Gordon Judges, Wireless Operator

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Gothic masterpiece in Champagne Country

Why does everyone rave about Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris? Don't get me wrong. I've seen it twice - inside and out - and it is a sight to behold. But most North Americans are awestruck by any architechtural masterpiece in Europe. Let's face it: we have few architectural gems in our country.

Let me make this suggestion:  Skip the massive tourist line up to see  Notre Dame  Cathedral in Paris  (we did) and rent a car/hop on bus and head to Reims to see the Notre Dame Cathedral there. Not only is it a a Gothic masterpiece, there is no line up and you are guaranteed to be mesmerized 'sans tourists'. Visit  both evening/night and day, if time allows. Okay, I realize this is not feasible for a few day stopover in Gay Paris, but if time allows drop by Reims to see their cathedral. It will blow your mind.  

Look at this detail!

And check out these goofy tourists!!!!!!! They admiring the cathedral. No crowds.  

Notre Dame Cathedral of Reims has been under near continuous restoration with private donations including  John D. Rockefeller who funded a major restoration after the cathedral was severely damaged in World War 1 (The Great War). It is a never ending battle dealing with the elements of pollution, rain and time.

Reims Notre Dame Cathedral in the morning. 

What does one do after admiring a famous Gothic cathedral?   Drink wine! And what could be better than world famous Champagne? Personally, I have drank my share of Bubbles but never really sampled "The Great Bubbles".  We visited the Champagne G.H. Martel for a tour of their champagne caves. A rather small but pleasantly intimate tour followed by champagne tasting certainly led to a purchase.....a box of champagne.

Here, Greg looks in his element....kind of like carrying a box of beer.  He gave his bottles away as gifts but  I drank mine (I'm selfish).

Martel Champagne caves.

Driving through champagne country,  Liz looks so happy here....I think she has already dipped into the box of champagne.

And then they become fermented grapes called Champagne.

A wonderful way to end our countryside tour because we are off to the Paris!!!!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Remembering 7 Heroes

From the outset, the inspiration for this family trip was our desire to attend the 60th Commemorative Ceremony for my Uncle Gordon and the airmen who perished with him that fateful day of November 2, 1944. 
I recall several occasions growing up when my mother would become melancholy. It was always around  Remembrance Day or November 11th, a day that Canadians formally honour our war veterans and those who lost their lives.  I realize now that November 2, 1944 marks the anniversary of his death and that this news would have come to the family shortly thereafter.  My mother was only 11 years old when her brother Gordon was killed. Her life changed, as did the life of my grandparents, Blanche and Harold Judges.  I suspect that my Uncle Ken (a surviving WW II veteran and older brother to Gordon) was particularly struck by his brothers death. He is reluctant even today to talk about it. Painful memories.  And Shirley, Barbra,  Don, and Marjory. They just had to carry on without their brother.  This is the legacy passed down to many families who experienced loss from a war. 

We did not expect to get caught up in the joy of meeting the other families who, like us, have a somewhat  personal connection to this war.  No, I did not live through food rations, or buy war bonds or hear terror stories of the air raids in London.  But I remember hearing those stories from my mother because that was part of her experience as a child in war time. .      

It remains a personal regret that I did not take my mother to visit her brothers grave site but I know she would be proud that we made this visit in her memory and to honour her brother and his fellow airmen.

Click here to get a recap of the story.... 
Our experience started immediately on arrival to Jalhay, Belgium after a long drive from Bruge.  After communicating for a year and a half via e-mail and Facebook I finally met Bryan, the man responsible for finding the Judges family and introducing us to the Adans and Boulet legacy.  We are grateful to Bryan for the passion and effort he puts into honouring  veteran affairs overall but his continued acknowledgement of the incredible commitment of Leon Boulet and the Adans family.    

Bryan whisked us off  to the Canadian Memorial of Tigelot to see the monument. 

