Crossing the Western Front

Crossing the Western Front

Say what you will about European campgrounds and their lack of nature and space, but sometimes they have bakery trucks.

Of course, they also have people who treat it like their house, and parade around in their bathrobes, but, well, fresh pastries do offset that somewhat!

I had woken up to a lovely morning at the campsite and chatted a bit to the British bikers next door on a quick blast through the Ardennes.

First step, as always, is to make coffee. I have that kit down to a science – hand grinder, beans, hot water, Aeropress, cup.

Then packed up, paid my fee, and on on the road for the first real day of travel, slightly peeved that the USB charger I’d bought for my powerpoint already didn’t work (it did yesterday!).

Of course, it didn’t take long for there to be a road change that meant skipping a way point on the GPS, and finding out how annoying that was (and how to get it to move on).

After a dip back into Belgium (and filling up on cheap gas again), I started swooping through the French countryside.

After a while, a lot of the destination signs started to read Verdun. I kept thinking, where do I know that name from? Then it hit me – WWI. The peaceful rolling farmland I was riding through was the Western Front and Verdun the site of the longest battle of that war. Just over 100 years ago, this would have looked quite different. Instead of peaceful villages and silent roads, this or somewhere very close by would have been mud and death and noise. It seems so very far away from this landscape and this time.

But, then, I thought, 100 years ago is long, why does it seem more recent than that in my conception?

Ah, I’ve been alive for almost half of them, that’s why. It’s personal relativity. When I first learned about the Great War, it was close enough by that there were still veterans attending Remembrance Day ceremonies. My memory still includes those people, so that war is real for me in a way that any earlier war couldn’t be. But the same will be true for my children. WWI for them will fall into the ancient history category, absent any personal tie. WWII might feel closer, they’ve brushed the lives of veterans of that one, even without all the movies and memorabilia. But it too will eventually fade from personal memory to only take place in books, just as the scars of this war have faded into the countryside.

Eventually, I came back into crowded areas, and crossed the Seine for the first time before following it south. The villages here are all x-sur-Seine.

My destination for the evening was Chatillon sur Seine and I made it to the campsite on time to set up in the light.

How easy it is to only take a picture from the angle that makes it seem like a scenic campsite with no others in site. But no, it is Europe, and you’re never alone.

Being Monday in France, most restaurants were closed, as I’d been informed by the man at the desk. I decided to walk down into town and see what I could do. The campsite was on a ridge on the other side of the church, and old stairs led me town into the town. Thanks Wikipedia for the picture! I was on the phone with the family as I walked.

Scenic but not terribly inhabited.

After confirming that there were few options, and stocking up on cash, I had dinner at the Chinese place. It was meh.

On the way back this is the view I would have seen if it was light. It is the Seine – the campground is behind the graveyard. (Thanks again Wikipedia)

But it was dark. And I was too tired to get a proper picture. But I took this to question whether a river is still a river if there is no water.

The route for the day (not perfect, as I didn’t actually fly the last bit!)

And, to compare, the Western Front.


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