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Adventure to Belgium, France and Luxembourg over President's Day `
By Ruth Watkins
Our group arrived at the Charles de Gaulle airport after an uneventful flight. Although we had been concerned at our connecting stop in Iceland (Iceland was having a blizzard and the wind gusts were shaking the plane), our good Icelandic pilots showed their skill, and we were on our way. At the Charles de Gaulle airport, the first mishap occurred. Three pieces of luggage did not make the connection; I guess the baggage handlers in Iceland had too much ice in their eyes. We waited patiently, hoping for the best, but the three pieces never appeared that day.
Then the second mishap—the vans, in true European tradition, were small. They could accommodate seven people, but could not accommodate seven people with their luggage. So we had to do some last minute restructuring—renting additional vans (not easy) and finding drivers who could drive “stick” (also not easy). We were lucky that Avis managed to get us three additional vans, although they must have come from a land far, far way as it took a great deal of time to get them. But finally we were off and running. We arrived in Mons, Belgium later than planned, checked in, and headed for our group dinner at a local restaurant, which started with an appetizer of fried cheese (a really big hunk of fried cheese). After dinner, we retired; it was too late, and we were too pooped to sample the nightlife.
There were 27 Bad Pennies on this trip. Names were difficult to remember at first, so we developed alternative names, such as the “Lady With No Clothes” (Margaret, whose luggage was lost), the “Man Who is Sick” (for Ken who had a stomach virus), and “the girl with the Long Red Hair” (Amber, self-explanatory). In our car, there was Jersey Bob and Maryland Bob. I think I must have been known as the “Woman With No Money.” I actually had money (traveler’s checks), but found out the best way to travel in Europe is to use an ATM machine and draw the money out in local currency. This is because U.S. dollars and traveler’s checks need to be converted and money exchange places are not readily available. Since I do not have an ATM card, I had to rely on the kindness of others and develop some First National Friends.
February 17, we drove to Ghlin for our walk. Members of the local club walked with us, and we could choose a 7, 12, or 20 K walk. After the walk, our hosts prepared a lunch for us. It consisted of spaghetti with either a meat-based tomato sauce or a tuna-based tomato sauce. Anne Marie Finley, who was in our van and the resident expert on Mad Cow, advised us to stay away from the meat, so many of us opted for the tuna. I was skeptical at first, but it was O.K. Kind of like poor man’s bouillabaisse. This was accompanied by as much beer and wine as we wished. For the walk, some of us chose the shorter distance of 7K so that we could get back to Mons and look at the town in daylight. Ron Looper and his van proceeded to Luxembourg before the lunch as Ron wanted to visit the Luxembourg American Cemetery where his father is buried. This turned out to be a good idea as the rest of us got a late start and the visit to the Cemetery was becoming questionable. I was lucky to be in the car driven by expert driver Mary Widmann and navigated by Maryland Bob. With the pedal to the metal we made a B-line for the cemetery and got there 10 minutes before it closed. The other vans did not make it there in time and went directly to Luxembourg. We were very happy that Ron made it there in time to visit his Dad’s grave.
The hotel in Luxembourg was the traditional European style, i.e., small. There was no parking at the Hotel so the drivers had to dash about finding a parking garage.
After dinner, the drivers held a tete-a-tete regarding the next day’s plans. Turns out the next day’s walk was in Dudelange followed by a 5-hour drive to the area near Audincourt to spend the night and walk the next day. I was sympathetic for the drivers, who by now were tired. After the Aldincourt walk (which was slated to take 5 hours) the drivers would have another 5-hour drive to Paris. Thus, a revolt took place; a mini-coup. Many in the group wanted to go straight to Paris to see the sights; others continued to Audincourt as we had already made arrangements to meet a host club there and meet with the Mayor of the town.
The next day, we all went to Dudelange for the walk. The Dudelange walk was an “event.” There were many locals doing the walk (I think the figure was about 1,500). I would have rated the walk a “3” as it was hilly and the terrain was rocky.
