Excerpts from Return to Joigny

 (9/17/02) Our route took us around the capital city of Bern and through Basil –then we entered France.  We got off the main highway at Calmar, but had to wander awhile through several lovely little towns before we found the road to tiny Equisheim and our hotel – St. Hubert – on a hill above town in the middle of the vineyards.

            This *** hotel is new (built 1994) and very comfortable.  We arrived ~ 4:30 and immediately started to relax – at last!  Candy and Stan went to the village for “provisions” – wine, cheeses and breads – which we enjoyed on the terrace outside our room.\  Magnifique!  Then the guys took a nap while the gals did some needed hand washing before we walked into town to find a place for supper at 8:30.  (Restaurants open at 8:00!)….

            This beautiful little town of 1500 people has many wonderful restaurants and 42 vintners for wine tasting!  The first 2 restaurants we tried were full – but we were directed to Wistub Bierstub Kas Fratz – a perfect little spot for a light meal.  After a wonderful glass of local Muscat, we enjoyed tartines (sort of a French version of bruschetta) and flambees (like Italian thin-crust pizzas) with 2 local Paul Ginglinger wines – a Pinot Noir and an outstanding Tokay Pinot Gris.

            Sleep came easily (only “OK” for Dad) and it was great to know that we’d be here another day!  The hotel’s buffet breakfast (9,50 Euros) was nice – cereals fruits, yogurt, many different sausages, meats, cheeses, smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, croissants & breads, juices, coffee, etc.   While Dad relaxed, we wandered through the town, enjoying beautiful warm, sunny weather, spectacular flowers cascading out of containers everywhere, and marveled that the tourist buses came for 10 AM wine tastings!  Soon we would return to town for lunch and to meet Stephan…

            The five of us walked into town in search of pigs knuckles for Dad (!)… We found them in a pleasant outdoor café near the main square – but he was the only taker!  (However, we all  had a taste and the meat was incredibly tasty and tender)  Paul and Stan had the local specialty – charcroute garni (meats and sausages with sauerkraut) and Candy and I had Gruyere salad (a mountain of delicious shaved cheese on greens) and shared an onion tart – all with the delicious local Alsatian wines, of course!

            We met Stephane Muret at 3:00, and he shared his history of helping with the search for contacts related to Dad’s crash – to assist Pierre Colson (a local searcher near Joigny).  Stephane’s letter to Dad was the catalyst for this trip, to be followed by contacts from Jan following Paul’s internet search on the 100th Bomber Group (The “Bloody Hundredth”).  Stef is 35 years old, a middle school history teacher, married with three children (2 boys 8 & 4 and a girl 2), and passionate about locating crash sites, returning the remains to their families, and assisting local museums in presenting accurate information and artifacts.  With that in mind, he arranged a private tour for us in the WWII museum in nearby Turekheim, dedicated to the battle near Colmar against the Germans (Dec. ’44 to Feb. ’45).  The museum was an excellent display of touching photos in demolished Alsatian towns during and after the war, countless cases of German and American memorabilia, and lifelike mannekins in authentic uniforms.  A prominent group in those battles was the Keystone “Big Red” from Pennsylvania.  This battle was mainly infantry – but the air war over this area was also intense.  Steph told us that at the height of the war at least one plane a day crashed near his hometown of Belfort, southwest of Alsace.  He was inspired to get involved in researching the American casualties after a visit to Normandy as a young man, when he fully realized the huge sacrifice made by the US military in the fight for freedom.  We then treated him to dinner at Caveau de Vigneron in Turekheim, where we enjoyed several local specialties including Kassler en croute – smoked pork with a rich sauce, delicious vegetables and salad, while tasting a complex Gewurtztraminer and a smooth Pinot Noir.