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Living in a World War Battlefield

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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): Living in a World War Battlefield

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Living in a World War Battlefield

Sometimes it's easy to get lulled into the daily comings and goings of our routine life.  I do this, until I see the British battlefield tour bus coming down the street or I take a walk by a beautiful commemorative marker in front of our house, always bejeweled with faux wreaths and banners.  You see, our house sits smack dab in the middle of a battlefield.  We didn't even realize it until the day we moved in and saw the first of many British tour buses pull up and a group of elderly gentlemen with matching polo shirts all crowd around our front door as the movers tried to move in our stuff!

We did know that our house was a cafe before the Great War.  The previous renter did tell us that.  I remember walking through the front entry, imagining the tables and cafe chairs that must have been there.  I wondered what those rings and metal things were, sticking out of the bricks in the front...for horses maybe?  I also envisioned how our kitchen building, attached to the side of the house, must have been a bustling place for the lunchtime crowd.

Walking around inside our house, it's hard to envision what it must have looked like though, as it has been totally renovated.  We have freshly painted white walls, gleaming marble tile, parquet floors that don't squeak, modern bathrooms....the only clue of our home's age, other than the outside, are the wonderful architectural details scattered throughout the home and the marble fireplace which we fell in love with from the first moment we stepped into the living room.

So, living in the middle of all this history, I have decided to make myself, especially our children, more aware of what happened around us.  Belgium is not just chocolate, beer and chateaus.  Being such a small country and kind of in between so many others, Belgium many times was a speed bump for conquering armies...or rather armies that just used Belgium as a stepping stone to get somewhere else.  I say Belgium...yeah, I know Belgium has barely been around 100 years...when I say Belgium, I'm talking about this whole Lowland Area.

Once I started reading a bit, I realized that there were soldiers from this area who fought bravely...and often...my God, the Battle of Waterloo that caused Napoleon to race back to Paris with his tail between his legs took place a mere half an hour from our house...and it shames me that we haven't even been there yet.

Although I never did New Year's resolutions...I am doing one now or a semblance thereof.....to visit and honor some of these hallowed places and the men (and sometimes women) who fought there.  Waterloo is already on the calendar.  The kids and I are also signed up to do a commemorative walk near Bastogne to honor the men of the 17th Airborne....looking forward to that one and hoping to meet some veterans as well.  I've got a bead on the battles of Ypres, which we passed on our way to the Belgian beaches last summer....the first place the Germans used poison gas with disastrous results....and of course, thanks Marisa for the wonderful chateau recommendation near Mont St Michel and Normandy for a wonderful trip we have planned there this summer.  I am looking forward to the ghost stories from the duke and just getting a wonderful overview of the area.  The times I've spent in Normandy before were always way too short and filled with Army stuff while I was on active duty.  I'm looking forward to going there as pure tourist!

As a last point, for those of you about to come on your overseas tour...or maybe you are already here.  Use those weekends and just go....go and see the history that surrounds you at every turn.  I've seen many a time, military folks (including myself), scrambling to try to cram in those last few trips before PCSing....start your traveling early....in bits and pieces, so you can get a good cross section of what is out there.  Don't be afraid to explore and just go without a set itinerary.  City and town information bureaus are a great help in finding you a place to stay last minute, or use Booking.com or Hostelworld.com to find something before you go.  Many places can also be reached by daytrip.  Get ideas from the books "Never a Dull Moment" and "All Aboard...Europe!".  The first book is a collection of places to go recommended by tons of military spouses and families....and the other, an account of a military wife who traveled all over Europe with her very young children in tow.

If anyone wants to post their most memorable trip below or wants to share any of their travel tips, please do.  I would love to hear!

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Damsel said...

We PCS to NAS Sigonella, Italy, this summer, and are so excited to travel in Europe! Thank you so much for all the information on your site, and for the links to the sites on this post. Thanks for the reminder to "just go"! I tend to be a detailed planner, but I'm gradually getting better at grabbing opportunities like this as they come whizzing by.

I'd say my best tip is to get to know someone who's been stationed where you are for a couple of years by the time you get there. They can point you in the right direction about public transportation, the things you *have* to see first, and great military discounts!

February 28, 2011 at 12:02 PM  

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