Today the six of us are off on our own private trip (hosted by Quasimodo tours) to some of the major First World War battlefield sites around Ypres. Despite four years of bloody fighting and all the lives lost, the front line around the town moved back and forth littke more than 4 miles between 1914-18. Here’s the map we’ve been given as a guide.
Our first stop. The German war cemetery at Langemark. 44,000 Germans (and two British) soldiers are buried here. 1000s of the Germans are 18 year old volunteers who had less than a months drill training before being sent to the front
To be honest, today has been too much to absorb and try and blog about at the same time. We’ve visited a vast array of sights on what was a fantastic and informative tour, but that was also deeply moving. The sheer scale of the slaughter and destruction is hard to take in. I’ll blog about this in detail in the future. Right now I’ll just leave you with a few pictures from the day.
There’s not much of a blog from me today as we’ve been far too busy exploring Bruge. We went out at 08:00 this morning and didn’t get back to the hotel before 6. After a short break and chance to freshen up we were out again to enjoy a lovely, relaxed Greek meal at the Olive Tree restaurant. I’ll write about our experiences at greater length in the next couple of days, but tonight it’s time for an early night as we’re off on a tour of some of the places with links to World War 1. I’ve never visited places like Ypres, or any of the battlefield sights, but all of our group want to and for me it’s more than a passing interest, as my maternal Grandfather fought in that war as a soldier in the Scottish regiment known as the ‘Black Watch’. I’ll try (if I can) to post a few bits from the day, but if not. It can wait until another time. In the meantime, here’s a couple of pictures from today.
We’re both up, scrubbed, fed, packed and waiting for the taxi to take us to Halifax station to meet up with our friends for the first leg of our trip to Bruges in Belgium….
Leg one. Having met up with the others we’re now on Grand Central’s 08:09 from Halifax to Kings Cross, a direct train service from Bradford that started running in 2010. Nowadays their 4 five- car trains are packed, even in First Class. Don’t let this picture fool you, just look at how many seats are reserved which will be occupied in the next few stops…
The six of us are spread throughout the train as tickets were booked separately. It’ll be the same on Eurostar, so the only time we’ll meet up is between trains or in the buffet on the Eurostar!
We had a mad scramble in London as some people had breakfast (which was late coming) then confusion at Eurostar check-in as they were overwhelmed by the weight of numbers. With the amount of baggage folk carry nowadays the number of staff and machines available were overwhelmed, leading to stress all round. Passport control was just as swamped. Despite checking in the required 45 mins before we still had to be ‘fast-tracked’ to get to our train on time. This led to confusion as the group got split up. Despite this, we made it and we’re just pulling out now.
Our train is one of the original Alstom built TMST sets, albeit a refurbished one. Our coach (16) only has a handful of empty seats
16:00. (Belgium time).
About to arrive in Brussels. It’s been an interesting trip I’ll blog more about shortly once we change yrains, but suffice to say these old trains are tired, despite the refurbishment.
So much for updating the blog on a nice, quiet Belgian train. This is us on a double-deck train from Brussels Midi to Brugges. It’s rammed!
– and relax! We’ve arrived at our hotel in Brugges, checked in and freshened up. Now it’s time to explore. First stop is a liytle var kbown to Tony (Allan) that I’ve just heard some very good things about. According to anither friend it’s like walking into “The Leaky Cauldron” from the Harry Potter films. Expect pictures shortly!
I’ve had little time for blogging today as (for once) we actually had a lie-in. After a week of getting up at 06:00-07:00 it was lovely not to have the alarm set. Mind you, we also had a fairly late night as a small group of us went to a friends for a meal last night. Forget the Tories Brugges group, this was a chance for a select six of us to get together and have a lovely meal at Tony Allan’s and chat about our own visit to that fair city.
We had a lovely evening and didn’t miss much by getting up late as the morning was (literally) a washout due to the weather. It’s yet another day where it’s chucked it down, so much so that I didn’t get out for my constitutional stroll until this evening when the wet weather abated. Instead, the pair of us have spent most of the day getting on with chores, not exactly the rock and roll lifestyle, but when needs must…
What I have had chance to do is catch up on the news and seen that the much hyped anti HS2 demonstration led by Chris Packham at Euston yesterday failed to set the world on fire. Sure, it got media attention because of Packham but only a few dozen people turned up. Most of the media photos are tightly cropped to show Packham and a couple of demonstrators with him. The ones that zoom out show just how few folk actually bothered coming along. Of course, all this is a sideshow, the main event is up the West Coast Main Line in Manchester where the Tory party conference is happening. What’s not happening is any StopHs2 presence. Several years ago they would have had a stall inside all the party conferences. Now their campaign’s on its uppers they can’t even be bothered to turn up and leaflet outside.
This evening, whilst Dawn’s been cooking some fabulous Indian curry I’ve been busy delving through the picture archives thanks to a friend who jogged my memory . Earlier today Anthony Roberts posted a picture from Belgium showing one of their Cass 62 diesel locos. This set me thinking, and searching my Zenfoilio site. I realised that I’d never added old pictures from some Belgian tours I did back in 2006. I used to have them on my old Fotopic website, but when that went tits-up I lost a lot of caption details as I’d never added it to the original files (which I still have). So this evening has been spent hunting down info to try and rebuld the collection on my Zenfolio site. You can find the resurrected gallery here. Thank God for websites like six bells junction, which has allowed me to check the details of the tour. I’ve more pictures to add but that’s going to have to wait until later in the week. It’s taken me 8 years, another few days won’t make any difference! Here’s a couple of samples. I must admit these pictures have triggered a real bout of nostalgia for what were some wonderful times with a great bunch of people. I used to go over on these tours with a group of friends from the Gloucester area under the banner of Pathfinder railtours. You’ll see some of them in the pictures.