World War 1 Battlefield of Verdun, Meuse, France

Coursan, Aude, France to Verdun, Meuse, France

Total km 2011

A good friend of mine from England had told me at the beginning of 2009  that he was interested in doing a tour of the WWI battlefields in france. For him it is not that far (comparitvely, somewhere around 500 km from his front door) for me from the South of France it is much further (around 950km.... obviously depending on the route taken). He finally decided that him and a couple of  friends would do the trip in April. I agreed to meet them at Verdun.

Saturday 4th April 2009

It’s 8.30am. I overslept! My alarm was set for 6.30am but did I hear it....not at all. For me not normal. I scramble out of bed and hit the shower, I have a long day in front of me. I had wanted to be on the road for around 8am at the latest, now it will be just before ten before I head on out which will make for a long day.

Direction Verdun in the North East of France or somewhere around 850km from Coursan, depending on what direction you take of course.  Over coffee I have a good look at the map. I don’t want to take the autoroute, that would just be boring and no fun at all....I might as well take the car. I start to plan a route up towards Verdun.

The old GS is already filled up, oil checked and ready to go. The rear tire is starting to show signs of wear but there is around 3000km left in it which is enough to get me there and back with a decent safety margin. I fire her up, load up my maps and tank bag and after saying goodbye to everyone at the house I’m off.

Direction is Béziers and then up north towards the new Millau bridge. I turn off before the bridge and take the old road heading into Millau. There is a good view of the bridge from this road but today it is partially hidden in clouds. I head into Millau where I refuel then taking the road towards Rodez. A beautiful road and not too much traffic on it. The sun is shining although it is very cold up here and I am glad I have my winter gloves on (taking the advice of a girl!)

I ride into Rodez and around the cathedral which is definately worth a visit. Then out of the old town, direction Espalion, a really quaint ancient small town on the famous river Lot. I have been through here before a couple of  years back and really enjoyed the visit back then on my old 1971 R60/5 BMW.

From Espalion it is direction Aubrac, the very heart of rural France. As I climb into the Aubrac the temperature starts dropping off and there are traces of heavy recent snows. I park at the side of the route and take a photo of the BMW against a good metre os snow in the background. I am glad I have bought my winter gloves otherwise my fingers would be beyond working at this point. I also have the liner in my Bering jacket which I also initially considered leaving behind.....and would have done had my girlfriend not looked at me as if I was mad....when I loaded up ready to go wearing a lightweight summer jacket. Ok for where I live down in the south of France but go 100 miles North and the temperature changes can be drastic!


                                        Crossing the Aubrac in April 2009

From Aubrac I cut a cross the “Trans Aubrac” otherwise known as the D15 towards Laguiole.This is a tiny "lane" that cuts across the Aubrac..(the name sugggests otherwise I know).and I keep my fingers crossed that it is open and I don't have to turn around and find an alternative route. In one place the road is closed off, but I  can see where cars have been past, and in france this often really deos not mean it is actually I decide to take a chance and give it a go myself. There are a couple of parts where I am running in four or five inches of snow but it is possible and I take it easy. I reach the ski resort and it  is still open and the secenery up here is truly magnificent.....and I temporarily forget just how cold I am. This place must stay cut off for months on end in winter time. The road to Laguiole from the resort is open all the way and has been cleared of snow obviously for the resort and I continue down into the old town.

Laguiole is world famous for its top quality handmade knives and I do consider stopping and purchasing one...but I will wait until I have more time and then have one made to order.....I have always wanted a’s been on my wish list for years.

I now head towards St Flour on the D921 before hitting the autoroute N9 towards Clermont Ferrand. Now  it is a case of making up for the kilometres that I have spent plodding around the countryside.

I continue into Clermont taking the route towards Moulins and Nevers. The kilometres roll by. Just after Nevers I turn off towards Auxerre. It is starting to get late and the light starting to fade and I want to get as close to Verdun as possible to save on the kilometres tomorrow morning.

