Two weeks ago Svenja and I borrowed her mom’s camping van and headed off for an overnight trip. Being the history nerds that we are, we decided on a quick trip out to Arras in France and Ypres in Belgium, both of which found themselves right in the middle of the brutal fighting of the Western Front during the First World War.
Highlights of the trip, Day 1:
- Breakfast at Ikea in Belgium;
- France’s unfortunate tendency of turning beautiful marketplaces into thoroughfares and parking lots for noisy cars and noisier motorbikes;
- Finding a camp site in the middle of the night in the French countryside, and waking up the next morning to a gorgeous, idyllic view.
Highlights of Day 2:
- Ypres is a new city, with everything being built of fresh, crisp stone. This makes it hard to reconcile the modern city with the famous images of the devastated, flattened town;
- There were poppies everywhere in the city, making it clear that Ypres relies heavily on WW1 tourism. This led Svenja to observe at one point, “It’s like the Second World War didn’t even happen”;
- Ypres heavily markets itself towards British tourists, which makes sense, given their proximity as well as nostalgia for Flanders (Canadians were more visible in Arras);
- Travelling with a massive head cold is no fun, especially when you’re feverish and half-delirious. Luckily Svenja was a champ in putting up with a grumpy Tylor!