Bais de la Somme – Nord Pas de Calais – home!

La Coupole, France

The weather on the last day is awful and so we decide to visit La Coupole [English: The Dome], a history & remembrance centre in the Nord Pas de Calais region.

Originally codenamed Bauvorhaben 21 [Building Project 21], it’s a Second World War bunker complex built by the forces of Nazi Germany between 1943 and 1944 to serve as a launch base forV-2 rockets directed against London and the South of England [Mr B used to serve in the Welch Regiment – note, that’s not a spelling mistake but the actual correct spelling – and so likes to visit places of military significance on our travels.] 

Constructed in the side of a disused chalk quarry, the complex comprised an immense concrete dome, to which its modern name refers, above a network of tunnels that were to house the launch facilities and crew quarters. The facility was intended to store a large stockpile of V-2s, warheads and fuel and to be able to launch missiles against London and southern England at a high daily rate. However, due to repeated heavy bombing by Allied forces carried out as part of Operation Crossbow, the Germans were unable to complete the construction works and the complex never entered service. It was captured by the Canadian Army in September 1944 and was subsequently abandoned. The complex remained derelict and abandoned until the mid 1990s. In 1997, it opened its doors to the public for the first time after being redeveloped into a museum. The tunnels and the main exhibition area under the dome tell the story of the German occupation of France during World War II, the V-weapons and the history of space exploration [thanks to Wiki for educating me on this ^-^].

La Coupole France

La Coupole France

It’s a very humbling place. Quite unexpectedly the wall of remembrance touches me deeply as suddenly I can connect faces with stories and it becomes almost a personal story.

La Coupole France

It’s a sombre day. To lighten the mood we take the dogs for their very last waaaaaaaaaaaaalkies on French soil ^-^.

dog walk in Nord Pas de Calais

So that’s it. France trip is over. We were lucky with the weather. We had some fabulous food. We saw loooooooooooooads. We made memories that’ll stay with us forever. We drank some exquisite Bordeaux and rummaged around in lots of supermarkets. AND we took the dogs with us! So then of course it’s only fair to remember THE MOST IMPORTANT document of all: re-entry into the UK for our furry friends ^-^

reentry docs for dogs

It was quite an unnerving experience sitting in the car waiting to pass through passport control wondering whether we’d done our homework right as our dogs’ next 6 months depended on it. As it happened I overheard another passenger’s conversation with [pet] passport control and they were trying to bluff the officer by blaming the vet for having given them incorrect information. We found that none of the vets we spoke to *guaranteed* anything for fear of it coming back to bite them; they all referred us to the DEFRA web site and could not stress enough how important it is to get the facts right. As it turned out, we did [phew]. They hand out scanners at passport control and you scan your own dog for its microchip then tell the officer the registration number while he or she compares it to what is written in your pet’s passport. I thought my heart was going to explode for about 3 minutes and almost felt physically sick. But now that we know how to do it there’s no stopping us. Planning a roadtrip through Spain in 2013 already ^-^

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2 thoughts on “Bais de la Somme – Nord Pas de Calais – home!

  1. Which port did you come through, was it Calais? We took our dogs abroad for the first time this year and all that happened on the way back at Dukerque, was that when we went through passport control, they looked at the dogs passports as well as ours – and that was it. No-one checked their microchips although we had to put a sticker on the van’s windscreen saying ‘Pet’ which we had to leave on until we’d left Dover – I suppose customs could have checked us at Dover if they’d felt like it.

    • We came through Calais. The windows on our van are blacked out so no-one can see in; they did ask how many pets we had but nobody physically checked. That’s until customs made their way round ^-^. No checks in Dover though. Did you also find that you were given preferential treatment because you had pets? We also had a yellow sticker on the front window which meant we were the absolute first vehicle to board the ferry back to Dover and therefore also the first one off. And yes, we were given a scanner and had to check their chips. Next time I think we shall cross on the Eurotunnel as it’s only a 45 minute crossing and you can stay in the car with your dog(s).

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