SJ on the Move

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


This past weekend we took a weekend excursion to Luxembourg, which is a relatively convenient 3 hour train ride away. Our journey began on a rainy Saturday morning at about 8:30 a.m. Interestingly, Saturday was 11-11, which is the official start of the Carnival season in nearby Cologne. So, when we arrived at the train station, there were already about 100 people there all dressed in crazy costumes - some of them already enjoying a beer for breakfast - headed to Cologne. Needless to say, we were very glad that our train was going in the opposite direction.

One of the things that we have really enjoyed about Germany is travelling on the train. Since our apartment is only a 5 minute walk from the main train station, the train is very convenient. Bonn is also on one of the main North-South train lines, and is just a short trip away from Cologne, which is one one of the main East-West lines.

We also learned recently that for a mere 6 Euros per family, you can reserve your own "cabin" on the train, which has just been great for travelling with SJ. She gets to play, and Mom and Dad get to stretch out and relax.

When we arrived in Luxembourg, the weather was unfortunately a lot like the weather we had left in Bonn - bitterly cold, and raining. Undeterred, however, we set out to explore the city.

The most dramatic feature about Luxembourg is the fact that it is built around a rather large valley. This makes for very impressive views, and beautiful old bridges.

Luxembourg has 3 main tourist attractions. The first is the Grand Ducal Palace, which is the city residence of the royal family in Luxembourg. Much to SJ's delight, it is guarded by a "marching guy" who walks up and down the well-worn path in front of the palace and stomps his feet. SJ fell in love with the "marching guys" in front of Buckingham Palace, and was ecstatic to see some more.

Luxembourg, like just about every major city in Europe, has an impressive cathedral, the Church of Our Lady. In addition to being one of the prettiest we've seen in Europe, it had the added benefit of being very warm - which was greatly appreciated on this cold and wet day. Fortunately, SJ has developed a great interest in cathedrals. Unfortunately, she has a difficult time respecting the "Silence Please" signs, so many of our trips to cathedrals end with us ushering a screaming SJ past the stares of disgruntled worshipers.

The last big tourist attraction are the casemates, or fortifications, that have been built up all around the Luxembourg. Situated somewhat on a plateau, surround by cliffs, Luxembourg had a lot of natural defenses. However, these were augmented over the centuries with additional walls and 16 km of underground tunnels built into the cliffs. To use yet another LOTR analogy, think Helm's Deep. In the summertime, it's possible to go exploring in these tunnels, but they are closed in the offseason. Interestingly, they mentioned that Luxembourg has never fallen in battle, but they also mentioned that the city has been occupied at least 3 or 4 times by other nations.

At the end of the day we looked to find a decent restaurant to experience was regional Luxembourgish cuisine. We asked the receptionist at our hotel for a recommendation on a good "family friendly" restaurant that would be good for a 2 year old. Well, I guess the 20 something behind the counter had never seen a 2 year old before because she sent us to a fancy-schmancy Italian place with 18 Euro entrees and 3 wine glasses at each place setting. Needless to say, that is not my definition of "family friendly".

So, we ended up at one of the innumerable Turkish restaurants that you find within Europe. They are fast, and they are cheap, although they could never pass for high cuisine. In a nod towards the local cuisine, in addition to kebaps this Turkish restaurant also served chicken cordon bleu, with french fries. Ah well, fast and cheap. The proprietor was also kind enough to offer SJ a free dessert snack (kind of like a Ho-Ho). Now that's what I call "family friendly".


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