One of the many cultural pleasures of travelling on a Fields of Fire Battlefield Tour is the opportunity to discover a wonderful dining experience and new food. Dave and I are very experienced travellers and have had many memorable meals around the world. Then we had a meal at Le Fossile, in Lille. Dining should elicit experience and now we eagerly recommend this restaurant to our travel clients. Our appetizer was extraordinary. I have just discovered Foie Gras de Canard and while in France, chefs prepare this delight in many creative ways. Le Fossile serves it with an onion marmalade, the ubiquitous fresh French baguette on a slate plate. Simple. Delicious. We had steak as our main and on two visits now, this is cooked to prefection, with a Chanteclerc mushroom sauce, accompanied by a local greens salad and ratatouille. As I have eaten grass-fed steak in Argentina and Kobe beef in Japan, it takes some doing for a chef to impress me. It has a robust Scotch collection but that isn't what really got our attention. Dave sampled his birthday year of their century old Bas Laubade Armagnac collection. As we were on our Return to Vimy Tour, I scouted out their war years' selection. The current owner is the friendly, professional grandson of Le Fossile's founder - who liked fossils. Treat yourself to a meal here and handily it is open at 7PM for early diners - reservations recommended for weekends. Locals and lucky tourists dine at Le Fossile. 60 Rue Saint-Etienne, 59000 Lille, France; +33 3 20 54 29 82
Anne Strickland was very glad to be on our Return to Vimy 2017 tour. It is here that she knew she was retracing the steps of her uncle Hugh Gordon Munro. From Oakville, Ontario, he signed up to fight in May 1915 at 18 years old. In a letter he sent home to the family, he writes, " The best thing that we can do, is to lay in the bottom of the trench and chew gum." He was wounded in The Battle of the Somme, near the Regina Trench, France on the 9th October, 1916. The nurse, who cared for him at the Casualty Clearing Station, wrote a "lovely letter home" to his family when he succumbed to his battle wounds. He is buried at the Contay British Cemetery, on the main road from Amiens to Arras. The family possessions that have been passed on to Anne included the temporary wooden crossbar grave marker with his name on it, his "death penny", and a personal identification bracelet. Anne wore his bracelet on the return to Vimy Tour as she walked the preserved trenches of the Somme.
It took a bit of time to identify what I was trying to photograph on our trip to France in March. With spring just starting, there were no leaves on the trees. I could spot round clumps of bright green leaves high up in the boughs of mature trees. I finally got my answer – mistletoe. This plant with its round white berries provides romantics with a chance to kiss beneath it at Christmas time. When we were travelling a little later on our Return To Vimy Trip in April, another month of growth revealed its bright leaves and it growing robustly. Many clumps were growing in a tree hanging above the Canadian War Cemetery in Dieppe on the sunny day we visited. It was the first time I was able to look at it really closely. The white berries are just starting to form. The parasitic nature of mistletoe can overtake the host tree but often it is part of a complex ecosystem and its presence supports other creatures in its vicinity. It made me wonder if mistletoe was growing in the trees in northern France 100 years ago during the Great War. I found these photos that capture, that in spite of the war, soldiers were still trying to embrace the spirit of Christmas.