Saturday, September 1, 2012

Thursday, August 30

It is cool and cloudy this morning and we are both slow getting started. After yesterday, we are not willing to do another marathon drive so we decide to visit Verdun and the Verdun Battlefield. The GPS takes us to Verdun about 30km away over a road that runs along a high East/West ridge. To our right, we can look down on the Voie Sacre, the Sacred Road, over which all the supplies, men and material for the French side of the Battle of Verdun were transported. On your map, it is D603.

After a stop at a French cemetery on the edge of Verdun,
we decide to head out to the Ossuary of Douaumont. This impressive building was built in the 1920's as a memorial place for the dead of the battle and as a repository for the myriad human bones they were finding as they started to clean up and reclaim the battleground. In its lower area, viewable through small windows, all around the building just above ground level, one can look in and see the bones of an estimated 130,000 men, both French and German, who died in the 1916 conflagration.
The building is undergoing cleaning and restoration of the exterior and is partly covered with scaffolding. There is a small visitor center and for €4 you can view a 20 minute film about the battle and the building and then tour the chapel-like interior and, if young and strong, climb to the top of the tower. Carolyn passed but Dick went in and found the experience very moving.

After working at taking some good photographs that did not include scaffolding and or the portion of the national cemetery in which they are reworking the landscaping,
we drove up to the location of the Village of Douaumont, a Destroyed Village.
There were nine village in the are of the battle that were completely destroyed and never rebuilt. The low ridge of hills NE of Verdun, which were the site of this epic struggle have been reforested but not reclaimed. The ground, where it has not been touched since the battle, is churned and covered with overlapping craters. One estimate says that the warring armies fired over 60,000,000 artillery shells during the battle. There are signs everywhere forbidding one getting off the roads or trails; "Access Interdit; Danger de Mort."

We visit Fort Douaumont and walk around the outside but do not take the €7p/p tour of its galleries.

The Germans captured this fort, built in 1885, early in the battle and held it until October 24, 1916. By the way, the Battle of Verdun lasted for 300 days after starting on February 21, 1916 with the surprise German assault. Douaumont was shelled almost constantly during this period and the exterior shows it.

There are many square miles of this battlefield

but we have seen what we came to see and drive down into the city in hopes of catching a tour tram but we miss the last one of the day by a few minutes. So, we drive into the center of the city, luck into a parking place, and stroll along the quay above the river and take some photos.

We want to get to the cathedral but every turn on the GPS route is blocked by construction or do not enter signs so we give it up
and head for an Intermarche store to do some much needed grocery shopping.
€77.30 ($97) later we are well stocked for the next few days. We bought some lamb chops, two bottles of wine, a bottle of Jack Daniels and other basics including green vegetables and fruit.

Earlier, before heading into the center of the city, we had stopped at Chez Mamie to check their serving times. Carolyn hit two bakeries across the street and scored a home run with four pieces of Quiche Lorraine, two strawberry tarts and one plumb tart plus a small pizza. We had toyed with going back to Chez Mamie for dinner after the grocery stop but it is 6PM and they are not open. They are open midday (lunch) and evening (dinner) every day but Tuesday and we guess they will open around 6:30PM as we were there Sunday night a little after 7PM and one family was being served as we entered.

We are both foot sore and tired so we decide to postpone Chez Mamie for another night and head back to our cottage. It is breezy and cool but we sit outside for drinks and some Blue Brie cheese, a surprise purchase as we thought it was plain blue cheese...that happens when you can’t read the packages!... and some Holland Gouda. Both excellent. Dinner is some of the quiche, a salad and we split a strawberry tart.

After cleaning up, we do a little blog work and read. There is a thunderstorm working over toward Verdun and the lighting is pretty but it is so far away that we cannot hear the thunder. Carolyn does some laundry in our tiny washing machine (about the size of a large trash compactor) and bed calls.

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