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A European History Journey

It all started last year, when Hélène and I were celebrating our 5-year anniversary. She was drunk and said : « Let’s buy a camper van ! » and I replied : « Ok ! » You have to know that she can’t drive. But well, it sounded like fun and we bought our Sprinter La Strada to a nice couple of retirees who cooked an apple pie for us. It felt smooth to drive, almost like a boat. We loved it instantly.

As we live near Paris, we looked for close destinations where we could go on short trips. So quite naturally we started with Picardie, Lorraine, Ardennes, regions mostly known for high unemployment and far-right voters. The kind of places where people don’t go on holiday. The kind of places, also, where you can’t avoid all the sites that suffered so much 100 years ago during WWI. There are commemorations everywhere. We had found our red thread. We’ll follow the whole WWI front line from the Somme to the Vosges.

So here we go, me driving, Hélène doing all the boring stuff (cleaning, filling the tanks, emptying the toilets) to get her motivated to learn how to drive (very soon, she promises !) and our dog Ruby just being happy to be there. Apart from memorials and monuments, the Great War’s footprints led us to many forests where trees have grown over trenchs, buried weapons and corpses. You can feel the power of life upon death, of nature upon human chaos. Definitely a strong and deep experience – even for Ruby who chased does, fawns and squirrels.

We drove through quiet villages and along sunny fields in the Meuse, coming across no other vehicles than tractors going for harvest. We crossed the Moselle, that used to be the richest area in France a long time ago when coal and steel meant full employment. We drank fine beers everywhere and even ate it in local dishes. We went up the Vosges mountains where dogs were sent from Alaska to help allies soldiers in the steep and hard war camps. From there you can see the Rhine plain and Germany just behind – you feel the price of peace. Some storks were there to welcome us in Alsace, end of our trip, as they were also in the Somme when we started.

And since you’re asking, yes, we have a blog ! Each one of us has its voice : I do the diary and get back to film photography, Hélène explains how to remain « vegan en van » and does some sound creation and Ruby pays tribute to the animals who fought during the War. It’s in french (so far) but we have pictures too. Amis québécois, venez donc faire un tour, on vous attend. On a rendu hommage à vos ancêtres qui se sont battus ici pour nous libérer.