We started from Bourg en Bresse, France early in the morning, planning to stopover in Luxembourg to do some sightseeing before spending our first night in Belgium in a town called Bastogne.

It took us nearly 6 hours to reach the Luxembourg border because we drove at a leisurely pace, as I wanted to let my grandson and son-in-law see some of the French countryside, stopping only once at a rest stop, and again at Metz a historic city in the Lorraine region of France, near the German frontier.

There is a gas station on the Luxembourg side of the border which is very popular with French motorists because petrol prices in Luxembourg are considerably lower than in France. So there were many cars lining to fill up, and we had to wait for some time for our turn. According to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Luxembourg is the second richest country in the world based on its GDP (Gross Domestic Product). When I told my son in law about this he was very surprised, almost shocked! Luxembourg is also one of the world's smallest countries so it didn't take us very long to tour the capital city. We had lunch at a nice restaurant and walked around taking photos.

The distance from Luxembourg to Bastogne is a little less than 50 kilometers or around 30 miles, so it took us only about an hour to get there. We passed by the Ardennes forest which was a famous battleground known as the 'Battle of the Bulge' during World War 2. It looked so peaceful and tranquil when we saw it, but I know from history that many American and German soldiers lost their lives in this battle which lasted for over two weeks.

I can't remember the name of the hotel where we stayed but it was in the city center, a small but comfortable place. Bastogne is also a small city so we could walk to most places downtown. We found a cosy looking restaurant and bar near our hotel and that's where we ended up for that evening. It had a very nice atmosphere with a pretty young barmaid serving the customers. There was also a lady who entertained us by singing old songs in French. It had been a very warm day and my son in law and I ended up drinking a lot of beer which Belgium is famous for. I don't think my young grandson enjoyed it much though!

The next day after breakfast at the hotel, we set out again to tour the city. At the main square there is a big World War 2 tank and a bust of the American general who commanded the US troops that defended the town when it was under seige by the German Army. It is recorded in the history books that when the German commander gave an ultimatum to the Americans to surrender, this general just replied with one word, "Nuts!" written on a piece of paper!

We went to this big War Memorial just outside the city. It was built by the Belgian government to honor all the American soldiers who fought and died in Belgium, particularly in the Bastogne area during the Second World War. I noticed that every state of the US was engraved on the columns of this Memorial. We also visited the War Museum which is located nearby.

After a very good lunch of 'frites and moules' (french fries and mussels) we continued our journey, heading towards Antwerp. I should mention that the mussels in Belgium are the biggest ones I have ever eaten anywhere else.

It is interesting to note that while we were on the road to Antwerp, we had the car radio turned on and while we were in the Walloon region, of which Bastogne is part of, the radio broadcasts and songs were all in the French language. So were the roadside billboard advertisements, all in French letters. But as we got close to the Flanders region (where Antwerp is located) the radio stations and billboards were all in Dutch! This is because Belgium has two administrative regions, Wallonia and Flanders, and the people are called Walloons (French speaking and Flemish (Dutch speaking). There is also a sizeable German speaking community. For a foreigner, it can be a little confusing!

Anyway, when we reached Antwerp we had trouble finding our hotel so we just stopped the car somewhere in the city and I got off and asked the first pedestrian that I saw for directions. She spoke good English and told us where to go. We finally found the hotel which was situated near the port.

The next day I called my Belgian friend and she came over. We spent the whole day sightseeing in Antwerp. The city was very interesting to walk around. I was particulary impressed with the big tall church in the city center. I think its name is Cathedral of our Lady. My friend Danielle was a very good guide and I can't thank her enough for taking us around, and also explaining about the monuments and buildings that we saw around the city. Later in the evening her husband joined us for dinner at one of the restaurants in the city.

As mentioned in my introduction, that summer was was put down on record as being the hottest in Europe in 50 years. We stayed two nights at this Antwerp hotel, and my son in law and grandson said they couldn't sleep well on both nights because of the heat. Air conditioning is not very common in European homes and hotels, and I recall that in France alone, some 15,000 people, mostly old folks died of heat related diseases that extremely hot summer.

We could not leave Belgium without seeing its capital Brussels, and as Antwerp is not too far from Brussels we got there in about an hour. We headed straight to Grand Place which is one of the city's main attractions. It was indeed grand with many stores, cafes, restaurants around it. We spent some time there and walked over to the Manneken Pis, the iconic statue of a little boy urinating into a water fountain. I must say I was a little disappointed when I saw it because I had expected it to be much bigger. Afterwards we went around the city in the car, stopping at only a couple of places to take pictures.

On our return trip to France, we took the same route coming to Belgium but didn't stop at any town, except for meals and/or snacks, and arrived back home late at night. Oh yes, before I forget, the car's air conditioner broke down somewhere in France, and we spent the rest of the trip sweating and swearing inside the car!

I hope that one day I will have the chance to visit Belgium again. All of us really enjoyed this country, the people, the scenery, not to mention the world famous Belgian chocolates and beer!