3 to 4 March
With WWII being as important as it is to both of us, having had our grandfathers fight in the war, Bastogne and the area of the Battle of The Bulge was always a place we have always wanted to visit. We were up and out of the house around 09h and picked up our car around 10h from the other side of the city. We had about a 3 to 4 hour drive until we reached our first planned destination the Ardennes American Cemetery. But first, we needed lunch so we stopped in the cool small town of Huy and had lunch at O’Malley Pub.
After lunch (with Belgian beers of course) we eventually made it to the cemetery, just after 15h. As stated earlier it was important to come see the WWII monuments in Belgium, especially for me, as my grandfather fought here in this specific area with the 101st Airborne. While the cemetery is much smaller than the one in Normandy, it is still so powerful.
After spending some time wandering the grounds, basically by ourselves, we had another hour drive, approximately, to our final destination of the evening, La Roche-en-Ardenne. We stayed just on the edge of this cool old town at Hotel de Liège.
After checking in and settling in we headed out to explore the city. We were also told we needed to make sure we ate dinner early enough (before 20h), unless we wanted Chinese food. Talk about a small town!
We walked through the amazing old streets seeing the church, river, and castle, and even did some shopping for some local beers to take home. We finally settled on getting some pre-dinner drinks at A vi Tchèstê where we met some fun people. It was amazing just sitting there and meeting people from 4 different countries, and yet our common language was English in this small town in Belgium.
After we had a few delicious Belgian Beers we decided it was time for dinner so we didn’t end up with that Chinese food we were told about. We had gotten a dinner recommendation from the bar owner and tried to get a table, but we were out of luck as they were “complet” for the evening. That trend continued through a few more restaurants as we walked up and down the streets until finally we found Saint-Maxime.
Since we had to eat so early we were back to the hotel around 22h and ready for a good night sleep.
After a good night sleep we woke up and packed our things to get ready to head out. We had a nice breakfast at the hotel and then after filling up the tank we were on to our next stop of the Bastogne tour, The Bastogne War Museum.
We arrived at the museum around 10h30, after a very interesting ride. Needless to say, the GPS took us on “roads”, but these roads were actually dirt roads between farms. Since there was still snow on the ground, which was now pretty much just ice, we held our breath and prayed to find a paved road.
After a harrowing drive we were very happy to learn the museum itself was absolutely amazing. It was full of history and you could follow 4 people’s stories who were there during the Battle of the Bulge, a German officer, an American officer, a townswomen who helped the French Resistance and a boy from town. You could see how their lives crossed paths and changed forever. We ended up easily spending over 2 hours there.
Afterwards we headed into the town of Bastogne itself to grab a quick lunch and then it was on to our next stop, The 101st Airborne Museum. This was yet another great museum which provided us with some amazing insights including where we think the exact position my grandfather may have been during The Battle of The Bulge. Also, in the basement of the museum they had a room that simulated an air raid. We sat through the few minute simulation in a dark room, just like the person who owned the home would have 70 years ago. My heart rate did not slow down for a few hours after we left (Jer’s driving didn’t help either).
Once we finished up at this museum we decided to change things up a little from our original plan. We were so close to Luxembourg that we said why not make a quick stop before we head back to Paris! Jer had figured out how to drive out through the small village we thought my grandfather was in and then right through to Luxembourg.
We ended up making our way to the town of Wiltz, Luxembourg where we had a quick coffee to say we were actually here (it doesn’t count unless you eat there!).
After our coffee and a few photos it was time to start making the 4 hour journey home. Traffic wasn’t too bad and after arriving back in Paris we filled up the tank and returned the car with no issues and then hopped on the metro back to the apartment just in time for dinner then bed.