Canada

Visiting the Canadian Battlefields of Vimy Ridge in France

Monument de VimyLocated just over 10km from Arras in France, the Canadian National Vimy Memorial (monument et parc commémoratifs du canada à vimy) is a MUST SEE for someone of any nationality to visit to get an insight on a significant part of Canadian history.

The 250 acres of land where the Canadian National Vimy Memorial resides constitutes as a memorial site in France dedicated to the memory of Canadian soldiers and other military forces killed during the First World War. The land was not only given to Canada by France, but it was earned after an excruciating and disadvantaged battle against the Germans. Thus, it is interesting to point out that once you enter the grounds of the Vimy Monument and Park in France, you are actually on Canadian soil. In my case, it was a[boot] time I set foot on Canadian grounds again. Even though I was still in beautiful France.

Canadian Trees
914181_10152742665445032_22136078_oThe Battlefields of Vimy Ridge are extremely well-perserved with modifications made for safety reasons, and unforgettably beautiful. Thousands and thousands of beautiful Canadian trees (all 11,285 of them) surround the area that was once blown out of proportion [one may say], with all the dugged up trenches and giant craters caused by explosives. Once an unbearable and toxic area, the battlefields are now filled with copious amounts of awe-inspiring trees, bright green grass, and well-preserved trenches. Not only does the area create a Canadian environment, but the staff who provide information, tours, and assistance are all Canadians as well. This is a special element to the trip, as it really makes you feel at home, or at least gives you a feel of Canada if you’ve never been.
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From going on a historical and informative guided tour of the trenches and grounds, to visiting the extravagant
Vimy Memorial that stands erected at Hill 145 (the highest point of Vimy Ridge), this is one historical sight that can’t be missed when touring around France. 
The Canadian National Vimy Memorial is one of Canada’s most important overseas war memorials.
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One can learn so much about Canadian history, and even Canadian identity, just from a visit to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial near Arras, France. Therefore, I encourage any traveller who is visiting France, who has a Canadian relative  or who is a history fanatic, to visit the Canadian battlegrounds of Vimy Ridge.
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It’s worth the visit, especially since it’s extremely beautiful, informative, awe-inspiring, fun, free, and did I mention FREE? All paid by the Canadian government, the grounds and staff costs are all funded by the Canadian government and even provides free access to toilets (unlike anywhere else in France).
If you’ve never heard of the Battle of Vimy Ridge / need a refresher, here is a summary from an online:
“The First World War is known for its destruction, massive slaughters, and countless offensive failures. Few battles were clear successes; most became large scale chaos and butchery. The first real Allied  success was the battle of Vimy Ridge, fought by Canadian troops with British support. Between the years of 1914 & 1915, the French lost 150,000 men trying to take the ridge. In 1916 the British took over the fight and continued the ineffective tactics of repeated shelling, mining, raiding, and skirmishing by night. In 1917,  the Canadian Corp, under the First British Army, began to formulate plans for taking the ridge from Germany. The element of surprise was effectively used in conjunction with careful planning by the Canadians. Four divisions of the Canadian Corps began their assault on Vimy Ridge on April 9th, 1917. Usually artillery would pound enemy lines for days or even weeks before troops would be sent “over the top” or out of the trenches to attack the enemy soldiers. Canadian gunners used wind information, provided by weather planes and balloons, when targeting (a very rare practice at the time). They wanted to be sure not to accidentally drop shells on their own people so they carefully calibrated the guns to shoot just ahead of where the advancing troops were to be. This exceptional cover fire allowed the Canadian troops to reach the German trenches, though many casualties were sustained. By using innovative strategies, Canadians took the ridge on April 14. The 6 mile area, containing numerous trenches and tunnels,  was very important for tactical reasons; one could see far into the German area from the top of the ridge. Of the 100,000 Canadians who took part in the battle, 3,598 were killed and 7,004 wounded. The Battle of Vimy Ridge was a success while  showing that careful and intelligent military planning could be used to win battles with minimum casualties.”
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As the anniversary of this historical battle was in the month of April, I was extremely lucky to visit the battlefields of Vimy Ridge at this time with my family while visiting Paris.

