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I can see the look of horror on people’s faces here when we tell them we are driving from London to France for a long weekend. I guess it does seem a bit bonkers until you consider the amount of stuff required to get our little family from point A to B and the fact that having our car means we can get off the beaten track.
On our last trip we spent time exploring the Picardy region north of Paris via Le Touquet on the Normandy coast.
After smooth sailing on the Dover to Calais crossing we headed west to the seaside town of Le Touquet where I was delighted to see a vast expanse of white sand with white capped waves rolling in from the channel. Le Touquet has been a popular resort for wealthy Parisians and British nobility for generations however lately tourists are drawn there by a concentration of art deco architecture. Honestly I didn’t find too many extremely charming things about the town however the kids enjoyed the ever present carousel (every french town has one it seems), their frites and some quaint beach attractions.
Staying in a Chateau!
Travelling south after lunching on moules frites (yum), we drove through the Somme region where some of the most horrific battles of World War One were fought towards our home for the next few days.. Chateau de Lucy, just outside of St Quentin. Gorgeous isn’t she?
The Chateau is currently being lovingly restored by an English couple who rent out some of the rooms. Our apartment included a huge roll top bath and views over the front lawn and river Oise flowing behind the Chateau. We all felt quite special. The Chateau has an interesting history as it provided headquarters for the German army during both world wars – an era of history that is ever present in this part of France.
World War Memorial for Australian forces
As ANZAC day had just passed we felt it fitting to pay a visit to the town of Villers-Bretonneux where the Australian National Memorial for WWI in France is located. While the focus for ANZAC Day is generally the events that took place on the Gallipoli beaches it is sobering to remember that Australian casualties on the Western Front totalled over 181,000 of whom more than 46,000 died – almost six times the number at Gallipoli.
The memorial is simple and beautiful perched on a hill overlooking the Picardy countryside. I wasn’t expecting to be moved as much as I was though it is hard not to be given the sheer number of people who lost their lives fighting so far away from home. The town of Villers-Bretonneux wears its pro Australian sentiment proudly. Australian forces recaptured the town from the Germans in 1918 with significant casualties. You can see murals of kangaroos and other Australiana and visit cafes named after places in Australia. I definitely recommend a visit.
Over the next few days we discovered many other aspects of France’s Picardy region which I’ll cover in my next post but the shadow of war is omnipresent in this region. Everywhere there are small memorials to battles fought and lives lost. I felt and still do feel incredibly grateful to have lived a peaceful life so far.
Read more about this fascinating region of France in part 2 of my update on our trip to Picardy.
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