We left the hotel in Luxembourg at 0900. The roads were wonderfully empty on Saturday morning! I had plans of stopping at an old fort, an old castle, an underground citadel, an archeological site and a couple of city gates.
As we got going, we stopped at a service station on the highway to get gas before leaving Luxembourg. Apparently the REST of Europe has the same thoughts. It was a drive through gas station. You fill up, pull up and pay. On you go. It was about 10 or 20 centimes cheaper than outside Luxembourg. Every penny helps when you’re paying 1.58 euros/L
We managed to find our first destination early. An old fort over Thiony. It was very interesting. The real problem seems to be that it is only open to tourists on Sundays at 1500 (if at all – the sign could be old). The place looked like they were going to be letting nature take its course and reclaim it. It would be too bad. I think the history is such that the fort was first built by the Germans when the land was held by Germany pre WWI and then the French and then the Germans again during the occupation. Apparently it never saw action.
Continuing along, our next couple of sites (a gate and an archeological site) were a bust. On our way to the citadel at Verdun we stumbled across a memorial for an American pilot that had died in WWII. He had been killed by pursuing Germans after his plane had bee shot down. It was well kept and there were fresh flowers on the site. We wondered why it was so well kept. It turns out that the ceremony celebrating the 10th anniversary of the placing of the memorial had been this morning. Timing. We HAD missed the village school children singing La Marseillaise but we DID get to meet the committee in charge of the memorial. A very nice woman and gentleman were glad to meet us and introduced us to a gentleman who had been in the air force for France in WWII. They were very welcoming and we spent some time talking with them. We continued down the road and encountered the Verdun national Graveyard. La Necropole Nationale. It was full of graves marking soldiers that perished in WWI during the heavy German assault on Verdun in 1916. There were a few that were blank and said simply "Mort pour la France". Another unknown soldier. It was pretty moving. We took some photos and paused for reflection. Next stop was Verdun proper and its underground citadel. There was a little Audio visual tour through the citadel in a little rail car that gave you an insight into the life of the 6000 soldiers that held up in the citadel for the 300 day onslaught of the German attack.
We tried to find a winery in Albert Le Brun. We did. It was a factory, and it was closed on Saturday. Not exactly the farm winery that I had in mind. 😦
Last destination on the list was a castle! It would be cool. We drove into some country roads and snaked through the farm land through some tiny villages. After some serious hunting we go to the location of the castle and knew we were in the right place. There was a sign that said "Lieu Historique". We made it. There was a gate. Mrs D and I parked outside, along the side of the "road" we were on. We walked in towards the gate and saw a woman. We asked if we could enter, as we were looking for the castle.
She explained that the castle had burned down in 1920 (way to stay up to date Autoroute 2008 😦 ) and that she and her husband owned the property privately. Oops. She proceeded to let us go in and look around as they had kept up the french gardens and were restoring an old part of the castle to be a home. She actually joined us as we walked along and gave us full commentary on the previous building and the hopes of the previous owner to rebuild the castle in its original form. Money got in the way of that apparently.
The grounds were lovely and apparently stretched right to the next town. 8 hectares. There was one part of the original castle still left standing. It was a "pigeonaire", a building that the owner would use to raise pigeons for the tender squab that was (and still is) a delicacy in France. We went inside and saw the many "pigeon holes" which apparently are made of mud. It is rare that such an old system would still be standing because if rain had gotten into the building then it would have dissolved the mud and washed away the nests. Neat lesson in both French cuisine and French traditions.
We arrived in Troyes at 1730 and hit the tourist info center to try and find a hotel. We ended up getting an expensive hotel. It was the Accord Mercure. Cheaper places either had no parking or were full. 116 euros to stay the night. To make up for the higher cost, we ate the Cheese from Amsterdam and crackers and instant noodles for dinner.
We walked about old town of Troyes and saw all kinds of interesting architecture. The old buildings seemed to bulge and lean. We wondered if they were actually still structurally sound. It was a nice walk, but again the light rain had started in the evening and we headed back to our hotel where we got the Internet going and got ourselves plugged in after buying a fancy-dancy converter since the hotel had a pin sticking OUT of the outlet, meaning my grounded converter WASN’T going to work 😦
Once online we hit the search engines and searched and searched. We finally settled on the Hotel Caulaincourt that Eddie and the scouts stayed when they visited Paris last August. Online, we could only get 2 nights in a row at the hostel/hotel. We hope that we can perhaps negotiate a longer stay once we arrive. Good night. Tomorrow: Paris!