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HOW TO GET THERE?

We took the train (TGV) from Gare de Nord in Paris in the morning and arrived in Arras in less then an hour. The total cost roundtrip can cost less then 40 euros if booked ahead of time. Once we got to Arras, it is suggested that you take a taxi to the Vimy Memorial site as there are no bus services and walking there could take hours. The number I used to call a taxi was (06 69 34 74 75) and costed roughly 25 euros each way, but we split this cost 3 ways, since there was 3 of us. In some cases, it may just be easier to drive to the Arras from Paris and follow the road signs to the Vimy Memorial. If you haven’t seen a red Canadian maple leaf symbol, then you’ve gone to far. The area closes at 5pm, so make sure you give yourself a few hours to take a guided tour of the grounds and a visit to the beautifully designed Vimy Memorial that took 11 years to build.

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Again, the Vimy Ridge Memorial grounds and Monument in France is a must see historical war sight that can’t be missed when visiting and traveling around France!
 
Have you visited Vimy or do you plan to visit?
What did you think of the historical WWI sight?
Leave a comment down below!
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Categories: Arras, Autumn, Blog, Canada, Fall, France, Holidays, Seasons, Spring, Survival Guide, Travel Sights, Travel Tips, Vimy Ridge | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Next Stop: Belfast, Northern Ireland

So begins my 10 day tour of Ireland!

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~ Day 1 ~

With Paddy Wagon Tours (which I highly recommend taking if you really want see a lot in Ireland in a short amount of time) we started our day by driving to Belfast, which is actually in Northern Ireland and the only part of Ireland that is sectioned off and part of the UK. Ireland is its own country with euros as their currency, while Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and uses pounds. This is a bit of a hassle to carry both euros and pounds, but its interesting at the same time. Not only is currency the only thing that separates Northern Ireland from Ireland, but also the road markings and signs. It’s interesting to note that driving in Ireland, you will have yellow lines on the left side of the road, where all of a sudden, when you enter Northern Ireland, the line turns white; indicating that you are now in a different country. There isn’t really a border or border patrol to enter each country, so that saves you the hassle of talking to the typically scary and intimidating officers at a country’s border.

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At the start of our tour, we stopped in Drogheda to see the preserved head of St. Oliver Plunkett (death: 1681) in St. Peter’s Cathedral. It felt extremely eerie to see an actual head right near theater of the cathedral and I felt weird talking a picture of it, but I did. You know it’s going to be a good day when you start your morning with a viewing of a preserved dead man’s head. Afterwards, we stopped at a really beautiful cemetery called Monasterboice.

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On our drive to Belfast, we had one of the most cheerful, spontaneous and enthusiastic tour guide who sang Irish songs that some people knew, but most people didn’t. He would tell us all about the stories and interesting myths of Ireland and we would all laugh when he said a word that ended in “-th” because the Irish don’t pronounce “-th” and just pronounce the “-t”. For example, the say three as “tree” or say thirty as “terty”. It’s quite humorous fun.

Once we arrived, we all took a Black Taxi Tour around Belfast. This tour option is the cheapest and best way to get around the city. The Black Taxi Tour is the most recommended thing to do in Belfast, and it only costed £8 for each person to get driven around all the unique places of Belfast and told of all the history and events that have taken place around the city.

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Even though it’s the 21st century, there is still religious conflict and riots in Belfast. There have been bombings, gun fires, murders, and distress between the Catholics and Protestants, who a mainly separated from each other in the own encased communities. Literally, there are walls that have been there for decades separating the Catholics and Protestants within the city. You would never have a Protestant living within the Catholic walls, and vice versa.

They have gates within each enclosed community and come Saturday night at 11:59, the gates close for 24 hours. For the entire Sunday, nobody is to leave or enter the gates because it is God’s day. Only one gate is left open for security and evacuation reasons, but still, I could not believe that this is going on in Northern Ireland. There is a peace wall in between the two religious communities with colourful political murals and graffiti where visitors can leave messages of peace and hope for the people of Belfast.

