France 19 Run to Verdun.Part Four

Day 8: Monday 8th July
I had planned the trip well, too well. I had accomplished all of my visits with only two left to do on the Monday. My last day in Verdun with spare time. So I got out my maps and looked up places to visit that would be in the vicinity of my plans. I didn’t want to go too far or do too much. Tomorrow I was riding back north. I found a place called Eparges about 3o miles south east of Verdun. This would tie in nicely for my days tour.

I got up around eight am to a fine sunny day. I was in no rush today. So the usual coffee, orange, flask filling and tool bag loading took place and I headed off to Eparges. This was a place I knew nothing about, but last night I read a bit about the fighting that took place in Eparges in 1915, but I really didn’t know what I was going to expect.

My first sight as I came through a large wood, was fields in front of a hill. At the foot of the hill was a French military cemetery. I stopped here for a half an hour before turning the corner and riding up the hill. I parked up at the foot of a part of the hill which had a winding path to the top of which stood a haunting memorial to the fallen.

Walking along the top of the hill I came across crater after crater. Huge in size. I then came to a sign post with information about the fighting that took place here and other sign posts to guide me through a woodland, this area saw horrors of an unimaginable scale. From what I read last night, the fighting here in 1915 was bitter and ferocious. Between 1915 – 1918 over 300 mines were blown on this small ridge.

Walking back to the Lambretta I stepped round the edge of one of the large craters to get a better photo, but I lost my footing and slipped, tumbling down to the bottom. Only pride was battered, but there was nobody around to witness the calamity. I got to the top and walked on, but when I checked my pockets my phone was gone. I went back and luckily found it lying in the grass.

After recouping my energy with my a rest and my coffee I left, riding back towards Verdun. I stopped at the commune of Souilly and visited the HQ of General Petain of the French Army. As usual it was closed for lunch! So I headed on back along the Voie Sacree (Sacred Way). A road named after it was used to supply the troops and supplies during the Battle of Verdun. I stopped at the memorial to the Sacred Way, before heading back o Verdun. I made an unscheduled stop at a French Military Cemetery and some very large statues of French military leaders, then into Verdun centre for lunch. I took one last walk round Verdun before heading back to my hotel to pack in preparation for the first leg of my ride back tomorrow.

One thing to do was give the Lambretta a check, making sure it was good, for the ride back, especially wheel nuts, last year 3 fell off and by luck I noticed when I stopped at traffic lights. All seemed well, but I had a small issue with the gearbox oil. When I undid the level plug to check the level. (mine has a sight glass, but I couldn’t see well enough) oil started to exit the hole. But when I tried to put the plug back in I dropped it and oil poured everywhere. (I was concerned about a drop of oil left by the Lambretta before I left and I over compensated with some extra oil). There really was no need. I had t use up all my paper towels I had with me to clean up the mess.

Diary entries done. I called it a night.

Mileage for the day: 54

Day 9: Tuesday 9th July

Up early, I packed the last of my belongings and loaded up the Lambretta. I went to the dining room for my last coffee and orange juice. Riding off, there was a reluctancy to leave Verdun. I rode steadily alongside the River Meuse one last time and then rode the hill out of Verdun, heading northward to my overnight stop at Amiens. To break the journey I planned a couple of stops along the way. The first was a French Military cemetery at Brieulles-sur-Meuse. Here was the grave of one British soldier, Frank Stowell of The Post Office Rifles. He died 7th July 1918. I’m in the process of looking at why he ended up in this part of France, no British served in this region.

The weather was great and I headed on. I got lost on the way back to the main road and rode past a farmhouse twice, but it wasn’t long before I was heading in the right direction. I was due a petrol stop at a Hypermarche, so I thought I’d have lunch here too. I got petrol no problem, but the Hypermarche was shut for lunch, again. The lunchtimes in France is a bit of a pain. Everyone goes to lunch at the same time!

Carrying on, I reached Saint Quentin. Amazingly, I managed to get through a heavily congested city without getting lost. The road on from Saint Quentin was one of my favourite parts of the trip. I was riding towards Amiens, but I took a slight detour to the believed crash site of Baron von Richthofen, The Red Baron. Not too much to see here apart from a signpost telling us he was shot down here.

It’s getting hotter. I was now skirting the west of The Somme, stunningly beautiful countryside. Riding alongside a small gauge railway supply line from the Great War, which is used for tourists.

Soon after, I arrived at the outskirts of Amiens. I checked in to my usual budget hotel group Premiere Classe. They’re far from premier class, but they’re clean and cheap and do the job for stop overs when travelling. When I took my luggage to my room I was delighted to find it had air conditioning. A first for me and very much needed. Today was really hot.

Once checked in I took a ten minute walk to a nearby shopping park with a huge hypermarche. I got some food and water and went back to my room. It was suggested to me by Mark Banning to go into Amiens to see the Cathedral light show that evening, but I was tired and on a bit of a downer after leaving Verdun.

Diary entries written I then went to bed.

Mileage for the day: 185

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