After admiring the view, the monument and the poppies, we headed for the Butte de Vauquois. Part of the route took us along a bumpy but charming forest road where Howard and I saw what we reckon was a pine marten scamper across the road in front of us.
The Butte is a large site, landscaped by trenches and mines and pleasant to scramble around on. Once, where now there are flowers and wild strawberries, there was a village, and a sign marks the sites of the town hall and church.
Lunchtime, and we halted in the village of Romagne-sous-Montfauçon near our next objective, the American Cemetery. French and American flags fluttered everywhere; the Dutch café proprietor told us that today the annual Memorial Day service was taking place at the cemetery, and afterwards the participants would parade through the village.
We decided we wanted a piece of this action and, leaving two members of the party behind to guard our seats, the other three of us headed to the ceremony.
French and US soldiers saluted each other and there were many speeches, most of them from an American military high-up who looked and sounded uncannily like Leslie Nielsen.
It was a hot day and more than one soldier had to be helped away for a lie-down before the end. Props to the French firemen, who kept their heavy uniforms on throughout, and even more props to the gentleman dressed in full Great War poilu kit!
We hightailed it back to our ringside seats to catch the parade (and pay our lunch bill). This gendarme arrived to direct the traffic, but I like to think she was really guarding our bikes:
Two more monuments to fit in and dinner to find! We stopped for a while in the peaceful pine forest surrounding the Montfauçon monument, then onward to this rather gruesome memorial, Le Mort-Homme.
You may have heard the phrase 'They shall not pass', which was spoken by, amongst others, a proud French general at Verdun. The Dead Man here is inscribed in memory of the event Ils n'ont pas passé: 'They did not pass'.
I set off ahead of everyone else so I could take photos of the bikes travelling through the cornfield. I was pleased with the results.
Dinner was at the Village Gaulois, which I hoped would be Asterix-themed but was considerably more upmarket.
I ordered a bollé of cider, expecting a sort of teacup, and got a two-handled soup bowl which must have contained nearly a pint.
On my customary well-I'll-just-look-at-it look at the dessert menu I spotted a mystery item described in French as 'Norwegian omelette' and in English as 'Arctic roll', with a minimum order of two people. Intrigued, I coerced Roger into joining me.
What arrived was a dome of ice cream, fruit and sponge topped with blobs of meringue, which our waitress flambéed at the table. We ate the lot.