Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Here We Go Again!

This was the trip to Europe where we were going to Normandy to get remarried. Unfortunately, several thousand horses got in the way.

Welcome to another “Jim & Loraine European Adventure”, a journey that marks several milestones for us. For me (Jim) it’s the tenth anniversary of my first trip to Europe, while for Loraine, it’s her tenth journey to one of our favorite places in the world. And seeing as how this year also marks our 25th wedding anniversary, Loraine had come up with a cool idea—that we’d go to visit all of our friends in Normandy and renew our vows. We even had the mayor of St. Georges-de-Bohon looking into all the legalities of it.

And that’s when the horses got in the way.

Those of you who’ve followed along on these journeys know that we have a limited window of time in which we can travel every year, and that window usually falls around the Labor Day weekend in the U.S. So as we were setting out to plan our “Euroversary” trip we ran smack dab into something going on at the exact same time in Normandy, the World Equestrian Championships, a three-week long gathering of thousands of horses (and their riders, and support staff).

Every single hotel we tried to book was either full or charging several hundred Euros a night. Even the fine staff at our usual home-away-from-home, the Bayeux Novotel, couldn’t make it work.

Bummer.

So with those plans (and Loraine’s great idea of getting re-married) thrown out the equestrian window, we (or should I say mostly she) put together the excursion on which we are about to embark. It’s chock full of WWII research projects, rendezvous with old friends (along with the meeting of several new ones) and a chance to buy chocolate in not one, not two, but FOUR different countries.

And I’m thinking that ALMOST makes up for the fact that the horses got in the way of our original plans!

Our journey starts in Luxembourg (where we’re arriving this time around) and consists of several days in Bastogne, Belgium, several in the wonderful town of Colmar, France (click HERE to read what I wrote the one day we were there in 2011), and then a few nights here and there as we slowly make our way toward Paris, from where we’ll heading back to the States. Throw in a day trip to the Black Forest of Germany, and there you have it—four countries (and four different places to buy chocolate) in eleven days.

Sounds like a typical Jim & Loraine trip, right?

In Belgium, we’ll be focusing on several of Loraine’s research subjects, including Elden Gjers, who’s the “co-author” of her soon-to-be-released book “Elden’s True Army Tales”. We’ll also meet up with Carl Wouters to see what happened to Carl Swanson of Ishpeming during the Battle of the Bulge. And we’ll be spending one of our days around Colmar with our friends Olivier and Marie Rose Pernot; if you read the Mining Journal about a year ago, you know that Loraine and Olivier helped the Ritola family of Republic find out where their brother and uncle George was killed in 1945.

That’s the war related stuff. We’re also planning on visiting parks and recreation areas, strolling through the beautiful streets of places like Colmar and Nancy and Troyes, and (hopefully) will get to visit to the factory where they make Jacques and Callebaut chocolates, among the best in the world (yum). And just so the folks at home don’t think we’re forgetting them, we’re also planning on checking out Pont-a-Mousson, where a young French missionary named Jacques Marquette was educated four and a half centuries ago, and where a school (complete with statue) named after him still exists.

Those are just the highlights. If this is like every other one of journeys to Europe I’m sure many wonderful, whimsical, and occasionally downright strange things will also be happening. This will be your front-row seat for each and every one of them. And who knows—maybe one or two will even involve horses.

So get ready!