Getting to Know France
Ch 1 Getting to France
Ch 2 Liverdun
Ch 3 The Old Trailer Park
Ch 4 Getting to Know France
Ch 5 The New Trailer Park
Ch 6 A New Arrival and Big Changes
Ch 7 Summertime Excursions
Ch 8 A Pleasant Autumn in France
Ch 9 Our Last French Spring
Ch 10 Our Grand Tour
Ch 11 Au Revoir
Ch 12 Going Back to Toul-Rosieres
Return to Story Menu
Return to Around the Area
Return to Main Site
We knew I was in France to perform my duties as an Air Force S/Sgt in the Base Communications Center, and that Toul Rosieres Air Base had been created as a part of the new NATO mission to counter any offensive moves by the Soviet Union in what we called the "Cold War". I enjoyed my work and felt that I was doing my part to support our mission. Nevertheless, we also thrilled at the thought that we were now in France, and that we could look forward to spending three years exploring and getting to know that ancient and beautiful country. I would do my job to the best of my abilities, but we would also enjoy our stay in France.
In high school, I had loved history, especially the history of France and England. I remembered all of it - the Hundred Years War, Joan of Arc, Louis XIV, Versailles, the French Revolution, Napoleon, World War I, World War II, etc. - and now we were there where it all happened. I had also taken French in high school, and I remembered learning about French culture and customs. We could now experience living in that milieu. Helen, on the other hand, knew nothing of history; but she was interested in style and fashion, and she knew that Paris and France were the center of that world. She wanted to explore the boutiques and to have clothes designed and made by French dress makers. Soon she would be going to French hair dressers and shopping for French cosmetics. We both were anxious to begin our immersion in this foreign and exotic world.
About a week after we got our new Renault 4 CV, we read an article in the Stars and Stripes about an upcoming celebration in Nancy. This was early June of 1955, and we were still living in the Liverdun Trailer Park. We had picked up the car in Nancy, and, because of my inept driving in a car I wasn't familiar with, had almost been hit by a streetcar when I stalled the car on the streetcar tracks, but now I had mastered the car, and we were ready to venture into Nancy again.
There was to be a reenactment of the 200th anniversary of the dedication of the Place Stanislas by the then Duke of Lorraine, Stanislaw Leszczynski. He had been twice King of Poland and his daughter was the wife of King Louis XV of France. He lived in Luneville after he was appointed Duke by his son-in-law, but he had come to Nancy for the dedication of the square which he had ordered built in 1752. It was completed in 1755. We thought that this historical pageantry would be worth seeing, so that Saturday morning trip into Nancy became our first venture in learning about France first hand.
It was a beautiful, warm, sunny spring day. We were in Place Stanislas before the parade began, and I managed to get some good pictures of the 18th century costumed, ducal escort and the ducal, horse drawn carriage entering the square through Nancy's Arc de Triomphe. The fountains in the square were flowing red wine that day, but we were hesitant to taste it. There were thousands of people there, and we enjoyed being a part of the revelry. As the crowd thinned, we explored the square; then discovered nearby Pepiniere Park. We took pictures of the beautiful flower gardens in the park, then stopped for drinks at a sidewalk cafe on the square. Before we headed for home, we walked up and down the main shopping streets of Nancy, and Helen determined we would soon be back to visit some of the boutiques.
In the following weeks we explored north to Toul, St. Mihiel, and Verdun. We visited our friends, the Bowers family, in Pont a Mousson. We were slowly getting to know that northeast corner of France. By July, we were settled in the on base trailer park and things were slow at the Communications Center. Captain Zitzler suggested that anyone who wanted to should take some leave time. We put in for a week, and planned a trip to Germany. I had been to Garmisch twice while stationed at Rhein Main, and I wanted Helen to see that picturesque, alpine town.
About mid July, we headed out for Bavaria in our little, black Renault. We had military gas coupons and knew they were good at any ESSO station along our route. That first morning we drove down through the hilly country south east of Nancy through Luneville, St. Die and Colmar to the Rhine River crossing. Once past the German border guards, we headed through Freiburg, Neustadt, and on to Friedrichshafen on the Bodensee. At first there were miles and miles of evergreen forests, then rich farm country near the lake. We picnicked beside the road in the early afternoon, stopped to buy delicious black cherries in mid afternoon, and stopped at a country gasthaus in the early evening. We remember our extremely gracious hosts; the delicious, family style supper and breakfast, and the spotlessly clean, comfortable, feather bed. The next morning we drove on to Garmisch, and checked into the American Eibsee Hotel a few miles up the mountain from the town by the cold, mountain lake, the Eibsee.
It was a short vacation that we never forgot. It was a beautiful, old, German hotel right by the lake. The dining room overlooking the lake served gourmet meals. We ate most of our meals there. There was an AFEX snackbar on the ground floor along with a beauty parlor, a small PX, and a portrait studio. Helen got a Gina Lollabrigida, Italian haircut there, and we had pictures taken too. We could walk about a half mile along the lake to a sandy, swimming beach. The water was ice cold from the melting glaciers on the Zugspitz, Germany's highest mountain, but we both braved it a few times that week. We couldn't go far along the lakeside trails with Cynthia in a stroller, so we drove into town almost every day to sightsee and shop.
We found a restaurant, the Cafe Bauer, near the church where we had a lunch of wurst and beer a couple of times. One night, we went there for the Bavarian floorshow of singing, yodeling, and dancing. We were seated with German patrons at the same long, wooden tables; and as the evening wore on and we all had a few steins of beer, we all joined arms and sang German drinking songs. We never forgot the floorshow or the camaraderie we experienced that evening. Another evening, we went for dinner and the ice show at the American operated, Casa Carioca. The ice show was as good as the Ice Capades in the States, and the steaks were excellent too. As for shopping, we bought a few things including a pretty lavender and purple peasant dress and apron for Helen. Another day, we drove a few miles away to visit Linderhof, Bavarian King Ludwig's fantasy palace. After five days in Garmisch, we headed back for our home in France with pleasant memories of our short stay in Germany.
End of Chapter 4