Saturday, May 30, 2009


WEDNESDAY, MAY 27, 2009 – 139/6 - A CHANGE IN PLANS!

Today we start with a typical European buffet breakfast, check out of the hotel and drive the short distance to the site of the Battle of Waterloo. The site has changed since we were here in 1984. It has become touristy and that is not a good thing. In 1984, we drove up, got out of the car and climbed Lion Hill to view the field.
Today, the hill is behind fences and one must purchase an admission that includes, the one we buy did anyway, admission to a film, another display, the wax museum, the diorama, Lion Hill and a 40-minute tram ride around the field. If you are fleet of foot, you can walk the tram route on your own but it would take two hours and we have neither the time nor the fleetness of foot.

The tram leaves at 10:45AM, drives along ridge that was the right side of the British (Allied) position toward Chateau Hougoumont, and then down across the field where the French cavalry made their assault and on toward the area that was the French left to La Belle Alliance. La Belle Alliance is in the middle of the French line and to which Napoleon came in the late afternoon of June 18, 1815. It is also where Wellington and Blucher met after the battle. From here, the route takes us along a ridge top that contained the French right and their artillery batteriesand then circles along sunken lanes, which were there during the battle, to the farm Papelotte and then back along the ridge which contained the Allied line’s left wing.

The area is still farmed and the fields are freshly planted. As far as we know, the land is privately owned but Belgian law, to preserve the site, restricts its use to farming.In fact, as the tram rounded the bend in the path at Papelotte, a woman in green, rubber boats crossed the road carrying a hoe.

For other’s edification, the route of the tram is very rough and the carriage is poorly sprung. We wonder just how many people the ride has crippled! However, the ride does give one a view of the battlefield from all points in the two lines and we enjoy it very much. However, next time we will walk.

Our goal for today, after visiting the battlefield at Waterloo, is to drive up to Eindhoven, Netherlands the fastest way and then to try and find, without any of Dick’s history books, the route taken by the armor and paratroopers in the attempt to take the bridges at Eindhoven, Nijmegen and Arnhem. For you history challenged people, this is the WWII assault written about in the book, “A Bridge too Far.”

It is expressway all the way to Eindhoven and then we think we find the right road but it is also now an expressway. This is an area of heavy commercial activity and truck traffic. Neither of us is enjoying the ride so we change our plans while going 120 km/hr. We pick an exit and get a late lunch in a café in a nice, small village NW of Eindhoven. We have no idea the name of the village!Sitting in a Pub dating to the late 1800's, we decide to drop our trip up to Arnhem while we eat.
Carolyn is very tired of the motorways even if you can go really fast on them! Plus the quite and peaceful beauty of The Ardennes and the Rhine and Mosel valleys are calling so we head SE toward them. After several miscues, we arrive in the Ardennes. The GPS has been a blessing and a curse on this trip!

We drove through some of this area 25 years ago. It is really beautiful! Using a directory of small hotels from last night’s stay, we try two again. The first one has not opened yet for the summer but we find one about 30km down the road in Trois Ponts. Our hotel is the Le Beau Site, sitting high on a hillside, and the building dates from 1905. It is definitely vintage, but we had a great room with a nice view (the one with the open french doors)!Trois Ponts played a key role in The Battle of the Bulge as it is a choke point, or it was at the time, of small roads that must all cross a stream here. There was heavy fighting in the town in December 1944 but it is now a sleepy, beautiful, little village in a lovely valley. The most exciting thing happening now is the rail traffic that flows through on five tracks. The trains, electrically powered, are very quiet. All you hear is the sound of the wheels. We spend some time making a plan for our last days over cocktails in the room and enjoy the view from our little balcony the picture above). We then drive the short distance (5km) to the village of Coos and enjoy a wonderful rendition of trout almandine along with a bottle of Gewürztraminer wine. We leave the restaurant at 10:00PM with the sky still quite bright and people still eating in the restaurant. We WILL be back!

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