A few months ago I jumped into a car and was taken on a whirlwind tour of parts of Belgium and France. From Norwich, to Calais, to Ypres to Avallon and Vezelay, before heading north again to Amiens and up to Leeds in Yorkshire, the entire trip took 3 days….
The reason for the trip was to bring a small boat from a landlocked part of France and deposit it in the middle of England, another landlocked area….. The purpose for me going? Well, I had three days with nothing in the diary and I felt it would give me an opportunity to take photos of places I hadn’t seen before.
I’m always amazed at how tightly the ferries between UK and the continent are packed and the trip to Calais was no exception. I was also very surprised to see, as we docked in Calais, empty roads leading away from the port. It’s been a few years since I last travelled by cross Channel ferry, and news reports in the UK had led me to believe hoards of desperate refugees were in every available square foot of space in the French port.
We travelled first to Ypres, to see the Menin Gate. An astounding testimony to the gratitude of generations who have come after the First World War. Every inch of space inside the gate was filled with names of those who had died -and every single night since the end of the First World War, with the exception of the years of the Second World War, the Last Post has been played here. Even more exceptional was the sizeable crowd that gathered to hear it. It wasn’t a weekend, it wasn’t a holiday. We were assured that every night a similar size crowd of people of all ages, gathers. EVERY night. 2015 will see the 30,000th playing of The Last Post in that same spot.
We left Ypres with it’s unique architecture and wonderful chocolate shop, and drove back into France towards Avallon. A medieval town, it was quiet and pictureseque. I love the details on French buildings- the doors, the iron mongery, the colours.
The following day we headed for deep inside the 170,000 acres of the Morvan National Park, to collect the boat. As the forest grew every heavier and darker with foliage, I couldn’t help but feel that we must be collecting the only boat in the area for miles and miles and miles!
With the boat attached to the back of the car, we headed north again, past Paris, arriving in Amiens once the dark winter evening had set in. After a typically great French meal, a midnight walk to see the city was in order. The great Cathedral was dramatic by night, and the scaffolding that surrounded it added to the drama – in the daylight it may have been disappointing.
We caught the ferry back to England the next day, and I stood on the deck watching France disappear under the arch of a particularly bright rainbow. As I turned to look towards home, I saw the White Cliff of Dover come into view, and I wondered what feelings the sight of that famous landscape inspired in others arriving or returning here. The link goes to a You Tube video of the song that became a WW2 favourite – worth looking at for some of the old photos of the same cliffs.
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All photographs shot on #FujiXPro1 using 18mm lens
#Ypres #MeninGate #WhiteCLiffsofDover