Saturday, September 1, 2012

Friday, August 31

Yesterday, Dick picked up a great map of the front lines during WWI in this greater area. So far we have explored a good bit of the Rive Gauche-Argonne and Verdun-Douaumont area. Basically, the front line area North and East of Verdun.

Carolyn wants to go down to Bar-le-Duc to see the 16th Century old city. This just happens to be the beginning of the Voie Sacre’e Nationale or Scared Way that was the only supply road to the forces in Verdun and is very close to the Les Eparges-Saillant De Saint area, the front line south-east of Verdun. Dick is interested in seeing this area also.

We have a another leisurely breakfast and decide to hit the A-4 again over to Haudiomont and head south working our way along the front lines to Saint Mihiel then head over to Bar-le-Duc and back home. With a picnic lunch in hand, we get on the road.

We pass through Saint Remy-la-Calonne and visit a village church and the French Military Cemetery behind it.
From there we go to Vigneulles-les-Hattonchatel stopping to see another Somber German Cemetery, same design as the others, but this one has some Star of David markers among the crosses.
Along the way we stop in front of a pretty old city hall, the Mairie, and have our lunch.
This whole area is full of fruit orchards. It is know for a small, yellowish plum that is very popular with the locals called Maribell. We stop and buy some of the plum preserves at a road side stand (€4) . We are loving the drive. The country side is just beautiful and the little villages are picture perfect!

Dick sees on the map that there is an American Monument at Montsec. This turns out to be an impressive butte
above the village of Montsec with a white columned monument commemorating the American Forces in WWI at the top. We can see the monument for miles before we get there.
The butte was high ground held by the Germans during the war and was finally taken in 1918 by the first US force commanded by a US officer on foreign soil. The view from the top is fabulous.
We can see why it was so important during the war. In fact, on September 2, 1944 the Germans fought a pitched battle with US forces for control of the hill and the monument was damaged in the fight. It was repaired in 1948 and is undergoing extensive cleaning and restoration now.Another interesting thing we see is a water tower still in use...a left over from the long WWI German occupation of the area.
At the site, Dick discovers that the St. Mihiel American Cemetery and Memorial is located nearby at Thiaucourt. So, we are off. Once again we find a beautiful resting place. There are some 4,100 men laid to rest here.
We learn that about 40% of the men killed in action were buried in France while the rest were returned to the US at the request of the families. Also that the largest US Military Cemetery overseas is in the Manila in the Philippines where some 17,000 men are buried.

Needless to say our day is getting longer. It is now about 4PM and we are about two hours from home if we follow our planned loop and we still haven’t seen Carolyn’s 16th Century town. Fortunately it is light well after 8 so we continue with the plan.

We drive down part of the Scared Way to Bar-le-Duc. Hmm...remember the problem with 5PM? Well Bar-le-Doc has the same problem. Fortunately we fine a parking place and are able to walk around a little and see the newer church of St. Jean built in 1875.
It has withstood three wars. The traffic thins out a little and we are able to find the Historic Center and better still a free parking place right by the Cathedral. They are restoring the older parts of this interesting city and are were just beginning in the part where we first stopped. This part is finished and has been done very well. We walk around and visit the Cathedral.

Carolyn pops into a pastry shop and gets some wonderful chocolate Florentines.

Now it is definitely time to head home...but we make just one more detour for Dick. He is reading a book about the Meuse/Argonne Battle and the village of Acocourt is mentioned early in the book. "When got through taking that village, there were not two bricks left on top of each other." He wants to see and what we find is a quiet, deserted looking farming community on a late Friday evening. There is certainly no evidence of the events of 1918.

We have another 10km to go to home and the route takes us through Vauquois and below Butte de Vauguois another significant piece of ground from 1918. We will take at look at it tomorrow or Monday.

It is quite cool, in the upper 50s, and we are ready for some supper as it is after 8PM. Carolyn creates some passable spaghetti from thin air and we share the little pizza we bought in Verdun along with a salad and the Mirabelle tart. Quite good.

Dick crashes and Carolyn sits up working on this blog. Her computer runs out of juice and she takes it into the kitchen to plug it in. She notices a funny smell but cannot find the source. Later she goes back to be sure the computer is charging and the smell is stronger. A hissing sound then registers with her and she determines that a gas burner on the stove has been opened. She quickly turns it off and opens up the house to air it out. It seems that you can open the valves on the stove burners without pushing the knob down, hearing any clicking sound or making any other conscious effort. Scary!

Note to readers...September 1 got out of order somehow and is located between September 5 and 6 posts.

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