Today we began in earnest doing WWI battlefields and cemeteries.
Steven has mapped out all the things he wants to see and do as he is a lot more enthusiastic about WWI than I am. He has statistics of battles, wounded, medal winners and soldiers oozing from every pore but I must admit most of this goes well over my head. I am the chauffeur for this part of the trip and I'm looking forward to Anzac Day and the opening of the Bullecourt Museum - the whole reason Margaret and I planned this trip in the first place.
We drove into Albert and visited the church and the underground museum. The spire on the steeple was hit by artillery in 1915 but the statue of Madonna and Child on top did not fall and consequently became known as the "Lady of the Limp".
She was knocked down by the British three years later and after the war, the church and the statue were rebuilt to original designs - just like many other French and Belgian towns.
We had a great coffee in a little café on the main square - good coffee in France is hard to come by - and we warmed up our frozen fingers. I did not expect the weather to be quite so bitter and although I have enough layers to keep me warm, I didn't bring things like gloves, scarves and beanies.
We stopped at a few more cemeteries and then went to see Lochnagar Crater - a ruddy big hole in the ground caused by a mine on 1 July 1916. It was huge... 91m across and 21m deep - too big to get into a photo but there is a great video on the link above.
One of the places special to my family history is Pozieres where great uncle Percy fought. There was literally nothing left of the town after years of fighting and is quite famous in the history books. We stopped in at the Tommy Café which is quite an institution and a must-see for any battlefield tour. Owned by Dominique Zanardi it has an incredible collection of relics collected from the district as well as his entire backyard having been converted into a replica trench. He loves Aussies and treated us to a free personalised tour around the museum.
His amazing personality makes up for his lousy coffee.
As we were heading home the car started to misbehave. It wasn't imminently tragic - just a very jerky sensation in the gears. It's an automatic car but felt like a manual being driven by a learner. Every gear change nearly sent you through the windscreen and it obstinately refused to go up into 4th.