**It has been quite a busy month for me and unfortunately, I wasn’t able to put something up. All good because now I am back (YAY!) and I am glad to finally have the time again to catch up and reconnect with my past travels and thoughts.
Almost 2 years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Luxembourg while being around BeNeLux during fall. Not really knowing what to expect, I just counted on my friend’s word that it’s really worth a visit. Clearly, it is. Not only was I able to see it for myself, but it also the place where I got quite a bit of an experience with the hardship of language barrier, unfamiliar French food, and discovered the real value of attention to time. You see, I had a few mishaps while being here. It was something quite frustrating at that time, but afterwards, it’s just a funny story to tell (you may want to go skip a few and look for it at the latter part of this blog).
The city of Luxembourg (the country’s capital of the same name) is just a pleasant 3 hour train ride from Brussels. It’s just a few hours away with a good view of the country side. Once there, it is easy to find your way around.
For someone planning a day tour, the most visited sites could be found at the High City (Ville Haute) and the Low City (Ville Basse). The High City is where the concentration of medieval buildings are, while the Low City is a small valley that has a very picturesque view of houses/buildings surrounded by the Alzette river. There are also a lot of fortifications between the High and Low City.
Being there reminded me a bit of Toledo. It’s also relatively small, a bit uphill with a view downhill, and has that medieval vibe especially in the streets. Although that’s quite common in Europe, still. It isn’t congested too and there weren’t that many tourists just like when I visited Toledo. Luxembourg though feels more like a city for some reason.
The High City.
Luxembourg did not feel touristy, not even busy as compared to the other cities I’ve seen. Being there felt quite weird at first, like being out of place. But then again it was really easy to get consumed with my own little world. I started my walk around the High City and noticed that this place too was a bit of a hike. I guess it isn’t called High City for no reason. Along the way I passed by the Cathedrale of Notre Dame and the Grand Ducal Palace, which is the official residence of the Duke, to name a few important sites.
Cathedrale of Notre Dame
Cathedrale of Notre Dame
Grand Ducal Palace
Grand Ducal Palace
I was trying to get myself to the Casemates du Bock, Luxembourg’s fortifications, prior to visiting the Low City. However, I found myself on the opposite side of the map. You see, it was hard to navigate without the usual obvious street name display, especially when there is no fine line between the high and low city. Little did I know that it’s where I stood (above it, of course) at some point.
I eventually found myself in what seemed like an empty balcony where most of the Low City could be viewed. This balcony was as autumn as it could get. With the autumn leaves, an empty bench, and a very good view, it was just surreal. It was a perfect place to sit and reflect. There isn’t really anything like this from where I’m from. And it isn’t every day that I get the opportunity to go out and about as well. It’s quite gratifying.
I sat there for a while but had to get up quickly. I wish I had the luxury of time. As I moved along, I met a nice lady who was kind enough to tell me where I was exactly (at the map). She also (jinxed my day’s “luck”–kidding!!) told me that I was lucky, because it was raining for the past few days and only then it wasn’t. From where I standing was a really good view of the Low City.
The Low City.
Originally I wanted to go and explore the Low City further. I knew I didn’t have enough time so I decided to let it pass for the time being.
The town fortresses could be seen from the balcony with the view of both the High and Low City, as well as the Alzette River and the Casemates du Bock.
The High City and Casemates du Bock at the rightmost area of the fortification
The Low City, being surrounded by the Alzette River and the Casemates du Bock at the top left area
I eventually found myself exactly at where Casemates du Bock stood. I was able to take the photo of the said plaque thinking that this is the best I could get of it. At this time, I couldn’t figure out why I haven’t had the opportunity to see it further. Little did I know that I what I saw earlier was an even better view of it from afar (see photos above).
I moved back to see the rest of the city, sent a postcard, and grabbed a meal before heading back to the train station.
“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” Here’s how Christmas season is like in Luxembourg.
