museum at Paschendale provides a comprehensive collection of items and photos from that time.
The Cemetery called Tyne Cot is beside the Museum.
The glass wall of the Museum looks out over what was once the battlefield
German Pillbox fortifications in the Smelters at Tyne Cot have been left
The Monument at Tyne Cot has been built over the top of one of the German Pill Boxes at the suggestion of the King of England
The glass window shows part of the German Pillbox under the Monument.
Some of the many graves at Tyne Cot
This is the grave of a 23 year old Captain C S Jeffries, Victoria Cross who died here on 12 October 1917. There are 11 954 burials in this cemetery.
There are four German soldiers buried with 11 950 Commonwealth soldiers.
The Memorial at Polygon Wood
These five soldiers were found in 2007 and three have been identified through DNA.
The Memorial at Polygon Wood was designed by Major General Sir John Joseph Talbot Hobbs, Divisional Commander of the Fifth Division who was an Architect in his previous life.
Signage at Hill 60
The Crater at Hill 60. This site was immortalised in the movie of the same name. The Hill 60 was tunnelled under by Sustralian tunnellers who set off a massive explosion that killed 650 German soldiers and wounded many more.
A German Pill Box that survived the explosion.
Mennen Gate in Ypres has 11 000 names of soldiers missing with no known grave.
The Last Post ceremony is held 364 days of the year. We came on a quiet night with only about 1500 people present. The man standing next to Colleen said he came the night before and was back again that night as he had only found out 7 months ago that his grandfather died exactly 100 years ago to that night. He said his mother was only two years old at the time and she never knew about it as her mother had never told her.
Five buglers sounded the Last Post. Remarkably there was more than five minutes silence as varied people laid wreaths amid dead silence.

After getting back to our hotel around 11.30 pm we set off early the next day, Saturday, 8 November, to visit the Somme battlefields.

Our first stop was at the Victoria School at Villers Bretonneaux where the school was built in the 1920's from funds raised by school children in Victoria, Australia.
Plaque on the front wall of the school
The covered area in the school has Aboriginal Australian murals
This is a photograph taken at the time of the capture of the German tank named Mephisto by the 18th Batallion of the 2nd Division AIF. Colonel John Robinson, Batallion Commader of the 18th, is shown in the photograph. He brought Mephisto back to Queenslandand for many years, it was on display at the Queensland Museum. Colonel Robinson was the first Principal of Rockhampton State High School when the school was opened in 1919. My father, Frank Curran, attended Rockhampton State High School in 1927 as student number 720 and I became Principal there in 1989.

A model of Mephisto. The tank had a crew of eighteen.

The Memorial at Villers Bretonneaux
The cemetery at Villers Brettoneaux
I keep finding relatives in many of these places
This lone bag piper turned up and walked up to the Memorial playing Australian songs.
This notice is near Lachnagar, one of the largest of the bombs set under the German Lines.
The crater at Lochnagar is approximately 90 metres across and 30 metres deep.
The cemetery and Memorial at Thiephal is the largest of the memorial ceremonies.
This Memorial was designed by Sir Edwin Lutjens and built in 1938.
Looking from the back of the a memorial
Thiephal Memorial
The Irish Memorial was the very first memorial built and was completed in 1922.
The Newfoundland Memorial has the Moose as the Monument. Newfoundland contributed two Battalions during the Great War.
The front lines are preserved in this area built on a part of the battlefield where the Newfoundlanders served.
Wise words at the Newfoundland Memorial

Posted by Kangatraveller 11:08 Archived in France Comments (0)


The Northern Jewels of Ireland Tour - the northern coast to Belfast and down the east coast to Dublin

The last part of our journey around Ireland.


On Monday 3 November, we said goodbye to Donegal and travelled north into Northern Ireland to Derry (Londonderry). We took a walking tour with a local guide to see Derry’s medieval walls, the Diamond and St. Columb’s Cathedral.

Peace Monument
The City Walls
Plaque on the wall -King James 11 put the city under siege in 1689 and did not breach the walls.
The gate built in 1789 to commemorate King James failure to take the city.
Bloody Sunday in 1972 when 13 people died when fired on by soldiers
Monument to those who died
Mural showing a school girl who was shot to death on this spot
The wall built during "The Troubles" to separate Catholic and Protestant communities.
St Columb's Cathedral built 1633
After lunch we visited the Giant’s Causeway, enormous hexagonal columns formed by volcanic activity over 60 million years ago. The day was rather cold at 4 degrees Celsius and some light rain.
The scenery on the way to the Giant's Causeway
The Little, Middle and Grand Causeways
The Little Causeway
The Middle Causeway
The Giant's Causeway
Rather inclement weather
The Giant's Organ Pipes
Giant's Gate
The Centre is built to integrate with the environment
The Irish Sea with the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland in the background some 24 miles distant

Next was an overnight stay in Belfast. We had a drive around the city centre and other areas such as Falls Road and Shankill Rd. There is still a high wall separating these areas which saw much conflict during "the troubles".

Street view in central Belfast
Student accommodation near the university

Falls Rd and Shankill area is now a quiet neighbourhood but has many memorials, murals, the wall separating communities itself and an air of how terrible things must have been for the inhabitants for a thirty year period.
Memorial Garden
Bobby Sands MP died through a hunger strike when he was elected MP but not allowed to take his seat.
Bombay Rd was a long street that was cut off by the wall.
Checkpoints which were manned by British soldiers over the thirty years of "the troubles".

Later we visited the Titanic Centre and the shipyards where RMS Titanic was built in 1912. Titanic Belfast was a wonderful display showing us this famous liner through state-of-the-art displays.
Titanic Belfast centre
The statue - Titanic outside the centre
Inside the centre
The White Star Line crockery

In the afternoon we learnt about Ireland’s patron saint in the St. Patrick Centre before driving to Kingscourt to Cabra Castle hotel, built in 1760.
The Cathedral of Down
Display inside the cathedral
St Patrick's grave also has two other saints- St Brigid and St Columb
Marker for St Patrick's grave
Beautiful scenery between Belfast and Down
Scenery between Down and Kingscourt
Cabra Castle at Kingscourt built in 1670 was our accommodation for the night.
Our Tour Director Joe with Oscar the castle mascot. Oscar is an Irish Wolfhound
Inside the castle
Inside the castle

On Wednesday 5 November, we left the Cabra Castle and travelled the short distance to the Battle of the Boyne Centre to learn about the 1690 conflict between King William III and King James II. It is also called the battle of the 3 kings as William 111 and James 11 were present on the battlefield while Louis XIV of France provided troops.
Map of the Battle of the Boyne
Mansion built by a supporter of William 111 who was granted these lands. It now houses the Battle of the Boyne Centre and was built 30 years after the battle.
Our small group (17 people) gazing over the battlefield
the Three Kings
One of many displays
Cannon from the era
President of Ireland Bernie Ahern receives a flintlock musket from Former First Minister of Northern Ireland, Reverend Ian Paisley
Aussies on tour

In the afternoon we had a city walking tour around the historic town of Drogheda.
Former Franciscan Monastery is now an art gallery
This is the Barbican or Foreworks built in early Norman times to defend the inner city gates
Catholic Cathedral in Drogheda
Beautiful stained glass window and pipe organ

For our final night in Ireland we enjoyed dinner in the Wm Cairnes Gastropub with live musical entertainment.
Irish entertainment on our last night

Tomorrow we leave our hotel at 5.45am for our flight to Paris then a fast train to Amiens for our battlefield tour.

Posted by Kangatraveller 09:16 Comments (0)

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