Archive for May, 2008

Halifax

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

In my previous post I said we completely relaxed in our first week inn Halifax. That’s obviously not entirely true. While there was certainly some relaxing taking place Claudette and I were busy with many little administrative “tasks” as well. Arranging our new vehicle sticker, laundry, buying some new clothes at the Sally-Ann and another used clothes place, along with catching up on publishing my mostly written European posts were among our long lists of things to do. Granted, there was also some hot ‘n heavy scrabble games between the girls that took place in there as well. During our absence from North America there was a new phenomena sweeping our friends kitchen tables across Halifax, Edmonton & Fort Smith. It is called SETTLERS. Settlers is a dynamic game for 2-6 players that easily changes game play from one game to the next. This is due to small hexagonal board sections that can be moved around after each game to provide a unique board each time. Some of my (and Marc’s) spare time was taken up during our two weeks in Halifax with designing a board holder. Settlers comes with a cardboard outline which holds the loose pieces together, but he had scrolled some thin wooden pieces out to make for better containment. Unfortunately his thin wood pieces had warped and the puzzle style rounded links on the ends no longer locked together. After many discussions and a few prototypes we came up with a design that seemed to work quite well. Since we had a nice big piece of maple veneer we made three sets of game boards at the same time. One extra for a friend back home in Smith, and the third for a friend of Marc & Wendy’s in Halifax. I also made a few trips to the “Dollar” store, and made a complete game for us based on various colored pieces of foam stuck to flexible magnets and then all on a cookie sheet. The playing cards I designed on the computer and printed off to glue on to a cheap pack of regular playing cards. The retain game for $40 plus we needed an expansion pack for another $25+. Inn the end I think I spent under $20 for the equivalent.

We got tired of waiting around for our car to arrive one day and took a taxi to the Bedford Institute of Oceanography. This is a Federal Government set of research labs and coordinating offices for many experiments and projects. Even though it is a scientific research facility, they have the foresight to employ two four month Summer students each year and provide tours for advance bookings only. We arranged one an got in as just the four of us for almost two hours. She initially started us off with a description of the many types of things that they do and coordinate there. Next we visited the live tanks with running experiments of all varieties. Here we saw some huge and mutant lobsters. Some were blue or albino, and obviously represented some of the oddest specimens. We wrapped up the tour with a visit to a cool touch tank. The kids (and even Claudette!) had fun here while I was shooting pictures like crazy!

We did also manage to take in a few other sights before getting the car and heading off to newfoundland. Mainly the very impressive Citadel had a commanding view of the harbor and city, while showing off a nice little collection of 200 year old weapons and period costumes. Mostly, we “relaxed” and caught our break from the previous ten month mad rush (or so it sometimes seemed) around the world.

Waiting to move on…

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

Well, we thought we were being smart! We purchased a used 2007 Ford Freestyle from Montreal about 2 weeks before arriving in Canada. The plan was that the vehicle would be shipped to Halifax so it would be waiting for us when we arrived on the 14th. Well it’s now 10 days later and we are still in Halifax waiting for our car to be delivered. So much for planning ahead…..

We are still planning to drive across Canada with a small detour into South Dakota as Rick wants to see Crazy Horse ( http://www.crazyhorse.org/ ). Hope to see a lot of you along the way, so we will try to keep you informed as soon as we know too. Bye for now, Claudette

Arrival in Canada!

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

Landing on Canadian soil again was indeed refreshing. Especially after such a cramped coach ride on our super discount cheap tickets. Marc (a friend formerly from Fort Smith) met us at the airport with a big smile. After hugs all around we crammed our luggage into his car and proceeded to his house where Wendy had several huge homemade pizza’s waiting. Luckily, Marc works at the airport and merely went to the arrivals area with a good book after work to wait for us.

Before getting out of the secured customs area we went through the usual rigamarole (but for the last time EVER on this trip!) The agent we lined up at was an older guy who seemed friendly enough but was obviously tired after a long day. He clearly didn’t understand the significance of our four broad smiles and our barely containable excitement at being “home” again and getting our passports stamped in Canada! We politely and briefly explained the significance of our arrival and he gave us a tired yet very sincere “Welcome Home!”. The vacation charter airline we rode on was Condor Airlines. It had a handful of Canadians on board but most were German tourists landing in Halifax with plans to tour around the Maritimes a bit. Whatever they were doing, it seemed an impressive amount of Germans to be visiting the East coast.

