Sunday, February 24, 2013

Le Nord... AGAIN!

Who knew I was going to spend another awesome time in northern France again?!  Similar to last time, my host family and I travelled back up to Nord-Pas-de-Calais (most northern region in France) to see their family and visit unique areas!
We first visited the Souterrain de Cambrai which is an underground tunnel integrated in the fortifications that enclosed the city of Cambrai back in 1543.  It was built under the control of Charles V, the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.  Cambrai was a very strong citadel until the Sun King (Louis XIV) conducted the annexation of the city later in 1677, destroying the walls.
The entrance of the souterrain

Soldiers who protected the city used these underground tunnels,
and they shot their guns through these small holes that pointed to the outside fortification.
After, I was super, super, SUPER fortunate to spend one of the best days here in France at Vimy Ridge:  the famous Canadian legacy of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.  Heard about it before, but don't know why it's so well known in Canada?  Well it's because during WWI, it was captured by Germany and it was a very strong defensive position along the Western Front (a trench-fighting stalemate that stretched almost 1000km from the Belgium coast to Swiss borders).  However on April 9th, 1917, Canadian soldiers numbering up to 20, 000 went to battle against the Germans and successfully gained position of the area on April 12th.  Thanks to these Canadian soldiers in this battle and several others, these achievements helped Canada to gain international recognition and a separate signature on the Treaty of Versailles that ended the war officially.  YEAH CANADA!!!
I made it here!!!

The battle was at a high cost: 11, 000 casualties plus nearly 3, 600 were killed.
The others out of the 20, 000 are buried and honoured here.

Appalingly, the 1914-1918 "war to end all wars" was followed by another terrifying war,
yet more severe and widespread.

Trench of the Western Front

"No Man's Land" between the oppositions:
dead and injured soldiers who fell in it were often unable to be recovered

Underground tunnels used during war

Merci Canada for fighting with France.
Merci France for giving the land to Canada to commemorate for those who fought bravely.

I'm in France AND Canada!!
(Since the land was given to Canada by France,
I can say that I spent my break in Canada... can't I?)

The Vimy Ridge monument with my host family

The front of the Vimy Ridge Monument
11, 285 names of the Canadian soldiers who were listed as missing or dead are inscribed on this monument.
The day at Vimy was absoluetely incredible especially with the perfect weather and I can't thank enough to my host parents for taking me there.  The tour was unique because the guides were Canadian university students who spoke English and French, working there for 4 months.  Thus, thank you to France and Canada for commemorating those who battled in war by creating and preserving a magnific monument and site.
That same day, we also stopped by Arras, a lovely city near Vimy.  It was so gorgeous that I was twirling and dancing in the streets with so much happiness!  Yup, my host family was quite surprised, but they were probably happy to see that I enjoyed these visits so much.

City center and the Beffroi de Arras (Belfry)
Cute boutiques everywhere ♥ ♥ ♥
The Beffroi of Arras is a "flamboyant" gothic belfry that was constructed in the 15th and 16th century.  Why "flamboyant"?  Well from just looking at it, there are so many intricate details that makes your eyes glue on the building for more than just a good minute.  For example at the very top of the belfry, there is a lion d'or (golden lion) because the lion is the symbolic animal of the city including the rat.  Yeah, you can say that there are many lovely belfrys in France, but I tell you this one is especially beautiful.  And of course it is recognized in the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Entrance of the Beffroi, facing outside
We climbed up to the top of the Beffroi and the view was fabulous!
The highest point for visitors is just where the clock is placed.
Undoubtly, that day was one of the most memorable days of my exchange.  I wish you were there too!!


If you ever stop by in France, you MUST try the famous frites of the north!  (Aka: French fries)  No, they are not healthy at all and no, "French" fries apparently do not originate from France... weird to say.  There's still no clear evidence, but historians believe it comes from Belgium in fact.  (Hint, hint... the region is just below the country.)  The term "French" was probably established when the American soldiers (who came to Belgium to fight in WWI)  tasted these fries because the official language of the Belgian Army was French.  Therefore, fries are actually Belgian.

Le Mitraillette (in Belgium) or an Américan (in France) that I ate.
Le Mitraillette also means machine gun in French...  like many people, I have no clue why.  It's Belgian cuisine that's made of fries, baguette, sauce (mayo in the photo), seasoning (optional) and meat, but specially in this photo (and horrifyingly for the health), it was a sausage known as frikandel which is hidden under the fries.  It was yummy anyways!

And of course you could have guessed... I visited Belgium too!!  What more?  I was also able to meet my fellow exchange friend from my own district in Canada (5360)!  His host country is Belgium and luckily my host family and I went to see him in the city of Mons, just 30 min drive away from the French-Belgian border.


My host sister, her cousin, my Canadian exchange friend and I beside the monkey.
(See it?)

It gives you good luck when you rub its head with your left hand!

A MUST try... Belgian waffles ♥ ♥ (Mine was raspberry flavour!)
Yeah, you might think that exchange is a lot about eating eh?
Well that is very true indeed.

I can't believe it's already the end of February!  So many things come and go, and I wish I can tightly grasp on these marvellous moments forever.  However, time can't stop and I've got to keep on going.  Come on March!  Here I go for more adventure!


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