It would be one of the longest numbers of hours I would be awake and functioning that I can remember.
It was Monday May 23. I was going to Europe, flying to Toronto and then connecting to Paris on Air France courtesy of the airline and the French Tourist Board.
I had been invited as a travel journalist to visit the remembrance sites of Northern France. Next year will be the 100th anniversary of the Vimy Ridge battle and they know many Canadians will want to travel to that region to pay tribute to those who lost their lives to preserve freedom in the first world war.
But my first day would not be in that direction.
After landing in Paris I wanted to take the train immediately to Amsterdam, from where I would rent a car and drive to Holten, and the Canadian Cemetery there. I have an uncle buried there and this was my pilgrimage to honour his sacrifice.
I was up at 7 AM CDT, had breakfast with my wife Rae, and was off to the airport for the flight that left shortly after 10 AM.
Arriving in Toronto before 2 PM, I had loads of time between arriving and my 6:30 PM departure. Although getting around to a different terminal certainly does eat up some time but for the most part it is a boring wait.
The 6:30 PM departure for me is not the best. On previous overseas flights we have left around 11 PM which means you are already pretty much bagged by the time you get on the aircraft. A couple of wines and a quick dinner will bring sleep on quickly.
For the life of me I could not sleep on this flight and by the time I was really tired and wanted to sleep we arrived in Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.
Now my frustration really began. I had booked the speed train Thalys from CDG to Amsterdam. I took my time after getting my luggage because again I had accommodated for loads of time.
I worked my way to the train tracks below the airport and began enquiring about my departure track. Suddenly I find out that this train actually does not go from the airport, and only leaves from the downtown station, Paris Nord.
Now I am sure I will miss. I get help in finding the train to that station only to find out that it definitely was not a speed train, stopping several times along the way as I am sweating the proverbial bullets.
As I disembark the train car I twist my leg and am now rushing with a limp, using my wheeled luggage pieces as a crutch of sorts.
I make the train by minutes. Worked up I still don’t sleep on the 3 hour journey to Amsterdam. I find the rental car locations quickly but by now have already been awake 24 hours. While I contemplate staying overnight at an airport hotel, I had already paid for my accommodation in Holten, and it was only an hour and a half drive. According to whom I wonder?
There is a lot of traffic on the road and it takes me the better part of two hours. I check in and even though I know I should go to sleep, I decide I need to go to the cemetery then since I did not want to be there the first time when I meet my Holten contacts the next morning.
So, with difficulty I find my way to the cemetery. I was given good directions but I have never been good at finding places and fatigue likely made it even worse.
It was a long emotional time for me at the cemetery seeing my uncle’s grave and contemplating what might have been for him, and for me had he lived.
After I left the cemetery I was very hungry so stopped in the town for a quick bite to eat. Even when I got back to the room, I did not want to sleep and watched television for about an hour.
Finally sleep came at sometime after 8 PM Holland time, 1PM Winnipeg time.