An October 2003 trip
to Bastogne by Irene
Quote: Bastogne, nicknamed "Nuts City" in honor of General MacAuliffe, was a charming southern Belgium crossroads chocked full of historical monuments, museums, and churches all topped off with a double slice of Ardennes Ham.
Bundled against cold, whistling, wet, leaden skies reminiscent of December 1944, we explored the haunting granite memorial, Mardasson, on the outskirts of Bastogne. It is dedicated to all of America’s fallen soldiers, along with the American General MacAuliffe and German General Manteuffel inspired Historical Center. An original black and white film of the attach and defense at the Historical Center prepared us for the in depth display of souvenirs, artifacts and personal items of our lost heroes. We prowled among all the relic tanks on the grounds of the Center, trying to envision the sacrifice.
Cold, wet, and wind blown, we winged our way back to the warm safety of the fireplace of the tempting Restaurant Le Belgium Mac Auliffe to indulge in the wondrous Ardennes Ham. Afterwards we lounged in the quaint rooms of our legendary 1930s Hotel du Sud, with its patchwork quilts and embroidered linens.
Secluded in the wilderness surrounding Bastogne we stumble on the spectacular sandstone fortified castle of La Roche de Ardennes and settle in to watch local newlyweds scamper down the steps of the Town Hall.
Even in early October the Belgium fall can become damp and cool so we needed rain coat, umbrella and sweaters. The natives take it all in stride and seem to have the necessities in the preverbal backpack.
Almost as good if not as famous as the Ardennes ham was the Belgium version of the luscious French style pastries. Every corner along Rue du Sablon sprouted a pastry shop, so we indulged in these wondrous treats dripping with chocolate over flaky crust around a rich buttery filling and completed it with robust mellow coffee.
Belgium abounds in out of the way villages, castles and medieval towns. Put aside your schedule and wander the twisting byways until you find your own surprise and then make it your own. Locals are friendly, open, sharing, unhurried ,and love the Belgium brews.
On Saturday a prim elderly receptionist and barmaid lead us behind the bar and up narrow dark twisting stairs, for a turn and a half then right and we were in a bare gloomy hallway. I was beginning to have second thoughts even though I had viewed a room the day before. Stepping inside the bright spacious room I remembered why I had liked Hotel du Sud. Immediately I fell in love with the real double bed with the snazzy patchwork quilt and plump pillows embroidered with "Sud" in pale blue thread. Sheets were silky, crisp and gleaming white. Away to the amber wall a tall lace curtained window spilled light on rustic table and chairs.
I grasped the handle to the bath and was in fairly land. I called it my Cinderella Bath.
Inside the tiny gleaming room were the state of the art sink with bulbous side lights and an oval shaped shower detailed with snowflakes. Dark woodwork trimmed all the snowy tile and lace curtains hung from the small swinging window. Back in the bedroom a TV hung from a corner and a multi-level cabinet hugged the wall next to the entrance. We felt comfortable and warm.
For breakfast Hotel du Sud served all the staples fresh and hot. Crisp rolls, butter, jam, coffee, tea, juice, and an occasional pastry made it to the table in the down stairs sitting room behind the bar.
We were sorry the Hotel did have a Restaurant as we the liked the homey feel of the lobby-bar and the patrons who dropped in for a drink. However the Rue du Marche offered many choices within a few steps.
Rustic charm oozes from this 3 generation family Copine-Picard business, especially on fall weekends when they host herds of game hunters who troll the hills of the nearby forest and return to consume masses of bratwurst and potatoes washed down with golden beer. We basked in all the camaraderie as the hunters brought along their entire families and ate banquet style amid the tall tales.
Outside was a car park, playground, and barbecue.
All credit cards accepted. Website www.hotel-du-sud.be
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 30, 2004
Hotel du Sud
Rue de Marche, 39
32(06) 61 21 11 14
We stepped out the door of the Hotel Sud on a quiet Saturday night and hung a right on Rue du Marche. Past a few closed shops was the bright neon vertical sign of Hang-Chow. A slightly faded menu hung on the door and a bright light beckoned beyond an etched glass partition. After entering a tiny foyer, we passed into an intimate dinning area. Black lacquered chairs snuggled up to blue and white clothed tables sprinkled with starchy pink napkins and loads of glassware. Mirrored-framed oriental scenes graced the cool green walls. Hang-Chow was warm haven on a damp cold evening.
As we entered, a spirited young waitress sprang at our elbow and offered the first table on the left. Across the aisle were 3 lines of tables for four to six and another table behind us for four and that was all. Back in the corner next to the kitchen was the quaint bar with a mini version of almost anything you could want. Slightly to the left of the serving area was another table. This one was round and cluttered with books, crayons and pencils where the family children calmly studied their lessons. Our waitress mumbled instructions and praise as she swept pass.
After a local brew to peruse the menu we settle on a Cantonese chicken dish with loads of bright crisp vegetables and we added masses of hot tea to wash it down. Our giant platter with order for two was placed in the center of the table on a small warmer so we could eat at leisure. Giant egg rolls and marinated chicken on a stick accompanied the entrée. A selection of condiments was supplied on the table such as mustard sauce, soy sauce, etc. White rice, in a blue and white ceramic casserole, accompanied everything and was a nice addition to the tangy sesame sauce on the veggie chicken. Our menu included numerous vegetable combinations each done with chicken, pork or beef and mild or spicy. Entrees ranged from 8 to 13 Euros and special dinner combinations were 18 to 25 Euros per person.
