Bonjour!

Bonjour!

The words “February vacation” had a new meaning for us this year.  After moving to London, Zach was able to experience his first ever week-long school break, a break that didn’t exist in Virginia.   It was a welcome treat for all of us.

Crossing the English Channel onto mainland Europe is literally a hop, skip, and a train ride through the Eurotunnel. Who would think it would be so easy? Within 2.5 hours of leaving our house in London, we had arrived into Calle, France on Friday afternoon to begin our great 10 day school/work free adventure. Our ultimate destination was another 10 hours away into the heart of the German Alps, but since getting there is part of the fun, we decided to make a few stops along the way to break up the trip. The first stop was Metz, France. Metz is about a five hour journey from Calle–an easy first day of driving. It is a city of historical significance to Ray’s family, as during World War II, Ray’s grandfather, served in the 95th division, 379th Infantry regiment as a Lieutenant of a rifle platoon. He was one of four men in his platoon to survive the battle of Metz, one of the fiercest battles of the Rhine Campaign. These allied forces, who punched a hole through this strategic series of fortifications occupied by the German special forces, were referred to by General Patton as “The Iron Men of Metz, the bravest of the brave.” As a result, he received a liberators medal from the government of France. Ray has a copy of his grandfathers’s original 1954 invitation to attend a medal ceremony at the town hall in the city center. This would be our ultimate information quest in the city, however our first goal was to settle into our surprisingly unexpected treat of a hotel on Friday evening–La Grange de Conde in the small town of Marselle, ten miles east of Metz.

It's so easy to cross the English Channel to France!

It’s so easy to cross the English Channel to France!

Our "spa evening" in the hotel... rotating between the hot tub, the sauna and the steam room

Our “spa evening” in the hotel… rotating between the hot tub, the sauna and the steam room

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Steam RoomMetz is a charming town. Not surprisingly, our first item of order was to seek out the WWII connection. Standing in the center of the city square was none other than the “Hotel de Ville” (the town hall) as well as a liberators statue honoring the soldiers. Although the tourist office was unhelpful, when we inquired whether there was anyone we could talk to who might know some WWII history inside the Town hall, the location where the medals were awarded to the liberators. Ironically enough, there was a World War II exhibit in the atrium (albeit in French). After stumbling into a quiet dark room in the rear of the building, we approached and showed the French speaking town hall administrator and accompanying police man the copy of the medal invitation in French. The two word response was, “WOW, WOW!” The French duo proceeded to enthusiastically converse in French for about five minutes and then eagerly referred us to the another administrative office for War records. Unfortunately, it was closed as it was Saturday, so we continued our meandering around the old part of the city for a bite to eat.

Our stop at a cafe simply named, “Paul”, was a gastronomic treat of extraordinary proportions. Zach’s order of a croissant and Evian water was totally French! Ray learned the French phrase for Gastro-goodness – Chaisson de Pommes – a honey covered apple-filled pastry, and Krista’s tastebuds were delighted with sheer joy through a colorful fruit tart. Nobody spoke an ounce of English and there were no Americans to be seen.

The Cathedrale St. Etienne is a beautifully constructed Gothic cathedral ,complete with golden spires and flying Buttresses. Laced with 13th-20th century stained glass and towering 137ft from floor to ceiling, it was a delightful stop after our jaunt through the grand Marche Couvert, a covered market lined with fresh produce, fish, cheese, and meats.

It was about 1:00pm when we decided to head out of the city and make an impromptu stop at the largest single Maginot line bastion. What is that you ask? For those who are not in the know, it is one of history’s biggest military failures. After World War I, the French built a fixed line of defense, complete with underground tunnels spanning from the Belgian border to the island of Corsica to prevent a future German invasion. It’s slogan was: IIs ne passeront pas–“They won’t get through”. The words held true, as in the end, the Germans went around The Maginot Line and invaded France through Belgium! The tour guide explained with conviction that Belgium would not allow the French to continue the Maginot line across Belgian territory and thus, if only the Belgians would have allowed construction, then the Germans would have been stopped and World War II averted! ha Our very thorough three hour tour (you the reader, sparred the details) included a walk through three km of tunnels, a comprehensive tour of the diesel motors, air filtration system, and water holding area for the facility, as well as a gallery of arms, medals, and uniforms and other large weaponry. The cherry on the sundae was a mile long high speed train ride (terrifying for Ray) through the depths of the fortification to an underground bunker complete with an anti-aircraft gun. In the end, one German junker crashed in a farm field nearby and one German was captured after he got lost in the surrounding hills. Ultimately, the Germans captured the fort with little resistance, and fired 90 seconds worth of artillery rounds at the oncoming American tanks. The Americans bombarded the facility for an hour straight before capturing it. As you can imagine, Ray was in his glory. It was a very THOROUGH tour to say the least…but cool nonetheless. Zach’s FAVORITE part of the tour was when the guide told us about the “End of the World 2012 party” that he and 100 others attended in the fort this past December.

Next stop ULM, Germany…..

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Categories: Cool Pics | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Bonjour!

  1. Selina

    Awesome adventures!!!! This was a great read, I eagerly await more of your installments!

  2. Dude

    Binker, what a tour reporter you are! I really enjoyed your narrative and pictures from the first part of your trip. Can’t to see the rest.

  3. Susan White

    Hi Krista, I tried to leave a comment on the Bonjour blog. But, it brought me to your home page. I couldn’t comment. The comments from others were not there either. I’ll try again. Suelynn

    ________________________________

  4. Suelynn

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for caring about family and writing this amazing blog about my dad, Metz is a place that I heard about since I was a little girl, it was one of many of my dad’s involvements in the 2nd World War, including the invasion of “D Day”. Metz was a battle that stayed with him his whole life. He went on to become a Ranger and had served in many other battles in Korea as well. Grandad didn’t speak of his experiences that much until he was older and developed Alzeimers, then he relived each one and would talk about each experience and the other beloved soldiers in detail, ones that lived and died in war with him. His code name in Metz was “big moose” and his buddy from Idaho’s name was “little moose”. My dad loved our country and served it as an honor and a privledge. I love you Ray, Krista and Zachary and want you to know that the “old soldier” would be so proud of you like I am for writing such a wonderful article.

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