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Where The Reality of The Past Meets The Ghost of The Present

Article contributed by: Battlefield Tours

It would be an understatement to say that Northern France is a land steeped in history. It is a land where empire has fought empire for over a thousand years and an historical fault line has left not scars but monuments to the epic endeavours of everyone from the individual ordinary soldier of every age to great statesmen like Winston Churchill. The Agincourt war produced some of Shakespeare's finest speeches and you can stand on the grave pits of Agincourt where the cream of the French nobility were buried after having been murdered by British archers after the battle. You can walk the underground V2 bunkers where slave labour in WW2 was used to try to unleash a rain of the rockets developed by Von Braun against Britain. You can stand on the ridges of the Somme where in WW1 soldiers from many nations walked into German machine guns and suffered 500,000 casualties in a few months for gains of several hundred yards. The Somme is a place like nowhere else on earth. The word awesome is unfortunately a much over used word but the battlefields of the Somme are not only awesome but are like no other place on earth. Round every corner is a cemetery, and the names of its villages have become legends in different parts of the world. Northern France is a land for travellers, for connoisseurs of travel experiences and life. For those who prefer beaches and hot dog stalls you will be sadly disappointed but for those who want to see where history was made there is no better place and the visitor really does feel insubstantial and unimportant in these places where the past seems more real than the present.

The visitor to the French departments of Pas de Calais and Flanders are also seeing rural France in a way which they will never see simply by visiting Paris. These departments are easily accessible from both Paris by TGV and from London by ferry or by Euro-star and the traveller will be stepping into an ancient landscape of chateaus, walled towns, quite back lanes and cheap restaurants.
Northern France is rural France at its best and the people who live there are by and large very friendly and welcoming to visitors. In our village where street light are a very recent innovation still set into the walls of our house are the rings for visitors to tie up their horses. Our community of some one hundred and seventy people is staggered by the people who come from all over the world to stay with us. Villagers whose only experience of foreigners were the German occupiers in WW2 now find themselves shaking hands with people ranging from property developers from Texas to cattle farmers from the Australian outback. Running a tour business in French village which is so off the beaten track most of the road signs to it have even fallen down is possible entirely because of the internet and operations like InfoHub (www.infohub.com). Nobody stands between us and a customer - no travel agents sell our holidays - our customers stand up for themselves and make a judgement. For those who want King sized double beds we are happy not to be able to oblige but for those who want a genuine travel experience and to go places where a tourists on a coach trip have certainly not been come and see us.

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