Dinant, Belgium - Lens, France
Monday 15th November 1999
We were pretty much at the end of the journey. It was now just a matter of heading back to England, although we thought it would be nice to return the way we arrived, via Normandy, instead of via the dull Calais to Dover route. We did have one more place to visit, the channel island of Jersey, where a friend from Cambridge was now living. But for now it was just a matter of working our way across France.
We initially headed south, following a scenic route into France, before heading north-west and towards the World War I battlefields of the Somme. The journey took us most of the day and the light was fading as we reached the Canadian memorial at Vimy Ridge, just north of Arras. Unlike most of the region, which has been returned to farmland, the ridge has been left untouched since the end of the war. It was too late to see the site now though so we decided to find a place to stay for the night and return in the morning.
Anita found a small forested area on the map and we were soon pulling in to a large parking area near its centre. There were a couple of cars already there and more were arriving and departing at quick intervals. It reminded us of the scenes in the car-park outside Siena, in Italy, where we were sure we'd stumbled across the drug drop zone. We weren't sure if it was the same story here but it looked very suspicious.
All went quiet after half-an-hour though so we were unconcerned and settled in for the evening. But then, at about half-past ten, we heard another vehicle turn up and Anita peeked out to see the Gendarmes arriving. They tapped on the window and I poked my head out the back with a cheery "Bon soir". They spoke no English but we soon established that they thought our spot was dangerous and we should park in the square in the middle of the adjacent village. It seemed like good advice so after they left we packed things up a little and headed down to the town. We arrived to find the Gendarmes parked on the edge of the square and pointing us to a good spot. With a cheery wave with pulled in to the spot and they were off on their way.
It was late so we headed straight for bed with no more drama.