Lovely Luxembourg!

Mar 22nd, 2017, 09:14 AM
  #1  
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Lovely Luxembourg!

DH and I, as proud parents of our extremely talented violinist DD, are beyond thrilled to support her and her accomplished peers by attending the annual international high school honor orchestra performance that rotates between schools in Europe and Asia. This isn't a "participation trophy" style event; more than 160 violinists alone from across European, Asian, and South American high schools auditioned last autumn for 42 chairs; and the performance reflects the caliber of those selected.

So it was to The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg we flew for a whirlwind weekend-ish, to tour the medieval capital city and to attend the performance.

Airlines
Swiss, Helvetic, and LuxAir. Our outbound connection, perhaps because I did not look closely at the flights, included a two-hour layover in Zurich. Ugh. So it was a Swiss 60 minutes up-and-down from Vienna to Zurich, where we ate an overpriced lunch (setting the dining theme for the weekend); then caught a puddle-jumper on Helvetic for the roughly 45 minute skip from Zurich to Luxembourg, whose airport is the size befitting a country no bigger than the U.S. state of Rhode Island.

Swiss was excellent. DH (2 meters+ in height) and I had the emergency row seats. The light snack of a croissant and a small chocolate bar made me happy.

Helvetic, Swiss’ regional carrier, was also fine. Highly respectable legroom and an altogether smooth flight. Plus another chocolate bar.

LuxAir. Nonstop from LUX to VIE on a Bombadier Turbo Prop. Not my favorite, so I made DH squish in to the window seat to block my peripheral view of the spinning prop. Another smooth flight with respectable leg room and a baguette sandwich that was worth eating. No chocolate bar, however.

Lodging
Hotel Grand Cravat. Fingers were crossed as reviews were all over the place; it was their “Weekend Package” that inspired me to make a reservation. Within moments of arriving, DH and I both had the same thought: “We’re at The Grand Budapest Hotel!” Quirky with a fading elegance, and with a staff (and a bartender) whose attention to guests would make Monsieur Gustav proud.

Two amusing notes about our room. Spacious, with 12-foot ceilings and new hardwood/laminate floor and with a view over the (completely scaffolded) Adolphe Bridge. The bathroom was immaculate, as if it had not been touched since the 1950’s, when it was last renovated. Keeping the bathroom immaculate was easy, though, because it was the size of half of my kitchen. To make up for the size the toiletries were luxurious, containing Luxembourgian honey. And the water pressure was spa-like.

The beds were old school European, two independent twins that could not be connected. Adding to the amusement was that they were both on wheels that could not be locked, so by morning we had drifted nearly a half-meter apart! Hilarious to us, but to others, perhaps not.

The breakfast was European continental, and we were both convinced the coffee was French-press as we enjoy at home.

Luxembourg City Impressions

With just 36 hours, some of which were elsewise dedicated, we used our arrival afternoon and its sunshine to walk pretty much the entire city. I fell in love with the old city instantly, perched atop cliffs, and overlooking the gorges cut by the rivers Alzette and Petrusse. My camera seemed to never stop snapping, especially with the early blooms of spring color photo-bombing the city scenes.

Luxembourg's building’s colors are understated and elegant; whispering while walking about would seem perfectly appropriate here. The city is also incredibly Instagramm-able, in both sunshine and rain, as we discovered the following day.

The Grand Ducal Palace
Were it not for the guards, one might not even notice this stately yet humble home to the Royal Family. So very different from many of the palaces we have seen.

The Bock Casemates
Saturday dawned wet and windy, though perfect for exploring the 1.000 year old Bock Casemates. Long story short: in 963 a mighty Count built a fortified castle atop Bock promontory, and thus Luxembourg was born. By the by, the Burgundians, the Spaniards, the French, the Austrians and the Germans added their signatures to create the, "Gibraltar of the North" with 3 fortified rings of 24 forts and a 23km tunnel city-like network. Because much of the casemates could not be demolished without destroying parts of the city once Europe was "settled," they remain, with several kilometers open for independent touring. In a word, amazing!

