Waking in the middle of the night, I spent several hours working before I could go back to sleep, so I slept late this morning. Skipping breakfast, I drove through the American Military Cemetery, the largest one in Europe. 10 489 war dead sleep here in 114 acres of ground. 444 names of men whose bodies were never recovered are inscribed on a granite wall. About 150 crosses are over unidentified bodies and are inscribed "known but to God."
Back on the autoroute
, I continued the drive back to Paris, stopping only to refuel and once for a quick lunch. One cannot long escape vestiges of important historical events in France. The northern border of France has been a battlefield since at least the time of Julius Caesar. Vikings sailed up the Seine, there were barbarian invasions, then European wars during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. A road sign marked Varennes, the farthest point Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and their children made it in their coach as they tried to escape to Germany and safety during the French revolution. They were stopped and arrested at this point and taken back to Paris for eventual execution.
I passed the muddy mountain of les Eparges
, not far from Verdun, both scenes of some of the most horrific combat of WWI. A few miles later I passed Valmy, where I stopped for lunch within site of the ancient windmill, the scene of the first important battle of the Revolution as newly Republican France defended itself against A Prussiant royalist army set on putting down the revolution and restoring the monarchy.
Closer to Paris, I drove by St Mihiel and the battlefield of Belleau Wood, the point of farthest advance of the German push toward Paris in 1918. The fresh, green American troops thrown urgently into the battle were ineptly led, but made up for it in courage and stubborn grit. In spite of terrible casualties, they stopped the German advance and pushed them back. It was the beginning of the end of WWI. There are many things to ponder on this drive.
Arriving at the airport, I filled the car. Paying $9.00 a gallon is more than enough without paying the rental car arm-and-leg they charge for topping up a tank.
In the departure lounge now, I'll work until we board for the overnight flight to Mauritius about 12 hours away by air.