After the walk, we split up. Twelve people decided to continue to Audincourt; the rest left for Paris. I originally was going to opt for Paris, but when I found out the local club was expecting us and had arranged a reception with the Mayor of their town, decided to stick with the walkers. This split resulted in a nightmare of bookkeeping for Matt who now had to keep track of people going off and doing their own thing and people switching in and out of vans. We truly earned the name the “Bad” Pennies.
We met the Audincourt group early on February 19. As we were waiting at the start point, a “honey” wagon passed by. Like a black cat crossing our paths, this was like an omen. The Audincourt club assured us there were no hills and no mud. Turns out there were hills and much, much, mud. Every step had to be carefully placed; three people slid and fell. I got a T-shirt from the Bad Pennies for this walk. I think it was because I was the biggest complainer on the walk (and I’m putting that nicely). It should be noted that our guide, Louis, never broke step, never slipped, never got mud all over his pants, and never had difficulty walking in the mud. The man should be on “Survivor.”
At the reception with the mayor, it was explained to us that the ground had unexpectedly thawed; prior to our visit it was frozen. I’m blaming it on the “honey” wagon.
One of the more interesting mementos from this trip is a hand-written, multipage document detailing the route. The translator, Gilbert Tisserand, had some interesting ways of stating the directions, i.e., “. . . on your left you will notice the spring of the red stream from which flows water which is still pure.” And “. . . what memories you will have about this creation embellished by the vegetation. . . .”
We left Audincourt for Paris after the walk and arrived late at night. Paris traffic is a scene from the Keystone Cops. Lanes rarely marked, many one-way streets, little itty bitty cars darting from all directions. The directions the hotel gave us were impossible to follow. Mary stopped at a gas station and found someone inside who said they would take us to the hotel. I think that man is my new hero. We arrived at the hotel and found most of the rest of our group with the exception of four, who had taken off on their own to do their own thing.
I think everyone got to see a bit of Paris and experience what the city is like. Our group toured the Eiffel tower, Arch de Triumph area, and shopping areas. In the evening we attended the dinner show at the Moulin Rouge. It was a Las Vegas-styled show with bare-breasted women and a few token acrobatic men (who were fully clothed). The show had some comic moments, and I believe a good time was had by all.
We got up the next morning and headed to the airport for our return trip. We were late in getting off the ground in Paris, which made for an even longer flight home. We arrived at BWI the tired Bad Pennies. Things that I’ll always remember from this trip are the Belgium chocolates, the seemingly endless bottle of champagne at the Moulon Rouge, great coffee and croissants every morning (especially the chocolate-filled croissants), getting exercise every day (not just on the weekend), and sharing experiences with my travelling companions who kept in good spirits despite various little setbacks.
by Bob Lumbert
Twenty-seven intrepid adventurers took off from BWI Airport on February 15 to take part in the Bad Pennies’ Adventure 22. Adventure is certainly a good description of the experience. This was our first trip to mainland Europe on our own, and it was definitely a learning experience. Also, we did not stay together as much as we normally do. This report is from one of those spent more time being a volksmarcher than being a tourist.
The first day was not an auspicious one. We took off from BWI uneventfully, but when we landed at Reykjavik, they were in the middle of a storm. The wind was blowing quite furiously, and when we were getting off the plane, it felt more like a boat than a plane. But it didn’t delay us, fortunately. When we got to Paris we went to wait for our luggage. And we waited, and we waited – for quite a while! Three suitcases did not make it to Paris with us. I never did find out what happened to them, but they all eventually rejoined us. Our next stop was to get the rental vans. These were “seven passenger” vans, and they did hold seven passengers. Unfortunately, when you put seven people in them, there was only room for two suitcases. After trying to get everybody and everything in, we gave up and rented two more vehicles. This of course involved another long delay, but eventually we took off for Belgium.
