I won't lie. Kath and I both cried when we said goodbye at Heathrow Airport. She headed back to her home in Idaho, and I was Luxembourg bound. It was a very lonely feeling to suddenly find myself on my own. A bit scary too, given my gift for getting lost.
My reason for traveling to Luxembourg was simple. I was going to visit some very dear friends, friends I had not seen in over 15 years. The story of how that friendship came to be is not quite so simple. Some 25 years ago, when Jay was the regional fisheries biologist in the far north of British Columbia he received a letter. This letter had been written by a student from Luxembourg who was studying pharmacy in Belgium. The student, Frank Mergen, was interested in coming to Canada to fish and wanted some information.
This letter came not long after Jay had discovered the location where his uncle's Halifax bomber had been shot down over Belgium during World War 2. In Jay's response to Frank he mentioned this discovery. Curious, Frank went out to the site a few weeks later. This set in motion something bigger than either Jay or Frank could have imagined at that time. The crash site was eventually excavated, the remains of the bomber crew recovered, followed by a full military funeral for the crew in Belgium. Veteran's Affairs arranged for the immediate family members of the crew to be flown over for the funeral. It was an emotional experience for everyone involved.
We also came to know Frank's parents, Ernie and Monique, and a close friendship has developed with them as well as their son Frank. It had been many years since I had been able to visit with them in person so I decided there was no way I could be as close as the UK and not cross over to the continent to say hello. Ernie and Monique are very special people. Ernie is a gentleman, and during my stay with them I was reminded over and over again of my dad. And Monique is, as Anne of Green Gables would say, a "kindred spirit."
I was treated like royalty for my stay. In keeping with that theme, on my first day I was taken to visit a castle in Vianden. It was a spectacular site, looming over the village below. It was made even more spectacular by the fall colours on the surrounding hillsides.
Before we toured the castle we had lunch in the village. I had been warned not to get my cholesterol levels checked right after I had eaten in Luxembourg, and now I understand why. A mouth-watering main dish with chicken in a cream sauce, covered by a puff pastry was followed up by vanilla ice cream. This might not sound like a spectacular dessert, but I should add that the two generous scoops of homemade ice cream were made with 100% cream. Just cream, sugar and little brown flecks of vanilla. I think I better delay scheduling that cholesterol test until 2012.
After the castle we drove up a narrow country road to catch the view and were surprised to see a group of guys getting ready to go paragliding. We watched while they made a running start, lifting off the ground just before the abrupt edge. It was beautiful seeing their brightly coloured sails against the blue sky, with the river and valley bottom below.
It was a picture perfect day!