10th April 2017. Verdun, France.

I had to force myself to get out of bed to see the sun rising this morning but I’m glad I did.  Again there was a mist rising from the water and although it was all very much like yesterday morning, it was really worth going out to see it and freezing once again!

Our plan for today was to go to the local Intermarché to do the washing and shopping then travel three hours closer to Luxembourg.

Unfortunately for us it seems we’re extremely unobservant.  Darren went into the supermarket  hoping there’d be a launderette like the one we used in Evora but there was nothing inside.  He was gone for ages as he checked all around to see if there were any washing machines at this branch.  He came back to the van to say that he couldn’t find any so we did an internet search for French supermarkets between where we were and where we were going.

We eventually found some near Luxembourg so changed our plans (already).  We decided to wash enough underwear for a couple of days and then find a launderette tomorrow when we leave France.  I couldn’t believe how long it took to do all that but eventually the washing was ready in the bucket of soapy hot water and the bucket was tucked safely away in the bathroom, we hoped for a few bumpy roads to oscillate the water for us, little did we know how bumpy the roads would be today!  As we drove out of the supermarket we both suddenly spotted 2 washing machines and a tumble dryer at the entrance!  D’oh!  Mind you it was worth the stop for the yummy cakes and coffee Darren brought for the journey.

We drove through such beautiful countryside and stopped for lunch at L’Épine.  It was only a tiny town but the church was enormous and VERY ornate.  We bought a couple of cold pizzas and sat beside the church eating them.  We were there when the little shop beside the church reopened after lunch, the pigeons had apparently finished their lunch break too and a flock of them all suddenly landed at the front of the church.  While we were having lunch a jet from the French air force flew overhead a few times, what a great surprise.

We were aiming to drive to Verdun for our overnight stop, en route we were going to look for an aire de service to fill and empty the tanks.  We saw a sign, expected the aire to be quite near the road we were turning off (should have known better) drove for about 10km up lots of windy roads until we came to a little village with an aire, we could only see electricity points so Darren asked a Dutch couple where the refilling section was.  We refilled but during that time I’d researched the Kaiser tunnels that were signposted along the road so we decided to make a detour and go there.

We immediately went the wrong way, had to turn round at the bottom of the hill, luckily no one saw us drive past again (luckily for us we are in an inconspicuous 7m long white van with a huge porpoise picture on the back!) .  We drove down an amazingly bumpy single track road for miles.  We were starting to get a little worried about whether it was suitable for a motorhome when we suddenly came across a war cemetery.  Up until that moment we had been oblivious to the fact that this part of France was where so much fighting had taken place, we were blithely admiring the beautiful countryside in ignorant bliss of the atrocities that had taken place here all those years ago.  It was sobering to think of all those poor souls who were buried there and the terrible things they’d all experienced.

A few miles later we came to the car park of the Kaiser Tunnels but there was a bit of a walk down to them.  That normally wouldn’t have been a problem but it was getting late and we still had to travel 50 minutes to our overnight stop so instead we walked up to the war memorial that we’d passed and looked around that.

We could see a wooden cross up on a hillock on the edge of the woodland so I climbed up the steps to go and see it, we had a huge surprise when we got to the top of the hillock, there in front of us was an enormous crater, the cross had been positioned on the side furthest away from the stone memorial.  The memorial on the wooden cross was written in both French and German, it is heart wrenching to think of all those young lives that ended so violently and so awful to think of the turmoil and suffering that went on in this area.

When we’d finished looking around we carried on with our journey, as we entered the outskirts of the town it was looking like I’d chosen a ‘duff’ place to stay however once again a French town treated us to a surprise.

We suddenly came to an extremely high wall which loomed over white statues of soldiers in outfits which we assume were from the Napoleonic era.  We drove on a short way and saw a motorhome pulling out of the car park at the base of the fortified wall.  The wall was being renovated although the workforce had gone home as it was late.

As the weather was nice we took a stroll around the base of the walls, we should have done some research beforehand so we were aware of what it had been and why there were so many statues, however we hadn’t and a lot of guess work ensued during our saunter.

Our walk took us past an interesting building which looked like a circular tower from one angle but as we walked along the side of it the wall on the right hand side of the building swept round and down to a lower level.

We then followed the wall of the fortress into a creepy bit, it had housing built into it which was all derelict, it was quiet except for the birds singing in the trees on the top of the wall and the sun was starting to set, it’s funny how a lot of the time that’s wonderful but it just made me feel uneasy in this situation.

We walked speedily through that part and noticed some steps going up the hill on the other side of the road so we followed them to the top where we found a beautiful building which we think was an art gallery.

As it was getting late we started walking back to the van when we caught sight of a bridge and went over to look.  It was a very old bridge and the view across the water to the buildings with the sun setting was superb.  I had to drag myself away (after I’d taken about twenty photos) and we noticed there was a footpath through the park along by the river so we followed that back to the van.

What a great day we’d had.

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