Bed and Breakfast in France
On Sunday in Normandy, we parted ways with Don, Missy and Corey Klatt as they headed by train to visit the family of a French exchange student that they hosted a couple of years ago.
While Allen, Paulette, Paula and myself and our guide Mary Berg drove the five hours to a small sleepy community of Fresnes-au-Mont near the border with Germany and near a World War One battlefield.
Our goal was to visit the St. Mihiel American Cemetery near Thiaucourt and the final resting place of Allen and Paula’s great uncle, Helmer Dragseth, who died of injuries nine days after World War One was over.
Our accommodations were in the bed and breakfast home of Paule and Jean Pol Buvignier and each morning we were treated to a wonderful breakfast consisting of fresh juices, homemade breads, jams, jellies, yogurt, and topped off with an oven-baked dessert. I questioned if the butter came from a cow that was part of the property, but was told they did not have any cattle.
The home held five bedrooms; each with their own bathrooms and the home was once a barn that was remodeled into the facility. I do not have the words to describe how nice the place was and how friendly our host couple was. I was delighted to see all the antiques that were used to furnish each room.
The community was like many small countryside villages in France that we passed through on our way to the east of France. As we traveled, it became apparent that each of these small villages had many things in common, one of which was the large church with a tall steeple. Fresnes-au-Mont was no exception and just down the street from our quarters was a large church with its tall steeple and bells that tolled every half an hour from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
We questioned about the church and the membership, but were informed that services in that church were held only three times a year. Jean Pol, we were informed, is a deacon and served over 50 churches in the area. Paule said that the community was “dying,” because there was no industry, and young people moved away and many people no longer attended church. I thought to myself that it is what is happening in America that churches are no longer seeing packed houses Sunday mornings.
As for farming that we saw as we traveled, it was like here in the U.S. Large fields with big farm equipment traveling the narrow roads of rural France.
We arrived at the St. Mihiel Cemetery and went to the office to find out where their uncle was buried. There the cemetery’s superintendent met us and found and accompanied us to the grave site and gave us a lot of information about how they care for the cemetery and how the fallen soldiers were interned. He explained that they recently found the body of a missing American serviceman in a fence line near the cemetery and he was buried with honors. He also pointed out that during the 1930s, a soldier’s mother or wife was provided with free transportation by the U.S. Government to come to France and visit the loved one’s final resting place.
In the map room at the cemetery, the superintendent explained how the battles in that area took place. He noted that George Patton fought in the area during both wars and in World War One he drove his tanks in a north-south line and in the second war it was from the west to the east.
In World One more than 550,000 American and about 110,000 French fought in the offensive called the St. Mihiel salient (September 10, 1918 to September 16, 1918) that drove the Germany army out of France and ended the war less than a month later.
It was afternoon when we left the cemetery and we found a bar and grill to get some lunch. I must relate that if you want to eat, make plans to stop early as most eating places close at 2 p.m. and open again at 7 p.m. The place where we stopped was busy, but after a wait we were served, but we spoke no French and they spoke no English. But we were able to relate what we wanted. At this stop I was wearing a “Packer” T-Shirt. Most people in that establishment recognized who the Packers are. As we were leaving, the owner’s son – who was in his twenties and spoke some English – expressed his thanks for what the Americans did for the French during the World Wars.
Two days later we were driving back to Paris and to a hotel next to the airport. On August 17th we boarded our nine-hour flight back to Minneapolis. And, if you are planning a trip to visit France, I would suggest that you contact Mary Berg.
Thanks for reading! ~Carlton