When we arrived in Mons, Belgium, it was late afternoon. This meant that we didn’t have much opportunity to explore the town, or do anything more than window shop. After a pleasant meal at a local restaurant, we were more than ready to get to bed. The next morning (Saturday) we headed for the neighboring town of Ghlin, for a walk under the auspices of the “Les Sans Souci” club. (The name means “without a care”.) Their walk was actually on Sunday, but they very graciously allowed us to walk it on Saturday. They had 6, 10, 20 and 30 K trails. Five of us decided we wanted to do the 20 K, and we were sent out with two gentlemen named Gilbert and Franz. Neither of them spoke English, but Mary Widmann and I spoke some French, so we were able to carry on some conversation. I guess I figured out about half of what they told us. The trail was a typical European one, mostly natural surface, but with some stretches of town walking. We went over and along a canal, seeing some canal boats at one crossing. We passed a Belgian golf course, which we were informed was not like those in America.
The grass is more like what you would see on a typical lawn, not finely manicured. On two occasions we saw deer in pens in people’s yards. I did not find out what their purpose was and could not get a good picture of them. We passed a cemetery where a royal princess is buried. (No details on that either.) A long segment of this trail was through woods that the local government is developing for recreational purposes. A day or so before we walked a large tractor had gone through and dug up a lot of mud. It wasn’t all that bad, and by the end of the trip we would think nothing of it. One of the highlights of the trail was the nature center in there. It was due to be used as a checkpoint the following day, and we too stopped for refreshments. Gilbert has some sort of responsibility for this place. I don’t know if he runs it or is a caretaker or something else. But after our rest, he allowed us to go upstairs to see the exhibits, but only after we took our shoes off, so we would not get mud on his beautiful hardwood floors. The upstairs was quite beautiful, feeling more like a chapel than a nature center. He told us it had been built entirely by students from a local school. After a few more kilometers along country roads and through Ghlin, we made it back to the start.
Naturally, we were the last group to return, and when we got back, everyone else, both Bad Pennies and Belgian club members, were enjoying the spaghetti the club wives had made for us. I stayed with the traditional meat sauce, but several people were pleasantly surprised by the alternative – a tuna sauce.
After saying good-bye to our new Belgian friends (and purchasing shirts and other souvenirs they had to offer), our next stop was to acquire some Belgian chocolate. One of the club members led us to a shopping mall similar to those one sees in the States and then to a chocolate shop inside. The offerings were very tempting, and they did a lot of business. I restrained myself and bought only a small bag of about eight ounces. They were good! I had difficulty not eating the whole bag at once. We later heard that they had a very successful event on Sunday – about 1800 participants.
Our next scheduled stop was the American Cemetery in Luxembourg, where Patton, among many others, is buried. I had been here previously as part of the 1994 Bad Pennies European trip. We followed the directions we were given, but once we got to where we were supposed to turn off the main road, we were unable to relate the written instructions to any roads we saw. After a couple of stops for directions, we did get the cemetery, but only ten minutes before it was due to close. We took a quick look around and managed to get out before the caretaker chased us out. Then it was on to Luxembourg City where we were to stay for the night. Again we had trouble finding the place, due mainly to a lack of street signs and not knowing the direction from which we were approaching the city. But we found the hotel, on a very small side street, and got ourselves unloaded and parked. Dinner was at a nearby hotel. We ate sausages and french fries, but diners at other tables were enjoying an elaborate, three-tiered presentation of various types of shellfish and other things.
Sunday morning our group started to break up. Several people decided they would rather spend an extra day in Paris rather than doing the French walk, some leaving immediately and others leaving after the Luxembourg walk. One van even decided just to say at the hotel because so many of them were feeling under the weather. But most of us went to Dudelange to walk. You had a choice of a 5 or a 12 K trail. Both were mainly in the country, and even the short trail had a fairly significant hill. The longer trail wound up and down through the woods, and it had its share of mud. It was a moderately difficult walk by American standards, but probably not by European standards.