Our waitress and busboy spoke a smattering of English, but seemed more comfortable in French or German. However they were warm, friendly, and efficient while service was quick with everything piping hot. We were the only customers when we arrived but as we lingered the small restaurant started to buzz and we realized there were people from Minnesota seated behind us. Hang-Chow is just a small slice of the welcome we experienced in Bastogne. It has the warm comfortable feeling of a small family business with an intimate relationship with their patrons. Hang-Chow accepts all your credit cards.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 22, 2004
Rue de Marche 5
+32 (061) 214812
Restaurant | "Le Belgian MacAuliffe"
After a brisk day on the windswept hills of the Ardennes, we were in the market for some wholesome comfort food and the name around Bastogne was "The Ardenne Ham is King.
"King Ham" says the folklore," rules over a court of pork nobility which includes smoked, garlic and juniper flavored sausages, meat pies and other pork meats." We went in search of this King and maybe a few of his knights.
Restaurant MacAuliffe blazed with warm lights, but not a soul stirred inside the spacious window clad rooms. The brass and glass doors swung easily as we entered and we searched for a person any person. With keen interest I was drawn to a flame on the back wall in the left corner. If there was someone here I was not going anywhere as long as they could give me something to eat. I was going to stay right here in front of the beaming fire.
Our hosts quietly approached from the bar behind a half wooden partition and offered us a booth. I kept glancing at the couple sitting next to the fireplace and whimpering. Few patrons were scatted around the dozens of booths and tables, but one was sawing at majestic ham hock. "I must have me one of these," Robert announced, and he did. He shared a little with me. I scanned the generous menu and discovered a choice of Mediterranean selections. Kebobs (12.90 Euros) of beef chicken and pork paired with chucks of bright crisp peppers and onions appealed to me. Both arrived accompanied by the crisp fries and a springy salad with tangy vinaigrette. Bob moaned over the succulent warm subtle flavored ham in its crusty skin. (15.90 Euros). We complimented the feast with a ½ liter of mellow Tokay (12.50 Euros). We dinned leisurely and when the couple vacated the fireplace we swooped.
Savoring the last of our wine and reluctant to venture back to the cold Bob ordered coffee and Kirsch, a local clear cherry brandy. They call it Kirsch Wasser. The only cure for a long day on the slopes. We warmed ourselves by the golden fire and whiled away the time with remembrances of the day. Our host and hostess joined us by the glowing fire and delivered complimentary drinks. We discovered Bassem and Hayat were from Morocco and hence the Mediterranean flavor to the menu. MacAuliffe was a gourmet slice of "King Ham" and another warm portion of Bastogne hospitality.
MacAuliffe takes your credit cards, debit cards, and small traveler checks. A small prowl revealed a glass studded sun dining room graced by masses of potted plants and a tinkling fountain. Open for lunch and dinner.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 25, 2004
Belgian MacAuliffe (Le)
35 Place MacAuliffe
+32 61 217021
Attraction | "Colline du Mardasson and Historical Center"
One mile on the outskirts of Bastogne on the Hill Mardasson before us rose a somber mammoth stone star. We gazed on 5 limbs, names of the 49 states, 5 sides to the crown and an inside crypt covered with murals by Fernand Leger, makings of a spectacular War Memorial.
Hugging my blazer closer to my chest with my head into the northeasterner I raised my head and stared at the gray monolith. Scuttling heavy clouds hung above the crypt and the star’s wings spread to the side as I read the state names. Florida, Alabama, New York, we read at the top of one spike of the star. Raw wind whistled through the supporting columns as we crept closer. On the east wing rose a spiral staircase to a cloudy view of the rugged battleground. We visited with grateful hearts and a small grasp of the enormity of the sacrifice and courage. Across an expansive car park crouched the Memorial’s companion, the star shaped Bastogne Historical Center.
Although not officially opened here on Mardasson Hill until May 31st, 1976, Mr. Franz Arend first founded the Historical Center in the city in 1950. Dodging a retired Army of Sherman Tanks, we found the Center housed the artifacts of real life of the Battle of the Bulge. We strolled from a fashionable display of uniforms, to cigarette packs, beer cans, weapons and letters to home. The main collection behind glass was fascinating in it’s reality. Life size dioramas of battlefield situations populated by figures of General Manteuffel and General "Ike" Eisenhower in jeeps flanked the entrance to the theater. Inside on a wide screen we cringed as the battle took place every 30 minutes with commentary of the military action by the opposing forces. The real life black and white footage of the offense and defense of Bastogne was haunting and chilling. Troops marched on frozen ruts in swirling snowy winds, and huddled behind tanks. They looked like abominable snowmen in their white camouflage.
Humbled and disappointed we could take no photographs inside; we visited the extensive gift shop where we found our own postcards, perused comic books of the war, flags and arty T-shirts with "Nuts City" slogan. Admission to the Center and gift shop was 7.50 Euros. Open Feb.-April 10-4:30, May-June 9:30-5, July- August 9:30-6, Sept. 9:30-5, Oct-Dec.10-4: 30. Website www.bastognehistoicalcenter.be. Better site www.trabel.com Go to Bastogne.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 16, 2004
Bastogne Historical Center
Colline du Mardasson
+32 61 21 1413