After good-byes to the group heading out for a day trip to a castle – we hit the road for Dresden, Germany about 10:00. (Dad requested a side trip to Dresden because he had heard about the war devastation and could never understand it, because it “had no military value!”) After more winding countryside roads, we got on the Autobahn in German and zoomed to the airport (>90 mph) to return our rental van – then called the hotel for courtesy pick-up, only to discover that they don’t do it anymore! (had not yet changed their website!) Sooooo… we hired 2 taxis, loaded up the luggage and headed to Hotel Achat – deceptively advertised as being “nearby the Opera House the Old Town attractions”… but it’s clean and pleasant, with all of the usual *** amenities.
We lucked out in finding a wonderful restaurant for lunch right next door – the Feldschossasschen Stammhaus, where the boys discovered the popular dark beer on tap – Schwartzer Steiger. Each of us had a fantastic meal, including Sauerbraten, lamb medallions, yummy potatoes and gravy, thick potato soup with bratwurst, and delicious veggies and warm homemade bread. Candy, Stan and I needed a good walk after that meal (Dad and Paul opted to relax), so at 2:45 we headed toward town – a long hike – but we toured the sights of the old town – castle (with WWII bomb damage still visible), Opera House, churches, etc., and the Elbe River which one month ago flooded this entire area – amazing! After two hours, yours truly was ready to rest, so we split up and I walked back to the hotel. We re-grouped at 6:30 and took a taxi-van to TheatrePlatz in the old town. The plaza in front of the Semper Opera House was packed with people for a rock concert, much to Dad’s dismay – so we walked across the Augustus Bridge, then returned to the old town as the lights came on – beautiful!
We enjoyed a delicious dinner in the Café Bistro am Schloss – Meals included Goulash with spaetzle, pork and potatoes, beef in wine sauce with potato croquettes, sauerkraut, etc., etc. (The walk back to the hotel was highlighted by three giggling men smoking cigars and enjoying a farting contest! ? Too much Schwartze Bier?….) :=) After a nightcap at the hotel bar and a jump on the internet, we said goodnight after a short, but pleasant day in an interesting city. Tomorrow: Geneva, Switzerland! Whew!
(9-16) After a typical German breakfast at the hotel, we headed for the Dresden airport and sweet-talked the Lufthansa lounge receptionist into letting us wait there. The short flights to Frankfurt and Geneva were pleasant, with light lunch provided on both since Paul, Dad and I got upgraded to business class. Customs in Geneva was a breeze – but the rental van experience was a mini-nightmare for Paul – but it worked out OK. Then, the next adventure of finding our hotel began (Paul forgot to get a map and directions in his frustration at the airport!)… and after creeping through the city … circling endlessly after being given the wrong directions twice (to the Hotel du Midi instead of Hotal Calvy on the ruelle du Midi!) – we found our hotel on a tiny street … almost two hours after landing at the airport!
Hotel Calvy was small, but comfortable – complete with restaurant and bar. The showers were unique – drain in a sloped floor! We unwound with wine and beer from the bar – sitting around the open window in our bedroom so the boys could smoke their cigars – then at ~ 6:00 we walked into town, along beautiful Lake Geneva – with the huge fountain and marina – stopping for cocktails along the river. We then wandered through the old town looking for a place to eat. We found a lovely restaurant and after enjoying the outstanding mushroom soup special, Candy and I enjoyed delicious local perch fillets and the guys all ordered the “veal special” – which turned out to be calves liver(!) to Paul’s horror and Dad’s delight. We shared two desserts – flan and crème brule – yum! The weather continues to be perfect – sunny days and cool evenings. Unfortunately, Dad has had problems sleeping on the small European beds, “with those g-d duvets!” Our day in Geneva ended with drinks on the hotel terrace.
(9/17) The next morning Paul and I walked into town to meet Marissa’s sister Catherine for coffee. It was great to see her again! She and Paul spent most of the hour telling golf stories, but we were shocked to learn that Steve was injured last Sunday playing tennis – a torn Achilles tendon, which will require a cast for 3 months! Poor guy…. :=(
We checked out of the hotel at 10:00, loaded the van, and headed through the beautiful Swiss countryside for France. We stopped for a leisurely lunch in the little town of Murten – “cute” and VERY Swiss”! We all enjoyed the lunch special at an outdoor café – pureed potato soup, Schweinbratwurst, rosti (fried potatoes) and salad. After a pleasant stroll and window-shopping (Dad bought a Swiss pocket knife), we hit the road again.
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.
(9/18) 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.
(9-19) We headed out after breakfast to our next destination – Villeneuve sur Yonne – near Joigny in northern Burgundy. It was rainy and miserable for the first time in our trip, but the weather cleared by the time we stopped for lunch along the Cote d’Or south of Dijon – a pleasant little town called Vouges between Nuits St. George and Gevry-Chambertin. Lunch at the pleasant family-run “Hotel de Charme Le Clos de la Vouge” was delicious – soups, terrines (country pate), fresh baked bread, and, of course, wonderful local Burgundy wines.
We then continued our journey north through beautiful vineyards and rolling hills – past grazing fields of the famous white Burgundian Charlerois cattle – to the Yonne River and our special hotel getaway “Auberge La Lucarne aux Chouettes” (Owl’s Nest) – four 17th century rooms and suites owned and restored by Leslie Caron – with an excellent restaurant on site. The rooms were quite impressive – “antique heaven”, with huge wooden beams, steep winding stairs, hand-painted tiles in the bathrooms (but standard European tub with hand-held shower) – and REAL beds (!) – so Dad slept well at last. We didn’t arrive until almost 5:00, took a long walk along the river, then had to freshen up to meet Pierre at 6:00.
Pierre Colson, a 79-year-old farmer who lives ~ 50 km from Joigny, is one of the searchers who was involved in researching the crashes of four US planes in this area. Because Stephane could not leave his teaching duties, Pierre was tapped to be our “host”. Stef told us that he was “very nervous” because he doesn’t speak English, but “very excited” to meet a B-17 crewman.
Pierre arrived with a translator – Marie France – who was married to a US serviceman and is extremely active in a Franco-American veterans’ association. We had a pleasant meeting and exchange of documents and stories with Marie’s assistance – and it was wonderful to see Pierre relax at last. They told us a little about the “surprise celebration” to be held the next day in the village of Chamvres – less than 1 km from the crash site and ~ 4 km from Joigny. Our invitation to treat them to dinner was politely declined, and the arrangements were for Pierre and his wife to meet us at the hotel at 2:00 on Friday. We had a pleasant dinner in the hotel restaurant – pricey at 55 Euros, but delicious (beef, lamb, snails, wonderful vegetables, and, of course, wine!).