Back at the start point there was the traditional social event, lots of food and fellowship. The Bad Pennies were presented an award for being the club that came from the longest distance. Matt presented the local club with mementos as well.
After eating, two vans of hardy walkers took off for France. We stopped in Strasbourg on the way. We didn’t have any particular itinerary, but we did manage to find the cathedral and spent some time looking it over. One highlight was the astronomical clock, a fantastically elaborate and beautiful mechanism, dating from the 1300s. We didn’t stay long because we wanted to get to Montbeliard, where we were to stay the night. We had no problem with the directions today. During dinner at the hotel, two members of the local club stopped by to see that we were ready for the next day.
The walk for Monday was a 15 K “year round”, starting in the neighboring city of Audincourt, but going through parts of seven communities. It is described as a nature trail, and the majority of it was in the woods. There was a brief part in a small village, where we stopped briefly for some refreshment, and parts past farms. (This was before the hoof-and-mouth disease problems.) The trail was marked, with blue and yellow permanent markers, so it was easy to follow. However, in a few places we did not recognize that we were supposed to turn. We also had a book of instructions, which was in French, but Matt had obtained an English translation. And of course the best resource was a member of the local club who accompanied us. We were told there would be no hills and no mud. There were a few hills, enough to get it a 2 or 2+ rating in the U.S. But, boy, was there mud! At one point where we crossed a road, many of us spent some time cleaning off our shoes. But this simply made room for new mud acquired on the next segment of the trail. But I should point out that the fellow from the club who was leading us managed to do the whole walk and get only a little mud on his shoes and none on his pants. We were both lucky and unlucky in our choice of times to visit. Normally they would expect to have two or three feet of snow on the ground in the middle of February, but this year they got a lot of rain instead. Our guide said it had been raining for three months. But the weather had also just started to warm up, so if we had arrived a few days earlier, the ground would have been frozen rather than muddy.
Once we had all finished the walk, we drove to the City Hall, where we were honored by a reception with the mayor. He gave a brief speech welcoming us and explaining how the city was seeking to attract more tourism, and this was one way of doing it. (He is, after all, a politician, and was running for reelection.) Then there were speeches by Matt and the local club and of course pictures. This was followed by light refreshments. We were the first large group of Americans to do the event, two others having done it last year. They are looking forward to more American visitors, and would like to see some Canadians as well. I thought this was an extremely nice way of welcoming us to their community. However, as I was leaving, I noticed that we had left behind in the reception room much of the mud we had picked up during the day. I hope they understood.
Then it was on to Paris. We were much later leaving Audincourt than we had planned, but we thought we could get to Paris by about 8. We did stop at a highway rest stop for a snack, and that turned out to be a good idea. It was about 8 when we got on the equivalent of the Beltway around Paris, and we immediately hit a traffic backup. Fortunately, traffic did continue to move, and once we passed an accident, we picked up some speed. We found our exit but then ran into problems. The map told us to make a left turn from the exit and then go left at the third street. The first difficulty was that there was a traffic circle when you got off, and we weren’t sure which street we were supposed to go on. But no matter which way we went, turning at the third street did not get us to the hotel. We drove somewhat at random for a while. (In a seven-passenger van, you get six back seat drivers.) Eventually we stopped at a gas station and asked for directions. At this point a miracle occurred! The gentleman behind us at the cashier offered to lead us to the hotel, and once he had gotten his gas, he did so. Our hotel was on a one-way street, going in the opposite direction from how we wanted to go, and we had to go more than three streets to get past the hotel and come back. Needless to say, we were very grateful for his help. It certainly disproved the reports of how unfriendly Parisians are.
It was well after 9 before we got to our room. Then we had to find dinner. There was a restaurant in the hotel, but we were told they stopped serving at 10. Fortunately, that didn’t seem to be true, but we did ask what dishes could be prepared quickly. (My French was up to that!)