(left to right is my sis-in-law Liz, brother Steve, brother Greg, me and cousin Kim, Kim's husband Dan and Leon Boulet, the President and honorary family member)

Here is the "Judges Clan" - cousin Kim, Steve, Lisa and Greg.  This 60th Ceremony marks the first time any member of the Judges family (Gordon Judges family)  has attended this service.   

 And here is Bryan, the man we are grateful to for informing us of this wonderful event, Dan, Kim and Leon Boulet. 

Following those brief  introductions, we were then whisked off to the local pub which is owned by the man who actually witnessed the Halifax bomber's crash. There are even photos of the Halifax bomber crash  posted in the pub....

We met the Adans family and families who were also attending the service to remember their relatives.  A quick afternoon cocktail was followed by a wonderful meal at the Hotel De Cremaillere in Jalhay. 

By the morning of the service I began to realized this memorial service was not just a family affair. There were folks from several military and veteran affiliated organizations from across the UK, Europe, Canada and the like. Representatives from various Legions, veterans from the 77th Squadron, men and women currently in military service but stationed in Germany, the local media, the Jalhay mayor, and even the Canadian ambassador to Belgium came to represent the Government of Canada.

Various Legion's
Current servicemen
And bagpipers

The Adans family

Hundreds of people attended the church service which included a full flag ceremony, a choir singing the anthems of the Commonwealth countries and a full memorial service to honour these 7 airmen. Immediately following, a crowd gathered at the site of the Canadian Memorial Tigelot to conduct a formal wreath laying ceremony and short sermon.  The site was showered with wreaths and flowers.


An afternoon long luncheon was attended by some hundred people or so, gathered to honour and remember these 7 airmen as well as the Adans and Boulet families for their ongoing commitment to maintaining this annual service and memorial site. 

WW 2 veteran and 77th Squadron RAF Ralph discusses his log book with Steve and Greg. 

Anne Christy Adans and husband

Here is a man dedicated to the 77th Squadron RAF in Elvington, England.

Ralph and his daughter come every year when able.

Click here to see a local newscast of the ceremony (in French only, however)

And now we have a very personal connection with other families who have this similar experience. 
Harry Payne is the brother of airmen Edward Payne, flight engineer

The handsome Payne men - 3 generations - son Lance, Harry (brother of Edward Payne, Flight Engineer), grandson
Marie Josee (nee Adans) and husband Leon Boulet, our new family in Belgium.

 We were  exhausted after a long emotional day. We enjoyed a relaxing evening back at our hotel with some of the Legion members who had travelled from Germany for the service and Bryan and the Payne and Garcia families.
 The 4 families visited Hotten War Cemeteray the following day to visit the grave sites of these great men who fell in a Halifax Bomber. They rest together, side by side.


Friday, August 26, 2011

In F@%*ing Brugge.....

If you have not seen the movie, you missed the joke......

Bruge, Belgium is a wonderful and magical place! We rented bikes (yes, Greg actually got on a bicycle after 25 or 30 years once again proving that you never forget....) and cycled around the entire city.

Once a thriving and prosperous city in the 12th to 15th century, Bruge is now a UNESCO heritage site with tourism its principle economy. Despite that reality, it is a magical and manageable medieval walking city to visit. It is also the perfect romantic city to visit. (If I ever marry, remind me that Bruge is a wonderful small city for a destination wedding and honeymoon. You can stop laughing now.)

We did not climb the infamous Belfry because the line up was just too long for our taste.

We did see  the only  Michelangelo to leave Italy during his lifetime since Bruge was the most prosperous city of Flanders in that era (the work was commissioned to Michelangelo directly). It is delicate Michelangelo but a treasure nonetheless! 

What happens in 'Bruge, stays in Bruge........

The Markt

We took a canal cruise.....touristy and lame but a necessity if you are |"Doing Bruge".

And of course, we bought some chocolate....but we ate it all so don't expect any souvenir chocolates!