Day Eleven

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Travelin-Tigers

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Tigres de Voyage

May 21, 2002
Tuesday

Luxembourg to Bastogne to Maastricht

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Breakfast / Taxi to the Airport Hertz

American and German Cemeteries

Drive to Trier, then Bastogne

Drive to Liege, then Maastricht

Day 10 Return to Main Page Day 12

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Breakfast / Taxi to the Airport Hertz

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Dave: We were unexplainably exhausted this morning, oversleeping and barely able to drag ourselves out of bed. Of course, ten seconds of thought would recall the long train ride from Paris, the long walk into and around downtown Luxembourg, and the large and delicious dinner. We had deserved to roll over at half past nine.

We showered and dressed and headed downstairs for breakfast. The restaurant was deserted and the hostess asked us to recall our room number. When I drew a blank, she squarely looked in my eyes and said, "That's OK, it was 507". And she was right. We were seated out a "porch" area that had been added on the front of the restaurant. Consequently we were bathed in delightful morning sunlight and could eat and relax and watch the people coming and going on the street. Unfortunately, it also meant it was less than three feet from our plates to the sidewalk and we easily made eye contact with anyone waiting for the light to cross to the train station. Thank goodness there are no homeless people in Luxembourg.

We had a great breakfast including scrambled eggs and hot coffee and, even though we told her she could start to tear down the buffet, she waited literally until the minute we stepped out of the restaurant when finished. We were up to our room and then out the door in a few minutes, deciding between waiting 40 minutes for the $3 bus to the airport or just hopping a cab for the short jaunt. Common sense prevailed, we flagged a taxi at the train station and headed out, conversing with the cab driver about his lovely city. "Euros are convenient for you, but bad for me" was one of his many insights, as we noted how easy it was for us to go from Belgium to France to Luxembourg to Holland without any currency conversion. But, he had to surrender his country's central bank. I had studied the maps, and the airport was less then 10 miles from downtown. I toyed with walking it or riding a bicycle but the bus seemed wisest (leaving Jesse to sleep in). I watched with amazement as the meter crossed 10 euros, then 20, then 25. It was just over 30 Euros to get us two to the airport to get our discount car. Sheesh! Well at least we had a good breakfast and a good nights sleep.

Lyn had warned us to specifically use one certain credit card for the car rental, as it was the only one that automatically provided auto insurance in Europe. Two surprises greeted us at Hertz. My "platinum" status had my car upgraded to a Ford Mondial. What a wonderful car! It was a delight to drive for the last 5 days of our trip. Also, our credit card had been refused! "Oh don't worry", she explained, as she had kindly charged it to the second card listed on my account, the one that specifically denied insurance coverage in Europe! "Would you please resubmit the charge to the first account for me?" She looked half quizzical, half-insulted, "That is not necessary, it was refused just less than 5 minutes ago". At 10am in Luxembourg, it was 4am back home, so I took the car and decided to simply drive carefully while I let Lyn get a couple more hours of sleep. We headed out to the US Military Cemetery just a couple miles from the airport.

Luxembourg: Breakfast near the Sidewalk
Jesse sharing a late breakfast with pedestrians
Luxembourg: Train Station across from our room
Our six-foot swinging window on the fifth floor
The tiny Luxembourg Airport
The tiny Luxembourg Airport
Directions in French, Dutch, Letzebuergesch
Directions in French, Dutch, Letzebuergesch
Our Ford Mondial, what a great car!
Our Ford Mondial, what a great car!

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American and German Cemeteries

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American Military Cemetery in Luxembourg

In 5 minutes we were at the cemetery. It was every bit as dignified and quieting as the one on Omaha Beach in Normandy. I was proud to learn of the government agency (ABMC) that maintains and administers these memorials and of the fine job they were doing. The Luxembourg cemetery resembled the one from Normandy (that we first saw in "Saving Private Ryan") with its rolling hills, lush green grass, and precise rows of simple white cross markers, listing the deceased, his rank, his home state. This cemetery is also the final resting place of General George Patton who survived the entire war only to die in an auto accident during the first months of reconstruction. We walked about the grounds, discussed the battle maps, viewed the memorial chapel, and then made our exit.

American Military Cemetery in Luxembourg

At Patton's grave, I introduced myself to another couple paying respects and learned that he was retired military (originally from Florida) and that she was originally from Germany. They talked about the other military cemeteries and battle sites in the area, and recommended that we drive over to nearby Trier, Germany, as a famous World War II battle had been fought there, and to be able to say that we had "been to Germany".

