Tuesday, July 20, 2010

History in-Context

I have one of the best jobs a student can have. Honestly, I live and work in France with 14 other Canadian students, could it get much better? I love my job and most mornings I look forward to driving up to the 34 meter structure that is Canada's National Historic Site in France- granted there are always mornings when I want to sleep in, but that is just because I enjoy my sleep as well!

It may sound bizarre, but while it is one of the best jobs around, it is a job that makes you want to cry almost everyday. I work on and around the battle fields of the First World War and everyday people come with stories of their grandparents, their great-grandparents, great-aunts and uncles, other friends and family members- and some come with the stories of people with whom they have no relation to. These people put a face to the history that we talk about everyday, to the names of the people whose stories we use to put history into context...they give us, as guides, the context within which these stories exist today.

I met a woman on the Canadian monument at Vimy Ridge last week. She was from Newfoundland and her grandfather had been a part of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, he fought at the Battle of the Somme and was one of the few Newfoundlanders to make it home.
She was the first one of her family to come to the Canadian Memorial, as well as the Newfoundland Memorial.

When she walked into the interpretation centre at the Newfoundland Memorial, she saw her grandfather's name listed around the centre as one of the first men to enlist as a member of the Newfoundland Regiment. She didn't know much about her grandfather's past, he didn't like to talk about his time in France. She was the first member of her family to come over to France, and see the memorials since they had been constructed. She was in tears about this, because if she hadn't come- if she had not stopped to see the interpretation centre and the monuments, no one in her family would have ever known that their grandfather and his efforts during the First World War were recognized and commemorate beyond their own community. While he passed years ago, she was telling me, he couldn't have known his name was listed throughout the Newfoundland Memorial site as no one from their family had been back to France since the war and a story like that would certainly have made its way through the family at some point.

The thought, that for years and years no one knew, neither he nor his family, that he was commemorated and recognized in some way...

Like I said, I have an amazing job, but nonetheless it is one that really humanizes what happened here.

Below an image of the gravesite where the soldier who rests in the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa was taken from. There are 11, 285 names listed on the Vimy Memorial, representing those who fell in France with no known resting grave. On the Menin Gate there are 6, 940 Canadian names inscribed, commemorating those who fell in Belgium with no known resting grave.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Things that will be missed when I return to Canada:

Cheap Wine
Wine here is so cheap here! It is going to be hard to go back to paying $20 for a bad bottle of wine, compared to $2 for a great bottle of wine.

Kebab- every 5 feet in a city anywhere in Europe.
It is the European solution to fast food and a good meal after too much of the above product.

Miniature cars...like Kebab, they are everywhere.

So with a bit more than a month left at Vimy Ridge, I am trying to appreciate Europe to the fullest extent. I am planning on traveling a bit to the Netherlands to visit with a few friends there, to Germany to see other friends and to tour around Berlin and Munich a bit and if I have time I would love to make it to Switzerland. Thoughts, suggestions and reco's are always welcome! Leave them below in the comments!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

London or Paris?

If Paris and London were both an option on your list of places to live... how would you decide? Where would you end up?

Both cities have ups and downs. Is either better than the other?

Tourists, crowds of people, busy streets, and foreign languages are constants of either city.

Paris is a big city and it felt like it. I have this odd thing that if I don't feel comfortable in a city when I get off the plane, or off the train- it is something about that first impression that does it for me.

London happened to be one of those cities- one where you sit down at a café or a restaurant in the first hour of being there and it just feels like home.

Mind you- Paris has the summer sales! London is expensive to shop, to eat and to play. Paris is as well, but at various times during the year- everything goes on sale. It is a miricle across France.

Nonetheless... I think London stole my heart. I can tell you exactly when I fell in love with the city- that my be in part because I was there only a few days ago- I can even tell you which restaurant I was sitting in.

What would you choose? How would you choose?

Go and Tell - Go and No?

Places to visit without telling your parents:

Places you tell your parents you visited:

European Update!

It has been a while since I have posted, but I thought I would catch-up! Living in France has been pretty amazing- one of the best experiences I have ever had!

My job is interesting, I give guided tours of Canada's National Historic site in France, Vimy Ridge. I spend part of my day around the monument:

And I spend part of my day in deep dark tunnels: