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Avenue de Fayetteville
Marquis de La Fayette
Saint-Avold building
Hotel de Ville Saint-Avold
Citroen 2CV
Saint-Avold protestant church
Saint-Avold shutters
Rue du General Hirschauer
flower city
Former abbey of Saint-Nabor
Abbey tower

Saint-Avold, France

Welcome to the sister city of Fayetteville, N.C.

Fayetteville is the place I’ve called home off and on (and off and on … and off and on) for a quarter century. It shares Saint-Avold’s strong ties to the U.S. military: Fayetteville is home to Fort Bragg, one of the largest U.S. Army posts in the world. Saint-Avold is home to the largest American World War II cemetery in Europe.

The cities’ bond is obvious here. Signs on the main roads at the town limits announce Saint-Avold’s ties to Fayetteville as well as to Dudweiler, a town just over the border in Germany. A statue of the Marquis de LaFayette, after whom Fayetteville is named, stands at a traffic circle a couple of blocks from Saint-Avold’s town center. LaFayette was a French military officer and Revolutionary War general who visited Fayetteville in 1825.

sister city signI arrived here by train on a day trip from Germany. The cultural shift just across the French border is seismic.

The harsh ich and ein sounds of the German language melt into the soothing oui and vous of French. Danke becomes merci. Guten Tag becomes bonjour. I have a basic grasp of the German language, but French loses me. Still, I just wanted to close my eyes and be hypnotized by its sounds, even if I couldn’t understand a word.

Citroen emblemPeugeot emblemRenault emblemI immediately notice a difference on the streets. The ubiquitous Mercedeses and BMWs and Audis of Germany are fewer here. Instead, there are Peugeots and Citroëns and Renaults — cars largely unfamiliar in the U.S. today.

Just north of town is Avenue de Fayetteville, the road that leads to the Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial. I am here on this day mainly to visit the cemetery. Find out more about that here.

Lorraine American CemeteryThe ties to the U.S. military and to LaFayette are where the similarities of these sister cities end. Saint-Avold is a place where travel clichés are born: It really is a quaint town with a compact center nestled amid rolling hills and farmland. With a population of about 16,000, it seems quiet and friendly compared with Fayetteville, population 204,000. The staples of U.S. military towns are absent: no pawn shops or sketchy hotels along main thoroughfares, no drug dealers or prostitutes slouched on rundown street corners. And I will wager that there was not one shooting or stabbing in the entire week leading up to my visit — I can’t say that about Fayetteville.

Sister cities maybe, but really more like distant relatives.

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