Tag Archives: france

Beynat, a village in France

Beynat has a human population of about 400 growing to a 1000 in summer time when visitors come and people return to their holiday homes.

It’s located in the southern end of France and is designated Department 19. The nearest “big” town is Brieve about 20 km away.

The centre of town has two squares, one is located in front of the post office, “Poste” with the town hall ( Hotel de Ville )on the side. I thought Hotel de Ville was a chain of hotels because almost every town had one! Language !

The other square is the main one with a memorial to the war dead, a parking area and a cluster of shops and cafes including Jean Claude’s Bar/cafe.

The cafes in country France generally only serve drinks and not food which is a dilema if you want something to eat especially on a Sunday. The sabbath seems to be strictly observed in the country areas so you have to make sure you’ve get some food with you on a Sunday if you travel.

During the week businesses close for 2 hours at lunch time as well. So buy for your baguette early!

Back to Baynat (pronouced Baynah). If you want accommodation there, the best by far is Agatha’s Garden, B&B owned and managed by Françoise with the warm French smile.

She has the most beautiful house that has been in her family for more than a hundred years. The interior speaks of a lifetime of exposure to art and design. A simple elegance and ambience in every corner of every room.

Toast and tea/cafe for breakfast is included with handmade chestnut bread and sweet fruit jams.

There are a few resturants in the area but having her home cooked bio-dynamic cusine, like her cottage interior is not to missed. Wholesome food, mostly grown in her own garden (Agatha’s) accompanied by wine that has been sourced by her son is fabulous!

Surrounding Beynat are many more delightful villiages and landscapes. Ancient abbeys and churches, villiages built into the rock of riversides and fertile farmlands where beef cattle graze. Renaissance places like Collonges-la-Rouge in Corrèze.

Vallée de la Dordogne – Corrézienne
Authentique …..

Passchendaele

My Great uncle was 35 when he was killed in action at Passchendaele, Belgium on October 12, 1917. Europe was at war since 1914 and in Russia the revolution was to explode in a few days.

Duncan had enlisted in AIF in November 1916 and sailed to England to get some basic training before arriving in Calais and being sent to the front.

Seeing the headstone of his grave with his name simply inscribed D.McCallum was deeply and profoundly sad. So far from home in Sydney

It was was a sunny afternoon when I saw the headstone in a cemetery surrounded by corn fields. The corn had been cut and the stubble retained in the earth. In the distance were farms and further away the villiage of Zonnebeke, further still Passendale.

Duncan’s 36th Battalion’s mission was to take Passchendaele from the Germans. On October 12 it was unsuccessful. Thousands of Australians died in that poorly planned battle in the driving rain and waist deep in the Belgium mud.

I don’t know what killed Duncan, a bullet, a bomb or bayonet. It will never be known. But what is certain is the order from Field Marshall Haig to attack when the officers on the battle ground knew it was hopeless, given the weather led to the deaths of thousands that morning.

Duncan is my link to the Great War who did not return home. Unlike my grandfather Alex Gibson and other great uncles, Bill Gibson, Jack Gray and Gerald Boés who married aunty Gloria. Duncan never saw his two little girls grow up, or watched a rubgy league game or saw his brother Don again.

So somewhere between the jumping off point and his grave in the small Dochy Farm New British Cemetery he was wounded and died on the shoulders of the Australian stretcher bearers.

Visiting the area today is vastly different to that place which in the weeks before October 12 had been pounded with over 4 million exposives that punctured the water table and turned the land to a quagmire.

Today the farms are back growing corn, leeks, cabbages and brussel sprouts. Children ride their bikes to the village school on the country lanes and roads.

There is a B&B called Varlet Farm where they have a small muesem and Charlotte shares kindness and smothers you in food and comfort. She knows the places where the troops were, what happened to who and where they maybe buried.

Every year 20 tonnes of WW1 munitions are found on the fields of Flanders. There are no winners in WAR we’re all losers.

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Spring time in Paris

What really stunned me in the Hall of Mirrors at Versaille was out the window and not in the hallway.

The breathtaking view of the grand canal and the colanade that leads to it. Another unforgettable view was from the top of the Arc de Triomphe, an uninterrupted view across the city in four directions. The Paris planners have not given into the skyscaper cult and instead have maintained a 4-5 story landscape.

The breadth of scale of the Lourve is another feature of the city that shocks me as a visitor from the antipodes. It so huge and then there’s the parks and squares that people congregate in. The backyards of Paris. People sit around the fountains on state provided deckchairs to nibble on Parisian baguettes or drink coffee in the sunshine.