I roll into Auxerre and head towards the centre of the town. It really is a beautiful old town with many old mediaeval buildings and narrow streets. It is past six pm so traffic is permitted into the centre which is good for me. A black Triumph Daytona 900 comes up behind me and I move over to let him pass. This is an early 90’s model that is absolutely pristine. The sound  from the three cylinder engine a treat to my ears...pure motorcycling music.....nothing else sounds like the first generation three cylinder Triumphs that came out of the new Hinckley factory in Leicestershire in the early 1990’s. I wish I still had mine.  As we ride alongside each other I ask him  the direction to the cathedral. He says to follow him and he cuts through the slow moving heavy traffic leading me down a couple of extremely small narrow streets too narrow for any car to pass,  before arriving smack bang in front of the cathedral. I thank him, he waves thumbs up  and disappears down another narrow street.

I park the motorcycle in front of the cathedral. It is a shame it is so late as I would really like a chance to visit inside. This is a personal visit. A couple of my ancestors were buried here a long long time ago.....before they were turned out of their boxes and their bones scattered during the glorious French revolution.  The cathedral is closed and locked so it will have to be another time. I take a couple of photographs of the exterior and then it’s back on the bike. Auxerre I will be back.


Auxerre Catherdral

As I leave Auxerre it is almost in total darkness. I head towards Troyes just over 80km away. Hopefully I can find a hotel there for the night. This will leave me only a couple of hundred kilometres to cover tomorrow morning to Verdun for an arrival around lunchtime.

A motorcycle comes up behind me and I move over to let him pass. He waves and continues on at a more rapid pace. His motorcycle a 1200 BMW GS has a “10” plate which means he is local to this area, so I assume that he knows the route well and more importantly the positioning of the roadside radar units that are far far more prevalent in the North of France than in the South where I live. The last thing I want to get is a speeding ticket through the post a few days later! The pace is upped and we both continue on. Five minutes later we are joined by a Honda Africa Twin, also carrying the same number “10”. We continue on at 120 kph and the kilometresjust  roll by. A few kilometres outside of Troyes the first motorcycle signals and turns off waving as he disappears, followed a kilometre later by the second. I am on my own again but have covered some serious ground rather quickly thanks to them.

I ride into Troyes and follow the signs for a Campanile Hotel. This particular hotel has always been recommended to me by a client who used it on his way down South and back each year, so I will give it a go. I find the hotel and pull into the parking lot. There are cars everywhere....I had forgotten that it is a school holiday, all the kids are on holiday. Great.

I consider staying at the Premier Classe Hotel that is just behind  but choose the Campanile as they have a restaurant and I am starving! I check in and sure enough the restaurant is full. They are turning away non guests and people that do not have reseravtions, so all in all a wise choice and worth the extra charge on the room.. I go to my room, drop off my gear, change into jeans and go straight to eat.

After a good entrecote and a couple of glasses of a local (to me) Corbieres wine (Château Lastours...Recommended!) from the wine list it is time to hit the sack. Surely you didn't think that I would drink anything else? It has been a long day, I have covered a lot of kilometres and I am absolutely shattered. Fortunately the weather has been in my favour. Hopefully tomorrow it will be much of the same.


Sunday  5th April 2009, Verdun

I am awoken by sparrows outside my bedroom window at a very early hour. I know it is sparrows by their monotonous chirping. This is one bird that has absolultely no musical ability whatsoever, as a breed they must be completely tone deaf. They are like boring people...they go on and on and on and annoy the heck out of me.  So now I am awake thanks to the bloody sparrows. I guess hence the term "at sparrow fart"? I get up switch on the tv and try to find a weather programme. Outside it is starting to get light but it is hard to tell what today will bring as it is foggy. Hopefully it will burn off. I take a shower and get packed up, then at eight I go down to the restaurant to eat breakfast. Rather this was my intention. On arrival there are four men disagreeing with the woman at the front desk over their bill.She totally ignores me and this discussion drags on and on and the minutes roll by. Still I am not seated or even acknowleged. I am starting to lose my patience....I have already lost my will to eat here. Finally after twenty five minutes the men pay their bill and leave. I have had enough. I pay my bill and do not opt for breakfast at the Campanile Troyes....Take note people! I am not impressed at all with their customer service. I will hit the road and find a boulangerie en route and grab a croissant and a cup of coffee somewhere. Sure it was clean but it was expensive for just the one night, overly expensive for what it was hotel wise and for just one person (75 euros). The restaurant was good. The Premier Classe is more reasonably priced and in my opinion offers far better value for money for a lone traveller like myself...shame they don't have a restaurant.

