As early as we could manage to drag ourselves out of our amazing beds and pull ourselves away from the free lounge breakfast we set our eyes for Belgium and began our route south. We deposited our luggage at our darling Marriott in Ghent (we had stayed there before and loved it) and set out for Ypres and Flanders Fields. Slightly confusing to the younger three we moved from World War II which we had been studying and avidly listening to on The Hiding Place and took a detour into World War I-The Great War to end all wars. Outside of Ypres we visited Sanctuary 62-the sacred woods in which so many lost their lives during the first and second battle of Ypres. As we walked through the trenches of the old British front you could almost feel the electricity of the area. The quiet seemed filled with the echoes of voices. There is something powerful about simply being there.
We were reminded poignantly of John Macrae’s Poem, In Flanders Fields
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place and in the sky,
The lark still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead; Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.
Take up the quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw,
The torch be yours to hold it high!
If you break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
The car was still as we drove along the Maple Oak lined street planted as a tribute to the many Canadians that gave their lives for their French brothers in those sacred hills.
We admired the Menin Gate and wished we had time to stay and watch the nightly tribute to those that had given their lives for the cause or to wander through the amazing “In Flanders Fields Museum”, but alas, there were other sites yet to see.
Returning to the Hiding Place and our World War II education we traveled to the West ending in Dunkirk where we visited a museum and met a fellow visitor who had actually lived in Dunkirk during the occupation 80 years ago. What an honor. We walked/ ran out to the beaches were Operation Dynamo took place-the greatest evacuation in military history. It was sobering to imagine those that were left on those shores who couldn’t make it on the boats, or the citizens that were left as casualties of war. War seems to have no victors in hallowed places like these……only the cause of broken dreams, broken lives and broken cities. Hopes that will never come to fruition and children that will never grow old.
Our final stop of the evening before returning to our home base in Ghent was Bruges, the Venice of the North. On our European adventure 5 years ago, Daisie, Drew and I with the older boys had explored this canal town, but Mike, Luke and Lily weren’t with us and were anxious to see both Bruges and Ghent as we had spoken so fondly of them. Bruges was glorious in the sunset golden hour. Her majestic spires towering to the sky and the descending sun casting her orange glow over the waterways filled us with warmth. Dreamy. We drove home late and stayed up even later to watch General Conference in our hotel room. A full day culminated in the finishing of The Hiding Place and a message from our dear prophet.