After meeting up with Marc we trundled along quite a ways with our bags in tow to get to the public parking lot. The Halifax International Airport was under fairly extensive renovations, outside and inside. The most disappointing part was the severe lack of transportation options to get into the city. Not only was there no subway or train station out here (understandable considering that the city doesn’t even HAVE a subway or public train system) but there weren’t even public busses that ran out on any sort of schedule. There is only one lone guy that operates an extended van but his fees would be more than a $60 taxi ride for the four of us! With these pitiful options available, Marc was gracious enough to wait around for us after work instead. There was a little concern about fitting all our bags and bodies inside his little Suzuki AVERO (????), but with several months of experience under our belts we managed that too. Wendy greeted us all with huge hugs and lots of home made pizza, a great recept6ion on both counts. Marc’s mom was visiting from Fort Smith as well and filled us in on all the latest news from home.

After getting cozy and sorting out dirty laundry ect, we had the most wonderful time relaxing for the next week. We had bought a car through a broker in Montreal who got us exactly what we were looking for, (a Ford Freestyle) and for an excellent price. While we had tried to pre-arrange everything from Europe to have it waiting in Halifax for us, the brokers cronies messed everything up and we received the car about two weeks later than expected. We arranged with my Mom to mail our old car license plate, and had the motor vehicles in Yellowknife send us a new sticker. Shortly after buying the car we arranged from Europe to get full insurance and e-mail us the pink slip. All we needed was the actual vehicle… When we did finally get it we were all pretty happy (finally) but still made a list of deficiencies that needed warranty repairs. The Ford dealership down the street from Marc & Wendy’s house was swamped so we made an appointment to bring it in after spending a few days popping up to Newfoundland and back.

A long update

Friday, May 16th, 2008

This blog will have 3 sections section 1.Spain And section 2. More of France 3. London (We left the day after the castle to go to Spain). oh yeah ju st some news my fairytale is almost done. O.k here we go.
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Spain
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To those who have watched “My fair lady” know about the rhyme ‘the rain in Spain stays mainly on the plane”. Well I saw “the rain in Spain stays manly on….. US. Everyday we were in Spain it rained on… well us. We stayed in a hotel where the wall where so thin you could hear a fly buzz in the other room we think it was an old folks home before it was a hotel. On our second night there the people upstairs (who sounded as if there were downstairs) were making a ruckus. until (finally) my dear old dad (notice the old) went upstairs and gave them a warning. We went to see monastery. (not much happened in Spain.) The monastery was in the clouds so it was a long drive up with ears popping in all. When we got there we went to the church and I baptized myself in the rain (in the courtyard). As bill Cosby says “i once saw people being baptized in a swimming pool. My biggest worry is that the priest would leave me down there”.
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France
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We had a nice late sleep in today before We had our drive. The drive was about eighty minutes from the town we were staying at. then we got to a city called Barcelona it is home to the Gaudi’s House a church. It’s been under construction for over fifty years and it is only half done. Dad says It will be completed much sooner than Crazy Horse. We went to the tower it was really high. I did not like it (to high) the stair case down was a spiral stair case (creepy) we did not see the entire museum but it was cool.
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Next we went to the Picasso Museum. This was also cool. Most of the first thing inside I did not like because they were not abstract. I did not know that Picasso drew stuff that were not abstract. when we got to the abstract stuff I looked at them side ways and I saw a person not abstract (just not right colors) i did not point this out to dad mom or Alex I think I should have.
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My great granduncle was an 18 year old Private in the Canadian Army and was killed in battle just two weeks before his nineteenth birthday.
We first drove to the Vimy Canadian War Memorial we got a tour of the original tunnels and trenches used in world war 1. After tour we went to see a monument. on the walk up to the monument we saw maple trees the guard told us because of the climate they did not chance the same way they do in Canada. The monument had all the soldiers that were in world war one name one it. we looked for my great granduncle William James. it took a while so all i will say it We found him. After we found his name we headed to the Orchard Dump Cemetery that is where he was buried it took a while to find his grave but we did in the end. We took some pictures and video and departed back to our hotel.
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Tomorrow morning we are going to try to go and see Monet’s Gardens before heading to Paris. I Took a million pic with my new camera (batteries were included) and met a guy named Tim we bumped in to him a few time so we did get time time to tell him about the trip. I loved the gardens and if I was to recommend anything inn Europe I would recommend that (plus the parking is good!! Paris was cool. the first sight we saw was the louve. We only saw two amazing things. One the Mona Lisa you were aloud to take pictures I took four. It wasn’t all that some of the other paintings were better. The other was Venus de Milo. We also saw the Eifle tower at night and the view was nice (to tell you the truth I did not get a good view I was to busy wishing I was on the ground.
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London
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We arrived in London from the chunnel and phoned George to asked for directions. George was waiting for us about 2 blocks away from the apartmenta. (sorry about the a at the end of apartment i was just thinking about Italy) We went on a day tour and I fell asleep when we got to the first stop I was awake. the stop was a picture stop for big Ben which is funny because big Ben is not the clock it is the bell. So I have never seen big Ben. Our second stop was the queen calvary museum they were practicing for the queens annual birthday party. you were not aloud to stop and watch you had to continue on to the museum in the museum (it was a small museum) there was a dress up place i dressed up in all the costume’s. We got pics of me in all of them. The next stop was Buckingham palace not much to see really just a palace that you could not enter and a road. After that was lunch it was good i liked it. After lunch was The tower of London in old London the town was pretty nice there was a few people walking around answering questions and giving free tours. The crown jewels were nice I think they were small for the largest diamonds in the world. Our final stop was the London eye pretty High. We saw the mystery machine when we were leaving. The next big thing we did was…..I HAVE TO PUSH THE SPAMALOT !!!!!!! (aka Spamalot) Spamalot is another version of the holy grail. they still had the classic parts like the French taunter, I’m not dead and the pigeon argument but they had different scenes also like the lady of the lake and his name is Lancelot he likes to dance a lot and king Arther gets married to the lady of the lake. it was nice.
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P.S to any one how has the book wicked I would like to borrow it.