The bill paid, I head outside and remove the cover from the BMW. The other week there was a sale of motorcycle accessories at the Lidl grocery store in Coursan. A motorcycle cover for 8 euros. A lightweight cover but waterproof. At eight euros I decided to give it a go. The cover fits over the BMW with its top case and panniers on, keeping it dry and safe from prying eyes. I figure that what is not visible will be less of a target and exposed panniers and top box will attract more interest than a bike that is covered. Plus it keeps the seat dry. The cover has worked brilliantly and I am very pleased. It stuffs away into a bag that is the size of a large envelope and takes up no space whatsoever.

I head out of Troyes direction St Dizier. The sun is out, although for me it is bitterly cold this morning...but hey....this is northern France and the sun is out!!  I have obviously forgotten the difference between northern and southern France. I cover ten kilometres before running into the thickest fog I have encountered for many years. Visibility is virtually zero in places and in others varies from five to ten metres. I am forced to ride with my visor open at a speed that is almost walking pace. Fortunately this does not last and fortunately there is no other traffic on the road. After maybe 2km (that seemed much much more) the fog clears to bright sunlight. For this region and this time of the year it looks as if I will be in luck weatherwise.

At St Dizier I look around for somewhere to get a coffee....but nothing is open yet. As I head out I spot a Mc Donalds (how I hate these places....errr...normally!!). It is open and it will be warm inside and will sell coffee...I hope.  It is, it is and it does! They even have a breakfast egg and a piece of bacon in a bread muffin. I decide to give it ago and am pleasantly surprised. Sure, I have no idea where the egg or even where the bacon came from on Gods green earth (if it actually did), but I am cold and hungry and willing to compromise. Quality is not a top concern at present.....although the coffee is really exceptionally good and I take a second cup before heading out.

At Bar le Duc, I take the N35 towards Verdun. This is known to the french as the “Voie Sacrée” or sacred way.


Voie Sacrée


The Voie Sacrée runs for 72 km (45 miles) from Bar le Duc to Verdun. During WWI this was the principal supply route for the french army. At any time of the day and night during 1916 it is estimated that around 3,500 trucks were on this route carrying men, armaments and supplies to the front at Verdun.

Running alongside the road was the “Chemin de Fer Meusien” a narrow-gauge single track railroad. 1,800 tons of supplies per day were moved via this railroad, including the majority of the food supplies for the army at Verdun (around + 435,000 men, plus +136,000 horses). Many of the wounded were also evacuated from the front via this railroad.  


The Voie Sacrée is now a small highway and in 2006 was renumbered the RD1916 (Route Départementale 1916) in reference to its critical roll during WWI. It is a road that is really worth travelling on if you are in this region. Every kilometre along the route are beautifully designed markers at the road side bearing the kilometrage from /to Verdun and engraved “Voie Sacrée”, each one topped with a bronze casting of a WWI french helmet. The route itself is very scenic and very moving. For many this was one of the last sights en route to the slaughter that was Verdun. I am quite sure that from all along this route they could hear the artillery barrages in constant action along the front at Verdun. This now scenic and tranquil route must have been the “road to hell” itself back in 1916.  


Finally I am in Verdun. I have agreed to meet Tony, Bob and John here at around midday. The sun is out and I do a once through the towns one way system to see if maybe they are here parked up early. No sign of them so I do a circle and park up the motorcycle in the sun outside the beautiful old prefecture. The town of Verdun is much prettier than I had imagined it would be. I assume that much of it has been rebuilt after the war, but it was rebuilt so well and in its former style for the most part, that it is hard to tell..... truly a credit to its architects, builders & citizens of Verdun.


I put the bike on its mainstand and sit propped up against the wall of the prefecture basking  in the sun. If they are passing through then they will have to pass me and surely even if I have an eye closed they cannot miss my old GS. Short of parking it in the middle of the road it is the best I can do. It is a nice day, the sun is out and on the steps it is warm. I still have all my motorcycle gear on with my fleece winter gear. I am warm but not hot, but I can see for the local population this is a very nice summers day indeed. They are in t-shirts and even shorts are making a show. The sun may well be out but that is pushing it just a bit too must be all of  50°f  tops.

Time ticks Tony......then a text message. They are running late....they have stopped for a coffee and fuel and estimate that they will arrive at around one thirty. What to do? To do lunch or to wait? I decide to wait in the sun watching the world go by.

