War Memorials and Waiting

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23/04/2023

Our fuel tank was running dry and we needed to fill it up with the cheap stuff as soon as we crossed the border between Germany and Luxembourg. Then it was goodbye Luxembourg and hello Belgium as we made our way towards our parking spot for the night.

Bernar Venet’s sculpture that brackets a road in Belgium

Revisiting Belgium

Approaching Han-sur-Lesse I realised that we’d been here before. The parking area in the town municipal car park is well equipped and there is even a toilet and shower block if you have the need. I wondered if the payment method had changed since Covid, but no, someone still pops round to collect your cash and provide a ticket. It’s quite nice to know that some places still do this although it is so much more convenient to pay for parking online.

Last time we were here we went for a walk in the local countryside but didn’t really see the town. Although I knew (at the time) that there are well-known show caves here, I didn’t realise quite how touristy the town was. Alongside the caves there is a wildlife park, a tramway to ferry tourists to the caves and multiple restaurants and cafes. We had an evening stroll and contemplated visiting the show caves the following morning, but when we saw the price we swiftly decided it wasn’t for us.

The river Lesse

Wissant

The next morning we were off again to find an aire close to Calais where we could park up and spend a final day before our departure on the Tunnel. We are still searching for the perfect pre-crossing spot. This one in Wissant was ok but it still wasn’t quite what we were looking for (not that I’m really sure what that is). We shouldn’t complain, it was free and served its purpose; at least we could dump our toilet contents even if we couldn’t get any fresh water.

It was busy when we arrived and only got busier, with some people turning away when they saw how crammed it was. There are some spots in the centre of the parking area where coaches park up. It wasn’t clear how many spots were reserved for them but people generally left two of three spaces empty.

We were feeling that strange combination of emotions that comes with the disappointment of a trip that is ending, but the excited anticipation of being back with family and friends. We just wanted to be home without the pesky driving and waiting around in between. So much so that I checked whether we could get an earlier tunnel crossing, but there was a price attached so instead we decided to have a final walk to use up our restless energy.

A walk to Cap Blanc Nez

There are two punctuation marks that bracket either end of the wide bay where Wissant stands. Cap Griz Nez and Cap Blanc Nez. We chose a circular walk to Cap Blanc Nez which isn’t really a cape, but a high white chalk cliff.

The start of the walk was inland through farm fields and not all that interesting. There was one attractive farm building but other than that it was a bit of a trudge until we got closer to the Cap.

Stone Farm Buildings

Rather monotonous paths across fields

We approached the cap, passing by a campsite and a small windmill before climbing up to a weather station. From here we could see the monument on the cliffs of Cap Blanc Nez and also the craters of artillery shells across the land, sombre reminders of the way that France suffered in the war.

Windmill, without the sails

Approaching the Cap Blanc Nez with craters in the foreground

The monument was another very popular location. It commemorates the Dover Patrol of World War One and there is a matching monument across the channel in Dover. There was lots of parking close by and a well graded path to the top. Families were eating their lunches around the base of the monument so we decided to join them and cracked open our flasks to accompany our lunchtime sandwiches.

Looking back from the coastpath to the memorial

The route back to Wissant was along the coast. High cliffs slowly descended to lower cliffs and sand dunes. The light was glorious and the colours of the landscape were really vibrant. As the path descended to the beach at one point we decided to walk the remaining distance along the wide expanse of sand exposed by low tide. We could see the remains of German defensive bunkers here, slowly collapsing down the dunes and into the sand.

Sandy beach at low tide

On our return to Wissant we decided to stop for some food. We found a beach shack cafe  where we could sit outside with a view of the sea and get the benefit of perspex protection from the wind. There was no menu, just a board with a handful of options, so we chose moules and frites. One portion, a beer for me and a coke for Paul was plenty and afterwards we set off in search of ice-cream for dessert.

We had worn ourselves out enough to get a good night’s sleep before our tunnel crossing the following day.

 

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