In Flanders Fields – The Flanders Field American Cemetery

11 April 2017

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”

– John McCrae   

As a student in elementary school in the 1950s, I was expected to learn “In Flanders Fields.” Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel McCrae wrote it on 3 May 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres. I don’t remember particularly relating to his words, or even poppies. After the past few days, after seeing “row on row” of soldiers who died, after walking in the trenches and “between the crosses,” this poem symbolizes so much more to me today.  (more…)

The Ypres Salient and Last Post

9 April 2017

The day dawns sunny and warm, the sky a clear blue. The fields are a scene of tranquility. Spring is blooming and trees are budding. The roads of Belgium are filled with great squadrons of cyclists. The ducks and swans share the waters with the occasional fisherman or boat. Church bells peal in the distance; nearby it is birds I hear.

The day is too beautiful to be marred by sadness as I descend into the tunnels and trench fortifications of Dodengang along the Ypres Salient. No sound of the booming German guns; no threat of sharp shooters. It is warm and sunny in the trenches without a hint of water or ankle-deep mud.  (more…)

World War Two: The Ardennes and Battle of the Bulge

5 April 2017

I drive the Ardennes. Miles and miles of stunning emerald green fields, the cherry trees a splash of white, just flowering out. Other trees are still in dormancy and an elegant contrast with the green and the white. Cows graze the fields, white too against the green grass. I drive along ridges, the earth dropping precipitously into what is the Meuse Valley where hundreds of thousands of men have fallen in battle. (more…)

 Waterloo

4 April 2017

Any kid knows of Napoleon and Waterloo. Of a right age when Waterloo is mentioned, some may think of ABBA. Even older? How about Stonewall Jackson or Ferlin Husky? I remember all of them, but mostly I think of the extraordinary general who was Napoléon Bonaparte. (more…)

Bruxelles

3 April 2017

Brussels has changed since I last visited. In fact, Brussels was the first “out of country” event I ever experienced. Way back in 1972 this novice traveler landed in Brussels with too much baggage, too high of heels, and too many whistle-provoking clothes. Google Maps wasn’t even close to being realized. 

Today, I am back. One little bag, sensible shoes, too old for whistles and using my Google Map to navigate the short distance to my wonderful Hotel Agora Brussels Grand Palace.  (more…)

Ghent – The Trois of the Ménage

1 April 2017

Ghent has the ‘misfortune’ of being sandwich between the phenomenal Grand Palace Square in Brussels and the incredibly beautiful medieval city of Bruges. Antwerp has its stunning rail station, Bruges its belfry, and Brussels the gorgeous Hotel de Ville. In Bruges, in Brussels, the architecture, museums, cafes and streets present a delightful invitation to wander and fall in love with these lovely cities. 

Upon arrival into Ghent (Gent for the French and Germans), my first impression was the city had its work cut out for it. The rail station was appealing, the ubiquitous bicycles stood in a row outside, but most architecture seemed modern and plain. I had read many favorable comments about this city. What was to be my ultimate “ah ha” moment for Ghent? (more…)

Beloved Bruges. Or Is It Brugge?

29 March 2017

Bruges is a city that impresses from the moment one steps out of the train station. Whether I pronounce it Bruges like the French, or Brugge, the Flemish pronunciation, the city is gorgeous from every angle. Every street, square, park, and church is noteworthy and excites the senses.  (more…)