It had rained very hard overnight, and the massive thunderstorm that accompanied it had shut down some of the power to the camp. As a result at about 3am this morning we were awoken by the fridge alarm beeping telling us that it was not working.
Not sure why (at that stage) we reset it a couple of times to 240 volts, However it still complained, beep – beep – beep and we finally reset it to run off the vehicle battery (12 volt) power with the promise to work it out in the morning then headed back to bed.
Rowena quickly got back off to sleep but it took me hours and when I finally did it seemed only minutes later that I was again awake and it was day light.
The rain had now gone but it was still a bit chilly.
Still that could work out fine, as we were planning another walking tour. Within ten minutes of the campsite (according to the camping guide)is the “Citadelle Souterraine”. This was where 10,000 French soldiers saw out and fought a large part of The First World War. The Citadelle is huge. It was built in the late 1800s as part of a massive defence system and that is what it was used for between 1914 and 1918 (well mainly from 1916 to 1918).
The walk was quite literally only ten minutes. The first thing we encountered were very high, substantial stone walls that extended a very long way either side of us and towered over us at least 15 metres high in places. In a large open area in front of part of the wall were a number of statues of (I guess) local hero’s. None were known to me but from their clothing it appeared that they ranged from WW1 back to the mid 1600’s.
We almost walked past the entrance to the citadelle, as it was not well signed. An opening in the wall that was once a portal to a part of the citadelle, introduced by French, English, American and German flags and a couple of WW1 field artillery pieces…….. painted white.
A small door gave entry to about 20 metres of non-descript corridor which led to an intersection of two tunnels and a ticket booth. 12 euros to gain entry then on a further ten meters to some seating and three or four flat screen televisons showing an exert from an old French WW1 movie that involved the Verdun area and the Citadelle itself. This was on a loop and repeated every ten minutes. Three repeats and the attendants called for six people taking the “English Language Tour”. Two of those six were Rowena and I and we were all seated on a six seater (funnily enough) self propelled vehicle.
We then went on a tour of the tunnels complete with filmed pieces from various soldiers and officers about life at the front and in particular in the citadelle. It showed the accommodation, the cooking areas, hospital and (at various stages) other associated activity with the war. This included a mock up of a flight over the trenches in an open cockpit airplane, a tour through the trenches (a very good lifestyle model with a video screen that moved ahead of you on its own tracks showing soldiers in the trenches) and the devastation of a trench collapsed under a direct shell hit.
The tour ended with a look at the ceremony of honouring the remains of eight unidentified soldiers from the eight main battle fields. They now lie at rest below the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
From the tunnels we were lead on foot through a museum of memorabilia and back out into the present day world.
The trip was very well done and well worth the money. A lot of thought and planning had been put into the displays and the video presentations that were easily able to be presented in the four or five languages used on the tour.
Outside the day was becoming a little bit warmer and was very noticeable after the 7 degrees temperature of the tunnels. We wandered further along the walls and found ourselves in the old town, which was much of a much with what we now have come to expect from the “Old Towns”. We found a nice little patisserie and treated ourselves to a couple of slices of baked custard flan (no prunes still) and some bread and (with our baked treats in hand) headed back to the camp.
There is one thing I need to mention about French places, big or small. There is dog shit, everywhere. There are a large number of dogs in France (the little ones that walk ahead on a retractable lead) and they are allowed to crap where ever they like.
It is such in Paris, as it was in Nice, and Bayeux, and even here in Verdun.
It is a negative (amongst lots of positive today) but a reality in France that was not so else where, even in Spain and Italy where there were also a lot of dogs. Germany has huge numbers of dogs (they are in every restaurant and often travel on the buses and trains with their owners) but rarely is there piles of what they make, drop and leave so freely in France.
There that said and out of the way, I have only one other major gripe.
There is one at the camp. (In fact there seems to be one at every camp). She spends a large amount of the time in and around the pool and can be heard in every part of the camp.
It is the only negative that we can say about this camp site, which is very clean, and organised, and cheap….. yah!
Oh. One more thing that is a little uncomfortable. The outside urinals. Tacked on the side wall of the sanitary block, next to one of the main roads through the camp, are five urinals (the bowl hanging on the wall kind). There is nothing around them in the way of screens or walls. One can’t see anything as the users (and there were quite a few) are pushed up with their plumbing hidden by the bowl and their backs to the world. No different from having a pee against a tree I suppose, but still…… odd.
Those small points out of the way, today has been a corker. A good walk (no steps this time). Some baked goodies (lunch and desert for tea) and beautiful surroundings with nothing to do but eat, sit, read and siesta, which (after the previous night) I happily do.
Waking up in time for tea (yum lunch, sleep, tea) and then its off to the bar area where there is free Wifi. A laptop, under a canopy, outside the bar which serves reasonably cheap wine and beer, a gentle breeze, screamers now in bed, and no dog crap anywhere near. What more could anyone want?
Bed calls and tomorrow we leave France (possibly forever) and head back to Germany via Luxembourg. That is a bit sad, but with so much left to do and see the sadness only throws a slight shadow over the bright light of adventures yet to come.