Phew, what a busy day! We've spent the day in Belgium, enjoying some beautiful places and some wild and wonderful weather - from cool and cloudy, hot and sunny, to lightning and torrential rain and finally pea-soup fog. Fortunately, we managed to stay almost entirely dry, so our day ran ever-so smoothly.
Our first stop was the gorgeous city of Bruges, with over 16km of canals and so many historical buildings that we didn't know where to look. Our boat cruise was very entertaining and we had enough time afterwards to explore the ancient streets and have a lovely picnic in the park.
Tyne Cot Cemetery
A short coach ride then took us to Tyne Cot Memorial Cemetery, just outside of Ypres. Many of us had done our research and were able to spend time looking for specific soldiers who had died in the Great War. Having already studied WWI earlier in the year, we already had a good understanding of that period; however, walking around the the 12,000 graves in the bright sunshine, we came to realise just how many lives and families had been affected by the conflict. The children certainly treated their visit with the utmost respect.
After paying our respects, we travelled back into the city of Ypres, a place that saw terrible fighting between the German and Allied troops, so much so, that by the end of the First World War, it was reduced to nothing more than rubble, except for a few buildings. During the 1920s and 1930s, the whole place was re-built exactly as it had been, so that we were able to see everything as it was. The most impressive building there is the Cloth Hall, which now houses the 'In Flanders Field' museum, where we spent time adding to our knowledge and understanding of WWI.
Our evening meal today was a very tasty affair at The Dépot restaurant, not far from the museum, where we managed to shelter for just long enough to avoid the pretty wild thunderstorm that descended on Ypres. Once the sky had more or less cleared, we headed down the street to the Menin Gate Memorial arch. This was built to commemorate the 54,000 soldiers of the British Empire who died in the Ypres Salient and who were never found. Every night, at precisely 8pm, the Last Post is played and hundreds of people gather to pay their respects. It was an incredibly moving ceremony, and a fitting end to the day.