Saturday 2 July 2016
This is the start of our two weeks' holiday in Europe. We have a rough plan to drive through southern Belgium to the top of the Romantic Road in Germany, following this south. Then we'll visit the Black Forest before returning to Le Shuttle via France.
I brought the van home last night, which allowed us to load up. Up early, we were on the road by 0630, just as well given the M20 was closed due to an accident, resulting in us having our lunch and a wee parked up on the motorway for nearly an hour! But we arrived at the Shuttle in plenty of time and were in France by 1630 local time. I'd planned our first stop in Belgium, about 1.5 hours' drive from Calais. This was at Taverne De Dreve, a café on the edge of Polygon Wood, scene of several key WW1 battles. On the drive in we passed several cemeteries. The owner of the café has a passion for what's known as the "Underground War", the shafts and tunnels dug by both sides into no man's land. He's excavated many, including the one covered in the Time Team TV programme. He's particularly passionate about the part played by the Australian 5th Division and many Aussies visit the café to see his museum and leave their own thanks. We sat outside with a strong Trappist Beer, enjoying the warm sunshine. I went in to order some food and the owner saw my interest in some of his photos (as did a visiting Aussie), so we both had a personal tour of his museum upstairs. This included loads of items found in the excavated tunnels, including 3 stacked wooden bunks which still showed the scorch marks from the candles - absolutely fascinating. We enjoyed our pasta with another beer, before taking a walk through Polygon Wood, which was planted up in 1923. The photos in the café showed this area as a muddy wasteland before that, having suffered the constant shelling, attacks and counter-attacks during the war. It had been a long day so, despite the evening sunshine, we were ready for a brew and an early night, ready to continue our journey tomorrow.