London

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

The Chunnel ride, while very cool in concept, was remarkably uneventful. Almost disappointingly so i would say. The super fast Eurostar Train went through a few tunnels first , which gave us a false start of thinking we were under the Atlantic. While it was fairly obvious when we actually did go under, there were certainly no announcements or notifications. I’m guessing that they just didn’t want panicky people to freak right out at the thought of being under ba-zillions of Gigaliters of body-crushing, breath drowning, saltier than thou, SEAWATER. We had pre-searched subway info on the net and knew where to head once disembarking from the chunnel train. We gave George & Monica a call to verify our arrival. I was somewhat surprised to hear George answer Monica’s cell phone since I had expected both of them to be at work. It turned out to be a Saturday with both of them lounging around their apartment waiting for us. We had completely lost track of the days of the week, yet again. Absolutely not the first time in the last several months and very likely not the last. From the subway exit, it was only a short few blocks walk to their apartment. Awesomely located is a huge understatement. just a couple blocks from Picadilly circus, there was easy subway access for anywhere we wanted to visit that was not within walking distance. Their generosity of hosting us was made even more profound by the quaint, cute, smallness of their studio apartment. We threw the kids on the kitchen floor every night, while Claudette & I took the hide-a-bed in the barely hide-a-bed sized living room. Separated by a small shelf of DVD’s was their bedroom stuffed in every nook and cranny with assorted “stuff” required for day to day living. This was awesome for us considering the alternatives were a one hour each way train ride to a cheaper hotel outside the city, or well over $500/night for two scrunched & gungy double bed rooms inn central London. Yikes!

After a few days, we had covered most of the London sights that are standard fare. There were many highlights, but the Londonn eye, (a Gynormous Ferris wheel) could pretty much look over all of ’em! We didn’t plan any trips outside the city, since we were just so short on time. We were thinking of trying visit Claudette’s Aunt inn the North, but she just happened to be in Canada while we were there in the UK. We had some great eats, and found a very reasonable pub (reasonable for London that is…) that would typically cost us around $65 for dinner. We had purchased 3 day passes for the tube as well as the same all day “Total London Experience” that we had sent Grandma Vi on. When we added up all of the attraction entry costs the expensive day tour worked out to be really worthwhile. Especially since they included bus transportation around to all the different places. The only downside was the heavy canvasing for tips from the bus driver at the end of the day. Having already paid $500 plus, we certainly weren’t in any sort of mood for the gouging of tips. We had a pretty tainted view of tipping by now, and figured that the bus driver needed to find a new job if he couldn’t make a go of it on his current wages.

There were all kinds of shows playing in London, and all kinds of “super, ultra discount” ticket booths hawking seats. As badly as I wanted to see a few different ones, Claudette kept our bank balance in check by planning for only one. We really wanted to see Stomp!,n but the last night we had available they were not showing. We then had to suffice with “Spamalot”. It was really great, and the kids were relatively well versed many of their skits as well as having watched the “Holey Grail” on the portable media player since I recorded it at Jim’s place in China. The theater was old and wonderful and oozing character from every old piece of shined wood. The only disappointment was the stuffy crowd. Either they hadn’t seen the movie EVER, (or they hadn’t seen it in thirty years and had forgotten everything) or else they all had had their mouths sewn shut. Ok, perhaps not that bad. Their were many points of muffled and restrained laughter, but not as much as the kids and I. Naturally, cameras and videotaping were strictly forbidden, but I turned it on anyways and took some still pics (with the night vision switch on for the darkened room) of Alex and Luke laughing their butts off.

We had a fabulous time in London checking out all the sights over those four days. It was not with a little excitement that we boarded our (last ever of the trip) flight from London, through Germany to Halifax. Off we went trucking along the streets from the apartment, with our suitcases in tow to the subway station. There were lots of odd looks as we walked by the early morning commuters. But we were carefree and laughing and looking forward to our long and presumably cramped economy, discount flight to home soil. YIPEE!!!!!