Grave of Gen Patton: Luxembourg Military Cemetery

Jesse at Patton's Grave: Luxembourg Military Cemetery

Memorial Chapel: Luxembourg Military Cemetery

Grave of Gen Patton
Jesse at Patton's Grave
Memorial Chapel

American Military Cemetery in Luxembourg

Less than a mile away was a Cemetery for German war dead. We parked and took some quick pictures and ran again into the couple we met at the US Cemetery. They commented about the general disrepair (which is obvious) and I took a few minutes to describe the German cemetery at La Cambe that we had just visited in Normandy and its good condition and crew of German soldiers doing some major renovation. Being early May, I suggested that they may be "making the rounds" and might next come here to spruce things up. I wonder if they did. This cemetery seemed smaller than the US cemetery until my new friend pointed out that each cross here marked FOUR graves, two on each side. Also, the large monument in back contained the unsorted remains of over 600 soldiers. During the battle it was known who was lost, but it must have eventually become impossible to marry up individual remains with individual names. The mass grave duly notes over 600 names, but gives a better feel for the scale of loss on both sides.

German Military Cemetery: Luxembourg

German Military Cemetery: Luxembourg

German Military Cemetery: Luxembourg

German Military Cemetery: Luxembourg
The nearby German Military Cemetery

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Drive to Trier, then Bastogne

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Jesse: The couple we met at both cemeteries had mentioned Trier, a city across the German border. After a quick check of the maps, we decided it was our closest chance at touching Germany before taking another trip there sometime in the future.

On the long trip up the freeway to Trier we stopped in the litter town of Contern, Luxembourg to call Lyn and get the rental car insurance worked out. From the states she was able to get everything fixed, insurance and all. We continued back out on the road to Germany, stopping for entertaining Euro-snacks along the way. We marveled at the now-defunct border crossing as we crossed from Luxembourg to Germany, another symbol of the new Europe.

Local delicacies for meals on the road

A pretty little church in Contern, Luxembourg

Local delicacies for meals on the road
A pretty little church in Contern, Luxembourg

We arrived in Trier soon enough, our first and only major German city of the trip. We drove around town a bit, marveling at the "Zentrum" and other German signs. Since we had not planned beforehand to visit Trier, we had no idea of it's rich early Roman Empire history. After seeing nothing of great interest and already facing a long day's worth of driving, we turned back for Luxembourg down the very same route we had taken to Trier.

McDonald's in Trier. Sad, but at least it's in German

McDonald's in Trier. Sad, but at least it's in German

Part of our "Air & Water" photograph collection

The long road back to Luxembourg

Part of our "Air & Water" photograph collection
The long road back to Luxembourg

We arrived in Bastogne after a 50km drive, still only in the early afternoon. Bastogne was a particularly difficult chapter during the war, the final defense for the undersupplied airborne infantry being constantly pummeled by German armor. Bastogne was also the setting for Gen. McAuliffe's famous reply of "Nuts" to a German request for his surrender. Suitably enough, a small museum was established there for the important role Bastogne played during the Battle of the Bulge.

We did a quick drive-thru on the town, noticing an American tank in the town's main square, as well as finding the museum and nearby parking. We parked and entered the museum, Jesse stopping to gaze at the WWII memorabilia in the window before heading in and paying our minimal entrance fee. The entire ground floor of the small, narrow museum was devoted to taxidermy, wildlife, and local history. The War items were all kept in a separate area, all sorts of weaponry and miscellaneous items carried by soldiery during the battle of Bastogne.

The  exhibit, although small and lackluster in comparison to the larger museums, offered close-up looks at much of the equipment left unmentioned at other museums. We wandered around a bit, noting many familiar name brands that were in fact German companies during the war, as well as taking in a small amount of the local history portions of the museum. We did not have much time to dally however, as the drive to Maastricht would be a large one. We reluctantly rushed our visit to Bastogne and the museum, and were soon on the road again.

Main square of Bastogne

Main square of Bastogne

Examine weapons up-close in the museum

Examine weapons up-close in the museum

Small museum in Bastogne, Belgium

WWII museum in Bastogne

Marker for 1st US death in Bastogne

Small museum in Bastogne, Belgium
WWII museum in Bastogne
Marker for 1st US death in Bastogne

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Drive to Liege, then Maastricht

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St Lambert Square in Liege

Pedestrians in Liege Town Center

St Lambert Square in Liege
Pedestrians in Liege Town Center

Dave: We finished in Bastogne around 3pm, and had a room lined up in Maastricht at the airport Mercure. We needed to do laundry tonight, so wanted to arrive early, have a simple dinner, and get the clothes going. The drive was brutal. We passed through Liege. In several versions of our travel plan, we were to going to spend a night in Liege. We also looked around for a laundrymat, but could not find one. 

We buzzed downtown in Liege, just in time for evening bumper-to-bumper rush hour. We stopped at St Lambert's square to take a picture of the famous Palace of Justice built in the 1500's. We did a loop of downtown to the shopping district, bothered by pedestrians that confidently strode in front of us without care. Between car traffic and foot traffic and back ups at the roundabout, we quickly had enough of Liege and pressed on toward Maastricht.