The next morning a group of us set off to explore Paris. We had really wanted to take a bus tour of the city, but by the time we reached the hotel, it was too late to make reservations for the next day. We used the Paris Metro (subway) instead, purchasing an all-day ticket, and found it quite easy to use, at least with a map of the system. Our first stop was the Eiffel Tower. We paid to go up to the top and got a good view of Paris. It wasn’t a great view, because it was somewhat overcast. You have to change elevators about halfway up, and we went exploring on that level before walking down to the level below. It was interesting to see the construction on the tower and of the elevators close up.
You also get to see dummies of construction workers along the way. We really wanted to spend some time at the Louvre, but it is not open on Monday. Our alternative was the Musee d’Orsay, and we walked along the Seine to get to it. There was a huge line waiting to get in, and we probably stood there half an hour before we realized how long the line actually was. So we gave up on that. I later read that on days the Louvre is closed, the Musee d’Orsay is very popular. But I am still amazed at the extent of the line, on a Monday in February, realizing you wouldn’t see a line like that at any museum in the States, except maybe for some very special exhibition. So we decided our next stop would be the Arc de Triomphe. We ate at a little luncheonette-type place along the way. We had trouble finding the Metro stop, and we asked a woman for directions. She actually took us to the stop. (I later heard that another of our groups had the same experience.) We found a nice little tourist’s shop near the Arc and bought several little souvenirs, and then we took a stroll down the Champs Elysee. There were a number of exotic stores along the way like “Ben & Jerry’s Crème Glacee”. After that we headed over to Notre Dame, and spent some time admiring it. Then it was time to head back to the hotel to get ready for our evening out in Paris.
We had reservations for dinner and the show at the Moulin Rouge. I had talked to people who had been there previously. About the most favorable review was “it was nice to do once, but I probably wouldn’t do it again”. I think I concur with that. It was very expensive (over $100), but since we were going to have to pay anyway, there was no point in opting out. The food was good, but not great. I ordered the “petit moulin” for dessert. It is a cone of chocolate mousse with pieces of dark chocolate molded to look like the sails of a windmill. It was delicious. The show was spectacular visually, but my French was not good enough to get much out of the singing. If I were offered the opportunity to go again at half the price, I’d probably do it, but I doubt I’d pay much more.
Tuesday was our travel day. The flight to Reyjavik was like an hour late taking off, and we actually arrived ten minutes after the flight to Baltimore was due to leave. Of course, they had waited for us. But it was late local time when we got in, and we were six hours ahead body time, so it was certainly time for bed when we got home.
Overall, it was a good trip. The walks were challenging but enjoyable. We met a lot of nice people, and I think we were good ambassadors for America and the AVA. It also dispelled a couple of myths for me. I found the people very friendly and helpful. I also thought traffic was much saner than I am used to, even in Paris. For one thing, people understand the “right lane is for travel, left lane is for passing” convention. If we ever do something like this again though, I think we have to be concerned about getting proper directions. We know about the van capacity, and lost luggage is out of our control, but if we can’t get to where we want to go, we will be in trouble. I think I would want to know we would have some people with a basic knowledge of the native language before I would sign up for such a trip. We had to get directions several times, and needed French for other purposes as well. We didn’t need fluent speakers, but we did need people who could communicate. On the other hand, I was pleased to realize how well I could get along in the language. I still want to see the Louvre, and now I feel I could go over there by myself to see it.
Le parcours est tracé dans sa plus grande partie dans le bois de Baudour
Principales curiosités : chapelle du Mouligneaux, bois de Baudour, golf d'Erbisoeil...
1200 participants le 14 février 1999.
1220 participants le 13 février 2000.
One of the symbols of Mons is the little monkey which sits on the left side of the entrance to the Town Hall. Legend has it that this medieval monkey statue brings luck to those who caress him (with their left hand !). Famous people have paid him a visit in the past : Emperor Charles V of Habsburg, Emperor Napoleon of France and , not so long ago, Emperor Hakyito of Japan.
