We’ve made it exactly halfway through our Europe trip on the blog! 🙂 The first half of our 2-week trip was spent in London and in Paris. I’ve shared posts about the British Museum, the Tower of London/Wesminster Abbey/Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Changing the Guard Ceremony at Buckingham, the climb to the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, our journey on the Eurostar from London to Paris, why we DIDN’T do the Eiffel Tower, and our day at the palace of Versailles.
Whew! That’s a lot already! No wonder why we were wiped when we got home. 😉
You can see more specifics in our detailed 2-week itinerary, too.
As I’ve talked about before, we are huge fans of Airbnb now. We continued to stay at hosts’ homes for the latter half of our Europe trip as well!
Let’s pick up with where we left off. After our long day at Versailles, we picked up our rental car from the Charles de Gaulle Airport and proceeded to head east toward Verdun, European-road-trip style.
We arrived after midnight(!!) in a tiny village outside of Verdun, where our Airbnb was. It was hard to find in the dark and when we called our host, she only spoke French on the phone! Luckily, her son, who spoke English, told us on the phone that he saw our headlights and he hopped on his bike in the middle of the night to come meet us!
We went to sleep right away and woke up in this tiny quiet village to roosters crowing. (The way I tried to plan this trip, every night, we’d spend it at our sight-seeing location for the next day. That way, we’d always be there already and not have to wake up and drive to the next location in the morning.)
Since we were focused on World War One history during this trip, Verdun was a must! I had heard my husband talk about Verdun countless times over the years, and now his dream of seeing it in person was coming true, which made it that much more fun for me, a non-history-major, too!
Verdun was a huge and long battle fought between the Germans and the French.
We started out at the massive Douaumont Ossuary – a memorial containing not only countless names of soldiers who fought, but also containing the remains of soldiers who died there.
It was intensely sobering to see the remains of soldiers through windows at the base of the Ossuary. After busy days in the loud cities of London and Paris, this somber memorial was really impactful.
You can’t help but be overwhelmed by the seriousness and impact of war when visiting places like this – coupled with a desire to learn more about it.
We also climbed to the top of the tower inside the Ossuary and looked out over this cemetery:
We then drove to Fort Douaumont, which was absolutely amazing! Touring this fort and the next one, Fort Vaux, was a highlight of our time in Verdun!
^^ a huge gun turret on top of the fort ^^
Fort Douaumont was one of the French forts protecting Verdun during WWI. We did a really neat iPod tour while inside the fort. It honestly felt like we were in a cavern or cave – it was very dark and damp and quiet, with countless rooms and hallways where the soldiers in the fort lived and worked. You can see photos of what it was like inside the fort here.
^^ scenes like this really struck me with meaning while we were at these sites. Barbed wire combined with beautiful wildflowers made me think about the seriousness and horror of war and how over time, beautiful memories and stories (and eventually, peace) can come from it – but you’ll always be reminded of (and need to remember) the pain it took to get you there. ^^
^^ exploring on top of Fort Vaux ^^
We also saw the Trench of Bayonets – another really sobering place. Soldiers who had been in this trench were killed and buried instantly, leaving their bayonets protruding up out of the ground.
You can’t really see the bayonets anymore but it was so sad and sobering to see.
Later that day, we got groceries at a local grocery store and then drove up to the Waterloo area in Belgium to find our next Airbnb!
I’ll return soon with a post about Waterloo and Belgium!