I landed safely in France!
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.
I got off the plane in Paris. It was misty and kind of cold.
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.
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.
Since the weekend I have been occupied each day with training and getting ready to be a tour guide at this place:
Or perhaps I will mostly be a tour guide at this place:
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.