The route my father followed across Windsor, Ontario, to visit my grandmother on Sundays took us down Ypres Avenue. We passed near other streets with names that seemed unusual to me as a child, among them: Verdun, Lens, Somme and Arras avenues. Eventually, I learned that they were one of Canada’s many memorials to World War I.
Cycling trips to Europe and covering the Tour de France has given me the privilege of seeing those places with the names that once puzzled me.
In 2001, while near Verdun, I stayed in a hotel along the Voie Sacrée, the road that in 1916 delivered troops and supplies to the front while under constant bombardment. Uniquely for a regional road in France, it is officially known by its name rather than letters and numbers. The kilometer markers that measure it are topped with reproductions of French World War I helmets. And there are commemorative marches on the road to the site of the front by soldiers and citizens alike.
The centennial of World War I has more recently brought the Tour de France back…