Alan, Jonna, Brenda and Harvey's France trip

For our 2013 vacation Jonna and Alan joined Alan's parents, Brenda and Harvey, for a trip to France. We split the trip into two parts: For the first week, Jonna and Brenda "did" Paris while Alan and Harvey did a worldwind World War II tour. Afterwards, we all met up for a week cruising the Canal de L'Est in the Vosges region. We all thoroughly enjoyed spending time together on such a memorable trip.

Here are some of our favorite photos from the trip (each photo is a thumbnail linked to a higher quality picture.):

27) One of the side effects of retracing the path of the 5th Infantry Division was just getting to see the amazing pre-WWII history in this region. While driving through the tiny village of Brandenbourg, Luxembourg Harvey and Alan spotted these beautiful ruins of a 10th century chalet overlooking the road.

28) Northern Luxembourg not only has scenic river valleys and forested mountains but also has huge fields filled with brightly colored crops. These fields of yellow flowers stretched from horizon to horizon near the town of Nachtmanderschied.

29) No matter how much you read about it, standing in a spot really brings its history to life. The regimental record for the 10th Infantry Division described horrible fighting around the tiny hamlet of Putshied, Luxembourg at the end of January in 1945. On a map, it seemed strange that such a small town was so hard to capture but standing there and seeing how steep the hillsides are surrounding the handful of buildings there explained why securing the crossroads here was so difficult. This photo shows one of the key routes used back in '45, now covered in the bright green plants of June as opposed to the freezing snow and ice of January.

30) A photo just can't capture some moments accurately. This shot of a centuries old silo standing alone in a expansive field of waving grain under a striking blue sky is a weak representation of just how beautiful this scene was in person.

31) Harvey and Alan decided to split off from following the trail of Cecil Anchors in order check out some of the key sites from the nearby Battle of the Bulge. To start they headed to the famous city of Bastogne, Belgium. While walking around the city, they walked into an out-of-the-way parking lot and found this large monument dedicated to General Patton.

32) We ended this long day at one of the many hotels located on the main square in the center of Bastogne.

33) In Paris, Jonna and Brenda took a trip out to Monet's Gardens at Giverny. Monet's famous Lily Pond is a spot that really exists. The man standing in the boat in the foreground has the crucial job of cleaning off the lily pads so the pond always looks perfect. The French are very proud of their gardens.

34) A view of Monet's garden from his bedroom window; a prolific and expansive garden in the French countryside. The irises were in bloom when they visited.

35) Well worn stairs that led the way to the Paris apartment we had rented for the week. Having an apartment in central Paris was ideal and much cheaper than a hotel.

36) For Harvey and Alan, the next day started early with a trip to the huge Mardasson Battle Of The Bulge memorial on the edge of Bastogne. The site is very impressive but, unfortunately, the attached museum was closed.

37) Also nearby was the Bois De La Paix which is a memorial forest that was planted on the 50th anniversary of the battle. It is connected to other memorials around the world dedicated to cities destroyed by war. It was a quiet, contemplative way to honor such a momentous and tragic event.

38) This part of eastern Belgium is covered in memorials, such as this park in the center of a roundabout near Baraque de Fraiture that is now known as Parker's Crossroads. Finding key locations like this was made much easier because the Belgians in these towns maintain their memorials with bright flowers, polished memorial plaques and flag poles flying the American flag. In this day and age, it is heartwarming to see the US military's sacrifices from WWII honored in this way.

39) The monster of the German Panzer division: the Tiger II. This impressive tank was on display outside a small museum in La Gleize, Belgium. Just how imposing this tank is was highlighted by the three direct hits which landed dead center on the front of this example but which failed to penetrate the 12" thick armour.

40) One of the key locations in the Battle of the Bulge were the three briges in Trois-Ponts, Belgium. It was the destruction of these bridges (obviously, since rebuilt) that stalled out the German advance.

41) Tourists, just as Napoleon said of his army, march on their stomach. A fine lunch, and especially some delicious ice cream, from a cafe in Stavelot kept Harvey and Alan moving.

42) Another picturesque (and non-WWII related) spot that they got to see was the 7th century Abbey of Stavelot. These historic buildings now house a museum dedicated to the region, as well as a fine arts center. Oh, and for motorcycle enthusiasts, Stavelot was also part of the famed Spa-Francorchamps race circuit.

43) Another impressive museum that the Fleming duo visited was the Baugnez 44 Historical Center which focuses on the nearby Malmedy Massacre. This museum had an amazing collection of equipment, a fantastic audio guide, realistic displays and informative dioramas (like this one depicting the capture of the American soldiers that where murdered shortly thereafter).

44) Jonna sitting outside Paris' Au Lapin Agile (Nimble Rabbit) in Montmartre. Photos were not allowed inside the cabaret. It was an evening for Jonna and Brenda to remember with songs by 8 different performers, all in French but with universal meaning. They especially loved the woman with the accordion as well the original art by Picasso and Lautrec on the dimly lit walls.

45) Harvey and Alan spent the night in the lovely city of Malmedy and awoke to find a colorful market filling the plaza in front of the hotel. Locals poured into buy fresh flowers, ripe fruit and vibrant local vegetables.

46) One of the main reasons that the food is so good in this area is because of the availability of fresh ingredients like these. The time from farm to table is measured in hours or days, not in weeks.

47) In addition to memorials and museums there are plenty of everyday reminders of WWII in this region. While driving through Germany the WWII chasers came across these concrete tank barriers, near the town of Heerstrasse, which were just one small part of the famed Siegried Line.

48) One of the most scenic stops on the whole trip was this viewpoint which overlooks the town of Clervaux, Luxembourg. The city has a large, if chaotic, museum but it was the natural beauty of the area, as well as the amazing architecture surrounding the town, that made it a highlight.

49) That evening the Fleming men reached Ettlebruck and thus resumed following the path that Alan's grandfather had taken with the 5th Infantry Division. As they drove into town they found a park dedicated to General Patton that contained a few different monuments, including this statue which had a freshly laid wreath at its feet.

50) One of Jonna's favorite meals, including steak tartare and warm apple tart, was in this little Paris restaurant called Golden Pat. It was a neighborhood kind of spot run by two sisters.

51) While the focus for Harvey and Alan's trip was clearly WWII historical sites, and especially visiting places where Cecil had been in 1944/1945, they still had plenty of time to appreciate places for what they are now in 2013. This place above the village of Gilsdorf, overlooking the location of a key event for the 5th Infantry Division, was also just a stunning spot to stop and enjoy the view. They walked a little ways into a lovely forest and stopped at a nearby mountainside grotto that contained a local religious shrine.

52) The final stop on Harvey and Alan's WWII tour was to the National Museum of Military History in Diekirch, Luxembourg. This was proved to be a fantastic way to end our WWII exploration for two reasons: First, the main subject of this museum is the 5th Infantry Division so it nicely demostrated everything they had been reading for the past few months, as well as following for the past few days. Second, the real highlight of the museum visit was when Roland Gaul, the museum's curator, took time out of his day to talk with them about the 10th Infantry Regiment's activities in this area. Harvey and Alan both left giddy with excitement about having had the chance to talk about my grandfather's war time experiences with someone that was such an expert on the 5th Infantry Division.

Go back to the first '13 France Trip Photo Page.

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Alan Fleming