I am a proud southern man with a strong Georgia accent which I make no apologies for. That said, my wife and I love traveling and we have been on too many foreign excursions to count. During our trips, we have learned that most of the world speaksat least some English, but each country becomes much friendlier if you use at least some of their language. To them, it shows your respect by making the effort to communicate in their language.
One of our favorite countries to visit is France. Friends tell us the French are rude and uncooperative. However, we have had nothing but the opposite experience. We love just about everything about France, except for their socialistic government hat simply does not work for the people. I am not gifted in foreign language, but I have learned to say hello, “Bon Jour”and goodbye, “Au Revoir.” I have practiced using thesefrequently while in France and I was convinced no one could detect my southern twang. We flew into the Charles de Gaulle airport just outside Paris where I rented a car and we were on our way exploring France, staying at several bed and breakfasts. That was a very pleasant experience with beautiful accommodations and absolutely divine breakfasts with our hosts. The French croissants are to die for!
Our plan for this trip was to visit the World War II invasion sites in the Normandy area on the Atlantic coast where we visited Omaha Beach, Point Du Hoc, St. Mere Eglise and many others. St. Mere Eglise is the small town where the 101st AirborneDivision was accidently dropped on D-Day. The movie, “The Longest Day”, chronicles that air drop and shows an American Paratrooper landing on top of the church roof with his parachute caught on the church steeple. The beautiful little church is still standing proudly in the center of town with a mannequin hanging off the roof from a parachute attached to the steeple.
Next, we made a long drive over to Central France to see the Bridge at Millau. This bridge is the tallest in the world and is most beautiful and truly an engineering wonder. I decided to visit there after watching a Discovery Channel documentary of the construction of the bridge. I am fascinated by the engineering involved in famous bridges like The Golden Gate Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge and I will drive many miles out of the way just to admire one of these beautiful creations.
The next leg of the trip was to Northeast France, to visit other historic sights. We stayed in another small town, Lillie, near the Belgium border. Our hostess there was a friendly lady who loved to talk with us as we devoured the sumptuous breakfast meals. She would rise early in the morning and pick up fresh croissants from the village bakery. There was only one place to eat in Lillie, the town pub, a short walk from our lodging. The first night after a long day of touring, we entered the pub, filled with all the usual locals. Lillie does not receive many American tourists and I thought this was a good time to practice my French as I greeted the crowd with a Bon Jour when we entered, which I thought was very French sounding. The next night we visited the same pub and we could tell word had spread around town that two American tourists were visiting and the pub was filled with locals who just wanted to get a glimpse of us and maybe hear me attempt to speak these simple words. As we left, I shook each hand with a smile and an Au Revoir, goodbye. The crowd was absolutely enthralled with this development and I am sure we were talked about many times after our departure.
The last objective was to cross over the border into Belgium and visit Bastogne, the epicenter of the famous Battle of the Bulge. I especially wanted to visit the small town of Chaumont, located nearby. The rescue of American troops trapped in Bastogne was made possible by a small American tank battalion under the command of Colonel Harold Cohen of Tifton, Georgia as he defeated a determined German force dug in at Chaumont. Colonel Cohen joined the Army in early 1941 as a Private First Class, rising in rank rapidly after coming to the attention of General George Patton and became the youngest ranking Colonel in the Army at the age of 21. Colonel Cohen was later honored by the village with a street named after him.
Earlier, as we approached the Belgium border, we encountered a toll booth. I confidently greeted the lady tending the booth with a hearty Bon Jour! After paying our toll, I said goodbye with another friendly, Au Revoir! We were astounded as the lady replied in clear English, Goodbye, Honey! I turned to Margaret and said, she must be from Southern France!