Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The risques et perils of Luxembourg

Something like a week and a half ago, we jumped in the Audi and headed to Luxembourg. Nothing like ticking a new country on the "traveled to" list to make one feel extra cultured. Never mind the fact that it's only about 2 hours away and roughly the size of Rhode Island. We crossed a border. That's culture, people.

We arrived Friday evening at the Sofitel Grand Ducal and without even trying, somehow got ourselves upgraded to a room with a view. Of course, since it was dark out, there wasn't much of an immediate benefit but imagine our delight when we woke up the next morning to this:

While a very lovely view, indeed, you may notice that half of the city sits in sort of a valley. Sofitel Grand Ducal = up high. Old town = down low. New town = up high. Which left us no choice but to navigate the Path of Icy Death. As Jason soon found out...they were not kidding around with this sign, which reads: NOT SALTED // ACCESS AT YOUR OWN RISK.

A nice halfway point on the Path of Icy Death...

...and a perfect spot for our gratuitous self portrait.

To illustrate how high up the Path of Icy Death is, I took this photo from the bottom. That wall and turret at the top there is where we took the two above pics. And let's not forget, that's the halfway point.

The city was so beautiful in the leftover snow. I didn't even mind the perpetually grey skies. Even nicer was the fact that, despite the gorgeousness you see here, Luxembourg is more of a business city...and virtually empty on the weekends, especially this time of year. We were two of the very few people out and about. It was sort of like a smaller version of Prague, without all the tourists. In other words, heaven!

After exploring the old town (down low), we started making the ascent up the other side to get to the new town (up high). Luckily, it was much more gradual and did not involve another Path of Icy Death. In fact, you don't really even notice you're doing it. And since the journey takes you around all sides of the hill, there's tons of places to stop and just take in the views. And so...we did.

Finally, we reach the new town. Of course, when I say "new", what I mean is some buildings have dates in the 1600's on them. (Considering the old town dates back to the Romans, I'll let it slide.)

This is two door handles on an entrance to a cathedral. I just thought it was kind of funny how the one on the right is all shiny because that's the one most everybody uses.

Clairefontaine Square, centered by the Grand Duchess of Charlotte Memorial.

And we break from the walking tour to fortify ourselves with a delicious hot chocolate. But not any ordinary hot chocolate... Here, you choose a flavor and they bring you a steaming cup of milk and a wooden spoon with a block of chocolate on it and you stir it in till it melts! How clever! They had a HUGE list of flavors and even different levels of cocoa concentration, ranging from milk chocolate to the very darkest chocolate and everything in between. I think I got some sort of hazelnut and almond concoction.

And just in case you don't understand just how this whole crazy thing works, they give you a very handy diagram attached to your spoon wrapper.

After we're warmed back up, we continue the tour for a couple more stops. First for a view of the Adolphe Bridge (or New Bridge as locals call it) that runs over the Petrusse Valley. When it was built in the early 1900's, it had the largest stone arch in the world.

And the last stop of the day was to see the train station which, as you can see, has a beautiful painted ceiling and a gorgeous mosaic window that shows the outline of the city. Not your average train station.

We returned to the hotel for a warming cocktail and a nap before going out for dinner and slept right through a snow shower! Everything was even prettier with a fresh dusting.

Side note - we turned on the tv for some background noise while we napped and I was reminded just how universal Friends is. We watched it in either Dutch or French...can't recall which now...and were able to follow along perfectly. We laughed at all the right times because we've seen the episodes about a hundred times each by now and I really could recite most of them in my sleep I think. No matter where you are in the world, there's always Friends.

Sunday morning, we made our way back down the Path of Icy Death (but via a different route; a route with less risque du morte; a route with stairs; versus a human luge with hairpin turns) for a walk through the Petrusse Valley.

The valley was part of the city's defense system and was set up so that it could be flooded in case of an enemy attack. The Passerelle viaduct was the original bridge over the valley, before the Adolphe Bridge was built. (Which is why the Adolphe is called New Bridge.) The viaduct is often just called Old Bridge. Genius!

So so pretty and peaceful in the snow...

And then of course there's this. Because I married an 8 year old.

Just as we were walking under the viaduct, we caught a bit of blue sky. It was there and then gone in the flashiest of flashes.

On our way out of Luxembourg City, we made a stop in the precious little town of Echternach.

Some eats, some strolling, a giant bronze statue of a young monk-in-training...the usual. Seriously though? Despite some rather extensive Googling, I can't find even one tidbit of information on this thing. Not one! While I was only mildly interested before, now that I can't figure it out, it's kind of killing me.

(Completely off topic here, but I love the fact that the word "Googling" passes spell check now. Ah, the world we live in. Now if I could just get it to recognize all my creative swear words, I'd be truly happy. Because I just hate it when I send an expletive-laden ranting email to someone and all those red squiggly lines show up.)


Alice said...

Just beautiful.

Ginger said...

Luxembourg, who knew? So very lovely. Another great episode of "The Sanger Show"!

Beth said...

Pretty pictures!

Sara said...

Love the boots! Great pics!

Meg said...

I too love the boots and am so glad that you didn't plunge to your demise on the death luge. Thanks for sharing the lovely pictures!

DLong said...

Love your stories! Look forward to new posts all the time.

Oh and Just add your expletives to the dictionary and those dastardly red lines will go away! I too am not a big fan...