Wars and wines (minus cycles)

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Our Epernay AirB&B host’s champagne brand! Just the thing to help make packing up to go home a bit more tolerable.

WARS:

Four years ago, AGMA borrowed a friend’s DVD set of Steven Speilburg/Tom Hank’s WWII HBO miniseries Band of Brothers (some 13 years after it aired.) It follows Easy Company of the US Army 101st Airbourne Division from their training in Toccoa, Georgia (right up the road from us!) to D-Day through V-E Day.

Then we saw George Clooney’s 2014 movie, Monuments Men. Based on the book of the same name, it’s the story of a group of museum directors, curators and art historians who, toward the end of WWII, were tasked by the US Government with trying to recover art treasures stolen by the Nazi’s.

We got hooked. Now I know we’re came late to the game, but Hubs and I got hooked on WWII history in Europe. And some WWI history as well.

Soon after, Hubs and I went to Belgium and France. Sound familiar?

To make a long story short, we visited a number of WWII and WWI sites on our 2014 trip. It was eye opening, heart wrenching and incredibly memorable, moving experience.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago.

Return visit to Belgium and France. Here we go…

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The Cloth Hall in Ypres, Belgium. It looks old doesn’t it? It’s not… The Ypres Salient was the scene of intense fighting in WWI with some 450,000 lives lost on both sides.. The entire town of Ypres was destroyed as was everything else in the area. It all became a No Man’s Land. Every building in Ypres dates from after 1916. The rebuilt Cloth Hall is the sight of the In Flanders Fields Museum which is excellent in explaining the WWI history of the area.

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WWI recruitment posters in the In Flanders Fields Museum. Anybody who thinks the rise in Nationalism is a good thing needs to learn more about the causes of WWI, and the devastation that the Nationalist passions back then wrought to Europe. And 16 million people died as a result.

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In driving from Paris to Ypres we passed probably 25 small WWI cemeteries. And there were dozens of small WWI cemeteries around Ypres as well. They just buried the soldiers as they fell in skirmishes and came back after the war to formally mark the graves. The past is very much present and in people’s minds in this part of Europe.

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In Bastogne in the Ardennes where the Battle of the Bulge took place. The 101st was surrounded on three sides by the Germans during the brutal winter of 1944/1945. Supplies had to be air dropped to them and they prevailed until Patton’s Third Army advanced.

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A display of Patton memorabilia in the 101st Airborne Museum in Bastogne.

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Just outside of Bastogne is the Mardasson Memorial honoring the memory of 76,890 American soldiers wounded or killed during the Battle of the Bulge. The memorial itself is a huge 5 pointed star (one of the points can be seen in the distance) Each state name is carved in the parapet, the insignias of each participating battalion on the outside walls and carved in the inside walls are 10 passages describing the battle. They still remember…

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An uncentered photo (sorry…) of Michelangelo’s Bruges Madonna in the Church of Our Lady. In Bruges, Belgium. It is breathtaking (AGMA’s photography isn’t!) It was stolen by the Nazi’s in 1944, and was found a year later by the Monuments Men in a salt mine in Austria.

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A view of Saint Bavo Cathedral in Gent, Belgium. The Gent Altarpiece (Adoration of the Mystic Lamb) done in 1432 is located in Saint Bavo. This was another priceless work of art stolen by the Nazi’s and recovered by The Monuments Men. We saw the Altarpiece in 2014, but got to Saint Bavos too late in the day to see it this time. Dang…

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We’re at the Verdun Memorial in Verdun, France. Verdun was the scene for some of the fiercest fighting in WWI. There were anywhere from 700,000 to 1,200,000 casualties in the nearly year long battle. Again, the museum inside the memorial did an excellent job explaining the battle and its aftermath.

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Our rental car’s passenger side mirror and the Douaumont ossuary memorial (around the phallic looking thing…) that contains the bones of 130,000 unidentified French and German soldiers. It’s surrounded by a cemetery of soldiers who were identified. War sucks.

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Like Ypres, the area around Verdun was obliterated by the fighting and the bombing. The chapel at the end of the walkway stands where the church in the village of Fluery once stood. The entire village along with several others was completely destroyed, and was never rebuilt. The craters from the bombs (they look like ski moguls) are still visible all over the landscape over 100 years after the end of the war.

WINES:

Yeah we did!

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The most charming, ancient town of Trier, Germany on the Mosel River. Trier is considered the oldest town in Germany. The Romans moved in back in 30 BC and things have never been the same since! Mosel River = Mosel wines! Cheers!

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No – this is not something in Disney World or Epcot although it looks like it. It’s Colmar, France in The Alsace. And our AirB&B was the white home on the right (NOT the pay toilet…) Our hosts started our visit off right by leaving a bottle of Pinot Blanc in our fridge!

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A canal runs through it…. This section of Colmar is called Little Venice!

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Some of the delicious Alsatian white wine from the Paul Schneider vineyards tasting room in Eguisheim, France. It’s exhausting work, but somebody has to do it….

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The enchanting town of Riquewihr, France. NOT Disney World. We did the Alsatian self guided ‘wine tour’ suggested by Rick Steves and it was nothing but one stinkin’ charming wine producing half timbered house village after another…

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More wine tasting in the tiny village of Hunawihr. We’d never heard of the Sylvaner grape variety, but it make some pretty nice wine!

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Our last stop on our trip was the Champagne region. We stayed in a charming AirB&B in Epernay hosted by the charming Michele who just happened to have her own small champagne house. This meant our fridge was stocked with 4 bottles of her champagne. AGMA did not want to be awakened from this lovely dream…. We had to pay for what we drank but at 14 Euros a bottle, it was an amazing bargain. And yes – Epernay has a glitzy Avenue de Champagne where all the YUGE, bougie producers have locations and you get to pay a premium for a tasting.

