We’ve had a fantastic 4th of July weekend each year we’ve been here, but the first in 2010 is impossible to top.
Thursday, July 1st
Jen & Gary and I saw Green Day in Mainz, where we ran into a bunch of people from the unit. The show was fun, and the trip home was memorable as it was a total cluster. Eventually, we got on a bus that took us to the train station. And then we were stopped by officials for being on a First Class train but played the ‘dumb American’ card and received a warning rather than a fine.
Saturday, July 3
Thanks to the constant deployment schedule it’s a rare occurrence to have all of our dudes in town at the same time. Seven of our core 8 people were here to enjoy a cruise on the River Rhein for Rhein in Flammen – illuminated ships sail the river in a convoy, passengers see firework displays at castles along the river.
We may or may not have been reprimanded for trying to sit on the bow of our cruise ship (okay, we were.) And Jen may or may not have mistaken a big scoop of butter for what she thought was yogurt (okay, she did.) Need I mention we had quite a bit of wine on the cruise? Ahem…
The World Cup was underway – these kids were handing out advertisements for public viewings.
Sunday, July 4
Big D and I made our way to Trier to tour the city and see the Porta Nigra, which the Romans built in 180 A.D. I was surprised we were able to walk through it – I thought we’d just look at it from outside.
From Trier, we drove to the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial. We blended in with a guided tour to hear tons of fascinating information, and our timing was great: The group rushed out to get to their next stop, leaving us alone in the cemetery for Taps and Retreat. We spoke with the Superintendent quite a while on our way out – we’ll never forget it.
Here’s Big D at GEN Paton’s grave:
We spent that night in Luxembourg City, which has an interesting mix of ancient and modern architecture.
Monday, July 5
If you haven’t seen Band of Brothers…. well, you must. Touring the Bastogne Historical Center in Belgium was on our bucket list and if time permits, we’ll go back again.
After a morning full of U.S. and WWII history, we were off to meet up with Jen & Gary for Stage Two of the 97th Tour de France. We were trying to make our way to the town of Spa for the finish line, but traffic and road closures instead had us in the town of Wanne. Little more than a crossroads, we could not have ended up in a better spot if we tried. The locals were super friendly! Nobody spoke English, but we somehow became part of their little town’s big party, enjoying lots of beer and barbecue at a tent set up in the yard of their tiny museum.
We didn’t let the rapidly changing weather dampen our sprits.
Having never experienced the TdF, it was all new and exciting. Each sponsor drives through and tosses promotional items to the crowd. We left with all kinds of new hats, keychains and baubles.
So after a long day of waiting, the peleton flew by us (we did not know a huge crash occurred on the course before the riders arrived at our location) and the whole thing was over in less than about 20 seconds. That’s Tour leader Fabian Cancellara wearing the Yellow Jersey just to the left of the sign below.
Later we made our way to Spa for drinks and shopping and then on to Vielsalm for a wonderful steak dinner during which we decided we had so much fun that we should do it all again tomorrow…
Tuesday, July 6
The day had a rough start: I got stuck in a minuscule elevator, a hotel employee yelled at me in Flemish, we thought we were skipping out on our hotel bill since we don’t have an EC card, and we lost our GPS (Note: our Amex, which we used to guarantee our reservation, was finally charged about three months later. Fshew! We’re still welcome in Belgium!) Finally, we arrived in Wanze and the start line village.
And we even (briefly) saw Lance Armstrong:
Thankfully, a stop for sandwiches revealed that I had tucked the GPS inside a ziplock surrounded by napkins(!?) and we made it home in time to watch the completion of the stage on television. Just like that, it was all over…
Six days, three countries, a concert, a boat cruise, two stages of le Tour de France, and so much more. When considering everything we’ve done in Europe, Big D says that afternoon in the tiny, rainy town of Wanne waiting for the race to pass us by is his favorite adventure.
Life is good – and it can’t always be planned. Hang on and enjoy the ride!
Tons of photos from this adventure are on Flickr.