Today I learned that if you change orientations from Portrait to Landscape while using the WordPress app, it reloads the page, deleting everything you’ve written.
As I said in my last entry, today was my sightseeing day in Antwerp. i started by returning to the train station, which was a huge, beautiful building, right in the Diamond District. The sheer number of jewelers in the area is astonishing.
I went on to the Grote Markt, a grand square in front of the City Hall, with a huge fountain in it. Nearby is Antwerp Cathedral, in which you can find a number of artworks, including a few by Rubens.
I walked by a few more historic buildings, and finished with a walk by the river, passing Het Steen, a medieval castle.
I then walked down the Sint Annatunnel (Saint Anne’s Tunnel), which was completed in 1933, connecting both sides of the river for foot traffic. It contains the original wooden escalators.
Another travel day. I left Antwerp for Luxembourg, via Brussels.
When I arrived in Luxembourg, around lunchtime, I made the most of my time in the city. It was unfortunate that they are currently in the process of repairing the Adolphe Bridge and the square in front of their palace, but that gave me time to see their local history museum, and to explore the casemates (fortified tunnels in the mountains for the city’s defense).
Another travel day. This time to Amiens, France, via Saarbrucken, Germany, and Paris.
By the time I got into Amiens, I just found some dinner and called it a night.
It was a little rainy today, but I didn’t let that stop me from seeing what Amiens had to offer. Primarily, that meant the cathedral.
Notre Dame d’Amiens is actually bigger than the one in Paris. And I think it’s nicer, but that could just be the chapel at the back with the Australian flag in it. I could be biased.
I also discovered the Jules Verne Museum, in the house he lived in during his eight years in the city. They claim that he was at the height of his fame, which I’m inclined to believe, since he had already written the books he’s famous for before he moved there.
That evening, I caught the last train out to the village of Villers-Bretonneux. Just outside of town is the Australian National Memorial. During the Great War, the town was occupied by the Germans on the 23rd of April, 1918. At 10 pm on the 24th, the Australians showed up, and had liberated the village by morning.
Which means that the 25th of April is just as important, if not more important, to the people of this area, as it is to the Australians. Anzac Day is the anniversary of the 1915 Gallipoli landings, and is Australia’s biggest national holiday. But it’s still just one day. In Villers-Bretonneux they celebrate Australian Week.
But that’s what brought me to this village. The Anzac Day Dawn Service. Honoring the Australian soldiers who fell on the Western Front, many of whom were buried just metres away. It was cold, I was tired, but I’d do it all again. An incredibly moving service. Thousands of Australians were in attendance, and for just one day, it felt like home.
Another travel day, from Amiens to Bayeux, via Paris and Rouen. I stopped over in Rouen for a few hours, to see a couple of churches, and most importantly, the place where Joan of Arc was burned (and I spent an hour or two at the Joan of Arc museum).
I shelled out and paid for a tour today. I had pre-ordered it, so don’t think you can just show up and find your way onto a tour of the D-Day Beaches. I mean, you probably can, but don’t risk it.
The tourguide was great, we saw St Mere Eglise, where two paratroopers famously were caught on the local church, and were hanging there for hours.
We saw the immense German cemetary, where some 20,000 bodies are buried, in comparison to the American cemetary, which is four times the size, with half the bodies.
We walked on Utah and Omaha Beaches, and saw the landscape at Point Du Hoc in between, where the craters left by the shelling were never filled in.
Another day trip, this time to the world-famous Mont-St-Michel, one of my must-sees for France.
It was a little surreal when my bus crested the hill, and all of a sudden, there was this little island off in the distance, with a huge monastary on top, surrounded by a village. And as I got closer, it just seemed more fantastic. Like something from a book.
Unfortunately, I got there near low tide, and didn’t get to see the island fully surrounded by water. High tide was scheduled late that night, so I’d never have made it.
Today I got to see the Bayeux Tapestry, which is more than a little mind-boggling. The detail in the near-millenia old stitching is great, their use of colour and different stitching to create movement and depth, as they basically create a massive comic book is brilliant.
No photography is allowed, of course, but an audioguide is part of the visit, taking you through the story of William the Conquerer step by step as you look at the tapestry.
I caught an afternoon train back to Paris, where I got on an overnight to Milan.
‘Sleeper train’ is a misleading name. It’s very hard to sleep for a myriad of reasons. The noise, the movement, and of course the worry that you’re going to miss your stop, or that something is going to happen to your passport while the train staff have it.
But it was a roof over my head for a night, and I can’t complain about that. Cheaper than the combination of transport and accomodation too. I managed to snag a cabin to myself too.
Speaking of getting lucky. Today I found out that you need a reservation to see The Last Supper, and that people book months in advance. Considering up until a few weeks ago, I thought The Last Supper was in The Louvre, that was never going to happen for me. However, at 8.15am they sell off the cancelled bookings. Fortunately, I had arrived at my hostel by around 6am, and was in the line before 8. I managed to get into the 3.30pm session. I can’t imagine there were many tickets left after that, so I wouldn’t recommend doing it the way I did.
Of course, that meant I had the rest of the day to kill. So I went and checked out some churches (Santa Maria del Grazie, which is the church The Last Supper is at, although the two are separate, and the Monastry of Saint Maurice), as well as checking out Sforzesco Castle, which is immense, and just in the middle of the city, moat and all.
Today it rained. All day. Which is why I’m here writing this.
I didn’t waste a day though, I braved the weather to go see the Duomo, which is one of the oldest cathedrals in Italy, and seems to be the biggest I’ve ever seen, at least from inside (Wikipedia confirms this, it’s the fifth biggest church in the world).
Nearby is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a huge shopping arcade, with a massive glass dome in the middle, with works of art inside. On the floor in the middle is a huge mosaic, part of which is the Turin coat of arms, a rearing bull. Legend has it if you place your heel on the bull’s testicles and spin around three times, it will bring you luck. I did it, just to be safe, but I don’t feel any luckier.
So that’s where I’m at. Tomorrow I’m going to the Cinque Terre for a few days, and after that, Florence.