Saturday, May 22, 2010

Morning at Hotel du Sud was pleasant with the omnipresent owners preparing le petit dejeuner for guests.  While Paul and I were eating, Isabelle came to our table and showed us family pictures taken months after the Battle of the Bulge.  Isabelle and her sisters were photographed sitting atop a destroyed Sherman tank.  You don’t see stuff like that in history books.

We took one last tour of the immediate area and found the building location for the US aid station that was bombed on December 24, 1944, killing 30 US soldiers and nurse Renee Lemaire.  There’s a plaque commemorating this event.  I think she’s been nominated for sainthood because of her sacrifice.

We said our goodbyes to Bastogne and hit the autoroute for Soy, about an hour to the north and into much hillier countryside.  We were able to easily identify the brewery by its ghostly signage.  We walked into an empty, quaint establishment except for the female barkeep who explained that she’s a friend of Danny the owner.

Danny arrived soon after, not immediately introducing who he was, until he stood up abruptly and said he would provide us a tour.  Fantome’s production area consisted of a single brew kettle, housed in a ramshackle building strewn with old equipment and debris.  Bottling and labeling is located in an adjacent room.  In spite of the dilapidation of the brewery itself, it had a distinctive charm.

Back in the bar area, we sat down to another Fantome masterpiece, when, through the window, Paul noticed windswept, white smoke swirling around the outside of the building.  We walked outside and saw that the chimney was on fire!  Strangely, at that same moment, our beers in hand outside of Fantome, a beautiful Belgian woman appeared through the smoke, and Jeff was momentarily distracted while Paul responsibly tried to deal with the situation at hand.  I came to my senses and noticed that our car was parked very close to the building and so I decided to move it across the street and out of harms way.

Danny was walking around and indicating in French that all was well.  But it wasn’t.  He stepped back inside and moments later came rushing out, yelling “Appelez les pompiers!”  Call the Fire Department! They eventually came from the next town over and put it out.  It appeared that the damage was isolated to the chimney stack itself and no damage was done to the roof or building structure.  Whew!

We bid our goodbyes to Fantome and continued on our route to Orval.  Along our sun-drenched drive, we saw a monument to an American war hero and another Sherman tank proudly displayed in a town square and quaint villages all along the hilly route towards the Orval monastery.

The restaurant at Orval was located a short drive from the monastery in a valley of lush green rolling hills.  It was busy and we sat down for a beer before heading over to the monastery itself.  The grounds are spectacular, but we decided to refrain from doing the tour itself – it just seemed too touristy.  That didn’t stop us from hitting their gift store where the full marketing prowess of Orval was on display with all of its branded paraphernalia from key chains to glassware.  We love Orval, but it’s bit too much in that respect.

So, to recap, our trip started with WWII (Normandy), then back to WWI (Ypres), then WWII again (Bastogne), and now back to WWI (Chateau-Thierry)!

Continuing on our drive back towards Paris, we chose Chateau-Thierry somewhat arbitrarily for our last night’s stay.  With Paul’s handy iPad, just released prior to our departure, we did a bit of research and learned that it played a significant role in the America’s late involvement in World War I.  In fact, the American Expeditionary Force, led by John “Black Jack Pershing fought the Germans in the town in July, 1918.  The month prior , the Battle of Belleau Wood , located just a mile west took place between the Germans and the US Marines.  It was bloody hand-to-hand combat to the death.

Our evening was spent touring this village which wasn’t as nice and clean as all the Belgian villages we had visited the past week.  It was full of graffiti and dirty.  Our dinner was strange because the otherwise perfectly acceptable restaurant served Andouille Sausage which almost made us hurl!

We took it in early on account of the fact we had to rise early and hit the road west.

Leave a Reply