A couple of Saturdays ago, my friend sent me a text message:
“Sorry I didn’t ring you back. Wanna come over later? Wanna go France tomorrow?”
Uh.?. I did wonder if her iphone had Damn You Autocorrected her and she was actually asking if I wanted to go to Asda or somewhere..but no! She did actually mean French France.
She then told me that she wanted to visit a war museum about half an hour from Calais. My dreams of doing a bit of shopping
for wine vanished in a puff of Gauloise smoke, until she kindly told me that we’d have time for both.
Tom had plans, so it was just us three. Oliver, Lor and me. Our ferry crossing was booked for 8 in the morning and so, at 5am we rose, bleary eyed and started the drive to Dover.
It was forecast to be the hottest day of the year so far.
The fog was so thick that our crossing was delayed. (Are you reading this Carol Kirkwood?)
We finally boarded the ferry and Oliver almost exploded in excitement. I realised that I haven’t taken the boys to France on the ferry for many, many years. This is mainly down to the fact that I am mortally afraid of driving in foreign countries, and partly down to extreme laziness.
We had some breakfast (TWENTY SIX HUMAN POUNDS) and after I had been revived by the smallest cup of coffee I have ever drank, we headed off to explore the boat.
What can I say? It had a shop, some arcades, places to sit and a deck. *shrug* but Oliver was enthralled by it all, his excitement was contagious.
So we arrived in Calais and I was then forced to become navigator. Now. I’m good at lots of things, cooking, chatting, making invitations, throwing parties *tries to get blog back on track*, complaining. These are all things I excel at. Reading maps? Not so much.
In fact I am fucking terrible at following directions.
I managed to get us to our destination without incident (except for a short but intense five minutes at a toll, where I couldn’t see where to put the coins in to pay and then a car came and Lor said “There’s a car behind us” and I said “WHERE DO THE EUROS GO????!!!!!!!” and then fumbled my debit card out of my purse and stuck it into the card slot and then the barrier came up and PHEW!)
We were visiting a place called Blockhaus d’Éperlecques. It is a bunker built by Nazi Germany during the second world war as a factory and launching facility for the V2 rockets.
On arrival at an unremarkable hut selling ice creams and model airplanes, I was underwhelmed. We paid 6 Euros each and pushed open a door which led out onto a track in a forest. We climbed a slight hill and at the top found an old railway carriage.
The carriage had transported concentration camp victims and prisoners of war into the maw of the bunker, to be chewed up to feed the Nazi vision of a V2 rocket factory .
It sits, among the birdsong, a relic of that which is beyond all comprehension.
This first exhibit is also the last thing you see as you leave the site and stands as a terrible and haunting reminder of the thousands who worked and died to create the bunker itself.
As we moved away from the carriage and carried on along the track through the forest, the contrast between the natural beauty and the grotesqueness of the weapons on display was inescapable.
We followed the track up another small incline and were suddenly confronted with the bunker itself.
Awe-inspiring and stomach droppingly huge. A massive edifice of concrete, reinforced with iron gridwork, the pure alien quality is breathtaking.
On 27th August 1943, after some extraordinary intelligence work, the US air force launched a devastating attack on the bunker, destroying most of the capacity for the launch of the V2 rockets. The site continued as a factory until 6th July 1944 when an Allied raid succeeded in ruining the interior of the bunker with a tallboy bomb.
We followed the track back through the woods. Oliver sat in the seat of an anti aircraft gun
And we all thanked our lucky stars that this place had been neutralised before it had managed to complete it’s mission of producing, and launching ,35 V2 rockets every day.
As we headed back towards the car we stopped and looked at a sign
You can find out more about the blockhaus at Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockhaus_d’Éperlecques (I can’t link this properly because there is a fancy bloody accent in the text and I can’t work out how to do those, so, y’know C&P it)
or visit the site itself at
So the afternoon lay open to us. I rubbed my hands together with glee! A french meal and some shopping!
We headed back towards Calais, only stopping on the way to take an amusing picture of a rude looking supermarket.
Do you remember when earlier on I was telling you that I’m terrible at following directions and shit? Yeah, well, basically,
thanks to me we spent the rest of the afternoon driving around Calais looking for an open shop/restaurant/anything to no avail. We ended up in a cemetary at one point. I shit you not.
And in the end, we headed back to the ferry and I ate a fucking HOT DOG and an Orangina and we got on the ferry and came home.
Still. Orangina? *thumbs up*