Day 20. Another warm day was expected today and it did reach around 32 degrees by the time most got in to Arras this afternoon.
There was a lot of typical French countryside today, fields full of corn and fresh hay bales. There weren’t too many places to stop for food or coffee along the route so most only made one stop at a roadside cafe/shop. We actually had a few rolling hills today along the 81km route – nothing big but a bit of a change from the very flat terrain we’ve mostly seen.
Arras is a nice city of around 125,000 people in the metropolitan area, with a lovely large town square featuring the town hall at one end. It was once Spanish territory. There is a system of tunnels under the main square called boves which were sandstone quarries during the Middle Ages. The quarrying stopped around 1200 as the buildings and markets growing above ground made it too dangerous to continue digging. They were then used as storage for the markets and those who owned them often charged a lot of rent for their use. There are no buildings left constructed from the sandstone as they were all bombed during the world wars. The tunnels themselves were used during WWI as the place to gather troops to mount the Amiens offensive. During WWII they were mostly used by civilians as shelter during bombing raids. Now they make for a slightly different tourist attraction from the usual sights above ground. There will be a lot more war history tomorrow as we ride to Amiens.