Monday, December 31, 2018

Laid-back LUXury.


There's a pun in the title, this post must be great!

I'm condensing my time in Luxembourg City into one blog post, because there's really not that much to tell. Not that the place is boring, it's really not. There's a lot going on in terms of history and culture, especially with regards to politics and language! But that's not the focus of my writing this nor was it the focus of my visit.

My visit had, essentially, two objectives:

The first, getting myself back out there and visiting a new place, breaking the cycle of fear and stagnation, and jumping back into the geographically adventurous part of my life. Even if it wasn't a jump in the deep end — traveling within western Europe and staying in a hotel is pretty shallow, as far as ends go — at least it was something. My 50th something, on top of that.

The second, to see Nai. He put it best in his instagram post of our two coffee cups (OMG, like, so millennial, like, I can't even) with #epicfriendship.


The weather was also happy to see Nai and turned off the fog!


We ended up not doing anything crazy, instead just taking it easy and walking all over the place, with breaks for coffee, lunch, coffee, chestnuts, and coffee. All super laid-back, relaxed, and without any set itinerary (or map, really) to follow.

Here, then, are some of my impressions I want to share with you of Luxembourg City:





Would I recommend visiting Luxembourg? Yes. Would I recommend visiting if in the winter? No. Would I recommend visiting it for this long instead of just two days or so? Only if you're going to also explore outside the capital and see more of the castles and nature the place has to offer.

I'm glad I went.

And now, as I am literally ontheway into 2019, on a bus somewhere in Germany, let me tell you the same thing that one sign told me back in Luxembourg:


Guten Rutsch!
Feliz año nuevo!
Happy new year 2019!


G'night, see you on the other side.

Best seat in/on the house/bus.


It's tiiime tooo say goodbyyyeee to Luxembourg; I'm already on the bus that'll take me back home to my family, friends, and miezibauz. I can't wait to hug that little guy and hear his cute little voice complain about my presence two minutes after my return from a five-day-trip.



As predicted, the journey home will be a lot better than the journey to Luxembourg, which wasn't really bad at all, anyway.

Now though, I'm on a completely different level!

Not literally, I'm still on the top floor of the bus as I reserved the same seat for both trips. But comfort-wise this is a whole other league. I believe I currently have the absolutely best seat in the house! (on the bus)

I have all of the space, all of the power, and all of the WiFi!




Wish me luck for it to stay this way all the way to Wien.

In the meantime, I shall write.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Chocolate omaigah!


Many things were seen and experienced today, the most important being Nai and me seeing each other again after all those years. It was so nice strolling around Luxembourg together chatting, conversing, exchanging stories, palavering, and jabbering. I'm saying we talked a lot, in case you didn't get that.

Pretty boy, happy girl. 

Other than run our mouths, we also filled them - with lunch bowls and a lot of coffee. And cookies, for Nai's part, as I had brought him some of my homemade Christmas cookies. (They're still good, but almost completely gone now.)

Crunchy bowl with beef at Dean & David. 

What we didn't eat was chocolate.

We saw it, though.
And stared at it quite a bit.
And were amazed by it.
And bought some!

There's a place called the Chocolate House, which Nai still remembered from the last time he was here over ten years ago. With good reason, as not only did everything look amazing but the place was also packed! Both testaments to the quality of the product(s). I would have taken a lot more pictures of everything, but it was impossible with the amount of people crowding the small space.




These things are just mesmerizing!

Generous and kind (and humble) as we are, we both decided to get some of the beautiful and surely delicious chocolate for our loved ones back home.


There were two shelves full of these baggies with disks, so I needed the attendant's help with the decision of which to take. I settled on strawberry (pink) and Spekulatius (brown) and when I get home my dears can all try them. Nai chose a selection of chocolate truffles in a pretty Luxembourg-tin and a box of the shiny, colourful ones. We both spent Money in that shop. Not just money, but Money. Worth it, though. And it's actually from Luxembourg - it's not Belgian chocolate!


Then he lost his mind.

