Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Amiens & Villers-Bretonneux, France: N'oublions jamais l'Australie

When I tell Frenchies I've been to Amiens they always have a very surprised look on their faces and ask me one question... Why?... Allow me to justify.

After a relatively short train ride I was now in my third French Region and third Region capital. I walked to my next host's place, which turned out to be a massive 8 bedroom 3 story student apartment. Since the room next to his was currently vacant I received my own room... the owner probably wouldn't have been as impressed as I was. With my own room and a Belgium beer in hand within 5 mins of arriving I was once again reminded why I love Couchsurfing, strangers and travelling.

During the consumption of beers I said I would cook, my 4th time cooking the exact same meal for a host. To quote The Castle "Why go to a restaurant when this keeps coming up night after night?"... Chicken (if non vegetarian), mushroom and sun-dried tomato pesto fettuccine.  It has impressed everyone so far.

On the way to the supermarket we stop by one of his flatmate's rooms. As I enter her room I am hit by a really unpleasant smell. She has cages full of animals in her room. A real life young French female version of Dr Dolittle. We all went to the supermarket where I purchased the food and they took care of the alcohol. When we returned we moved the lounges to the backyard and ate outside while listening to different styles of music.... Dr Dolittle was actually very nice and pretty cool for a crazy animal girl.

After dinner my host drove me around Amiens! Which has France's biggest completed cathedral by internal volume.

    The 2nd little one from the bottom left is famous for appearing to look like a guy giving it the guy on all fours.

The next morning it was time to leave for the real reason I came to Amiens... The Australian War Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux. With all my luggage I boarded the very infrequent train to this tiny town where all streets, cafes, bars, parks and school are named after Australia, Victoria or Melbourne.

The war memorial was 2 km out of town and 3 km from the station. It felt quite fitting to be walking that distance carrying 30 kg of luggage. My struggle was nothing compared to that of the people that lay here in eternal rest.

                                        The walk

I was the only person at the memorial when I arrived. After placing my luggage on the ground I stood in silence with my head bowed and eyes closed. In my head I quoted the Ode of Remembrance:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. 
At the going down of the sun and in the morning, 
We will remember them.
Lest we forget.

I walked this massive graveyard comprising of over 2000 tombstones, half of which are Australian, with tears running down my face. It was incredibly overwhelming. At the end of the ground is a massive wall covered in the names of over 11 thousand Australians, that also died in France during WWI, with no known graves.

                                        Bullets holes from WWII returning to this very site



  1. Very touching... Such a powerful experience too. I would bring there any Aussie visiting my country!

  2. Hey Trent!
    I'm very happy to have participated in your trip. I'm happy to have hosted you =)
    What you wrote about the memorial is very touching.
    If I didn't have to work I would have accompanied you gladly...

    Enjoy your trip =) Hope to see you again (in Aix en Provence ? ^^)

    Quentin: Amiens Host ^^

    1. is that with you when a bird shit on my laptop as soon as I put it outside? X)

    2. Haha not me! Thanks again and maybe see you soon