Then they are here . I hear the motorcycles long before they have even turned into the one way system. It is really good to see Tony again with his friends Bob and John. They have all ridden from the South coast of England. We park up the bikes, my old GS 1000, Tony's RT and Bob and John's 1200 GS's and decide to find a restaurant and get something to eat before we head out to the battlefields of Verdun.

Verdun is packed and we walk down to the waterway where there are a host of small restaurants and snack bars along the waterfront. Today they are all crowded. Seems like everybody and their dog is out walking along the river front. We find one that has a proper menu....not just pizzas and hamburgers. There is no room outside but if we want and we are not in a rush then there is room inside. In we go. Cool fizzy lemonades all around....something to be said for this most simple and refreshing of fizzy drinks. The menu is posted on a large chalk board in front of us.....what a choice there is. The owners wife is oriental and there is a Thai curry on the menu that looks absolutely wonderful. We all decide on that......only to find out that there are only two portions left! We decide amongst ourselves and I end up with a curry. The others take spaghetti in its various forms with one other remaining curry. Ten minutes later the curry is in front of me. It smells exceptional, it looks exceptional....on tasting it is everything and more. This has to be the best curry I have ever eaten anywhere. In france it is very difficult to get a good curry, it is as if the majority of chefs are afraid of the spices or blending them which is a shame.What a curry....glad I didn’t get the bolognaise!!

Lunch done and its time to head out. Tony is my guide for today.....a bit of a roll reversal here. He has researched all of the history, the background and the routes, so I relax and just follow along.......a nice change. We head out of town towards our first stop....Fort Vaux. The scenery is amazing and the weather could not be more perfect, sunny but not too hot....perfect biking weather and perfect for exploring the battlefields too. The battlefields are well signed and we head out towards Etain on the main road before turning off left at the top of the hill after a couple of kilometres and take  the circuit that will take us to Fort Vaux, Fort de Douaumont and the Ossuaire de Douaumont. It is hard to imagine riding down this picturesque country lane that this was the centre of the battlefield all those years ago. Today trees have overgrown and for  the most aprt the scars are well concealed. Every now and again there is a gap in the trees and I can see the crater pocked landscape that is today covered by forest. There is not an unmarked or even piece of ground anywhere, a chilling feeling and I find myself wondering how anybody could have survived this hell in 1916.

The battle of Verdun

The battle of Verdun lasted from 21st Febuary to 19th December 1916. French casualties for Verdun are given as : 371,000 men (including 60,000 killed, 101,000 missing and 210,000 wounded). The German total casualties at Verdun, are given as 337,000 men with over 70% of casualties on both sides caused by artillery fire.

French shell usage by their artillery at Verdun , totalled 23.5 million rounds. German documents show that their own heavy artillery, fired off over 21 million shells between February to September 1916 only (no figures available for the last four months of Verdun), giving some idea of the carnage inflicted during this campaign.

The battle of Verdun with reason became known as the "Verdun mincing machine", a battle conducted on a battlefield that covered a total area of less than twenty square kilometers.

Wikipedia has a great article on Verdun, click on the link below to take you there.

Fort de Vaux

During the battle of Verdun this was the second French fort to fall to the Germans (after Douaumont) on June 7th 1916. The defense of Fort Vaux was marked by the heroism and endurance of the garrison under the command of Major Sylvain-Eugene Raynal when the besieged French garrison repelled numerous assaults. The fort finally surrendered after running out of water and ammunition. Raynal sent messages to his commanding officers using homing pidgeons (see the memorial plaque at the fort) requesting relief.  Upon the capture of the fort, the German Crown Prince presented Major Raynal with his sword as a sign of respect. After much more fighting and much loss of life French troops finally were able to recaputure Fort de Vaux  in November 1916.

Today Fort Vaux is open to the public and well worth a visit.  There is a minimal entrance fee of 2 euros for a visit inside the fort and I highly recommend it.. We were able to visit the tunnels / corridors, the dormitories and the gun emplacements inside the fort.




                 Fort de Vaux (Notice in the two photos above the same gun emplacement 93 years later!)


(Conditions inside Fort de Vaux 1916)

After we leave Fort de Vaux we follow the trail to Fort de Douaumont. All around us now are the pot marks of craters caused by the shelling. In places the landscape looks very much like a lunar landscape but with trees. Now and then by the side of the road we see where trenches once ran. 

