The Trench of Thirst - the Tranchée de la Soif - is now surrounded by woodland. The lines of the trenches are well-preserved and I had a happy time marching along them pretending to be an officer. There are even surviving dugouts, though they all have DANGER - NO ENTRY notices.
I went prospecting along the edge of a field of crops, having learned on previous trips that debris from the Great War is still turned up by ploughing after all these years. I was delighted to find a chunk of shrapnel and a cartridge, doubly so when John, who works at a museum, offered to take them home and grit-blast them for me.
With the sun directly overhead and the sky deep blue, we headed for the American memorial at the Butte de Montsec.
I caught a glimpse of the vast round structure, like a Greek temple, in the distance and thought 'wow, is that where we're going?' As we approached it grew more and more massive. Perched on top of a hill over a magnificent view, it's breathtaking. (Literally - Howard decided to race me up the steps.)
Erected after the First World War, it was destroyed in the Second - it must have been a tempting target - and subsequently rebuilt.
Once per holiday or so we seem to end up suffering a Day of No Lunch, when we leave it a bit late and everywhere seems to be closed. Today we suffered until nearly four o'clock, when we found a baker's to supply us with plum tart, flan and cold croque monsieur.
Around Les Éparges there's quite a clutch of monuments, connected by pretty little forest roads. We were looking for Point X in particular, but this one, dedicated to the 106th Infantry, made the biggest impression on me:
I'm not sure what's going on here. An upturned face, skeletal hands bursting up through the soil, and a heap of skulls. Creepy as hell.
We returned to Verdun in good time for dinner at our regular restaurant. The proprietor, informed that it was our last night, invited us to try a digestif made from the local little yellow plums, mirabelles.
He warned us not to smoke near it.
Not everyone liked the taste, yet none of it went to waste. The journey back to the hotel seemed to take longer than usual, but the conversation was very interesting.