Monday, 14 September 2015

Musée de l'Armistice

One of the other things on my shortlist for the Compiegne area was the Glade of the Armistice and  Musée de l'Armistice - the French national war memorial in the middle of the forest of Compiegne.  It was here that the Armistice was signed in November 1918, in Marechal Foch's private railway carriage.  It was also where the invading Germans had the French sign the surrender in 1940, after which they destroyed the site and had the railway carriage taken to Berlin, where it was destroyed.

After World War Two the site was restored and another carriage from the same manufacturer was turned into a replica of Foch's carriage.  It's this that you can still see today.  Outside the small but interesting museum, there are a number of memorials related to both World Wars and the location of the tracks and carriages is marked out in stone.

One of the more modern memorials - this one to peace. 

The site is level with fine gravel paths - it's quite a wheel from the car park but completely flat and thankfully shaded - this was the day it hit 40 degrees in Paris!  The museum itself is accessed by several steps and there is a small, elderly but serviceable platform lift.  I had to get No-so-small Scottish Boy to fetch someone with the key (his first French lesson turned out to be "l'acenseur s'il vous plait").  There's another platform lift inside, which is worth using to get up to the rest of the exhibit.  

There seems to be big plans to update the museum - and hopefully also both the access and the website, which is a gem of a site, complete with Forrest Gump soundtrack and a Wanadoo e-mail address, that will take you right back to the late 90s!

Thursday, 10 September 2015

The Somme

I set a few conditions about our trip.  I wanted to see a Cathedral, I wanted to see some of the Somme and I wanted to see the Carriage in which the Armistice was signed (of which, more later).

The afternoon of our day in Amiens, having seen the Cathedral before lunch, we took a drive out along the Somme to Péronne, to see the Historial de la Grande Guerre.  This was a brilliant museum in a setting which really emphasised how tranquil the Somme is.  The museum itself is set within a Norman castle and despite this is completely accessible - albeit that they are quite keen on ramps (down to the entrance and within the building).  There was a real range of material, including plenty of interest to children.  There were sections about each of the main nations involved in the Somme (including Germany) and also about civilian life during the war.  The final section was an art exhibition.

No photography inside, so the only pictures are of Not-so-small Scottish Boy exploring the defences of the castle and of the view from the terrace of the cafe.

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After visiting we took a slow route back along the Somme itself, away from the main roads.  These tend to go along the plain, whereas the local roads wind their way down into the river valleys, hidden away below what seems from the main road to be flat fields.  You'll dip down and find a picturesque village, a water meadow or a meandering tributary of the river.  For a place with such violent historic resonances as The Somme, it's a beautiful, peaceful corner of France.  It's hard to imagine how it could have been hell on earth, only 100 years ago, were it not for the many, many military cemeteries.


This post has been lurking in drafts since our holidays - poor internet connection prevented me from adding pictures, so I'm posting it now.  Pretend I'm still in France, it's 40 degrees outside, the sun is shining and I have a glass of 3 quid AOC white wine in my hand!

Cobbles have always been a bit lost on me. They look very historic and picturesque but even walking they're hard work - as any number of turned ankles evidences. On wheels, they're a nightmare. However, there are good cobbles and bad cobbles. Good ones look as good, perhaps better, but are a smooth enough surface to wheel over without trapping a caster, which carries the threat of an undignified headfirst tumble out of the chair. Good cobbles also take a fraction of the effort to push across.

We got quite a lot of experience of different cobbles surfaces in Amiens, where the signage for the disabled entrance to the cathedral has disappeared due to building works. Here's some lovely cobbles from Amiens:

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And here's some that aren't. Notice that the good ones look nicer and are free of cigarette ends. These were only a few metres up the same street.

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This evening we had dinner in a family restaurant, Leon, on the outskirts of Amiens. The man at the next table had the same model of Quickie Helium as me, but larger casters. Maybe that was for the cobbles!

Here's a few shots from Amiens.   The Cathedral was wheelchair accessible (aside from dodgy cobbles and a slightly too steep ramp at one point) but the entrance was poorly signposted as there were building works.

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And we found a New Zealand memorial inside.

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Catch-up time

I have so many half-composed entries in my head from the summer - I am going to make a concerted effort to put some of them on here in the next couple of weeks, especially as I went and chatted to the lovely people at Blether FM, a local community radio station, this evening and promised to share this blog with them.  It needs to have some up to date content first!  So, I've all sorts of things on the way - more on France, some other things I've done over the summer and my first wheeled trip to the Helix and the Kelpies.

Right now, however, I need to think of a new nickname for the Small Scottish Boy.  He's had that nickname since he was a toddler, but at 139cm tall and in his last year of primary school,  he is now not so small.  This week he celebrated the massive milestone of his first proper rock concert - Foo Fighters at Murrayfield.

Until I come up with anything better, I think he'll need to be No-so-small Scottish Boy.