Chocolates and "Nuts!"
Trip Start Apr 03, 2007
69Trip End Jun 16, 2007
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The grocery stores here have some really unusual flavors of chips. Of course, there's Paprika (seems to be very popular), but there's also some I didn't expect such as "Heinz Tomato Ketchup", and "Pickle" flavored chips. Not sure how well those last ones would do in America.
After eating breakfast and checking out of the hostel this morning in Ghent (De Draecke, "The Dragon"), I headed on the tram (much cooler and less crowded this time) back to the train station and caught a train to Brussels. From there, I caught another train towards Luxembourg. I didn't go all the way there, however, as my destination was Bastogne
Bastogne was the center point of the American defense against the Germans during the Dec 1944-Jan 1945 Battle of the Bulge. The book "Band of Brothers" by historian/author Stephen Ambrose chronicled the events as experienced by the 101st Airborne Division, one of the divisions placed right around and defending Bastogne as it was surrounded and besieged for a week. An HBO miniseries was made a few years back based on the book, which was very well done, and prompted me to want to come see it for myself. The battle was the last major decisive conflict of the war, and a major victory for the vastly outnumbered and outgunned Americans.
After arriving in town, I found my way to the hotel. This is the first time in 3 weeks that I have my own room, no roommates, and my own bathroom and shower. Kind of seems like a novelty, but it's so quiet. It's small but clean, and in a great location right in the center of town. This is the first place I've come to where most people don't speak English
I left the hotel around 3:00 PM and headed through the town of Bastogne. The American memorial and historical center are about a mile to the north of town, so I walked right through the main business district and McAuliffe Square, then up past the pastures and cows to the top of the hill that the memorial is situated on. They picked the best spot around, from the top of the memorial you can see off in every direction. The memorial itself is in the shape of a 5-pointed star, with the names of the 50 states and all of the army groups and divisions that served in the Battle of the Bulge
After checking out the memorial, I walked back through town to the Patton Memorial. It's in tribute to George S. Patton, whose army broke the siege on Bastogne and saved the city. The memorial is in a nice walled-in grassy courtyard, and at that hour (around 6:00 PM) I had the place all to myself, so I chilled out there for awhile, just me and George, and thought about the 81,000 Americans who gave their lives to win the struggle. Patton was known as a real SOB, but he was exactly the kind of SOB they needed right then to win, and it's him and the men like him that are the reason I'm here in a free country as I write this. Having seen "Band of Brothers", I now have an idea of the countryside they were in (although that was Winter time, with snow on the ground, so it was a tad different)
Tomorrow, I head for Paris. Unfortunately, something big must be happening this weekend because everyplace there was booked up, so I'm just going to stay one night in Paris, then head for Mont St Michel and the D-Day Beaches for the weekend, then come back and do 4 days in Paris next week. Looking forward to it! Until then, Au Revoir!
P.S. Regarding the Belgian Chocolates, there's a reason they're famous: they are SO good. I got some with hazelnuts and they just melt in your mouth. Mmm... and you don't need to buy them from the expensive chocolate shops either, just stop in at a supermarket and get them (Cote d'Or is a good brand).