In france we speak A. French B. Italian C. Eneglish D. all of the before.

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

In France We speak D. Of course We haft to speak French. Dad forgets we are in France and speaks Italian and we all speak English Because it is our first language. So in France We speak them all.

We are somewhere in the south of France and we are staying in a nice hostel they have a dog and a cat who have made a truce. I was so happy when I found out that they had toys It was so much fun. I played with the dog for half an hour and he was very hyper.

We went to a castle on our second day there for some reason we felt more medieval at this castle than the last one. Me dad and Alex went and saw the torture device’s (I wish I did not it was creepy. Me and Grandpa saw the haunted house it was VERY Very VERY SCARY. Last but not least we saw the castle (we were walking around the town before.) It was o.k but I liked the haunted house better.

Really miss you Luke!!

Paris

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

Stunning, Amazing, Phenomenal; these words still can’t even come close to describing Paris. Culture and art oozing from every pore and orifice starts to get close, but it was still more, dare I say, “magical” just being there and breathing inn the lush majesty of this remarkable city.

While we had quite enjoyed driving around Europe, we all looked forward to Paris, and exchanging the car for subway rides everywhere. Claudette had booked a nice little hotel directly across the street from the Eurostar station (the chunnel train). It was old, and quaint; and thankfully had an elevator to get our bags up to the fifth floor. There was no restaurant in the place, but they served breakfast inn a little sitting area in the lobby. A croissant bun, a bit of cream cheese and some jams with juice, coffee or tea for $12!!! Dropping off the car was a synch, and they didn’t even balk at the smashed up bumper with mangled side panels and backup sensors. We submerged into an adjacent subway station, bought three day passes and then found our way across the city pretty easily.

We had a wonderful three full days wandering around Paris. We also managed to meet up with Greg & Monique (Claudette’s sister) again and toured a few places with them. The Louvre was particularly interesting. Not just because of the shear vastness of it’s amazing galleries and their world renown contents; nor only the stunning beauty of the buildings and architecture. Almost just as amazing as these aspects, was the accessibility of everything! Well, everything but the Mona Lisa (cordoned off and behind bullet proof glass) and the Venus De Milo (viewable only from behind a setback roped cordon). All other paintings, carvings and tapestries one could actually walk right up to for an extreme close-up view, (or even touch, if one was a “bad” person). We also managed to meet up with Claudette’s Aunt, Uncle & cousin again in Paris. Walking around downtown between our hotels and seeing the sights and all kinds of neat things in the nooks and crannies was great fun. There were numerous street performers out with all kinds of acts that we stopped to enjoy as well. The weather for pretty much all of our time in France was mostly sunny and very little rain. Paris did not disappoint either as we had all sunshine for our three and two half days there.

I believe that some senior French government tourism bureaucrat must have watched “French Kiss” several years ago and then set about a complete reformation of the services industry attitudes. The aloofness and extravagant arrogance in dealing with English speaking tourists that I’d so often heard of seemed non-existent to me. We had fairly enjoyable dealings with everyone and the infamous reputed superior attitudes must be a thing of the past. The only hint of conflict that I encountered was actually from the English customs/immigration agent at the chunnel train station as we departed. He was making fun of the ridiculous overbearing guards near their desk and the unnecessary hassle they were giving passengers. He then went on to elaborate with some other discouraging comments about the French people in general. And while the comments were pretty accurate, they were still pretty unnecessary.

Reflections After Nine Months.

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

We’re tired…. I’ve briefly mentioned this before, but thought I would try and explain better now. Partially at fault is the fact that Egypt (and a little bit India) really kicked the snot out of us, but mainly our brains are on information overload. We’ve met many other long term travelers on our route, and this seems to be incredibly common for any people NOT traveling alone. Singles seem to make a more relaxing experience for themselves, and seem to spend much of their time making friends and connections while seeing some of the sights. Couples, families or groups however seem to be more focussed on the sights since they’re not typically “lonely” and seeking excessive interaction with others. This is not to say that we didn’t strike up conversations with other strangers easily and often, because we absolutely did. In fact we made some exceptionally wonderful friends throughout the trip that way. It is simply that our primary goal is a little different than singles, and we wear ourselves (our brains really) out at a much faster rate.

Most people we’d spoken with who traveled long term in pairs or more had a breaking point of about nine to ten months. I was always surprised to hear this, and expressed time and time again that such a phenomena wouldn’t occur with my family. We were having the time of our lives! And there was no way we would consider cutting it short, or be “tired” of traveling after only three quarters of the way through such an amazing opportunity. In Egypt we met a great Aussie couple that we spent lots of time with at our eight and a half month mark. They had previously taken a year off to travel the world and had cut it short and went home at the nine month mark. He easily accepted my incredulous testimony that “that “ wouldn’t happen to us, with a knowing smile and the patience of Job. The fact is that the exact same thing has happened to us. We are enjoying ourselves, and are certainly prepared to finish up our last bit of planned itinerary, but we are museumed, churched and general monumented out. If the option to go home for a while (a month or a year, or whatever) and then finish the last three months later somehow presented itself, we would all jump at it.

