Part I: Ardennes American Cemetery and Memorial
We had been talking about visiting one of the American military cemeteries here, being that we are pretty much living on the Western Front of WWI and in the epicenter of WWII. Thousands of US servicemen lost their lives in this part of the world, so it stands to reason that there are several memorials and cemeteries.
We chose the Ardennes American partly because it was on the way to where we were going but also because it appeared to have a really nice memorial chapel.
The night before we left for this trip, we were flipping channels and happened to come across an episode of Band of Brothers, in English no less. I think watching that made this an even more emotional experience. It really stirs up mixed emotions...in me anyway.
Part of me is so sad to think of all the families and friends left behind when these men died fighting for the rights of others. But the other part of me is so proud of what they did here to drive the Nazis out and lift at least some of the oppression that was so rampant in western Europe.
Of the 5,329 soldiers buried here, most died in the 1944 Ardennes winter offensive, better known as Battle of the Bulge.
It was a very sobering experience and I'm glad we had the chance to visit. It really serves as a reminder of what was going on a mere 65 years ago.
Part II: Maastricht, Netherlands
Mid-morning. Arrive in Maastricht. Check in at the Hotel Beaumont. First impression: hip, cute, quirky boutique type of place. Get keys to our room. Walk into room.... Wait for it....
"WTF is this?!? It's a shoebox! I've been in bigger closets! No f-ing way!" I am displeased. And Jason, because he is the boy and that's what boys have to do, sets off to take care of it.
Result: Come back at 2:00 and they'll have a much bigger room in the historic part of the building waiting for us. I am pleased.
As per usual, we headed right for the market square because that's where the magic happens in most European towns.
Jason loved these whimsical sculptures and was begging me to get in the photo and "do something funny".
But I didn't feel like having my photo taken with all the pressure of coming up with something entertaining to do, so I ran away from the camera.
And I ran...
And I ran some more...
But then I was struck with inspiration so I obliged. A sort of Where's Waldo... (But I've included some helpful direction to assist with your search. You're welcome.)
Maastricht's very unusual red bell tower at Saint Jan church...
This old dog was standing guard over these doors like it was his job. Maybe it was his job? How do I know? He went into a frenzy barking at anyone who dared step too close. And scared the crap out of several unsuspecting tourists. We stood around watching this for a few minutes, snickering every time we saw people about to get barked at.
Jason had a theory that the dog wouldn't bark at him because of all the good energy he radiates. Dogs can apparently sense this sort of thing. (If Jerry Maguire taught us nothing else, it was that bees and dogs can smell fear. So if they can smell fear, why not other intangibles?) I told him he was crazy. That that dog was going to not only bark at him, but was going to clamp his jaws around Jason's ankle for being so cocky. Guess what. Damn if Jason wasn't right. Dog didn't even flinch.
We were stopped in our tracks by this pub. I mean, there were 2-D cartoons and a golden ostrich on the front! How can you resist such whimsy?
So of course we had to pop in. The interior was not a disappointment. Cartoons on the walls! (For some reason, this little tune popped into my head when I wrote that: Cartoons on the walls! Cartoons on the walls! Lookin' like a fool with cartoons on the walls! With peanuts on the tables, beers at the bar, cartoons on the walls, call yourself a cool cat, lookin' like a fool with cartoons on the walls!)
We stopped back by the hotel to check in to our new room and when we got upstairs and looked out at our view, we were just in time to witness some insane musical parade making its way out of a pub across the street. While I assume this has something to do with the upcoming Carnival celebrations, I don't know if they were "official" or not. Something tells me this motley crew just assembled themselves at the pub, brought costumes and instruments and decided to stage a parade.
And, well...any pub that spills impromptu parades out its doors is okay by us. So we headed over to check it out. More cartoons on the walls. Innerestin'.
If there was one photo that could capture the Netherlands, this would be it. Never ever have I seen a such a dense concentration of bicycles than in my travels to Amsterdam and Maastricht.