One Week Later

I landed safely in France!

Blink

I’ve been in France for a whole week!

Well that went by fast.

In the whirlwind of travel, meeting new people, adjusting to the new environment and fighting jet lag I haven’t had much time or energy to spare. So instead of an overly-wordy update, here is a mildly-wordy summary accompanied by pictures! If a picture is worth a thousand words, then several pictures can do the talking for me, yes?

First I got on a plane in Toronto. It was mostly gray and kind of cold.

Oh, Canada!

Oh, Canada!

I got off the plane in Paris. It was misty and kind of cold.

Vive la France! (It is amazing how blind one is to picture quality when sleep-deprived)

Vive la France! (It is amazing how blind one is to picture quality when sleep-deprived)

Several hours, one train ride and one car ride later I stumbled into a hotel. It was still kind of cold but at least the mist had gone.

The scenic and historically-relevant parking lot, as seen from my hotel window.

The scenic and historically relevant parking lot, as seen from my hotel window.

By Sunday morning most of the guides had arrived. Went on a short run in the morning, and accompanied the others for a walk into Arras in the afternoon. Not a lot of things are open on Sundays so it was pretty quiet.

DSCN3065

Too quiet.

Since the weekend I have been occupied each day with training and getting ready to be a tour guide at this place:

Canadian War Memorial at Vimy Ridge

Canadian War Memorial at Vimy Ridge

Or perhaps I will mostly be a tour guide at this place:

Newfoundland Memorial at Beaumont-Hamel.

Newfoundland Memorial at Beaumont-Hamel.

Really I will end up being a tour guide at both, as I will in the coming months work on both locations. However I will be affiliated with primarily one over the other. I just don’t know which yet. Given that I start giving tours next week, I should find out soon. In the meantime, my life has been a whirlwind of learning and re-learning. As you might imagine, training to be a tour guide involves taking in a vast amount of information directly, tangentially or anecdotally related to wherever/whatever one is giving a tour of. It is incredibly interesting to learn (or in some cases re-learn) about World War I and the place of Canadians and Newfoundlanders within that war. Given that it’s the kind of learning experience that leaves me itching to talk to someone about it, the whole guiding thing is rather ideal.

Today’s training also involved a great deal of touring around battlefield memorial and cemetery sites around the main Beaumont-Hamel memorial. A rather special moment during that tour involved a brief visit to the Adanac Military Cemetery, where Piper Richardson’s remains are buried. He was a WWI soldier from my own hometown in British Columbia and one of the few Canadians to be awarded the Victoria Cross for his efforts, playing the bagpipes to boost his company’s morale during the latter stages of the Battle of the Somme.

What had previously been a historical anecdote which I have been aware of for years but which I rarely think about became a little bit more real. History becoming more ‘real’ in the present moment nicely sums up how this week has felt for me, and it also sums up what I hope to do for the visitors who come in the next few months. Here’s hoping I can do it well.

“For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty."

“For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty.”

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2 thoughts on “One Week Later

  1. Best of luck in your endeavours, from the son of an old Dublin Fusilier, who also fought at Beaumont Hamel. He always spoke very highly of the Canadians.

    • Thank you kindly! My great-grandfather was one of the Canadians who fought at Vimy, though he was in fact born in Ireland! Born in County Monaghan according to attestation papers though I don’t know much beyond that. Anyhow, thanks for taking the time to come by my site. 🙂

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