Our itinerary was lucky to make this phenomena less of an impact. Our last foreign area is Europe, with the last month and a bit spent in our home country, reconnecting with friends, family and indeed, our own heritage and identities. This is the difference between winding up with good overall feelings or remembering our last portion (and thus a stronger impression embeded in our minds of the entire trip) as being not fun and a general pain in the backside. Anyone (families, pairs or groups that is) considering a similar trip would be wise to plan a route in a similar manner intentionally for the the emotional well being of yourselves. The weaning back to a “normal”, civil society (via Europe for us) might sound inflammatory, but is is a very useful step in rounding out the trip. I couldn’t possibly imagine going to South America now (near the end) and being able to give it a fair shake, and be as open minded and embracing of all it has to offer as I was when we traveled there much earlier in our trip.

Changes

We’ve been asked often about what we would do differently or what changes we would have made if we knew before what we knew now. I try to live life without regrets, and therefore tend to ignore most of those kinds of fruitless backtracking in my mind. The one and only thing I would change would be to have purchased an organized tour (GAP or Intrepid) for Egypt. That would have insulated us from much of the hassles and the less than desirable experiences we did have. There were many other little “bad” things that we could have done differently to our benefit, but I generally consider those to be part of the overall life (and learning) experience. Egypt was the only thing I would do differently. Oh, and as I was analyzing and reconciling these feelings, I gave the Aussie friend a call and joyfully proclaimed, “Yes Ron, I understand EXACTLY how you felt, and readily agree now too.” He was very gracious about my previous teasing behavior and we simply had a wonderful moment of shared enlightenment.

Just THE Two Cities, then Halifax!

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

I’d uploaded the incorrect file previously thus missing out on descriptions of a couple things. The South of France posted is repaired to it’s full glory now at:
http://weblog.jamesworld.ca/2008/04/29/south-france-again-bye-to-vi/

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We previously posted the inscribed text description from the Orchard Dump Cemetery, near Vimy in France. It was very poignant to tie in such a traditionally distant concept (World War One OR World War Two) with a family member. My Dad’s oldest Uncle on his own Fathers side was an 18 year old Private in the Canadian Infantry, (Manitoba Regiment) and was killed in battle just two weeks before his nineteenth birthday.

It was a lovely day in France. We first drove to the Vimy Canadian War Memorial where they give tours of the original tunnels and trenches used at that location in WWI. The tour was excellent and the monument was as amazing as any other beautifully carved edifice we’d seen on the trip. It took a little time to track down the J’s on the wall, but we soon found my Great Uncle William James listed. While the visit to Dieppe showed the large gun bunkers, everything we saw or read here emphasized the brutal soldier to soldier combat that was prevalent on the WW1 battlefield, (or trenches as it was). Canadian Cemetery Number Two was in between the monument and the Canada Heritage Interpretive Center (Don’t call them Parks Canada!!, Geesh…) and we stopped there to look at the graves and read the story. After that we headed to the Orchard Dump Cemetery, about 15km away. It was along a stretch of two lane road with steady traffic. This one was fairly large as well, and it took some footwork finding Private William’s grave. My Uncle Steve had done a great deal of research and footwork about his uncle. He sent us his name and summary, directions to the cemetery and right down to the grave map coordinates. What a huge help that was! We finally figured out the sections and then went down the row to find Great Uncle’s grave. We sat in the grass for a bit and read the register and reflected on “things”. After a while Claudette and I went to transcribe the plaque description before we took some pictures and video and departed back to our hotel.

Tomorrow morning we are going to try (for the THIRD time!) to go and see Monet’s house and extraordinary gardens in Giverny in the morning before heading to Paris. The first time we passed through on our way North to Dieppe was near the end of the day, and it was only open for another hour, but had a 45 minute-ish long lineup just to get in! The second time we had planned to go back to it a half hour South from the hotel the morning we were going to visit Dieppe. That morning we slept in and changed our mind, and decided to see it the next morning (Monday) before heading about 150 minutes away to the Vimy region. As we pulled up, the main parking lot was almost dead empty. Rather than being excited, Claudette and I knew immediately that this was a bad sign. Sure enough it was closed on Mondays. Thus we agreed to try again in a few days on our way back to Paris from Vimy. This was a heck of a detour, but we inherently knew it would be worthwhile. We will drop the car off in Paris and then spend three days taking the subway around to the sights before taking the Chunnel to London. Luckily Claudette booked our Paris hotel across the street from the Eurostar train station where we catch the Chunnel train. After three days in London we are booked to fly out to Halifax. While we’ve all really enjoyed the trip so far, we are all REALLY looking forward to hitting home soil!

