... Bastogne to Blier-Erezee 'Singing In The Rain'
Rain during the night, and a chilly one at that, so it was time to hit the showers to warm on up and i wondered just how long the token would last in order for me to do so! The hot water took a while to come on as i was the first in which ate up valuable seconds of warmth and once in i realised there would be no indication of when i'm about to run out of warm water. With a hot/cold combi tap the hot would just cease with the cold continuing until you pushed it off, that would be the only main indicator! Luckily i just heard a tiny click and so i jumped out as quickly as possible as i couldn't afford any coldness on me as the block in which i was in was a bit nippy too! After getting some form of warmth i head on back, trying to jump around the puddles as the most sensible form of footwear in this weather is NOT converse with its material design to soak in the wet.
The rain comes down once again and this time causing me a slight alarm as i've parked on grass, just grass that was already a little bit boggy when i parked up on it yesterday....hmmm, here's to hoping i get on out again and not be stuck in the mud! That's great as a child's game but not as an adult stuck in a campsite in the middle of no-where, in the pouring rain! As the rain keeps pouring, and the campsite owner said i could stay here until whenever with no check out time as its not at all busy, i decide to wait until it subsides and do some blogs. In one light section of rain i managed to walk Ellie but she's not fussed about a walk when its raining, bit like me too! On her chair, for where she sits during the day and sleeps at night, we now have a towel over it to keep it from getting too wet and muddy. So we now have a dry one for night time and a dirty one for the day!
The rain at 1pm kinda stops so we on head out of the campsite and over to Bouillon where there is a castle upon a hill to see situation by the river just a few km's down from here. As we parked up and started our walk in the light rain rain once more i was getting the feeling that i wasn't going to have that dry one today. With a walk around town and a visit up to the castle we were pretty much done, and in the end we couldn't go into the castle grounds as dogs weren't allowed as there were birds of prey there that were being showcased. Only five minutes from the car and that's went it came, the belting down golf ball sized rain drops that seeped into every part of my clothing...brilliant! Back into the van and with the coat off to dry and a change of clothes its time to see Bastogne in the hope that the rain subsides a little, just a little would be nice!
Now Bastogne is close to the Luxembourg border, so i did ponder if it was worth popping over to getting some really cheap petrol but there wasn't really time as with the rain delay and the darkness of clouds coming in to settle for the day its time to see this town where 1000s of American soldiers died fighting in WWII during the Battle of the Bulge. This town remembers those who sacrificed for their freedom and so for their legacy to live on in the hearts and minds of the locals they have built the Mardasson Memorial. This was built to honour the 76,890 American soldiers killed, wounded or missing in battle from the 48 states. You can go to the top of this monument and have a walk around as it was a circle with four pathways sticking out...but in the health and safety rules of the UK i know that the steps would have been sectioned off as it was so slippery up there! As i went for a walk around, with not much of a barrier to stop you from falling over (!), the concrete floor had been painted yellow and so had a shiny slippyness feel to it for when it rained...no grip at all apart from the steps that lead on up!
Safely back down and we have a walk around the grounds and the crypt before the rain starts to being that bit heavier again, thinking i just feel the wish for the dry and warmth...which the van doesn't really help with as when i'm getting rid of the condensation on the front screen its needing air con again in order to do so! That done and its to the Wood of Peace of which 4000 trees have been planted for the 50th anniversary and dedicated to the American veterans who fought in the Ardennes, Belgian combatants and all the civilians and soldiers who died in the winter of 1944-45. Every veteran who returned to Bastogne in 1994 chose a tree, which will always bear his name. It was also designed, the woods and only visible from above, in the image of the UNICEF emblem, a mother and child to symbol human tenderness.
We follow the brown signs to get to here, which wasn't in English as Wood of Peace but you could kinda get the gist from the spelling that i was heading the right way. Also TomTom knew of it also as a tourist attraction so off we went...then the sign turned right as TomTom wanted us to also but there wasn't something quite right as it was a single, muddy, bumpy and loose gravelly trackway. There was a parking sign up ahead but only enough for two cars and it was parking in the mud, then there was a left turning but for bikes and pedestrians also...and i've seen no tourists here and no where for tour buses and cars to park on up on mass. Hmmmm. What i could see here, as i turned on round, was something in the distance, and through the trees, a round pavilion of some kind with a muddy pathway to it.
