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Thank you for all advice and help


Kathie

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This is a belated thanks to so many to helped me in planning my trip to Flanders and Somme in June and July. I have just been too busy to return to do any soldiers.

Firstly to those who helped with maps - downloading them, advising where to get both IGN and Topography of Armageddon and etc. Croonaert especially deserves a map all his own for his kindnesses.

I had been before so much was revisiting but this time I was going to speciifc soliders graves or last battles or perhaps unknown soldiers cemeteries wehre they might be.

Ariane Hotel in Ypres still the best for me. I hated all food in Ypres except bread and cheese to make picnics. Loved the Museum at Zonnebeeke. Fantastic. First time to Toc H house - thnk Tubby a bit too whimsical but what a haven it must have been - what a project it would be for someone to go thorugh all the visitors books and computerise them????? Any takers???

Spent weekend in Laon revisiting Cathedral and not thinking about war - had to watch out for dog pooh everwhere though.

Last time used Amiens as my base, this time Peronne. Next time I think Albert or back to Amiens. But the area is so small its all manageable. Remparts very comfy - I had quiet room at back and no west sun so was bearable and very clean. Menu exotic for me so I eventually reduced to omelletes. Would do again.

Found Paul Reeds books helped me look at area very differntly. Did a lot of hikes - some Pauls some my own. Met Paul and am most grateful for his time and help.I think walking changes the way one experiences the whole place. Then I found that what I thought was trespassing day was not - Near Marrieres Wood I discovered two signposts for what were wonderful walks. How does one get a llist and details of walks in France???? I cannot stress how much I enjoyed rainy walks, maps in plastic envelopes, along trenches and culverts etc. Next time I will wear gaiters (in additon to boots) and thick gloves. I carried lots of books and lunch and spent days just doing and sometimes redoing an area.

Africa is meant to be hot - we have nothing on France in June/July - I have never experienced sweat just falling off my nose and eyebrows and onto maps - we just have dry heat.

I enjoyed sittting quietly (as always) in cemeteries but it was special that I knew I was the only person who had visited all but two of teh soldiers I was visiting - ones family spent time in England during the War and would have been wealthy enough to come afterwards (frreinds with Cecil John Rhodes) and the other boy had a sister who came in the thirties. But I brought mementos from each ones home on behalf of those who could never visit from South africa.

I took photos of names on Menin and of a cemetery where bodies would have been buried if at all to a niece and nephew of four of my soldiers - the niece of two married the nephew of two. I was so moved at their response - their excitement at seeing the possible cemtery - Messines Ridge - and the graves and the "Known But to God" and then I heard how the nephew (whom I knew had served in Italy in WWI) had never seen those cemeteries of that of his own generation. So the whole family was called in to look etc etc.

I enjoyed Somme (and last time Verdun as well) more than Ypres area because of my ability to walk around and explore more. Somehow I didnt feel I really could in Flanders area. Too developed - ie by farms. do others find the same??

Then a few days in Paris. Left Charles de Gaulle a few hours after first London bombs - noone cared I had purchased little packets of battlefield debris for grandchildren in England.

Thanks to all. I have now persuaaded my nearest and dearest to join me in a trip in 2007. I want to go when its colder and greyer though but still walking is possible.

Kathie

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How does one get a llist and details of walks in France?

Hello Kathie

I’m so pleased you had such a memorable trip.

Specifically for walks and cycle rides, you can buy Cartes de Promenade IGN and Cartes de Randonnées IGN, which mark paths with symbols:

http://www.ign.fr/affiche_rubrique.asp?rbr_id=403&lng_id=FR

http://www.ign.fr/affiche_rubrique.asp?rbr_id=1207&lng_id=FR

and little ring bound guides, whose name I forget, published by walkers' associations intended for use on walks. These are available in local shops, if nowhere else. I'll try and remember the name of the organisation which publishes them. I don’t know what comes up if you search on something like cartes pour découvrir la France à pied.

In the Alsace and Vosges region (which is the one I really know about), Club Vosgien issues publications marked with their walks.

http://www.club-vosgien.com/index.htm (Turn off your sound unless woodpeckers and excited twitterings do something for you.)

If you click on Liens sites club Vosgien, then on the drop down menu, Liens amis, it gives a list of links to other sites of organisations for walking and rambling, and other fresh-air pursuits. Try Féderation Européenne de Randonnée Pédestre, which has also the option of pages in English. It's here. And on France specifically, there is this site, Frandonnée.

I feel as you do about Flanders. It draws me in less.

Gwyn

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I enjoyed Somme (and last time Verdun as well) more than Ypres area because of my ability to walk around and explore more.  Somehow I didnt feel I really could in Flanders area.  Too developed - ie by farms.  do others find the same??

To be honest, I don't feel the same. For some reason Flanders draws me back more than any other place on the western front. I've travelled the full length of it and, though the scenery isn't anything special and there can be more to see in some of the other places, it's Flanders that seems to hold a particular "magic" for me. It feels like I'm going "home" every time I'm there.

I also like the Argonne and the Champagne areas, but if I had to choose just one place it'd be Flanders (and, most specifically, the Kemmel-Messines-St.Eloi "triangle") every time.

Anyway, I'm glad that you had such a good trip and that we were of some use to you.

Dave.

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I enjoyed Somme .......more than Ypres area because of my ability to walk around and explore more.  Somehow I didnt feel I really could in Flanders area.  Too developed - ie by farms.  do others find the same??

Hi, Kathie

Glad you had an obviously great trip.

Although I like to visit Ieper (and agree with you about the Ariane), the Somme has a special place in my thoughts and I am drawn there. It is about the lack of development and being able to plot, say, the route of an attack. But, for me , it's where my grandfather, Tom Brough, did his stuff when 17/Manchester was still formed just of his Pals. Can't explain it to well in writing, I find it's an emotional attachment and I cannot be in the vicinity of, say, Trones Wood without tears.

John

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