The War on the Western Front, 1914-1918

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

Taken from a plaque inscription at the Orchard Dump Cemetery, Near Vimy, France.

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In the First World War the Western Front – a battle line extending from the Channel coast to Switzerland along which, four years, millions of men fought and died – was the principal and vital theater. Against the German army were arrayed the armies of the British Commonwealth, France, Belgium and, latterly, the United States. The first two months, a war of movement, saw the containment and partial repulse of the initial German thrust. There then followed three and half years of static trench fighting – war of attrition – during which defensive power was paramount. Neither side could effect a breakthrough and great battles were fought for small territorial gains. The last seven months were again a war of movement culminating in the Allied offensive, starting in August, which finally achieved the breakthrough leading to the armistice of November 11, 1918.

the six divisions of the British Expeditiary force which went to France at the outset in 1914 were deployed amongst the French Armies and played their full part from August 23 in the battles of Mons, Le Cateau, the Marne and the Aisne. The next three weeks, during which the battle line moved every day, were a highly critical period in which the German plan for ending the war at a stroke was foiled and the issue deferred.

In the first two weeks of October the BEF was moved from the central sector of the front to Flanders. this move shortened it’s lines of communication, which ran through Dunkirk, Calais and Boulogne, and enabled it to protect these ports which were vital both to its own supply and reinforcement and to the Royal Navy’s command of the Channel. Over the next four years, during which its strength rose to fifty British and twelve overseas Commonwealth divisions – Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, South African, Indian and troops from Newfoundland, the British West Indies and other Territories – the BEF progressively took over more of the Northern sector of the allied line and fought a series of battles of attrition of which the greatest was the First Battle of the Somme in 1916.

After the German offensives of late March to mid July 1918 had been contained the advance to victory began on August 8 with the battle of Amiens, continued on a broadening front with the Second Battle of the Somme and of Arras and, in September, extended to the Ypres Salient. The advance swiftly gathered momentum and by the day of the armistice the front line ran fifty miles or more Eastward of the starting points. Nearly 750,000 Commonwealth soldiers, sailors and airmen died on the Western front – 200,000 in Belgium and over 500,00 in France. They are commemorated upon headstones marking graves in over 1000 war cemeteries and 2000 civil cemeteries, or on one of the six memorials in Belgium and twenty in France which carry the names of more than 300,000 who have no known grave.

Orchard Dump Cemetery

The cemetery was started in April 1917 during the First Battle of Arras and was used until the following November. It was reopened after the armistice for reburials from the battlefields. It contains the graves of 2694 British, 326 Canadian and 1 South African soldiers and sailors.

The Dieppe Raid

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

TAKEN FROM A PLAQUE AT THE CANADIAN CEMETERY IN DIEPPE.
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The Dieppe Raid on 19th of August 1942 was the only large-scale assault on the coast of German occupied France prior to the allied landings in Normandy in June 1944. Entrusted largely to Canadian troops, it’s objective, to be accomplished within one day was not to hold a bridgehead, but to test the feasibility of seizing a harbor intact, then considered a prerequisite to the landing of the vast allied force needed to liberate Europe.

Of the six thousand soldiers who embarked from the English South coast 5000 were Canadian and the remainder, British Commando troops with 50 American rangers and 20 free French. Eight destroyers (7 British, 1 Polish) escorted them.

Although complete surprise was not achieved on the Eastern flank owing to an encounter between the landing craft and a German convoy, the initial stages of the raid saw some success. Assault groups landed, mostly unopposed, on the Western flank to disarm as many as possible of the German batteries and machine guns posted on the cliffs in advance of the main landing on the beaches and seaway. From orange beaches I and II 250 men from No. 4 commando surrounded, stormed and blew up the six 6 inch guns at Varengeville. Because of the earlier encounter with German shipping, only seven out of the twenty-three landing craft carrying No. 3 commando touched down, but 20 men on yellow II beach scaled the cliff and for more than 2.5 hours prevented any effective fore from the seven gun battery at Berneval. There 120 comrades on Yellow Beach I, where the Germans were by now alerted, were overwhelmed. The landing of 550 Canadians on Blue Beach was delayed and the Germans were able to pin down the whole of this force except for 20 men who reached the cliff top. A larger Canadian force of over 1000 men which landed on Green beach, part of it also delayed and part on the wrong side of the River Scie, nevertheless had considerable success, some units penetrating as far as Petit-Appeville.