So we headed back to the main road and continued on, as if we would not spotting that sign, and up ahead there is a car park, not a massive one, but a car park where i could see tourists heading on out and down an open pathway and into the trees way beyond. Now i wasn't so sure about this one either as it was miles away (slight exaggeration) from where i saw something which could be part of the 4,000 trees...but then again is it the trees in which i'm seeing now from the outskirts...not sure what to think. What i do know is that the direction in which they are walking i could park up at the muddy one round the corner and take my chances there of a sneaky shorter walk.
Don't you just love it when a plan comes together as when we walk up the muddy pathway, that i spotted earlier, just a minutes walk later and we came to the open ground in the middle of the woods in which situation here was the 4,000 trees as there were information boards, places to sit and plaques on each and every tree you could see. Those last tourists i saw walking on up from where i was earlier weren't even here yet, and weren't even there when i left 10 minutes later so i had the place all to myself, to take it all in. Rain was holding off at this point but as soon as we started on our way back again it started to fall and i wondered if Belgium is a rainy place in the month of September...feels like its the start of winter anyway! Once again i found myself, like many a point during the day so far, singing 'Singing In The Rain' with this weather as a constant reminder and trying to avoid those puddles!
Back to the van and still the rain is coming it left me thinking if i was just following the rain as i was driving North! Into the national park we go as the campsite I've found here is a) scenic in the woods b) has its own lake and c) free internet like the last! As i've got 16km to go my fuel light makes an appearance...why oh why before heading into a national park did i not get some petrol. It may have been with not wishing to get out of the van once again as i was loving the dryness of it all too much inside it! There isn't one indicated of a petrol station on route via TomTom so i ask for the closest one by which is another 1km from the campsite...i should be okay. Slowly goes it and i make it and as its an expensive one i only fill a 1/3 of the tank up and get a bar of chocolate for my troubles at the same time. The lady checks my petrol charge and checks the price of the chocolate by coming round to my side in which the price is marked. Something not quite right on the amount i can see to be charged on my card but i haven't got the energy to argue it as it's only 50c extra she's charging me, think she inputted the chocolate bar in wrong. Have a cheap drink on me tonight lady!
Next back to the campsite in which we passed earlier and with the front desk not open the restaurant let me in and tell me to come back at 6pm to check in. So i park on up but i can't get electricity as yet as there is a lock on the box so i'll wait until i can put the laptop on, at least i can get the internet on my kindle and phone in the meantime...before they run out of battery! So 6pm comes and we head on back where the man i speak to looks at my discount card and charges me €21 euros when it should be €16 but he just shakes his arms and head when i try to show it once again. Not sure what was going on and his english was okay but not enough to explain why he wasn't honouring the charge of the discount. I was wet and cold so again i couldn't be bothered to argue the point and he said that i needed to get the key from him in the morning so that i can access the showers as no point charging me for that for one night...i'm sorry, that would have been a charge on top of the €21! All i ask is for someone to come and allow me to plug in my electrics and he said someone would be there shortly....an hour later and in the pouring rain i'm having to walk over, a good 5 minute walk, to ask where they are and i left with a promise that someone is on their way. I was also cursing at this point as i couldn't get access into the shower / toilet block area for the toilet and he said that i must be using the wrong door. On the way back i go via the toilet block and there is another door but around the back which is open...another hour later and i'm still waiting for the electrics to be put on! So pouring rain again, again i'm getting wet, again a promise someone would come. Half an hour later and its the woman from the restaurant who was trying to help me before with the check in and was run off her feet being a waitress when i was last there...seems like she's doing everything now!
Electrics in and i try to get dry once more. With the internet stream being great i do at least get some photos up and watch the World Cup rugby games on for this day. After finally settling down and listening to the rain fall as its turned black outside we get into a chilled bed and try to warm it up...if i don't get a cold after this then just call me Superwoman!