Friday, April 6, 2012

Luxembourg- Spring Break in the Low Countries, Day 2-3

Continuing last week’s post (link here) from Europe:

Following our 9+ hour flight in Delta’s Business Elite cabin from Portland to Amsterdam, Bo and I hopped a train from the Netherlands to Belgium. From Brussels, we rode the rails to Luxembourg City.

Tickle the "Play" button above for a short video of our weary arrival at the Luxembourg City train station.

Finding a room in Luxembourg City was somewhat painless for my dad and me. IMG_3947.JPG Our train from Brussels conveniently dropped us off in time to field a couple of on-location “No Vacancy” conversations before learning about a last minute cancellation at the Hotel Restaurante Italia.

We dropped off our bags in the room upstairs SAM_0086.JPG and made our way to the Avenue de la Gare Viaduc bridge, which crosses the Vallee de la Petrusse and veers towards Luxembourg Centre. The mix of businesses and shops in the city center didn’t hold our attention for long.

The historic part of town was infinitely more interesting. IMG_3969.JPG The cobblestone streets of Luxembourg City’s Old Town had a charming, fairy tale vibe to them that evoked memories of my weeklong stay in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

CameraZOOM-20120328085716491.jpg Old Town’s only letdowns were the scaffolding that partially obstructed our view of the Cathedrale de Notre Dame (pictured) and the Royal Palace’s lack of distinctiveness.

IMG_3981.JPG During my previous travels through Luxembourg I regretted not taking the time to walk to the ruins of the cliff-top Bock fortress, strategically located to defend the city from enemies in the 17th century.

IMG_3985.JPG Walking along Chemin de la Corniche, "Europe's most beautiful balcony," provided a memorable route for Bo and I to access to the Bock fortress.

IMG_3989_edited-1.JPG Look Ma, one hand! Much of the remaining 17 km of Bock Casemates rock tunnels carved into the cliff at la Forteresse de Luxembourg were closed off. We improvised our own self-guided tour!

IMG_3996.JPGIMG_3995.JPG Bo obliged me with a brief view of the Neumunster Abbey complex in the Grund before we meandered back to southern Luxembourg at dusk. We had differing opinions about dropping in at the packed hipster hotspot Urban in Old Town, so I attempted to mask my longing looks as we passed by the crowds lining up to get inside.

IMG_3998.JPG I’ve always told my friends at home about the tiny food and drink portions in Europe (relative to our supersized plates in the U.S.), but outdoor eatery La Fountaine Pizzaria in the Place de Paris plaza proved me wrong. And I LOVE being wrong about small food portions!

The next morning, Bo and I were thankful that our comfy Hotel Restaurante Italia also served grub downstairs (would you believe that Italian cuisine was the specialty?). Breakfast was on the house.

IMAG2240.jpg We split up after checkout so I could make a morning jog over to the U.S. embassy (pictured) while Bo shopped for a warm weather hat. Luxembourg City seemed easy to navigate with my cartoonish tourist map, so I made great time.

Leave it to me to get a little too creative with the alternate return route, though. I ended up jogging against traffic down a one way, seemingly endless underground tunnel that was CLEARLY not intended for pedestrians. The tunnel entrance spit me out onto a totally unexpected neighborhood of Luxembourg (Pro Tip: Tourist maps may only include the exit, not the entrance, of underground tunnels- Wah!). I laughed at myself as I tried to maintain a brisk running pace while navigating my way back to familiar territory.

Not knowing how many minutes we had to spare before the next international train departure, I sprinted across town to hook up with Bo at the Place de Paris plaza, collect my bag from the hotel lobby, and descend on the train station.

Next stop: Brussels, Belgium!

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