This insane maniac (the pleonasm is necessary for emphasis!) gave me the box of shiny ones! I mean, what? Who does that? And then he's surprised I "seem star-struck"... my friend, you're lucky I didn't cry. For real. It was a close call.



Now, the attention-paying readers among you might think that there's no point in giving me chocolate. I don't do sugar and therefore don't eat sweets. Chocolates are sweets, so, what the heck? Right? Well, here's my plan.

The first thing I'm going to do when I get to Vienna is a photo shoot. Take like 5,000 pictures of them together, individually, with a nice background, eck tseterah.

The second thing I'm going to do is try to replicate them, their look. I've been trying to teach myself how to make different kinds chocolates myself. Not the actual chocolate, but the truffles and pralinés. These shall be my next models.

Then, I'm going to put them in a safe spot and guard them like a mommy eagle guards her eggs until February 14, 2019. On that day, I complete my year without sugar. On that day, I will set the course for my food-related future. On that day, I will eat them.

It will be glorious.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Chavr- ... Clervaux!


Here I am, in a cute little boulangerie in a small town about an hour's train ride from Luxembourg City, drinking coffee and being disrespectful. How is that? Because the town is called Clervaux yet my brain keeps morphing the name into "Chavroux", which is not a town at all, but a brand of fresh goat cheese... I mean, it's good cheese and I really like it, so it's not really that offensive..? Just don't tell the townspeople or forward this blog to them. Thanks.

Le cheese. 

Clervaux is my Dinant. I'm not actually going there after all, because the return trip there is over 5 hours by train, with changes, and costs EUR 55,00. Either one of those factors would be fine on its own, but the combination is a dealbreakee. So, I had a quick look online and decided to come to cheesetown instead. This is only about an hour from Luxembourg and, interestingly, accessible with a day ticket that covers all trains and buses in the country and costs only EUR 4,00. The cheese and the distance were the deciding factors; the cool ticket is just an added bonus.

Gare centrale. 

This face is called "yay exploration". 

Allow me to offer you a piece of unsolicited advice before I continue: if you're going to a new place and have not the slightest idea about anything about it, at least pretend to look at a map. Otherwise, you'll end up doing what I did, because I pulled an isa earlier. After the train attendant kindly confirmed that the train I was in was indeed going to Chavroux, so long as I was actually talking about Clervaux, I got off the train at my stop and headed toward my destination. Except, I was really heading away from it.

I walked along the road all the way to the end of the town, turned around, walked up a side road to another end of the town, turned around, and walked back to the station. That's where I saw the sign that showed the direction to the town's center. Which was the opposite direction of where I'd gone before.

This should have been a hint.

At least, I got close to a bunch of frost-covered bushes - that's a win in my book.

Yaaas, Raureif! 

Walking in the right direction then took me into the town proper, which is very cute and still full of Christmas decorations.

Regular decoration. Nativity. Virgin of Fatima. 

Take a close look at the signpost. 

From there, I went up the central hill (mountain?) (hill.) to the church and the abbey. Both are pretty, and there's interesting stuff to see along the way as well. A bunch of battles to place in this area during the Peasant's War of 1798 as well as WWII and there's commemorative plaques and monuments to teach visitors and help the locals remember.

Commemorating WWII. 

Commemorating 1798.

Getting up to the abbey was great, as it was a very scenic walk up the hill through the forest. There's a regular road to drive or walk up, but there's a path through the trees that makes for a nice bit of exercise for those of us who need to move their legs after they spent literally a whole day sitting down.

Foggy forest. 

There's a small exhibition in the abbey about the monks' lives, which teaches you courage at the same time - because it's creepy af. One small sign, a cellar door with barely any light behind it, then a dark cellar where the lights come on section by section, triggered by a motion sensor and accompanied by the type sound you'd hear of a monster were coming out from a hidden door in the wall behind you.

The shadow in the fog looks really cool.

No, you're scared.

Back down the hill there's a bunch of boulangeries and cafés where they don't really know what a Latte Macchiato is. But they do play the Foundations. And the coffee is good enough to help no-sugar-girl get over the fact that all they have to eat, when it comes to snacks, is tartes, cakes, and white bread.

