We are on the road again… We are off to Villers-Bretonneux a little town that experienced the first world’s battle (in World War I) between two tank forces (the British and the Germans). The Germans took the town but the Australian Imperial Force recaptured it a few days later. 1,200 Australians died in the process. A few miles from the town is an Australian Memorial and a cemetery where 770 are buried. That is where we are headed.
Initially we were to take a bus to the Amiens train station but it is such a beautiful day that we end up walking. In front of the Amiens station I spotted the cutest of buses. I still get a kick out of how little cars are – even traditionally big ones as the Range Rover and Mercedes – in Europe. Seems that they miniaturize buses too!
At the station we buy our aller-rétour (round trip) ticket to Villers-Bretonneux. We are lucky that the train departs about 15 minutes from when we arrive. In one hour we will be there. The train is pretty comfortable and I settle in with my espresso. To my side, a reminder that I am in France: a baguette a main part of a traveler’s luggage.
We are two of only few that exit here. No signs guiding us to the memorial so we decide to follow the only person that is on foot. Should we take the path unknown? The Franco-Australian Museum comes up (the first thing that attracts me is the tiles on the floor) so we go in for info on how to get to the Memorial.
The walk is long, the day is hot so I extend my right thumb in good hitch hiking mode and… nothing happens. So we continue on. It doesn’t seem to be getting any closer yet suddenly we are there. No one around. We are alone. I fall silent.
Words of the mayor in 1919: “Soldiers of Australia, whose brothers lie here in French soil, be assured that your memory will always be kept alive, and that the burial places of your dead will always be respected and cared for…”
Many tombstones engraved with the one date they all died. All so very young. Fighting someone else’s war. But the people of Villers Bretonneux are grateful, for, according to Wikipedia, on top of every blackboard in the school there is an inscription “N’oublions jamais l’Australie” (Let us never forget Australia.)
There are stairs to go to the top of the memorial and I decide to go up disregarding my fear of heights. Going up. The door to the outside. A few more steps and I’m outside. The wind assaults me. I am quite high but vertigo does not take over and I am able to enjoy the view. The markers have some names with significance to me. Amiens, London, Berlin, Paris and Villers Bretonneux.
We walk through town to meet with Lydie for us to have a mini table read. The pastry shops are going to be the death of me. This one has the dessert that I so loved: Paris-Brest (I know there is a joke here but please refrain.) Casa Crepes which kind of joins my culture with theirs, don’t you think? But not all is food. I’m taking my door photos too. And windows. And buildings. Okay, back to the table read. These are the remains of sorbets that our réalisateur (director) has devoured while we work. Think I’m back to the food subject. We leave.
I am now starving. I get cranky when I am hungry. I can’t concentrate when I’m hungry. I need to eat now! And when I’m this hungry even a McDonald’s will do. And this one holds some surprises. It is manned by smiley, cute people and it’s more in the vein of an upscale café than a McDonald’s, with comfy chairs and cool decor. And a sauce for the fries that is more on the mayo side which I like. A chicken wrap with a package that you can stand it up in. Prices are also a surprise: not cheap at all.
I find the building that I would like to own.
The day is done. We have mentally wept for those gone, honored them, taken a step back in time, taken a step forward to filming, fed our minds and our bodies, and fantasized a bit about what we wanted. Pretty full day. I smile and sleep once more.