For years I’ve felt compelled to visit the Somme Region of northern France, in particular, Beaumont-Hamel, site of the virtual annihilation of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment during the Great War. In July, my good friends Barry Canning, Lloyd Reid and I went to pay our respects. Beaumont-Hamel and Vimy Ridge deserve their own posts and I’ll be doing that before Remembrance Day. These shots are from the rest of the trip.
After the Somme region, we felt we had to lighten our spirits, hence the journey to Amsterdam. It worked. During the 8 days we were in Europe, we met more friendly, awesome people than you could ever hope to meet anywhere.
I shot these photos with a Nikon DSLR with polerizing filter and an iPhone 5. Little or no processing was used other than a little cropping. They aren’t all the best ones but they represent a good cross section of our experience. Good times.
Romani Serenade – Just off the Chunnel Train from London and this dude is the first person I see in Lille, France. A little gypsy accordion welcome to the continent. He was playing the same set list 3 days later when we left the Somme.
Could possibly be the French headquarters of a ski-boot company. Near Lille Europe Station
Town Hall in the Grand Place, Arras, France. Building started in the 11th century, blasted by the nazis, rebuilt from the rubble. At first sight it was pretty mind-blowing. Shot from my table at the cafe we consumed much vin rouge.
The sun sets on Place des Heros, Arras, France. The two town squares are ringed by these Flemish-Baroque houses and the ground floors are pretty much always restaurants and bars… the lads and I felt right at home.
Gourmet Bunker – Some fantastic restaurants located in WW1 military bunkers in the Place des Heros, Arras, France. Some stores use the old bunkers for warehouses under their premises.
In the Bunker
Late afternoon view from the cafe table in the Grand Place. Flemish-Gothic in the foreground, neo-gothic at the rear.
One of the many cemeteries in northern France filled with British soldiers from the first world war. They appear out of nowhere when you’re driving the backroads. This one, and so many others, immaculately maintained. It’s only after seeing a few of these containing 1000+ graves that you truly begin to understand the incredible loss of life in the first world war… and really, what we saw was only the tip of the iceberg.
Graves of British soldiers, Somme region, northern France.
The Ulster Tower, a memorial to the men of the 36th (Ulster) Division. More than 1100 Irish soldiers of the 36th were killed near here on July 1, 1916, the same day the Royal Newfoundland Regiment fought in the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel a few kilometers away.
Somnolent Somme – There’s no doubt the Somme region of France has a bucolic tranquility. Shot south of Vimy Ridge near the entrance of the park, pretty rural area.
Left to right. Barry Canning, Lloyd Reid and yours truly. Closing time at our neighborhood bar/cafe in Arras Grand Place. Once again, the Newfoundlanders are the last to leave.
Mark Tilleke busks in Arras Grand Place. Exceptional stride piano player. The roaring 20’s and 30’s style he plays is as appropriate in that square as Sonny’s Dream is on Water St. He’ll be lucky if he’s not mowed down by a $150,000 Audi R8 someday.
Mark Tilleke’s piano. Arras, France.
The basilica across the street from our hotel
Basilica in Arras
Pipe organ and window at a neo-gothic basilica near the Grand Place.
What you get for letting pigeons land on your finger. Arras.
Entrance to Les Boves, a network of tunnels and connected chaulk mines they’ve been digging since about the year 800. The Allies used them to their advantage in warfare, expanded them more, hiding over 20 thousand troops down there. This area spreads out under the two town squares in Arras, about 8 metres under the traffic and houses.
Les Boves, under the Place Des Heros in Arras. 12 degrees celsius all year round… and about 100% humidity.
Picture of a picture. Allied soldiers camped out in Les Boves during the great war. 1000 year old chalk mine tunnels under Arras.
- Arras North – Shot from the belfry of Arras Town Hall in the Grand Place square.
Arras East – Shot from the belfry of Arras Town Hall in the Grand Place square. Took a lot of photos from the cafe in the top left corner of this square.
Brussels – My best photo from Belgium.
300 km/h Brussels to Amsterdam on Thalys Rail.
Red Lights – One of the many canals of Amsterdam, this one lit with the city’s world-famous illumination.
Yet another impossibly beautiful scene in Amsterdam. After midnight, downtown somewhere…
Gauguin’s Chair by Vincent Van Gogh, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.
Bedroom in Arles by Vincent Van Gogh, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.
Getting wet is a definite possibility if you’re unsteady getting up from the table. Amsterdam.
Downtown Amsterdam about 8pm, favourite pub on the left. This intersection is like Rawlins Cross in St. John’s.
Downtown Amsterdam Street
Parking Lot – One of the reasons the Dutch are so fit and trim, these outnumber cars about 100 to 1.
The Brothel Wharf – The red lights don’t just face the street.
London – Near Piccadilly Circus. About 38 degrees.
What Price Tickets – By Ron Wood. London gallery.