Photo 10-12-2012 09 01 17After the Black Taxi tour, we all went to the Christmas market. After we all got hot drinks and Christmas goodies, we began our walk around the city. Some people went to the Titanic museum, but it was beyond my money budget (plus I’ve already been to a lot of titanic museums). On the walk around the city, we saw the city centre, city hall, Albert clock, and Europia (the most bombed hotel in Europe).

Photo 10-12-2012 09 03 24Across from the hotel was a convenient store that sold something surprising and amazing: Tim Hortons. This was the only place in Ireland and in the UK where I saw Tim Hortons being sold. Tim Hortons is a very Canadian novelty and seeing Timmy’s in another country made me feel like I was back home again in Canada. I miss my Tim Hortons.

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In the evening, all the paddy wagoners went out Photo 10-12-2012 11 01 22for dinner at an Irish pub and had a great time getting to know everyone. The hostel we stayed at was the sketchiest hostel I’ve ever stayed at. Barely any of keys would work and one room had to get the door broken into, because the none of the keys would work. I also had these guys knocking on the window in the middle of the night asking me to let them in, because they forgot their key. We were told not to let anyone from the outside in, because the last time some foolish tourist did that…

The outcome was horrific.

Important travel tip:

Bring Earplugs. They were literally a godsend with people knocking on the nearby window and the restless noises of 11 other people in your 12 person room. Perks of staying at a hostel for cheap.

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Overall, Belfast was full of surprises, turmoil, history, and even beauty. If you are one for religious and political conflicts or the history surrounding it, check out Belfast, because although it’s the 21st century, it seems like they still live in the 19th or 20th century. It’s quite an interesting and unique city.

Check out my journey in Dublin, Ireland

Check out Day 2 on my Paddy Wagon Tour!

Categories: Autumn, Belfast, Blog, Canada, Dublin, Fall, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Seasons, Survival Guide, Travel Sights, Travel Tips, United Kingdom, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Top 10 (FREE) Attractions To See In LONDON, ENGLAND


Transportation costs to London can be quite pricey (Especially if you are coming from North America, like me), however, once you get to London, there are A LOT of things, places, and events to see for FREE! That’s right! FREE! The list contains a variety of attractions from museums to shopping areas, and from historical buildings to beautiful, royal parks. One may say that the following attractions are “priceless”, because indeed, they are…

1) BIG BEN

Probably the most photogenic and overly photographed site in London, Big Ben represents the worldly iconic symbol of England and is a marvellous structure to see; along side the parliament buildings as well. Capture the building itself from across the river or on the Westminister Bridge.

2) Abby Road

Iconic for being The Beatles sleeve for their 11th studio album, Abby Road is a popular tourist attraction for many (not just for any Beatles fan). Gather 3 of your friends and head to Abby Road to capture a photo of you four crossing Abby Road that will probably be your most “liked” Facebook profile picture. P.s. Click ‘Abby Road’ above to check out a live broadcast of people crossing the iconic Road.

3) Hyde Park

No matter the season, this beautiful, royal park will be that relaxing and tranquil moment you’ve been waiting for after such a stressful, yet exciting day of travelling in unknown territory.

4) Princess Diana Memorial Walk / Fountain

I have yet to visit this tourist site, but I know it’s beautiful and 100% free. It’s not far from Buckingham Palace, and so, if you are in the area, make sure you check out the memorial for Princess Diana.

5) Camden Market

Now the fourth most popular tourist attraction in London, Camden Market specializes in alternative fashion, vintage, emerging designers, and funky clothing stores, as well as unique items. It’s also a great place for people watching… if you’re into that sort of thing.

6) Harrods

It’s extremely pricey to physically buy something at Harrod’s, but to actually visit and be amazed by this humungous department store is free. Just don’t fall into temptations, especially if you’re obsessed with buying shoes; you may just walk out £3000 in debt. yeah… £3000 for a pair of shoes, or maybe just one shoe? Check out my vlog below to witness this pair of shoes at Harrods!