That's not an espresso, it's filter coffee. What? 

I'm going to look around some more and maybe have an actual meal somewhere later, then head back to the city - if I can find my way and not pull another isa.

À bientôt!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The road to 50.

[03:00] 

I'm on the road to 50.

Not years of life, no. Countries traveled.

And I mean it quite literally, too. I am currently sitting in seat 5A on a flixbus that's taking me to Luxembourg. I won't be when I post this, but I am as I write.

Luxemburg will be my number 50.

I was nervous about this one for a while, because it's a big number so it should be a special country. But what makes a country that kind of special? How do you choose? And who am I to judge? It took months of pondering...

So, in the end I made a super spontaneous decision. And it was a very "me" decision. My friend Avidesh went on a trip and, as one does, regularly posted photos to Facebook. He posted something from an excursion to Luxembourg and it looked pretty, so I said "that's pretty" and booked myself a bus ticket and a hotel room in Luxembourg for the end of the year. One, two, done. Then I saw the photo was from a town in Belgium.

However. However! I'm going anyway and I like the idea. As for the pretty place, it's only about an hour and a half from where I'll be, so I'm thinking about going there for a day.

About to catch the green and orange metro lines to the green and orange bus line. 

Plus, I get to see my friend Nai again after over 10 years (I think) of not seeing each other in person. Living in The Hague, he'll be close enough to swing by, and because he's cool like that and has time, he's actually doing it. I can not wait.

Now, the other, bigger reason it was so hard to decide on number 50 is my rustiness. I haven't gone anywhere in ages. I haven't done anywhere since Malta.

I'm watching myself get more neurotic and less flexible by the day and while I do try to combat that development, I'm fighting too many battles on too many fronts at the same time to make effective headway anywhere. At least, that's how it feels a lot of the time. It's not nearly as bad as it sounds and, objectively, I'm doing really well. Like, reeeally well. But I'm not yet in a place where I can feel that. Getting there, though, I'm sure.

So, being scared of everything made choosing a new place to put myself in for a few days daunting, to say the least. The snap decision made it easier and I'm very grateful for my inability to properly read and understand Facebook photo captions.

And why the hell by bus?!
Curiosity, mostly.

I keep seeing these green and orange buses everywhere and wanted to know what the service is like. The reason I chose a 17h trip for my taste test is another instance of the good old oops-I-didn't-consider-that-until-after-the-fact.

Could I have immediately cancelled my reservation and gotten a flight instead? Yep. But I decided to stick with it for two reasons. One is that I wanted to challenge myself. This is harder, less comfortable, and takes more patience and endurance. I do this a lot, make things unnecessarily hard on myself. I want to see if I can do it. Don't ask me why, please. The other is that I used to travel by bus a lot when I was still that different person that got lost along the way somewhere. The free and simple one. I explored so much of South America by bus and not the luxurious kind. Oh the stories I could tell... but it's not like I have a travel blog or something. I've been on a bus for more than 17 hours more than once. But I was in my early twenties then. I'm in my early thirties now. I want to see the difference, how old this really is.

Here I am, then. By the left window on the top level of a green and orange bus, barely three hours into the trip.

Me being incredibly aware of what I've gotten myself into. 

I shall keep checking in.

[06:30]

First stop (not counting the gas station a few hours ago): Munich.

My "view". 

A lot of people have gotten off the bus here and the guy sitting next to me has taken the chance to get a row to himself from here on. Obviously, I also have a row to myself now.

I have already decided that, if I do this again, I'm springing the extra Euros to get the seat in the front row or by the stairs. Much more legroom there. I have not yet decided if I'm ever doing this again.

I'm seriously tired by now - maybe the girl that can't sleep without a pill shouldn't travel in a bus full of strangers across Germany overnight. But it's too late now for anything to be done about that. That's fine, though, I'll figure it out.

I miss my kittie a lot, but it's good for him to have a break from his silly old human every once and again.

