"Francely, my dear, I don't give a damn!"
Day 3 started off on a later note once again. We didn't all wake until 9:30 and took our time crawling around, making breakfast, etc etc. We rolled out around 11-12, and made our way over the border into France.
Three things to note during our drive:
1. We drove through West Flanders, and it was a bit surreal having grown up with In Flanders Fields drilled into us. The moment that it hit us and we kind of paused our conversation and just drove in silence was when we drove by a park and read the sign with a poppy on it: the Vladslo German Military Cemetery. Turns out over 25,000 people are buried there and there's a statue called The Grieving Parents that was made by a mother who lost her son in the first world war.
2. We were driving through a cute little riverside town and all of a sudden every.single.building had massive advertisements for tobacco! For such a small town, we couldn't understand how there were so many shops specifically for tobacco - then we realized we were at the border, but then we also realized it's the EU so there isn't really a traditional boarder with duty free shops anymore, so we're still puzzled buy this.
3. Driving through the fields, countryside, and adorable little towns, we discussed architecture a lot during our trip. Not that either of us know much about it (which is embarrassing on my part since I actually studied all this in art history), but the architecture was so interesting to note as you have the ancient looking gothic/victorian churches, the meticulous little countryside houses with their perfectly trimmed lawns and bushes, to a crazy modern "futuristic" house thrown in every once in a while. Such a mishmash but it felt so weird and out of place in these little places.
Anyway, we made it to Dunkirk, and the second we got out of the parking lot and were in the town square, my heart just leaped. I honestly can't take how charming these little towns all are. For someone who has traveled a fair bit, this still gets me every time.
We started our route by heading to the port and walking along the water and taking in the signs placed sporadically stating the infamous Dunkirk battle.
Overall, we rate this town 5 Beyonces. But, I also recall rating a bonus Beyonce based on how I FELT the wind made my hair look at the time. Looking at the picture, it was not so, but regardless, the town gets a full 5 Beyonces and a consideration into our retirement plan (we always stop to look at real estate everywhere we go, you know.... just in case).
We did make our way into the Dunkirk museum, because when in Dunkirk.... (which, interestingly enough, we had watched the movie fairly recently just before planning this trip). What a tragic story. 68,000 people dead.
May 1940, France had troops in Dunkirk and was ready to get at Germany from the North. Germany was all "haha, we gotchu" and came in trapping them from the East and South. Nobody was prepared, and France had called to Britain for help to evacuate. Britain refused at first, then Churchill gave in, but Germany was too close by then and started bombing the rescue team along with all those stranded on the beaches. The beaches were too shallow for the big ships to come in, so tired troops had to swim out (many drowned), build a ramp out of all sort of vehicles, and those who were relieved to make it to a ship holding 900 soldiers, would burn in fire or sink as it got bombed. Absolutely devastating story. And there's nothing like standing over the spot where it all happened and to get kicked in the feels. The worst was the replica of what the city we are currently standing, touring, eating, and drinking in, looked like just a century ago. You always wonder how much Hollywood exaggerates, but this was just unbelievable. Not gonna lie, I teared up a bit.
We walked along the beach boardwalk, and interestingly enough, there was a different vibe to it than yesterday's at Oostend. We kind of dismissed boardwalks because all the ones we've ever been to were kind of similar, but this one was almost a park with all the entertainment going on from bouncy castles, to giant trampolines, to crepes. OMG there were crepes everywhere.
Although we debated dipping our feet into the water, we opted not to and decided if we wanted to make it to Ypres today as per our original plan, we had to get going. That said, when in France, we figured we had to stop for wine and cheese so we wandered further into town and found a great place. The cheese, wine, and tartare was spectacular. Like, really really spectacular. So spectacular, in fact, that baby is really getting High Five down.
To say the least, we decided to not rush things and just enjoy where we are and what we're doing so we chose to spend the day here and dedicating tomorrow to Ypres. Figured that'll take majority of the day on its own as well.
And to compare to the earlier picture from the museum: the main square now.
That said, one thing Justin really wanted to hit up was a Trappist brewery. For context, a Trappist beer is made in monasteries and there are only 11 in the world. There are actual specifications which they have to meet in order to be labeled as such, and there are 6 alone in Belgium with one near Ypres (our plan was to hit it up on our way, conveniently). Not so conveniently, it's closed tomorrow so we had to make it out today. Thus, we drove to almost-Ypres to check it out and got there around 7pm. You can't actually tour the monastery, and the shop itself closes at 6 since they run out of their daily quota of how many beers they can sell, but you can sit on the patio at their restaurant and have a few of those until they sell out. THEY WERE SO GOOD. We also got some Abbey-made cheese and pate. Way too full to eat at this point, but I wrapped mine in a tissue for breakfast tomorrow!
Canadians are very appreciated in Flanders, FYI, for those who don't know history, our people saved their people a number of times out of some pretty pickled situations in the wars. We were very sad we couldn't buy any cases, but when the server found out we're Canadian, he ended up bringing us 2 from the back (with glasses to make it look like he's about to pour them) and told us to make sure no one is looking before we stuff them in our bags. He emphasized this is top secret and to not tell anyone he did this - I may be posting this here, but I'm pretty sure no one reads this blog accept our parents and future me for scrapbooking purposes. And if they are, well, whatcha gonna do.
On our way out, we checked out the monastery from the outside. We wondered how often they used to find babies on their doorsteps...
Fun fact: This monastery was 15km from the front line in the first world war and was unoccupied. From March to June of 1914, it served as a base for the French troops, and from June until the end of the war, it served as a base for the rest of the allies including British and Canadians.
To complete today's trip, we finished off with sunset shot of Flanders Fields followed by taking part of the Niemandsland Route home.