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Located 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.
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.
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).
“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.”
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.
======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!
~ Day 3 ~
Oh what an Irish night that was… For those that were there that night in Derry… Well, it’s our little secret! Lets just say too many Irish named shots (I.e. Irish car bomb, Irish flag, etc.)! But boy! What a night!
We woke up… Not feeling that greatest but still up and out by 9am! I was sad to leave the Paddy’s palace hostel in Derry, because it was the first hostel that felt warm and at home. The staff was cheerful and nice, with Christmas decorations all around, a constant fireplace going and a cute cat. It was fantastic.
Check it out here.
We embarked on a long bus ride to a city that I have been most looking forward to: Galway.
With Shawnie, our Irish bus driver, singing some good ole Irish tunes to get over our morning hangover, we drove through the enchanting Sligo! On the way through, we visited the sacred grave of Ireland’s national poet: Nobel Laureate WB Yates.
Afterwards, we continued on driving through the vast archeological and cultural richness of Ireland’s North West Coast.
As we had a 4 hour bus ride, not including the two stops on the way, we all slept. Well… Tried too. We had a family with two kids on the bus, among many young, wild, party, adolescents, who were probably well rested and bored. So the bus driver put on an Irish kids film about horses… Basically, I’ve never heard so many loud and unnecessary sound effects in my life… Even the music eliciting from my headphones couldn’t drown the noises coming from this headache-inducing movie. I did manage to get 20 mins of sleep; so that’s cool.
We finally arrived at our hostel in Galway (Sleepzone) and I slept in a 12 person room. Besides the unfortunate amount of people I had to sleep in a room with, the hostel was amazing! The staff again were very nice, and the place is beautiful! It doesn’t even look like a hostel! Even better!
Eventually, Freya and I hit the city center in Galway, where we went to the Christmas market, then Eyre Center (where I got my Christmas jumper at Penny’s, aka Primark of Ireland) and ventured to Shop street. You can imagine what was on this street. Loads and loads of little shops! Galway is known for there Claddagh rings, which basically is a heart, in front of two hands, in front of a crown. The heart is for love, hands are for friendship, and the crown is for loyalty. Many locals buy these rings and give them to the ones they love or a great friend. They are very symbolic and Freya ended up getting one of them!
After shopping, we walked around Galway at night and headed back to the hostel to get ready for dinner with the rest of the Paddy Wagoneers! We went to this cool Irish pub called Skeffs and had dinner and strawberry daiquiri’s. We ventured to another local Irish pub (The Quays) with live Irish music, which was really awesome! Reminds me of my favourite Irish pub back home!
That night in Galway was the last night we will be with our other Paddy Wagoneers, as they are all on a 6 day tour of Ireland and Freya and I are on the 10 day tour and continuing to stay in Galway for 3 nights. It was extremely sad to see our new friends go.
We’ve made some amazing friendships on this tour and I wish we could spend more days traveling with them in Ireland.
So begins my 10 day tour of Ireland!
~ 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.
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.
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.
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.
After 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).
Across 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.
In the evening, all the paddy wagoners went out for 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.
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.
Many of my international friends will be visiting Paris and have asked for my personal recommendations of things to do and see in short amount of time while in the city of love.
Here are the following recommendations that I would suggest for people to make time to visit and experience; most of which are free, or in this case, the price of a 1,70 euro metro ticket. If you will be using the metro during the time you are in Paris to get around (instead of walking), I would advise travellers to save money by purchasing 10 pack of tickets for 12.70€ (trust me, this is the best way to save about 5,00€)
Personally, the Eiffel Tower is one of my favourite places (and probably the most visited place in Paris) along with establishing itself as the most symbolic and global icon of Paris. Standing at 320 metres tall, the Eiffel Tower is absolutely stunning to witness in person; a night or during the day. After taking a vast amount of photos in front the tower, I highly recommend climbing the horrendous amount of stairs to the very top. Climbing the Eiffel Tower was on my bucket list, and for those who are able to do so, I recommend it. Also, it’s cheaper to climb at a ticket price of 3,50€ compared to the higher price (and lengthy wait) of taking the escalator.
2) Arc de Triomphe (Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile)
One of the most famous monuments in Paris, the Arc de Triomphe honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars. While the Arc de Triomphe is one of those historical monuments that is a MUST SEE, you can walk along the Champs-Elysées, which is filled with ritzy stores like Mercedes-Benz and Louis Vuitton. The street is absolutely beautiful at night, especially around Christmas, with all the lights lit up for the season. Take the metro to Charles de Gaulle étoile.