By 05:20 hours, when the main Canadian force, with supporting bombardment from both sea and air, had started to land on Red and White beaches below the sea wall and on the espanade of the main sea front of Dieppe town, the firing on the flanks had brought the German defenses in the central sector to full readiness. From batteries and machine gun and mortar posts concealed in and protected by the cliffs a concentrated fire was directed upon the landing craft and troops on the beaches below. Little could be done to support the infantry or stop the German fire. Twenty-seven tanks provided some covering fire from behind the seawall; but the destroyers’ 4 inch guns could not suppress the batteries which the flank attacks had failed to reach. Bombing and cannon fire in frequent air sorties, at heavy loss, gave only temporary relief and the infantry, apart from a few groups which got some way into the town, could make no headway despite the commitment at 06:40 hours of reserves which included part of the Royal Marine Commando.

At 09:00 hours the force commander ordered withdrawal. After some delay landing craft went in under air cover; but many were sunk. Few of the men awaiting evacuation could get to those crafts which reached the beaches and many were taken prisoner. Shortly before 14:00 hours the raid was over.

The royal air force and the Royal Canadian Air Force had been heavily engaged throughout in bombing and cannon fire attacks and on reconnaissance, all under constant attack by German aircraft; United states, New Zealand, Polish, Norwegian, Czech, French and Belgian squadrans also took part. 106 allied aircraft were lost and 167 air crew, including 67 pilots were killed. The Royal Navy had 550 casualties, many from the crews of landing craft of which 33 were lost. The destroyer HMS Berkly was sunk. the commandos had 247 casualties of whom 43 were killed, while the Canadians suffered over 900 dead and lost nearly 1900 prisoners. Nevertheless the lessons learned at Dieppe were of inestimable value when the time came in June 1944 for the successful allied landings in Normandy which were to lead to final victory within a year.

Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery.

The 955 burials in this cemetery comprise:
Canada 707
United Kingdom 232
New Zealand 4
Australia 2
India 1
Other Nationalities 6
Entirely unidentified 3

Of these 783 were killed in the Dieppe raid, the remaining 172 being casualties of other operations. Some of the dead from the raid are buried in Brookwood military cemetery in England; others who have no known grave are commemorated on the Brookwood memorial.

Daytrip to Dieppe

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

While in Dieppe today we followed the well posted signs to The Canadian Cemetery. It’s so difficult to tie in the significance past wars, and particularly the two world wars, to our family, especially since it was over even before my mother was born. The cemetery was quite lovely, and adjacent to some sleepy houses on the edge of town on one side, and rolling pastures on the other three sides. While we reverently walked up and down all of the rows reading the headstones, I was especially pleased with two things. First was how well maintained the area was. All the grass recently cut and all of the headstones were rooted to long rows of weed free dirt with all sorts of flowers and perennials planted in it. Secondly were the other visitors. During our two plus hours there, about six other “groups” or families came by for a total of about 14 other people. Granted it was a Sunday afternoon, but it was still pleasing to see so many local French people come out and walk around for whatever their reasons were. We also found a full register and guest book which made for interesting reading. There were many visitors from Alberta in the past month which was pretty cool. After leaving we drove to the cliff tops for an ocean view. There the old German gun bunkers are bricked up, but it was a stark contrast to the stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean. Their thick, gray concrete impassiveness helped really sink home to Alex & Luke (indeed, all of us realistically) how formidable a task the soldiers had in taking back Europe.

We are heading in two days to Vimy where my Great Uncle is buried in a WWI cemetery. My Uncle Steve had done a good bit of research digging up his information and readily sent it to us. So we look forward to making that somewhat distant yet vastly important family connection there. At this cemetery today on a plaque was the story of the Dieppe attack, and the final chapter of the lives of over 900 men buried there. We grabbed the laptop and retyped that story to post here. Every November 11 we think or say to ourselves “LEST WE FORGET” and yet I know I do. Posting this brief story on our blog is our meager contribution for our own remembering, and hopefully that of our friends and family reading as well…

Realizations and Philosophies

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

I’ve come to the realization after traveling around the world, that it really doesn’t matter where you go and who you meet; we are who we are! This reality stuck me as I gazed upon these beautiful house with their view of the Atlantic ocean and realized that I liked what I was doing and what I had done but there is no place like home!

Now that my philosophizing is done back to reality. We have been in Europe for just over a month, and the countdown (10 Days) to returning to Canada is on. Eventhough we’ve spent quite a bit of time in Europe with family (Rick’s mom, Vi and my dad, Ray) and then met my sister Monique and her husband Greg, and Aunty Viv, Uncle Chris and my cousin, Mik; I think we’ve hit the wall, and the four of us universally agree that we looking very forward to getting back home. Also I don’t think our credit cards can handle much more. Even though I know that we’ve been averaging about $100 Euro/night for a room, it’s the food which is outrageous, as an example in Euros (last time I checked the exchange was Can. $1.83for 1 Euro) it’s usually $25-40 for breakfast, $35-50 for lunch and $85-130 for supper. I’ve decided that my coping mechanism will be not to check my credit card balances until we’re back in Canada.

