Thursday, July 29, 2010
Fortified, we moved on - 24 July 2010
The rain continued most of the night, but cleared in the morning, and we were able to make use of the walk leaflet we were given at the Longwy Tourist Office. About half of the original town and ramparts still remain in this town. It was obviously built on a similar design as Neuf-Brisach. This town has suffered military action more recently though, and we could see hundreds of WWI bullet holes in most of the public buildings.
The final UNESCO Vauban site on our route back to Dunkirk was in Arras. The sat-nav seemed determined to route us there via Belgium. We decided not to argue, until we discovered the state of rural Belgium roads. We had thought British rural roads were in a bad condition after last winter's freeze, but the Belgium minor roads we encountered were shocking, one of them looked like the craters of the moon! We were relieved to cross back into France, and their excellent roads.
Arras is a town worth visiting for it's own sake, which was just as well, as we were unable to enter the Vauban Citadel. The design looked very similar on the outside, but the fortress was locked up tight.
Despite this, we enjoyed walking the town trail. The centre of the city is built around two main squares, which are surrounded by Flemish style houses. The town was heavily bombed in WWI and WWII, and the reconstruction is incredible. There were photos in the cathedral of the destruction and the town today is very well restored.
On the second half of our drive today, we passed many war cemeteries and monuments. At Arras, next to the Citadel, we were able to take in the grandeur of the British War Cemetery. 159,000 Commonwealth soldiers were killed in this area during a period of 39 days. The graves only account for 2,670 soldiers, the names of 35,000 missing men are written around the monument. This area is a stark reminder of the grim history of last century.