I had another great experience with a previously unknown person hosting me at their house.
Pascal contacted me through this site and said that if I was passing through Nancy, France, I’d be welcome to stay at his house. I was originally planning to pass through Verdun, and Nancy isn’t far south of there, so that seemed like a perfect option! The only requirement was that I share the guest room with one of his “girlfriends”…with 4 bikes already in the garage, his fifth was stored in the guest room.
Pascal and his girlfriend, Segolene, had quite the dinner planned…it consisted of delicious steak, garden potatoes & tomatoes, homemade yogurt, german beer, french wine, and homemade 25 year old quetsch (like a plum) schnapps…what a feast! And in the morning I left with a huge bag of garden tomatoes and mirabelles.
Thanks again Pascal and Segolene!
On the way to Nancy, I stopped in Verdun. During WWII, my grandfather (part of the 818th Tank Destroyer Battalion) passed through Verdun. While there, they were bombed during the night, which many members of the battalion felt was one of the worst experiences they had in the war. Passing through the city, I could clearly see quite a lot of damage, still present on the buildings. In some cases, it was left, and in others you can see where it was repaired…new bricks were put in place of the heavily damaged ones.
(Some of these photos are kinda junk….my camera’s been acting up lately, and now that I have downloaded the pictures, it looks like some of the files are no good…for example, this one. Looks like I’ll be picking up a new camera soon)
On my way out of France, I stopped at the Butte de Montesec memorial. In WWI, the first operation carried out completely by the US was at this site. This hill had been occupied by the Germans for four years and was an important observation point for the surrounding area.
Following the war, this memorial was built in 1932. A literal example of history repeating itself, in 1944, while being pushed across France, this same position was occupied by the Germans. The memorial took heavy damage from the US shelling the area, requiring repairs after the war.
Next up, Brugge, Belgium…a fantastic little city with a very traditional look, and often called “The Venice of the North” due to the various canals running throughout.
I rode into the center of town, parked in front of the hostel (which had a bar on the main floor). Once off the bike, a couple British guys sitting at a window in the bar called me over, asked about the bike and handed me a beer. After finishing the beer on the sidewalk in front of the bar, I figured I better get checked in and park my bike before I have a second (and third, fourth, etc…). Turns out they were a group of 4, on a trip through France and Belgium. Once we got to talking they brought up various trips they’ve taken around SE Asia, and the trip they’ll make to Thailand in February, so maybe we’ll be able to meet up there, as I’m planning to be in SE Asia for January-March.
The next morning I set out (perhaps with a bit of a hangover) to actually check out the city. But first, I needed the antidote for this headache. I ordered a coffee and was given this masterpiece. Though I’m not usually one to post food pictures online, if my coffee comes with snacks, I figure its the least I could do.
And I can’t forget about Fidel…This guy is kind of a local celebrity in Brugge. He lives at a bed and breakfast, and nearly every time you walk by, you’ll find him laying on the window sill, keeping an eye on whats going on around town.
My last full day in Belgium, I took the train down to Gent with a few friends. The primary goal of the trip was to check out the Gravensteen castle. I’d have to say that its probably one of the better representations of what I feel like a castle should be. This place didn’t really have anything fancy about it, rather it seemed to be more of a built for purpose castle that was meant to be used for defense.
As Belgium is pretty well know for it’s beer, you can be sure that I had a couple. The only problem was that I could only begin to scratch the surface. This made up about 10% of what one store had available.