As some of you may have heard already we are now the proud owners of a 2007 Ford Freestyle Limited AWD in gold (Um, not sure if I’ll like the gold part). So we have finally decided that we are driving across Canada and into part of the US. (Rick HAS to see Crazy Horse in South Dakota and that was the only way he’d agree to drive across the continent.) So with that said, we are OPEN TO ANY INVITATIONS for free beds, couches, and/or floor space since we have no money.

Here’s the quick plan so far; land in Halifax (visit Marc & Wendy) visit Cape Breton on our way to Newfoundland (find someone to take us in there) it’s also the only province I’ve never been to. Visit Frank & Sylvia in the Miramichi in New Brunswick, then on to Quebec City, before visiting Ottawa. From there we will probably head into the states (returning to Canada in Manitoba or Saskatchewan) or possibly staying in the US all the way to Vancouver Island before returning through BC to Edmonton, where we will send a couple of weeks before returning home mid July.

Anyway hope you’ve enjoyed my little rant and catch up post! Take care and miss you all, Claudette

Happy (belated) Birthday to me!

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

And also happy belated birthday Reem! And also happy belated birthday to Jessica! we are out of Spain and back in France now. I had a good B-day, but we had to wait til 900 for the resturant too open to have supper, because every where else people were smoking or the prices were WAY out of our range. and that was in Madrid. We dropped Grandpa Ray and Grandma Vi off at different airports and different counrtys but now we are alone again. And we have left Spain. The other day we got to see more relatives though! We saw Aunty Viv, Uncle Chris, Mik, Aunty Monique and Uncle Greg. We got to catch up with each other half way aroud the world! I had lots of fun and we all had tons of cheese and Baguettes. We also went to a wine tasting place too.Today we went to le pont D’avignon (the Bridge of Avignon) from the song. We danced underneath it because it cost money too go on top to dance. Now we are heading to another little town somewhere. We might be able to meet Aunty Monique and Uncle greg in Paris. I found out that if I won a million dollars and had to sort of waste it on something in every country in Europe, In Italy I would buy lots of Masks and in France I would come and buy smelly soap.
S’all for now
Alex

More Relatives Than We Could Shake A Stick At

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

After dropping off Grandma Vi in Toulon (near Nice), we headed North to Orange to meet up with Claudette’s Aunt, Uncle & cousin as well as her sister and hubby. It was really great to see more family again. Plus the town had a couple of pretty unique monuments. We visited and drank wine in the best French tradition at Chris’ sisters place and got caught up on all sorts of news every which way. The following day we then went to a winery for a tour. Those who were bilingual translated as best they could here and there for those of us who had blank faces at all the wrong places during the commentary. After the process description was the samplng. Extensive sampling I should say… They wasted a pretty penny in taste testing, but between the four “families who bought some bottles in the end, the family run winery pulled in about 400 euro’s. Not too bad for a 90 minute and 1.5 liter of sampling I should think. Some of us had more samples than others of us. Pictures will be posted in the next week or so once that camera disc is finalized… We had a great day and a bit all together and then everyone went off in different directions. We also made plans to meet up again in Paris since we are all there at the same time again.

We stuck around and found a hotel in Orange right across from the ancient Roman Amphitheater wall. The previous day we had met Chris & Viv and Mik at the arch in the center of town. This was pretty cool as arches go, but we didn’t really know any history to go with it. This was the only hotel we had booked thus far that didn’t have parking available. We were simply thrown to the wolves. We miraculously found one only a couple blocks away (easy rolling distance for the suitcases) and paid for as much as we could to suffice the next two nights. Very fortunately there was a holiday in the middle, and the ticket issuing computers take this into account (cool!) and so we would not have to come out and “plug the meter” every two hours for the duration of our stay.

With a little trepidation we embarked the next day on the amphitheater tour. This is one of only three remaining ancient Roman Aphm’s that have their backdrop wall intact. This monument was operated by a private company, and the entrance price was very reasonable. Even better was that fact that EVERYONE automatically got an audioguide. (see end of this post for a description). We were all pleasantly surprised and considered it a very worthwhile visit.If in the area, this is another very worthwhile site to visit. They even have performances there on a regular basis, which would be amazing to see and hear. The acoustics were beautiful, and while the stone seating was not great, the ambiance more than made up for it!

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An AUDIOGUIDE is a simple little telephone handset shaped device which gives specific commentary. It has a handle section with a keypad in the middle and a speaker at one end. There are noted stations along the area of this programed guided tour. At station 1 the user need only enter “1” on the keypad and press play. An extensive narrative about that specific point on the tour plays while the user listens. While going along a tour, there are also tertiary explanations, such as a more vivid description of what society in general was like at the time, or a reading of an excerpt of a play. The best thing is that the tour will be self paced for the user. Also, many languages can be easily programmed into different handsets thus vastly increasing the audience potential. We had never before used them, because we often had a guide, and everywhere else we’d seen them, the audioguides were extra money to rent.