7) Trafalgar Square

This square is absolutely beautiful and in the heart of London. This iconic attraction has many sights to see including the National Gallery (see below) and Nelson’s Column. It is both a tourist attraction and the main focus for political demonstrations.

8) National Gallery

The National Gallery is located in Trafalgar Square and has more than 2,000 works on display from 1260 onwards. All of the great names in art history can be found here, including Raphael, Rembrandt, Renoir, Titian, Turner, Monet, Da Vinci and Van Gogh. The cost is free and it is an absolute MUST-SEE in my opinion.

9) Westminister Abby

Unfortunatly, Westminister Abby relies on admission fees from visitors to cover running costs. However! You may see the inside of the Abby for FREE for those who want to worship. The abby never charges those who want to pray or worship inside; so keep this in mind if you want to avoid paying the £16.

10) British Museum

Depending on the time you visit London, the British Museum often have free exhibitions and displays that you have to book ahead of time to see. If you visit London during a free exhibition and display event, then definitely check out the British Museum; other then specific times, unfortunately, it does cost money to visit the museum.

CHECK OUT MY YOUTUBE VIDEO OF LONDON, ENGLAND (CLICK HERE)

Categories: Blog, Canada, England, London, Travel Sights, Travel Tips, United Kingdom, Vlogs, Youtube | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SPENDING CHRISTMAS IN EUROPE!

This post is more or less for my family and friends back home as a way to update them on when and where I will be during my holiday vacation!

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December 7th – Last Day of Classes!

December 8th til 19th – Traveling All of Ireland with my Australian friend Freya!

December 20th til 23rd – Traveling to Belgium, and visiting Bruges & Brussels with my Belgian friend Caroline and fellow Queens friend Savannah!

December 24th til 27th – Spending Christmas with Savannah & reunited with Freya in Berlin, Germany!

December 27th til 30th – Traveling to Austria, seeing Vienna and going skiing with my other fellow Queens friend Kirsten in her cousins winter cabin!

December 30th – Fly back to the UK

December 31st – Spending New Years Eve in Edinburgh!!

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Now that I have actually written all my travel plans down… I’m actually overwhelmed on how much I am traveling over the Christmas season! The realized why I wanted to travel so much… It’s so I’m constantly busy, and thus keeping my mind off the fact that I won’t be back home in Canada for Christmas with my family and friends. As I won’t be home for Christmas, I figured I’d treat myself with all the money I’m saving from flying back to Canada, and then back to the UK, that I would travel in Europe over the Christmas break, and this is what I will be doing.

Keep checking back to my blog for recent updates, as I will be blogging as I travel this holiday season! 🙂
Also, Have a listen to my personal Christmas music playlist here!

Cheers, Ryan.

Categories: Blog, Canada, Christmas, Edinburgh, England, Flights, Germany, Leeds, Scotland, United Kingdom, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Check Out My Travel Videos!

What have I been up to this glorious October week? Well…

I started to study… wait, what? Yeah, that’s right! I actually go to school!
I’ve realized that after all the vast amounts of trips that I have embarked on… I NEED TO GET TO WORK! The non-existing pile of schoolwork has grown into has grown into this grotesque heap of essays and readings. Ew.

Besides actually doing work, I’ve been planning my christmas vacations and various other travels, which I will be keeping a secret for now… That’s a secret I’ll never tell! x

ALSO! I’ve finally edited my videos for my youtube channel, in which I will upload “vlogs” of my travels and for my family and friends to see what I’m seeing, and for them to live vicariously through me, if they wanted too.

So, if you would like to check out my videos on where I am, and what I’m doing in London, Oktoberfest, and Scotland: Check out my channel here!

INTRO VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LD4d5R5Ayz4
LONDON DAY 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJPtGRovY-0&feature=plcp
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ONDON DAY 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15P3kW_Q4io&feature=youtu.be&a

Categories: Blog, Canada, England, London, Travel Sights, United Kingdom, Vlogs, Youtube | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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