The Eiffle Tower is heavy duty plus with its tonnes of steel, views and avenue of grassland to sit on.

I can see why the world comes to Paris.

Today i will be in France

This morning here in Helsinki I finished reading “The Great War” by Les Carlyon.

Today I will be in France.

It is truly well worth reading, a fine book which tells the stories of some of the hundreds of thousands of Australian men and women who went to Europe in the Great War. “The war to end wars”. He tells the story from many viewpoints.

I’ll be thinking of the men my mum told me about, her dad Alex Gibson, her uncle Jack and men I met like Gerald Boës who was my great aunt Gloria’s husband. He was an electician from Sydney, a trade unionist and a Dutchman. He had served in the Dutch Navy as an apprentice electrician.

Gloria came to Helsinki with her political work in the women’s peace movement.

Mum loved her dad immensley and she remembers him everyday. I never knew him, he died young from the results of mustard gas shelling. He spent 3 years in France and Beligum. It is impossible to contemplate.

I asked my aunt Gwen recently whether Alex Gibson said much about the Great War to her. She said all he said was those who talked about it weren’t there. On another occasion during the Great Depression on seeing a workless mate from the AIF walking towards him in the street he said, “here comes another workless victor”.

I know that both Alex and Gerald were politcally active and there is the story of Uncle Jack throwing down his war medals at a protest in the Sydney Domain in the depression only to threatened with a charge of destroying the King’s property.

So today I will be in France and I will remember them.

I will also think about Duncan McCallum, a railway fettler of Redfern who grew up in Lakemba. He is my Dad’s uncle who is buried in Belgium near Passchendale. My great uncle.

My grandfather Donald McCallum was opposed to conscription and he lost his brother Duncan to that war to end wars only to watch his sons go off to the next one.

Duncan was 35 when he died, the father of two little girls. He’d been in France and Belgium less than a year when he was killed in that terrible battle. I will visit his grave.

So this part of the reason for my journey. Lest we forget.

Last post from Pigeon Bank Creek till I return

pbcTomorrow morning I will be in Tokyo negotiating my way to Shinjinku. It will be around 5 degrees and maybe some rain.

I’m flying to Sydney at 7:00PM QF462  and then taking the QF21 to Narita, arriving at 6:10AM Japan time which two hours behind Melbourne time.

After two nights I will be heading toShiKoKu by ferry. Its an overnight trip.

So goodbye to PBC for the moment and konichiwah to Nihon.

One more sleep before I hit the road

bongo2One more sleep and I hit the road for Japan, Finland, France, Belgium and Switzerland. First a month in Japan then over the Arctic Circle to Helsinki in Finland then down into Western Europe.

As I fly out Victoria is in disaster with 66 people being killed in the huge fireball that hit the state yesterday. Just a few kilometres from here many people were killed or injured at St Andrews, Arthur’s Creek, Kinglake and  Strathewen. It was a tragic and terrifying day with hundreds of houses destroyed. The losses are uncomprehensible. Whole towns are gone or virtually gone. Marysville and Kinglake are all but destroyed.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about the juxtapostion of summer in Melbourne and the icy chill of Japan and Europe. Today that seems surreal. 

Tomorrow I’ll fly out and on Tuesday I’ll be a world away in Tokyo. So check the blog from time to time and you’ll find some news about my travels. Leave me a comment. I’ll be uploading photos and words to the WordPress IceCapade09 blog.

Alex

P.S.  There is a link called Nillumbik Shire which has a map of the shire. It is a 4MEG download, so it take awhile. Click here.

You will see Kinglake in the top right corner. Pigeon Bank Creek is near the bottom right corner between Warrandyte and Hendley Rd, opposite Jumping Creek. You can also see St Andrews, Arthur’s Creek and Strathewen that were also scenes of disaster.

six sleeps to go

photoI started getting nervous about this trip yesterday, I don’t know why I just did.

Started contemplating the journey I suppose.What might happen, what might not and all that rubbish.

The extremely hot weather we’re experiencing in Melbourne hasn’t helped at all and there is more to come with high 30s temperatures forecast for the weekend, 

Luckily the temperature will drop on Sunday and will be cooler in Melbourne.

What is funny the band of temps in Japan seems to be rising while Europe absolutely freezes with minus 13 in Helsinki and minus six in London.

I can only guess what is going to happen as I meditate on the universe I can see from the outdoor sofa at PBC.