Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Monday, August 27 French Cottage for Nine Days

After a sound sleep, we wake to a beautiful sunny day. Dick is up by 8AM and drives to the little village up the road, Varennes en Argonne, for fresh pastries, bread and diesel. Our credit cards are not accepted in the European "Ghost" (unmanned) service stations and a nice young man in the store offers to use his own credit card to buy our gas (€65) and Dick gives him the cash.

We have breakfast and decide we will drive up Bouillon, Belgium on the River Semois stopping at several WWI sites along the way. Carolyn packs us a lunch and we take off on a route that roughly parallels the Meuse River which is absolutely beautiful country side. Our first planned stop after stumbling on a small rather depressing German cemetery

is the beautiful but somber American Cemetery at Meuse-Argonne. The US did their part of the fighting in the greater Verdun area. The US was late to enter the war, 1918, but it still took its toll on US lives. The the Meuse/Argonne Offensive fighting lasted some 45 days and the US suffered over 100,000 men wounded missing in action or killed. Of the 25,000 plus dead, many are buried in this cemetery.


Not far from the cemetery, Dick checks out the small village, Coumy, where a soldier won a Medal of Honor for taking out German machine gun nest and allowing the army to advance.
Next we visit a hill top village, Dun d' Meuse, with a commanding view of the Meuse, and a 14th century stone church.
A little further up the Meuse we cross over an old triple-ached stone bridge to see another small village, Sassy s' Meuse with an 11th century church. The steple is wood made to look like stone. Interestingly the clocks on both chruches are working.

OK, so much for quaint villages and old churches, the next stop is near Villy to check out part of the Maginot Line. This is the Villy-La Ferte fortification.


This line of strongholds across northeastern France was built to protect the French from another invasion from Germany, but it didn’t work; the Germans just went around the unfinished line. It is about 1PM so we also take time for a lunch break. While we are eating a man comes and opens the bunker for tours. The first one starts at 2:15PM so we stay for it. The inside is interesting though of course the tour is in French so Dicks has to give Carolyn a commentary on what we are seeing; this is right up his alley even if it is in French! We see Block 1

and the guide is ready to take us down and through a 300 meter tunnel to Block 2, which we saw at a distance from above. There are lots of steps and Carolyn declines. Dick decides he has seen enough so we head on to our final destination, Bouillon.

This is a beautiful part of France; hilly, heavily wooded in parts with working water ways and nice recreational areas. Bouillon is just across the border in Belgium. The town first appears in history in 988. Later Godfry of Bouillon who lead the first crusade to Jerusalem in 1096 built a fortified castle on the hill top. There is an upper town just below the castle on the hillside and a beautiful medieval town along both sides of the river. We stop at an old resort hotel for a drink and rest stop then go up to the castle and find a pin for Jack.

It is now after 5PM and the GPS says we are over 1 1/2 hours from home the shortest way. Trusting the GPS to get us home Dick hits enter and we are off! For the next hour plus, we have no clue where we are. Most of the time we are surrounded by either dense forest
or beautiful fields, beside one, we find a marker for one of the US WWI Divisions,
on roads barely wide enough for one car. Fortunately we don’t meet any one except some tractors. Of course, along the way we find another War memorial in another little village. 

As the sun begins to set we arrive home. Cocktail time is a bit late tonight, Carolyn gets dinner started with some things we got at a nice grocery we found at some point today and we sit out on the patio and enjoy a drink. It has been a pleasant day....reminiscent of the wonderful days we had in Italy in 2009. So far we are doing fine in a country where no one seems to speak any English. We who speak no French speak more French than the locals speak English. FUN!

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