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Belgium
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7 July 1998

            I want to tell you some of the highlights of our trip to Europe, so sit back and put your feet up, cause here goes.  We flew non-stop to Dusseldorf, Germany, leaving about 3pm.  The plane was only about two thirds full, so we got three seats by a window.  The sky was clear when we left home, but by the time the plane took off the thunderstorms were rolling in thick.  That was the last we saw of the ground for a long time.  I guess it was just as well since we both needed to sleep as much as possible on the plane.  I opened the window once when I woke up, and the monitor said it was 2:30am (local time) and that we were over Greenland.  All I could see below was white.  Then I saw some black jagged things and realized they were rocks and the white was snow.  The entire horizon was orange like sunrise, as far as I could see.  After that it was all clouds again till just before we touched down in Dusseldorf, around 8am local time.  We had to walk down the stairs and ride a bus to the terminal, then have our passports stamped, collect our luggage and just walk out.  Our car rental was just across the street, then we were on our way.

            George was pretty intimidated by the autobahn at first.  It’s like a divided highway, two lanes each direction, and has no speed limit.  By the time you saw a car in your rear view mirror, you only had a couple of seconds before it roared past.  He caught on and eventually had it up to the equivalent of 90-95 mph, and they still roared past.  We had a good car, but he didn’t feel comfortable going any faster.  Thank goodness! 

            We stopped first in a small city in the Netherlands, called Roermond.  The older parts of all cities are pedestrians only.  The people walk everywhere, or ride a bike.  The best streets are narrow, parking often only on the sidewalk.  I don’t think they like to stop, they usually have traffic circles rather than stop lights.  We had a long walk, did some shopping, and headed for Belgium.  When we got to Namur, the town where we planned to spend the night, there was a county fair or something going on.  It was wall to wall cars and people.  We figured there weren’t going to be any rooms and decided to go on.  We stopped to ask directions and had our first language barrier.  I asked a lady in the gas station we stopped at if she spoke English, and she answered something to the effect of “no.”  Then she turned to the four men chatting in a corner, and got four more cheerful versions of “no.”  So I said “Luxembourg” and pointed to my map.  They all started chattering and one came over and pointed out Luxembourg on my map.  So I pointed down the street and tried again.  He started giving me detailed directions, I’m sure.  One of the others caught on and drew me a map, which made it easy as pie.  I was still laughing when I went outside.  I came away with good feelings and hope I left some behind.  We drove on till we passed several villages, then exited and found signs to a hotel.  The sign pointed down a small village street.  A sign at each turn pointed us down progressively smaller and rougher streets and out of the village.  Finally, we turned onto a dirt road and George wanted to turn around.  I told him we had too much invested now, so let’s go on and see it before we decide.  When we found it, it was a two story stone house in the middle of a forest.  We were the only guests that night of a Flemish couple about our age.  The man spoke a little German, and the woman a little English.  We had time for a hike in the forest before she made us dinner.  It was very close to the area of the Battle of the Bulge, and she told us a lot about the area.  It turned out to be one of the best places we stayed.  We had been led to believe that Europe is mostly disarmed now.  So we were surprised to see a little sign in the front window of this inn.  It showed a hand holding a handgun, and the gun was smoking as though it had just been fired.  We asked the landlady about it, and she said the caption said roughly, “Don’t worry about the dog, watch out for the owner.”  Breakfast the next morning was the first of many cold-cuts-on-hard-rolls.  This one was better than most, but I couldn’t handle the raw bacon.

 

The beautiful countryside and village.

 

Our first hotel had 4 rooms in the main house, and two in the garage, where we chose to stay.

 

The house was destroyed in World War II, but rebuilt to look like the original.

 

We got to tour all the rooms and chose one above the garage.

 

There were no curtains at the window, and no door to the bathroom which held only a tub and sink.  The toilet was in the hall outside our room, and would have been shared if anyone was in the other room.

 

We had been warned to take small gifts to give away, and took some picture post cards of the Grand Canyon.  The landlady wanted to give us a gift and gave us stamps, because we had expressed interest in them.  We were certainly glad we were prepared with a gift in hand.

 

This trail beside the river was a very scenic walkway.  The landlady also pointed out a chapel beside the hotel, but I couldn't see it, only a little signpost.  I didn't realize until later that the sign was the chapel.

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