Fort de Douaumont

Fort Douaumont is quite spectacular and there is a great view of the surrounding area from on top of the fort. It is possible to visit inside the fort but we arrive too late just as they are closing up. It is a shame but we have seriously underestimated the amount of time needed to visit the battlefield of Verdun. A good visit would and should take several days. But until you are actually here you have no idea of just how much of an area it covers and how much there is to see. On top of the fort are  remanants of its large calibre guns and gun housings and in places you can actually see where shells have hit and almost caused the inches thick steel to melt from the impacts.

 The land all around is pock marked from the shelling. It must have been hell to have been in here when it was the centre of attention and subject to continual bombardements and gas attacks. Still, it must have been pure hell to have been in the trenches also where there was no place to take refuge.The fort is situated on some of the highest ground in the area, and covered a total surface area of 30,000 square metres. It  was approximately 400 metres long, with two subterranean levels all protected by a steel reinforced concrete roof  some 12 metres thick! The fort was armed with a 155 mm gun turret, a 75 mm gun turret, plus 75 mm guns in flanking "Bourges Casemates" and multiple machine gun turrets.

In February 1916 the Germans, launched the Verdun offensive with Douaumont as a key objective. The fort at this time was manned by fewer than 30 troops manning the largest guns. The Germans continually shelled Douaumont with large-calibre guns, including a battery of extremely heavy 420 mm German howitzers badly damaging the forts main 75 mm gun turret.

On February 25 1916, most of the garrison had gone to the lower levels of the fort to escape the heavy incessant German shelling . The observation cupolas were unmanned and there was  only a gunnery team at their post in the 155 mm gun turret. They had been all but cut off from the outside world for several days when ten German soldiers managed to approach the fort unseen.

Pioneer-sergeant Kunze and his soldiers reached the fort's moat to find that the defending gun emplacements were empty. Kunze was able to climb inside one of these and open  an access door to the rest of the fortication. His men refused to enter fearing an ambush. Armed with only a rifle he continued alone. After walking the length of the tunnels in the fort he finally came upon the French artillery team which he took prisoner.

Thus Fort Douaumont fell without a single shot being fired and was taken by one man.....Kunze.

The French military were totally humiliated and embarassed by this loss, the entire french nation shocked. Many times they tried to retake the fort, suffering heavy casualties each time. Each French attack was countered with heavy artillery fire from within the fort. Literally millions of heavy cannon shells were fired and  thousands of men killed and wounded in these attempts. Much of the damage caused during this period is still visable today.

On the 8th May there was a massive explosion inside the fort.  A faulty cooking stove detonated the ammuntion in the stores with the resulting explosions and fires killing over 600 German soldiers. Their bodies were buried in a walled off tunnel, (today considered an official German military cemetery), whilst the fort was still under bombardement and manned.

By  October 1916 the fort was all but abandonned by the Germans. This was mainly due to the continual heavy shelling by long range 400mm French railroad guns set up at Baleycourt, Southwest of Verdun that made living conditions inside all but impossible. The French flag was to fly again over Fort de Douaumont when it was finally retaken on the 24 October 1916.



                                       Fort de Douaumont & the surrounding battlefield still showing scars some 93 years after the battle of Verdun


The Douaumont Ossuary (Ossuiare de Douaumont)

The ossuary is a memorial containing the remains of 130,00 unidentified French and German soldiers who died on the battlefield. The bones of some of these soldiers can be seen through the small windowed alcoves around the edge of the memorial. Every single year more human remains are exposed and found on the surrounding battlefield and added to this gruesome "collection". The Ossuary was completed and inaugerated in 1932. The tower (desingned in the shape of a canon shell) is 46 metres high and visitors are able to mount and get a  panoramic view of the battle field. The cloister inside is 137 metres long with 42 alcoves. The ceiling and walls are covered by some of the names of soldiers who fell in the battle of Verdun. The families of the individual soldiers recognized here paid for their plaques. The moument is surrounded by  25,000 graves of soldiers who died on the battlefield during the Battle of Verdun.  On the outside of the Ossuaire are the names and coats of arms of all the towns in france whose sons fell here. 


  Ossuiare de Douaumont

(At the back of the building, looking through the windows, you can see in the alcoves the bones of many of the fallen during the battle of Verdun.)



