The Edmonton Tourist Goes to Belgium!

The last time we spoke of my trip to Europe, we went to Vimy Ridge.Ā  We all slept soundly laid awake for hours in Calais that night. Several farm fields over from the camp ground was a party that sounded like a rockin’ good time! It lasted all night and finally broke up around 6:00 AM, just in time for our Muppet filled caravan to greet the new day and head to Bruges, Belgium. Over breakfast my parents commented on the noise that night – and by noise they didn’t mean Chatterbox puking on the carpet, the meant the Farmville party next door. Apparently it was quieter sleeping at the Barcelona airport where they had picked up my sister weeks before…but I digress…

On the agenda today was Dunkirk and Ypres on the way to Bruges. I had heard of Dunkirk, the great battle that slaughtered Allies by the thousands. Churchill sent a plea out to every one who had row boats, fishing boats or other water craft to sail across the English Chanel and rescue who they could. The kind of story where you expect John Wayne to show up in. Except, Hollywood didn’t have a hand in this tale.

We arrived at Dunkirk early morning. The sun was shining in the cool morning air. We walked along the road to the War Memorial and Cemetery. What got my attention was the large square stones lining the sidewalks. They represented the thousands of soldiers known only to God. It was difficult for the Offspring to walk around and look at the names and ages of the young boys buried beneath the head stones. It was clear, they were ready to see parts of Europe that did not involve any wars of the 20th Century. A difficult task considering the neighborhood we were in, as well as the rest of the Muppet Show Cast was very interested in seeing more war memorabilia. It was their Grandfather who saw the fear in Chatterboxes eyes, and said, “Sweetheart, I’m sick of war stuff too, this will be our last day looking at war things.” Thanks Dad for understanding.

We all piled into the Caravan and headed towards Ypres on a Sunday. Unlike here, most places in Europe close on a Sunday….swell. The Offspring would be so pleased…

As soon as we crossed the border into Belgium, we saw an old wooden windmill. You think anyone would stop so we could take a picture? No, sorry…maybe the next time we see one. For the record, that was THE ONLY old wooden windmill we would ever see.

The arrival into Ypres was fairly amazing. We were looking for yet another War Memorial. Only this time, we drove through it! And NO, I don’t mean my Dad crashed into it, that didn’t happen while we were in the caravan – PHEW! It was a tunnel like structure.

I remember hearing my Honey’s excited voice, “WE ARE DRIVING THROUGH IT!” Cool! So we had arrived to the Menin Gate. It was impressive! It records the soldiers of the British Empire without graves. We walked through it, looked at names and saw my son’s name. Although I knew that wasn’t really my son, it still weakened my knees. At that moment I knew I never wanted to actually see my son’s name on a wall. I was ill.

We moved our way up to the grassy park that was high above Yrpes. I needed air, I didn’t share my feelings with my family. My honey wanted to keep exploring but I needed to change my view. Like my Offspring, the time had come for me to end the War Memorial visits. It was starting to affect me.

As we climbed into the sunshine I saw the most beautiful view. It was enough to change my focus. I suggested to The Muppet Show Cast that we head down towards the street level and explore the town for a while. Besides, I needed chocolate. I was in the country where the best chocolate in the WORLD is made! (If my Boss happens to read this post, FYI it is not Guatemala!)

The street we explored was call Victor Hugo – cool name for a street. Being Sunday, everything on Victor Hugo was closed except the Church, the 16 Pubs, and the Chocolate Shop! Sweet joyous chocolate, open on a Sunday? I must have died and gone to heaven! I spotted the shop from down the street. I lost track of the Muppets around me. It was like my destiny flashed before my eyes and showed me my future. I was destined to walk into that shop.

The Owner walked in from the behind the magic curtain – likely wasn’t really magic but to me it was. She greeted us and I spoke English to her hoping she was fluent. SUCCESS! She explained to me the wondrous delights that were displayed under the glass. We talked about how she hand makes them herself in the back, no factory bulk chocolate here! IT really was heaven and I was there to experience it! I asked advice on purchasing a variety. I needed some for my team, some for honey’s office, some for my boss and an EXTRA LARGE FABULOUS BOX for me! Honey bought a small sample bag to eat instead of lunch. The total for 5 boxes of handmade, the most delicious chocolates ever, was 15 euros. 15!!!! As I sit writing this I wish I bought myself 6 more boxes. Oh well Hind sight is 20/20.

As we strolled back to the caravan with chocolate smeared all over our faces, I thought about how thankful I was that I had my family to share this experience with and how it felt not to have my son on the wall.

Next stop, Bruges.

 

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11 thoughts on “The Edmonton Tourist Goes to Belgium!

  1. A real eye-opening day (not the chocolate high your all thinking of, and yes, those boxes DID make it to Cdn soil).
    I now know why the Custom’s folks warn you over and over again about bringing foreign dairy, etc back into the country. If the rest of the populace got a TASTE of that dairy it would decimate our dairy industry.

    As for the somber part.
    Far too many headstones that read…….

    Cpl J. Name
    Age 19

    2 others Known Unto God

    All on one stone.

    They may have been mates that died together or they just couldn’t identify the others.
    I still get choked up remembering all those markers.

    My dad was there, not Dunkirk, but later in Italy and Holland. I feel very fortunate that he made it back, mostly alive. We never knew what PTS was until it was far too late for that generation.
    Thanks guys.

    1. That was the last day of sobering moments, dad was true to his word. As the days moved on, they were filled with more laughter and very interesting things! šŸ™‚

  2. I realize those were sombre moments but i also know that when Remembrance Day comes around each year your family will truely understand why we need that day for our soldiers. They gave so much . . . .and all we have to do is Remember . . . . . .Remember what we have but most importantly . . . .remember what they gave so we could have.

    1. I agree, November 11 will hold much more meaning for everyone. For the first time, I will be much more empathetic in regards to the mothers. It was quite the moving experience. Something you just don’t get from books or movies.

  3. While you were in Belgium I was wondering if you might have bumped into my cousin Sean who lives there, he’s in the horse business…. LOL… was just reading your posting about “my mothers, brother, sisters, cousin… or something like that. Actually I do have a cousin in Belgium – he buys and sells high-end horses for customers throughout Belgium and Germany and the U.S. Interesting career. The photos on your site are amazing. I’ve never been to Europe but I’m an old historical building kind of guy, just love it, and the architecture is so amazing all throughout Europe. Guess I’ll have to go visit Sean sometime!!

    1. Sean?!?! Hmmm Was he the tall Irish Guy? Hmmm Maybe? You should have told me before to look out for him, I would have asked around and with my luck I would have found him šŸ™‚ When you go visit Sean, tell him I say hi!
      Thanks for the nice words about my photos. Me and my iPhone will travel šŸ™‚

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