Friday, September 19th
Today began inside the original castle walls of the 14th Century hilltop fortress of Coucy-le-Chateau in Picardy and ended at the lovely bed-and-breakfast La Scholastique in Le Neufors, in the Champagne region of France. La Scholastique is owned by my friends Denis and Bénédicte Hébrard. Denis is an active member of the Association that manages Butte de Vauquois, where over 20 kilometers of WWI tunnels still exist. Some of the most important photographs in the series thus far have been taken here. Nothing else like Butte de Vauquois exists anywhere else along the Western Front. It’s open to the public on a limited basis.
It was a day of goodbyes. It’s hard to leave Coucy. I love being around the Gambas (Richey and Fer)…to be in their presence means nonstop laughter. Richey’s irreverence is contagious. I also said goodbye to one of my best friends, Dallas attorney Steve Malouf, who came to Picardy for several days to accompany me and the BBC underground.
While I was preparing to leave Coucy, my friend and former photography assistant François Guernier dropped by to visit. François is a professional musician. Richey is a talent management agent and has managed François for years…small world! It was wonderful to see François today. Also, he recently released an album themed around WWI.
It was about a 2 hour drive from Coucy to Le Neufors. The plan for today was to go deep underground into places beneath Butte de Vauquois that the public has never seen before. Occasionally plans don’t materialize. Today was one of those days.
When I arrived at La Scholastique, no one was home. Also, the person who was to take us underground couldn’t be available. This happens from time to time. Not speaking French occasionally presents problems. Someday, I must learn French. However, the majority of the time, my travels in France have been exceptionally smooth.
I’ve included several photographs taken at the end of the day today of me, Denis and Bénédicte Hébrard and their daughter Anne-Elise near the garden in their backyard.
I’m staying in a room tonight with a large bathtub. It was so nice to indulge in a relaxing hot bath…a great way to get ready to go back in the field tomorrow.
Tomorrow, we will explore parts of the French forest in this region, looking for vestiges of The Hidden World of WWI and led by a friend who is an archeologist with the French National Railroad and an expert on hidden traces of WWI.