As always there is a horse related tie in with this and it does go way beyond that I went over to the Netherlands to visit my dear friend Geoff and to watch the Grand Prix Special in Greenwich for the London 2012 Olympics (more on this to follow).
First was our adventurous day trip to France to see the location of the Battle of Belleau Wood near Chateau Thierry a bit north of Paris, France. Geoff was kind enough to offer to drive down and back for the day. From what I understand, it’s a special place for US Marines because it was the turning point in the war when the US helped the French push the Germans back in a relentless battle. I believe it was the location where the Germans coined the term “Devil Dog” when talking about US Marines (or Teufelhund in German) because of their tenacity.
I did research the night before until about 1 in the morning having a hard time trying to find any details about the memorial and, as there’s NOT an official address, we just pointed the Tom Tom to Chateau Thierry as the website I’d found said from Chateau Thierry we’d see the signs to the “American Monument” but having lived in Spain for a year and a half, I knew all to well how directions go in countries of romantic languages. Let the adventure begin…
The drive for the most part was relaxing and uneventful. We stopped in Belgium to fill with diesel and grab some sandwiches for the road. I was surprised that I quickly recalled my makeshift French! I knew enough to order food, ask for the toilet and say thanks and when in doubt in a foreign country for some reason I always default to speaking Spanish. Don’t ask me why? Hah!
The northern French countryside was beautiful with gentle rolling fields. I’d never been north of Paris in France nor had I spent any significant time in the countryside.
With just under an hour to go showing on the Tom Tom, Geoff’s car began loosing power and stalling out. Oy vey! I pretended to remain calm but inside was freaking out. I was panicked internally one because Geoff was kind enough to drive us there and his car was having problems 2 countries away from the Netherlands.
The long and short of the next 15 minutes or so was we decided to push on after stopping for Geoff to call the VW service and find out if it could be a bad tank of gas we got in the French part of Belgium. It showed the same signs I had experienced when driving cross country after getting a bad tank in Laramie, Wyoming back in 2007. We quickly downed enough espresso to kill a small animal at the petrol station, took Balou (Geoff’s awesome boxer) for a potty walk and I bought her a French bonnet then got back on the road. Isn’t she lovely!!
With a few stops and start and engine cut outs we make it to Chateau Thierry and follow the signs to the “American Monument” and I’m SOOOOO happy. My Ex, who was the reason we were taking this trip, was getting to see it. He gets out of the car and walks around while Geoff thinks to phone VW again and see if they can find a mechanic as he’s rightfully stressed about his auto.
I step out to take photos of Ex to find out “This is not the place.” Oy vey to the 10th power. 🙁 We tell Geoff and decide to drive back in town. I should add here… Ex did ZERO research about this event leaving it to Geoff and I to sort it all. At this point, there’s about a half hour before the memorial that we’re looking for closes. I see a mechanic shop on the side of the road, we turn around and pull in. I say embarrassed to the guy inside the shop, “I’m sorry I don’t speak French but our car is broken down.” He let’s us know he didn’t speak English so I tried Spanish and found out he’s the cleaner but the mechanic would be back shortly.
Now… the mechanic arrived. I told the janitor in Spanish what was going on with the car, he translated to the mechanic in French and it came back through me to Geoff that just sounds like a bad tank of diesel and they suggested a tank cleaner for 60€ to fix it. In the interim I told the janitor what we were trying to do explaining that Ex is a US Marine and wanted to see Belleau Wood Memorial and it closed in a half hour, and asked if he knew a taxi service that could take him there.
Long story, longer, the taxi showed up, Geoff put the tank cleaner in his car and stayed with Balou at the mechanic while the taxi driver in a private vehicle took us to Belleau Wood Memorial (he didn’t speak English or Spanish BTW so we just made due on pointing since we’d found out from the cleaner where it actually was) and Ex got there with 10 minutes to spare. The bells struck up a song as we walked up and it was quite an emotional experience actually.
There’s a side story of asking directions to a group of French boys and Ex ending up chatting with their dad and him inviting us all in but Ex telling him we were kinda afraid to switch the auto off at this point. Turns out the guy had been to Portland, Oregon and was a musician.
After a while, we gave up on finding the building that had the key to let you in to the location that had the fountain and started the drive back to Holland. The fields were so beautiful mixed with extreme greens and the stark contrast to the farmed straw fields.
Both Ex and Geoff seem to live in a state of hunger yet I was likewise famished at this point so we stop at the Buffalo Grill. Hahaha! It was a Texas themed steakhouse in the French countryside!
And here’s where the horse comes in and the token photo of me… I love coin op horses and this one was at Buffalo Grill!
We made it back home to Holland late that night with the next days adventure of sorting the Will Call tickets for the GP Special on the 7th!
There’s heaps of wacky details I’ve left out but it was a definite adventure, I’m quite happy Ex got to see this memorial special to him and also quite happy the Geoff’s car was perfectly fine. Note to self tho… beware where you fill up with diesel in the French part of Belgium and also… do your own research for sites you want to see!
Oh and please forgive me if my Marine or military facts are not correct. I don’t make any claim to being a brilliant historian. It was definitely a beautiful memorial to the many, many lives lost and a great tribute from the French to the Americans who helped them retain the right to speak French! 🙂
Cheers and thanks for reading!