                       Communication Trench as seen today



                                  de gauche a droite: Bob (GS 1200), Tony (RT1100), Martin (GS 1000) et  John (GS 1200)  Ossuaire de Douaumont, Verdun, Avril 2009

After we take out photographs we decide it is time to start heading back. It is already early evening and we all have a lot of ground to cover, in different directions. Tony, Bob and John are headed to continue their visit of the battlefields and are heading back to their hotel in Cambrai and then they will visit the Somme battlefield tomorrow. Me, I am heading back home. We say our goodbyes and part. I head out of Verdun and back along the Voie Sacrée in the opposite direction. At Bar le Duc I take the road to St Dizier and then to Chaumont where I pull in to get a bite to eat and a good strong coffee to keep me going. Night is starting to fall and I want to cover as much ground as possible. I have never seen so many flying insects as in this region and I end up stopping several times to clean my visor. I continue onwards and by ten thirty I arrive on the outskirts of Dijon. I hope I have not left it to late for a hotel.....othewise it will be sleeping rough somewhere..... I see a sign for a Premiere Classe hotel and head towards it. It is closed but there is an intercom at the gate and the chap opens the gate for me. I check in, lock my motorcycle up and head up to my room. Not the best, but clean with an en suite and tv. I take a long hot shower and then lay on the bed and watch the tv  seeing what the weather will hold for tomorrow. So far I have been extremely lucky and especially for the North of France too. Hopefully it will continue. 

Monday  6th April 2009, Dijon to Coursan, Aude.

I wake up to brilliant sunshine, get dressed pack up and head down to get a bite to eat. A good breakfast at the Premiere and as much as you want. I settle my bill and load up and get on the motorcycle. I head out of Dijon deciding to take the back and scenic roads wherever possible. I take the old main road heading South and roll through Nuit St Georges a beautiful small town famous for its wines. I am tempted to buy a bottle or two for the cellar but today I have some serious kimetres to cover. Then its down towards Beaune and Chalon taking the old D19. At Chalon I decide to start heading west and look out for the route to Montceau les Mines. On my map it shows as a small road but obviously this is out of date, it looks like a main road to me and soon I run into a traffic jam. It is hot and I filter through the traffic until I come to the cause of this kilometre tailback....Two cars that have lightly clipped each other as one has changed lanes into the other from the look of things.  Filtering takes some time as there are many big truck and trailer units on this road and I stay clear ....I have no wish to become unknowingly pancaked between two of them. Finally I'm free and I continue on  turning off just outside of  Montceau for Charolles then heading for Roanne. The scenery is really nice and there is very little traffic on the back roads which is perfect. At Roanne I grab a bite to eat and take a short break. It is hot and I find some shade for the BMW. I fill up after lunch and then head for St Etienne before cutting across the Auvergne towards Le Puy en Velay.....something I have always wanted to see.

Saint Michel d'Aiguilhe Chapel, Le Puy en Velay, Auvergne

Saint-Michel d'Aiguilhe is actually just outside Le Puy en Velay. The chapel was  built in 962 on a volcanic  rock formation 85 metres (280 ft) high. To reach  the chapel there is a climb of  268 steps hewn into the rock. The chapel was built to celebrate the return of St James from the pilgramage. Legend has it that in 1429 the mother of Joan d'Arc came to this site to pray.

I pull in and take a couple of photographs of the chapel before heading south to Langogne and across to Mende. Fanstastic scenery and you can see forever. There is still snow on the high peaks. The road is brilliant and there is hardly anyone else on it. I fuel up in Mende an olde worlde towne and then head out towards Millau deciding to ride through the Gorges du Tarn. I have ridden through the gorges many times now,  but it is scenery and roads that you can never tire of...ever....and well worth the detour.


Les Gorges du Tarn

The going is slow winding up and down the tiny roads in the gorges, but the scenery more than makes up for that and by the time I reach the road toward Millau it is starting to get dark. At Millau I hit the main road south the A75 and follow it into Pezenas and then on to Béziers and home at just after nine thirty pm. 

What a long three days, a total of 2100 km but totally worth it. If more time had been available to me I would have loved to visit the other battlefields with Tony, Bob and John, just that time did not always.  Anyway, a big thank you goes to Mr Taylor for putting together a great trip. I saw a lot...... but more importantly I learnt a lot.....and hopefully next year we may well do the same thing. Brilliant...."Thanks Tony!"