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This is ground zero for champagne lovers! This is the Abbey Church in Hautvillers, France where Dom Perignon sang hymns and did Benedictine Monk stuff. Legend says that after he got the fermentation process right for his sparking wine, he ran into the church and said, “Brothers, come quickly! I’m drinking stars…!” Yeah he was! He’s buried in front of the alter of the church.

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The big producers have vineyards everywhere!!

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AGMA and Hubs were very relieved that our precious cargo made it back to the US unbroken and unconfiscated. Four bottles in each of our suitcases. We pack pretty light when we travel so we have room to bring our booty home! There is always the wearing of sackcloth and gnashing of teeth when we drink the last bottle.

So there you have it…the good (wine), the bad (war), the ugly (my pictures) and the ‘makes AGMA’s heart sing’ (cycling!) It was an eventful 2 weeks with a lot of ground covered, great food consumed and fabulous wines tasted.

I’m so blessed.

But AGMA’s glad I’m home and staying home for the foreseeable future. Other than the 5 days in Chicago starting tomorrow…

Yeah we are!

P.S. After I published this, WP informed me that this was my 200th post! Where’s the champagne…???

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23 thoughts on “Wars and wines (minus cycles)

  1. Congratulations on 200!
    You have pictures of all the places I’d like to see. My wife and I love WWII history as both our fathers we’re involved in the war. Our WWII book shelf has a ton of books and at least half my DVD collection is WWII movies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks (a bit late…) on the 200 congrats. Some folks post everyday so 200 would be no big deal, but to somebody who has trouble committing, 200 is pretty YUGE!

      Hubs and I went up to Toccoa (about 90 min away) a few years back where the 101st trained before they shipped out to England. There’s a nice little museum in town, put together after the BOB miniseries came out. It’s pretty interesting. There is nothing left of the camp (since it was mostly tents) other than one cinder block building. And it’s on privately owned land, but you can still see it. And every year in June there is a 10K run (“3 miles up and 3 miles back”) up Currahee mountain. 3 miles up – I will NOT be participating!

      I have sooooo many other pictures of WWI and WWII sites we visited. Maybe I’ll drag those out one of these days and do a couple of posts.

      But seeing it in person is something special. So my question is…what are you waiting for?? Hop on a plane and go!! I can come out and cat sit….

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ll get there sooner or later. This year I’m being “forced” to take the river cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam. 15 days floating through Europe with people taking care of my every need. How will I survive?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Poor baby!! Is Heather being mean to you again? But hey – you’ll be going through prime WWII territory. There should be sites you can visit right? Oh – my neighbor went on a 7 day cruise from Budapest last year. She says to see the shoe memorial. Very moving. So who’s taking care of the cats?

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s tough, but I’lm dealing with it. We booked a tour at Nuremberg and the shoe memorial is on our list. There are a few others we’ll be going near. A friend from church is taking care of the kitties.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Congrats on 200 posts!

    Isn’t it amazing how so many of those European villages look like something we’ve created at an amusement park in this country? I was shaking my head yes every time you mentioned Disney. But thankfully you saw the real deal, and now we get to also through your eyes. Loved the side mirror mention too, btw.

    And thank you for the important thought on how nationalistic fervor leads to both unintended and absolutely intentional consequences. IMPORTANT! Great pics, AGMA. Thanks so much for taking us along. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    • AGMA is the worst.photographer.ever! You should see some of the pictures I took when we had to use real film in a camera (for most of our lives!) 60% of them were awful and the other 40% were somewhat okay. At least with digital, I can get 1 out of 25 that is decent and not pay $$$$ for film like back in the day! Ha!

      I did come away with a new appreciation of the dangers of blind nationalism. Seems like nothing good ever came from it in the past and or will come from it in the future.

      I will take you along any day Marty!

      Oh, and thanks for the 200 congrats! It snuck up on me…

      Liked by 1 person

    • There are so many amazing, beautiful places around the world waiting for you… I think you deserve a nice vacation Joyful!! Subscribe to Scotts Cheap Flights emails – he finds amazing airfare deals! Last September we flew RT to Paris for $392 each! And once you get there, there are ways you can travel on a budget. Actually, I think that’s the most fun way to travel! But then that’s just AGMA… I like saving $$ (although my DNA didn’t show it, I think I MUST be part Scottish!)

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  3. Drinking stars!! I love that. Great post AGMA. That is a part of the world I hope to visit someday. Love the history and the photos.

    * If you haven’t read the book ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, I highly recommend it. It is the story of a French girl and a young German soldier during WWII. Such a beautiful story. Your post reminded me of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wasn’t that made into a movie? I am the world worst reader, but I will put it on my list… I might have better luck with a movie (if it was true to the book!)

      And I think of “drinking stars” every time I have any sort of sparking wine. I love it too!

      Thanks for your sweet comment!

      Like

    • OMG…I almost got sick of cute and scenic and charming… (Not really!) (Maybe…) I did quit taking pictures after a while because it was almost boringly beautiful. Does that make any sense? Our hosts in Colmar were delightful and invited us back anytime. Even though we spent 4 nights there, I feel like I’d like to spend a bit longer! I’d love to go back when the vines are all leafed out. After my travel break that is… (I’m taking the rest of the year off from any international travel and going to focus on some other things I’ve neglected.) Did your partner like Colmar?

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    • Yeah it was!! When I got back from the trip, I had an appt with my GI doc who said, “Now you’ve given up drinking alcohol right?” After I got done laughing, I told him that, yes, I am pretty much not drinking at all…except when I go on my ‘wine centric’ vacations. He didn’t yell at me too much… In all honesty, I was very tempered in my consumption. Except in Bruges where I had WAYYYY too much beer one night. Oops…

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