Friday, July 28, 2017

Luxembourg and Belgium


Our Mosel experience was complete.

The Mosel leads west into Luxembourg. As kids we all knew Luxembourg because they had the best Pop Radio channel! We’d listen to all the new hits from the Beatles, Herman’s Hermits while snuggled under the blankets at night with our transistor radios tuned to Radio Luxembourg.

Luxembourg like Andorra and Lichtenstein is a small independent country, so small that the first couple of times we visited it in the 60’s and 70’s we missed it completely! I remember when there were still borders asking the border guard for direction to the campground in Luxembourg and he pointed back the way we came from. We’d actually driven thru the country without realizing it and were on the French border on the other side!


We just passed thru, our destination was somewhere I’ve promised to visit but so far never made it to. Bastogne.
A Sherman tank hit during the battle is a permanent monument in the city square
For all you military history nuts and fans of the HBO series “Band of Brothers” you probably remember this town as being one of the key places in the “Battle of the Bulge”. This is where the 101st Airborne stood against the fierce German surprise attack of December 1944.
The General who told the Germans "Nuts" when he was asked to surrender
What it was all about, a strategic crossroads in the town.
There are several museums in the town naturally, and a big monument to the fallen in the shape of a US star. The Bastogne War Museum is well thought out and at the beginning you are introduced on the included audio guide to 4 characters that guide you thru the exhibits. The characters are a 13 year old boy, a young female school teacher, a German officer and a US Paratrooper.

No dry show of static objects this, as you progress thru the story of the build up to WW2 and the Allied advance to Belgium each character describes their part in events and their interaction, 3D movies and interactive displays keep you (or at least me) involved and I was surprised when we exited the building to find out it was 2pm. We had to leave even though I still wanted to see the 101st Airborne Museum across town.


Fate in the shape of FIAT intervened again! The darned motorhome broke down yet again about 15 miles out of Bastogne. We had camped about a mile outside town for the previous couple of nights and laughed that the Fiat dealer was across the street. I’ll give you one guess where they towed us to!!


As we waited for the wonderful RAC breakdown service to get the tow truck to us we got a call from them. They are very good at checking that you are safe and that everything is going well. Then the truck arrived and off we went back to Bastogne. The phone rang again and Sophie had to break the bad news to us. 

Apparently RAC insurance only covers ONE tow per trip and as we hadn't been back to UK in between calls this was all ONE TRIP. Then she mentioned that they should not have sent tow trucks for this and the previous breakdown in Germany but as they had failed to check their records they would pick up the $600 the two tows had cost. BUT NO MORE!

It was late in the day and the dealer couldn't get to the van until the next day so we set off looking for a hotel.

Now Bastogne is not a large town, in fact you can walk from one side to the other in 30 minutes easily. Being a small town the don't have a taxi service and the busses only run once an hour. So guess who got to lug the bag with our overnight things for the 15 minute walk into the center? And when we got there we walked past one hotel because I didn't like the look of it and we tried the other 4 hotels in town only to find they were all full! So back to the first one where luckily they did have a room but up 4 flights of stairs.

Did I mention we got lots of exercise on this trip!

Next day we visited the 101st Airborne Museum. If you come to Bastogne and have time for only 1 museum make it this one!
101st Airborne Museum in what was the Officers Mess building
We chatted with the owner on the way in, a very pleasant Dutch guy who explained that this museum and everything in it are his personal collection. Amazing stuff and laid out as full size diaramas of the battle and surrounding scenes. In the basement you get to sit thru a German bombing raid with full motion effects and surround sound.
Full size diaramas in the mueum

When we done there we called the Fiat dealer and they had fixed whatever it was that made the gas pedal inoperative (Second time for that) and refused payment for the work! WOW!
This yellow safety vest has become one of my most worn items lately.

Nelly Belle in her position of repose
 After a nice dinner in town and a second night in the hotel we set off again, having decided to take a direct route to Dieppe where we were booked on the ferry just in case Nelly Belle did her thing again.

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