WOW! What a great start to the battlefields portion of our trip! We had an action packed day that started after an excellent buffet breakfast and early morning visit to Essex Farm. Here students visited John McCrae's dressing station where 'In Flanders Fields' was penned.
We continued on to the 'In Flanders Fields Museum' which nicely detailed the causes, realities, and consequences of WWI with a stunning array of artifacts and interactive activities.
After the museum the group broke for lunch and free time. Note: There may have been some Belgian chocolate purchased... make sure they fess up and share when they get home!! Next we met up with the bus again (driven by the wonderful and sassy Stephanie) and headed out for a number of cemetery stops. The contrast between cemeteries was stark and the group got to see just how many messages and feelings can come from the size and layout of these hallowed grounds.
We took a few minutes to stop at the St Julien memorial, a design which was runner up to Walter Allward's Vimy Ridge memorial in the competition for Canada's WWI monument.
Next was Tyne Cot Cemetery, which features a long walk around 3 sides of the 11,000+ grave cemetery before entering, a process which forces you to realize the immensity of the space.
Afterwards we returned to Ypres and the hotel to freshen up. There was some time for final souvenir shopping before we headed down to the Menin Gate for the Last Post ceremony. This ceremony, which brings traffic to a halt and closes local shops, has been a nightly occurrence since 1921! We were wise to arrive a full hour early as the archway was teeming with people by the beginning of the ceremony, which includes reading the Commitment to Remember in addition to a wreath laying ceremony.
Finally, after all that fun and excitement... It was time for supper!! Chicken in mushroom sauce was our final taste of Yores before heading back to the hotel to pack our bags and ready ourselves for the trip to Bruges and Arras tomorrow. Until then!!