Much is made in the tourist guides about the Limburg province, this small protruding sliver of land that belongs to Holland but is wedged between Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg. They tell you that, approaching it from the north, it does not "look like" the rest of Holland; no windmills, no waterways, a different architecture and history. But for us traveling up from the south, the French cuisine and Burgundy architecture were just variations on a theme. As we headed farther north tomorrow, we would finally realize what the guide books had meant.

Marvelously ugly apartments in Liege, Belgium

Some marvelously ugly apartments in Liege, Belgium

Mercure Hotel and Maastricht Airport Terminal

Mercure Hotel and Maastricht Airport Terminal

We arrived at Maastricht and the freeway promptly ended. Again a horrible backup and a wrong turn cost us over 20 minutes of driving aimlessly. Eventually we found our bearings and quick enough were checking into the Mercure hotel at the airport. To my surprise, it was LITERALLY at the airport, with the parking area blocked to prevent flyers from using it while out of town. Our room opened into a back yard area with a bush hedge, which in the morning I realized directly abutted the airport runway.

Check in was delayed and confusing, with three Dutch speakers checking in before us (one with a crying child) and my not understanding a single word. Soon enough we had our key and asked the woman at the desk about a nearby laundrymat. "Sure, there is one for you in the morning", we were told. "Tonight? Oh no, (with a laugh) everything in Holland closes down at 6pm!". We soon set out on a three hour odyssey, and indeed, we proved her ominous words correct.

She pulled out the Maastricht yellow pages for us (in Dutch), looked up "Wasserette" and "Wasserij" and wrote down the addresses of two in the nearby town of "Meerssen". From our room we retrieved our yellow pages and headed out to investigate.

Meerssen, Holland cathedralDave: Meerssen was a tiny town just a mile or two down the road from the airport and we were quickly lost within it, unable to find either laundry address. Instead we stumbled upon a fantastic Gothic cathedral no less out of place than if we had found it in Antarctica or the middle of an Iowa cornfield. It turns out Meerssen was  made famous by the Treaty of Meerssen (in 870!) that first proposed borders that generally evolved into Germany and France.  More recent web research said the basilica was built in the 1300's starting as a palace chapel, was enlarged by various dukes, and later housed an abbey. The palace and monks are long gone, but tiny Meerssen has one nice basilica there.

We spent the next three full hours driving about in circles. We gave up on the Meerssen "Wasserettes", and focused on the ones in Maastricht proper. But first we parked at a vacant bus stop to read the large, poster sized street map. We were unable to find any of the several Maastricht addresses on our list. Out of the blue, another man joined us, parking his car and admitting to be equally lost. We discussed our plans and what brought us to this lonely spot. We laughed, first with, and then at, each other. As a local, he recognized certain Maastricht addresses on our list and recommended we look in certain areas. Durch Traffic Sign: Slippery When WetWe gave him directions back to the freeway overpass we had crossed. Sadly, we quickly parted and forgot to take this delightful man's picture.

Dave: We headed into Maastricht, getting lost, driving for miles along side the freeway, unable to find an on ramp. We found our street and counted addresses, only to have a skip at the one we needed. Sure enough, after a long U-turn, we found that the "Wasserij" had gone out of business. One last address was on our list or we would be wearing dirty clothes (again). A mile away, through twisty residential streets, Paydirt! The laundry, of course, closed since 6pm!

We marked the spot with the GPS, and a couple feeder spots, too. We would return in the morning for clean clothes. Although it was getting dark, we had enough time for once around Maastricht town center. Again, cobblestones and one-way streets. Soon, sadly, it was all street lights, and stop lights, and head lights.

We drove two miles east to Belgium, just to see the border. Completely anonymous, just one neighborhood rolling into another. We stumbled across the Netherlands extension campus of "University of Central Arkansas", equally bizarre. But it was getting to be way past time for our dinner.

University of Central Arkansas: Maastricht Extension Camsus We were both exhausted and frazzled from the intense driving, yet barely hungry. We each passed on the notion of cafe or pub food, and pizza or gyros. In the end, we wanted only a simple sandwich and a long warm shower. We stopped at a BP and unbelievably could not find anything to eat. Sheepishly, we crossed the street to McDonalds and each had a small hamburger meal. Dinner was done without fanfare or interest, we took no pictures, and mostly it was just to be fed and off to bed. And although the service was familiar in prompt and perkiness, the beef had a strange taste and consistency to our American palates. We found the same odd-tasting beef at our one later stop of Quick burgers, too.

From there we headed back to the hotel, reorganized the clothes for laundry day, made a quick call home, and then crashed into bed. Good Night!

Day 10 Return to Main Page Day 12


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Last Update: March 18, 2008