01 September 2011
My octogenarian and partially sighted Dad had mentioned wanting to visit the war graves in Normandy a while back, but then had cold feed, citing that the car-journey would be too much.
I forgot about it all, until I needed to bring a piece of furniture back from Northern France myself and offered to take the oldies with me if they wanted too. Unsurprisingly, the idea of a personal driver seemed a more attractive prospect to them.
In actual fact, my own furniture trip fell through, but I “forgot” to mention that to the my folks, lest it became another excuse not to go.
I picked a very large war grave from the War graves Commission Website http://www.cwgc.org/ and chose Etaples as it seemed the most appropriate for a day trip.
I would advise anyone thinking of a similar outing to check out the website first, they’ll give you a status report of all the war memorial sites, plus, if you want to you can look for the name of a particular soldier to discover where they’re buried.
Our day though wasn’t quite as ideal as we missed our allotted slot on the Eurotunnel. It meant arriving in Calais at 1300 and whizzing down to Etaples for 1400 where I discovered my carefully selected fish restaurant had closed and was only serving a menu rapide at this point.
I tried neighbouring Le Touquet and ended up in an ok-ish brasserie on Rue St Jean. Le Touquet was built by rich Parisians as a holiday resort in the 20s and is known locally as Paris-Plage. The outskirts has detached art-deco style houses built in the trees which can only be described as “quaint” in a Truman show kind of way. However, our purpose was to find a decent place to eat for my parents who don’t do lots of walking, so I was on a mission to find somewhere pronto. Had our timings not been so up the spout I would have driven over to Montreuil which is a picture postcard historical town with a plethora of fine restaurants. Still another time.
The journey to the war-grave was very easy, I had finally succumbed to sat nav and found myself getting very excited by being able to put into the co-ordinates and being told by Digital Dorothy (as we like to call her) exactly where to go. There’s no car park as such and the site is on a very busy road, but dad managed it with our help.
The memorial had been designed by Edward Lutyens and is magnificent. Like all of them, they are kept in immaculate condition. However getting in and out was tricky, there are lots of steps to negotiate. We were all moved, when you’re faced with the graves of over 1000 young men its hard not to be. It all seems such a tragic waste.
Dad was extremely pleased to have made the trip. I think the fact that I planned the journey and thought through where we could go really helped. It was good to remind him that at 89 he can still do outings and that he can still be taken out of his comfort zone.
By mustgetoutmore, August 2011
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