The walk in Luxembourg will be at Dudelange. There will be 5 and 12 km trails.
The development of the iron and steel industry brought affluence, even wealth to the country.
Thanks to its diversity and the composition of its color, the scenery of the mining area becomes a pleasure to the explorer's eyes as he wanders through town and villages.
Extensive hiking trails run through scenic wooded areas, over rugged plateaux and stretches of grassland. The regions major cities are Esch-sur-Alzette and Dudelange.
THE MOST FAMOUS CABARET IN THE WORLD
Bal du Moulin Rouge - Montmartre
82, Boulevard de Clichy - Place Blanche - 75018 Paris
THE NEW SHOW "FEERIE"
Realised by Doris Haug & Ruggero Angeletti - Choreography by Bill Goodson
Costumes by Corrado Colabucci - Scenery from Gaetano Castelli - Ballet Master Janet Pharaoh
Stage director Thierry Outrilla - Music by Pierre Porte - Lyrics from Charles Level
The Moulin Rouge, world-wide famous thanks to its French Cancan, and immortalized by the painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, has always presented sumptuous shows to its spectators: from the Valentin-le-Désossé and la Goulue's Quadrille to the Redoutes and Operettas, from Colette to Mistinguett's great revues... the concept is still the same at the Moulin Rouge: feathers, shinestones and sequins, fabulous settings, original music and of course the most beautiful girl in the world !
Many international stars have performed on stage at the Moulin Rouge: Ella Fitzgerald, Liza Minelli, Frank Sinatra, Elton John... They have all given exceptional galas, following in the footsteps of French celebrities such as: Maurice Chevalier, Jean Gabin, Edith Piaf or Yves Montand.
For 110 years, the most legendary cabaret in the world has welcomed millions of spectators who have come to admire the famous shows!
Today, the Moulin Rouge's new show, "Féerie", continue the tradition.
The Moulin Rouge's new show, "Féerie" has been created by Doris Haug and Ruggero Angeletti, who, since 1961, have been the directors of the most famous shows in the world.
Choreographed by Bill Goodson, "Féerie" consist of: a troupe of 100 artists, including the 60 Doriis Girls that were recruited world wide; 1000 costums of feathers, shinestones and sequins, designed by Corrado Collabuci, and set up in the most famous Parisian workshops; sumptuous setting with shining colours and unique designs created by Gaetano Castelli and made by Italian artists; the best international and outstanding acts; and the expected return of the giant Aquarium... all of that with music by Pierre Porte, using some 80 musicians and 60 members of the chorus.
"Féerie"; 4 main scenes created to fulfill international audiences' dreams!
"The Moulin Rouge today and yesterday the Moulin Rouge forever"
"The Moulin Rouge from 1900 to..."
At the highlight of this tribute, the Doriss girls dance the world famous French Cancan!
Created in 1959, the restaurant is integrated in the Bal du Moulin Rouge.
Every night at the sound of our orchestra, more than 800 persons of all over the world taste our "Foie Gras de Canard en gelée à l'armagnac" (Foie Gras with jelly and armagnac), our Smoked Salmon from Scotland, our "Filet Mignon" of beef with "morilles crémées", our "Carré d'Agneau rôti à la fleur de thym" (lamb roasted with thyme), and our "Nougat glacé au miel" (iced nougat with honey), among many other specialities prepared by our new Chef Laurent Tarridec served with the finest wines and champagnes.
Féerie” consists of : a troupe of 100 artists, including the 60 Doriss Girls that were recruited world-wide ; 1000 costumes of feathers, rhinestones and sequins and set up in the most famous Parisian workshops ; sumptuous sets in shimmering colours uniquely designed by Italian artists ; the best outstanding international acts ; and the awaited return of the giant Aquarium, all this performed to original music recorded by 80 musicians and 60 members of the chorus.