Located between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde, Jardin des Tuileries is one of the most visited gardens in Paris; this is for many reasons, but one reason is that it is absolutely alluring. Take a walk through the gardens either on your way to the Eiffel Tower or after you visited La musée de Louvre.
There are two museums that I strongly recommend visiting and the Musée du Louvre is one of them. Not only is Louvre a historic monument, it is also one of the world’s largest museums. You could literally spend a whole day in there; it’s that large. Not only do the contain interesting and unique exhibitions, but it also holds one of the most famous paintings: The Mona Lisa. Beware of pick-pocketers, and the massive amount of people surrounding specific paintings, especially the miniature-sized painting of Mona. Also, if you are a EU student (this excludes exchange students from outside the EU) then you get free admission. Just bring your passport and student card.
My second recommendation for museums (if you’re interested in going to them) would be the Musée d’Orsay. This museum is located opposite of the Musée du Louvre just over the Seine River. This museum is cheaper than Musée du Louvre, but a lot smaller, and more specific with the art that is showcased. At the time that I went, they had an amazing exhibition on Impressionism and Fashion, and was well worth seeing. Check the website to see upcoming exhibitions at the time that you plan to visit. Again, admission is free if you are an EU student.
Take the metro to Anvers (near funiculaire de montmartre) to see the beautiful Basilica Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre.
There are lots of souvenir shops in this area as you walk towards the hill where the basilica resides. You will have to walk the many steps to get to the top, but it’s worth it once I see the view of Paris from the top of the stairs. The view of Paris is the main reason to come here, but also, the Basilica is incredibly well-designed and beautiful. Beware of men trying to stop you and asking you to hold out your hands. They will begin to make a bracelet from you and will ask you to make two payments for the bracelet; one to them, and one to their boss. Sketchy.
No there is no hunchback that lives in the Notre Dame (as Disney has made us believe), however, the Cathédrale is absolutely awe-inspiring and massive; a must-see for all tourists. The architecture and style of the structure is phenomenal, inside and out. It is free to visit, although highly suggested that you make a contribution through a purchase of a tea-lite candle that you can light and place among the many that are in memory of individuals or general blessings.
8) Père Lachaise Cemetery
If you a fan of literature or have a love for famous writers, poets, philosophers, artists or other historical individuals, then look no farther and visit the grave sites of many famous individuals at Père Lachaise Cemetery. It is the largest cemetery I have ever seen and walked through, and is the largest cemetery in the city of Paris. From Eugène Delacroix to Oscar Wilde, Père Lachaise Cemetery contains many graves of famous and historical individuals, and is non-touristy place to visit.
To save on meals and general food while in Paris, avoid the costly restaurants and cafe’s, and look to buy food from markets or food stores. However, on the last day in Paris, I wanted to splurge a little and wanted to experience a really nice French cafe. I was recommended by a friend to visit Angelina’s cafe on Rue de Rivoli, and after a visit there, I must say, it was an overall great experience. The food was great (and fancy) and the hot chocolate was to die for. If you’re a fan of chocolate (like pure liquid chocolate), then look no farther than the chocolatest hot chocolate you will ever have. Although the price of Angelina’s famous ‘African’ hot chocolate could give you a heart attack (with all the rich chocolatiness, it just might), the price was worth trying it and relaxing in an exquisite furnished and classy french atmosphere.
Walking along the Seine River, you will find various bridges flourishing with multi-coloured & multi-purpose “love” locks detailing a couple, a friendship, or relationships. for 3 euros, you can buy a lock from a man who makes his income of the purchase of the locks, and write down your name, and that of a lover. By writing your names and anniversary date, you can lock the love lock on the bridge, throw away the key into the river, and have the lock symbolize each others’ enduring
passion for one another. It’s quite romantic, in a way.
TO AND FROM PARIS (AIRPORT & METRO INFO)
If you are traveling to the Charles De Gaulle airport (Easyjet), take the metro (RER A) into Paris at a ticket price of 9,25€. If you are traveling to the Paris Beauvais Tille Airport (Ryanair), there is a shuttle bus that will take you to Neuilly-Porte Maillot (metro stop) and from there you will need to find the metro and take it into the city of Paris for usual metro ticket price fo 1,70€
In this case, it’s more expensive flying with Ryanair at the added price of 16,70€,
compared with Easyjet (9,25€)
Check out my Youtube videos on Paris: http://www.youtube.com/user/BorderlineForFools
Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ryanthomaswoods
Any comments or questions, please leave a message above! If you have any other suggestions of places you highly recommend in Paris, then leave a comment below!