Off I go to stretch my legs a bit around this Munich parking lot close by the bus terminal, because we are taking a break now.

Let's see how this continues.

[07:00]

My non-seat-reserving neighbour had returned, because somebody else got on the bus and he was in their seats. My fifteen minutes of comfort are thus over.

Note to self: find out how much more it would cost to reserve two seats and avoid row-mates altogether.

[09:15]

We're past the halfway mark!

Geographically, we're just past Ulm.

The driver just took the wrong exit on a roundabout and then went on to reverse this double-decker bus back into the actually que busy roundabout in order to get onto the autobahn heading to Stuttgart. I feel safe..?

Raureif-Nebel-Suppe

[10:05]

Still alive!

Also went on the adventure of using the on-board restroom and was very positively surprised. It was not at all disgusting. Contrary to the two teenagers currently sitting behind me, who have neither manners nor any filter (the boy actually seems like a nice kid, but the girl is just gross) - but I think they're about to get off the bus and then the only annoying thing left will be that one cell phone that rings every little while and wakes everyone but the owner.

By now, the sun intense enough that there's no frost and ice left on any plants except for the grass next to the road. It was pretty; I'm curious to see if there'll be any in the mornings in Luxembourg.

[12:30]

I just had what I will call lunch, because it's noonish. Plain bread, because I wanted to make sure I'd bring quiet and non-smelly food. I'm spending a lot of time with a lot of people, after all. Nobody else has loud or smelly food, either, so far - but that's not stopping the smells... If I didn't check the time, my nose would be able to tell me that I've been this (mostly) enclosed space with a bunch of other primates for twelve and a half hours.

It was all easier during the night, because people don't usually eat and drink while they're asleep. But now, especially at stops, odors are happening. And there's more talking now, too, especially on phones. I'm not complaining, just observing. This is normal.

It's not how I remember it, though. Traveling by bus in Latin America there was always a movie being shown, so there was less taking. And not everyone had a cell phone and was constantly yapping away on it. And the smells were taken care of by the crazy high air conditioning. The recycled, freezing air didn't stink like this, not once. Instead, you were packed into all the overclothes you had or had to buy a blanket at a treat stop. Here, because it's winter, the heating is, which like your average household microwave, intensifies the attacks on your nose. There, then, the season and climate didn't matter: you were traveling a fridge set on high and there was nothing to smell. And even if there was, you wouldn't, because your nose was frozen solid. Yes, I exaggerate, but they're find memories.

This is not like that. But it's ok.

Now, I'll see if Misters Solo and Calrissian can distract me from my neighbour's violent snoring.

Pretending I'm on the Falcon, not a stuffy bus. 

Oh, also, I think we went past a nuclear plant a while ago and right now we're approaching Heidelberg.

[13:42]

OH MY GOD I FOUND THE POWER OUTLET!!!

I got the power! 

The way back is going to be so much better...

This is the first time I really have both the window and the aisle seat to myself, so not only am I much, much more comfortable now, I was also able to bend down and look for the outlet under my seat. I couldn't see it before, because I wasn't able to look there.

And because I don't have to conserve battery power anymore, I was also able to connect to flixbus' WiFi and am online now. Back in the connected world and without having to worry about my phone running out of juice. Podcasts, here I come.

[16:15]

Here we are, in the last hour, on the home stretch. Away stretch? One more stop coming up in Germany, then it's my turn to leave the bus.

With sunset lighting for special effects. 

There are white trees and bushes to the left and right of the road again; it's so pretty. I wonder if I'll get a close-up of that makeup of nature while I'm in Luxembourg; back home it's too warm at the moment for that kind of frost to form.

[18:00]

Time jump.

I'm in my hotel room now, ready to end the day. I have a lot of catching up to do regarding sleep, so I'm not heading out tonight. The rest of the ride went smoothly, although we did arrive with a slight delay.

Luxembourg Central Station.

The exploration starts tomorrow morning.

I already dropped onto this bed and will not get back up until morning. 

Let's see if Luxembourg can handle the pressure of being

50.