This is probably the first patriotic Independence Day I have spent in France in the 10+ years that I have lived here. Normally it is a day like any other for us since we don't have American friends nearby. This year, our friends the Hummels came from Germany for the weekend, and on Saturday we went to the Aisne-Marne Cemetery and Memorial in the small village of Belleau, about 45 minutes from our house. This is near the site of the Battle of Belleau Wood.
The curator of the cemetery told us many interesting things, including how they are able even today to identify unknown World War I soldiers, how many records they are able to access now on the internet to consolidate information, and how almost 20% of the soldiers were immigrants. He also told us that July 4th was declared a national French holiday in the year 1918 in gratitude to the American troops during the war.
After the cemetery, we went around to Belleau Wood, now known as the "Bois de la Brigade de la Marine." We saw the cannons and memorial there, as well as the trenches and bomb craters that are still apparent today.
Tristan and Benjamin helpfully explained the diagrams to us. ("Those are train tracks!")
After lunch in the woods, during which we fed the mosquitos, too, we headed back to the German cemetery we had seen on our way in.
From there we continued on to the newly opened WWI museum in Belleau, where we also saw the "Devil Dog" Fountain that the Marines adopted as their own when they discovered it in the village of Belleau.
Benjamin and Isabel especially appreciated the gravel.
And Noah has become much friendlier - he won't go see anyone else and clings for dear life to me or Frederic when other people are around, but he does laugh and smile at them now instead of screaming. It's an improvement!
We came home after our outing to have a 4th of July barbecue and fireworks - sadly, the quality of the fireworks left much to be desired, but the company more than made up for it.