EPIC FAIL: The French Food Experience
Quite hungry, I found myself in one of the non-English speaking restaurants and for some reason, I chose to be seated outside. There was a heater but it wasn’t enough. I can’t figure out why I decided to endure it, because I remained seated outside for the rest of my dinner. Maybe because I wanted for it to be quick? It was time to make an order and I couldn’t speak French. The waiter can’t speak English either. I just ordered something that looked nice on the menu. I asked a few info about it, he answered but to no avail. Minutes later, my food arrived and it was raw. Raw beef. Something that I hadn’t tried ever. It would’ve been nice for someone else. But not for me. I tried but for some reason, I couldn’t swallow it. It would’ve been easier for me to eat something exotic for as long as it’s cooked. But not this one, even if it’s something “very fancy French.” Pardon me food aficionados.
I naively asked the waiter to just have it cooked, even if it wasn’t how it’s supposed to be. Instead, he asked for me to get something else. Thus, I ordered something very familiar: Beef Kebab. It’s medium rare but at least it’s cooked. So much better. The waitress (on shift) got me the bill and charged me for both. I told her that there was a mistake and so she removed the first one.
When I was finally left by the last train home.
It was time for me to leave and take the other route to the train station and get the 2nd to the last trip for the night. Along the way I met a few kababayan (kababayan: fellow countrymen) and had a quick chat, consciously watching my time. That quick chat made me skip the 2nd to the last train and gratefully, there was one more ride to go. Complacent, I waited for my train to arrive and for some reason, it was late. I thought, I should be seated right now waiting for it to depart. But instead, I was still outside, waiting. It was very unusual as I’ve become accustomed to the on-time schedule of trains in Europe.
I stood up from where I was seated to ask for the arrival of the last train. Maybe it was late or maybe there was a problem. I asked only to find out that it left without me knowing and that the platform where I should have been isn’t where I actually was. No more train for the night. Nowhere else to go (the station would close by 11 pm). No internet at the train station. No reliable person to ask for any recommendation about overnight accommodation. No one knew anything, not even those at the travel information counter. And even my phone did not cooperate. I was on the brink of having a low battery charge. And before I forget, I was under the weather too!
Not knowing what to do, I sat outside hoping for some miracle. I was an amateur at this, I thought. Two hours later, I finally stood up and crossed the street without even realizing that I was doing it. I just did, eventually getting myself inside this hotel that this kababayan of mine earlier told as one which is really expensive. I can’t believe that I was seated at the lobby with free wi-fi. Even better that this guy had a cell phone charger that I was able to borrow. I immediately broke into tears out of frustration and even if they actually had better things to do, they paid attention. No, I do not intend to check in. I was hoping to stay at the lobby though.
Thanks to the reliable wi-fi and the charged phone battery, I was able to find a hostel which is about 19 euros (with a 5-euro refund upon checkout) to stay for the night. Kudos to a good friend who immediately looked one for me before my phone shutdown earlier. Because Luxembourg isn’t really a touristy place, there weren’t really that much hostels and this one that I got was still a bus ride away.
The night finally came to an end and the next thing I knew, I was leaving the hostel to catch the Brussels train ride at the darkest almost 7am that I’ve ever seen. All is well again and I was able to get myself back on the train tracks.
Who would’ve thought that this is the place where language would really become a barrier between me and my food (at the time when I was really starving)? And, that this is where my good non-rainy weather would be jinxed later on? (By that I mean being left by the last train and almost unable to find a place for the night in the middle of the cold autumn weather).
I’d take the no-rain and the jinx any day than being there and risk slipping or just staying indoors because of rainfall. 🙂
Quick Tips (or must I say, Lessons Learned?):
1. It is very uncommon for the train to be late in this part of the world. If you haven’t seen your train minutes before your departure (without a “late notice), chances are, you’re at the wrong platform as well. Don’t be deceived with the signs/directions. Sometimes, you could get jinxed without knowing it and the next thing you know, you’ll have to stay in for the night as well! Ouch!
2. If you don’t know French just like I do, and you’re really starving and don’t have enough time to take chances, order the safest food that you know!
3. There’s a free wi-fi at the hotel across the train station. Better be ready by ensuring your battery’s phone is charged enough though.
4. I wasn’t able to explore the Low City, so if you have the chance, do it! 😀