The remainder of our time in Luxembourg was spent idly shopping and lunching before heading to the performance.  We strolled the farmer’s market and collected a few non-perishable items to bring home, including a jar of EU-protected Miel de Marque Nationale Luxembourgeois. Luxembourg honeys are made by more than 180 local producers, and since 1948 are certified to be of 100% Luxembourgian origin. Keeping all the bees in the country in order to keep the honey "pure" must be quite a challenge.

One stall in particular stopped us in our tracks. Rotisserie Chicken. Real. Rotisserie. Chicken. Almost always our first, and final meal, from a traiteur in Paris' 6eme whenever we visit. At home in Vienna we have had intermittent success finding reasonable surrogates, but even the best we have found still falls short of having that certain je ne sais quoi. Quite literally we spent 10 full minutes strategizing on whether we could ask the hotel concierge if 1) they might reheat this for us for dinner; and 2) throw in some dinnerware so that we could enjoy it in our suite after the performance.  In the end we decided the plan was not viable.

We wandered into Luxembourg's best-known patisserie, Oberweiss and oohed and drooled over their Tarte au Citron Amalfi and pate wrapped in butter crusts.

To my delight I found several French brands in the city and browsed among them, bringing home a few lovely spring pieces to update my wardrobe. I also simply had to drop into Monoprix to bring home some favorite French goodies.

Dining
Expensive. We dined at the restaurant associated with the hotel on our arrival evening. I was impressed that my Steak Americain (Steak Tartare) was prepared to order in front of me, but a little less impressed with its €26 tab. (Again, in Vienna our favorite Serbian restaurant offers a spectacular tartare for €15.) DH ordered a filet with Béarnaise sauce, and we shared a bottle of Luxembourgian Pinot Gris. Now, one of the children will have to pay their own way through University.

Lunch on the following day was at Paul, a French chain. Two sandwiches, two glasses of wine, and dessert and coffee tallied nearly €80.

Following the orchestra performance we returned to the hotel late, where the entirely thoughtful concierge suggested that we have a light supper sent to our room from the restaurant. By the time I had showered, a Caesar Salad for two and two glasses of Pinot Gris had arrived, along with a small basket of crispy Pommes Frites. Perfect.

Thirty-six hours flies quickly when you're having fun, and before we knew it we were boarding our little Bombadier Turbo Prop for the return home. Äddi, Luxembourg!

Thank you for reading.
fourfortravel is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2017, 10:49 AM
  #2  
 
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Very enjoyable. Thanks for sharing. We were in Belgium last year and planning to go to Luxembourg. But a train strike prevented it. Next time!
Treesa is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2017, 11:27 AM
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I don't know why Luxembourg gets little respect here. Beyond the City the countryside and castles are well worth seeing.
thursdaysd is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2017, 11:29 AM
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Lovely report and thank you for it ~
When we visited it was for a brief afternoon so I envy your longer time.

But we walked all over the city and I had my first Kir Royale, later followed by my first Pernod, so it was educational.

And congrats on your gifted violinist!
29FEB is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2017, 12:46 PM
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Thanks to fourfortravel for highlighting Luxembourg positively.

Luxembourg City gets panned a lot here as being boring but I always thought it interesting as well as a novelty (went there about 30 times in business) - well worth a day and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is really nice -lots of lovely pastoral countryside with old castles, etc. Good train and bus service if you don't have a car.

Luxembourg City is gorgeous as it is bisected by a deep gorge.

One site just outside of Luxembourg is the U S Military Cemetery where Gen Patton is buried - having been killed I believe in a Jeep accident just after WW2 ended. In Hamm very close to Findel Airport.

Luxembourg was the first European country I ever visited (after Iceland) because it was where Icelandair -the 'hippie airline' =cheapest from U.S. landed in Europe because of cheap landing fees.
PalenQ is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2017, 12:51 PM
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Thanks for your report. We rarely get reports on Luxembourg.
Kathie is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2017, 01:08 PM
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I loved the countryside in Luxembourg - the rolling hills, the little towns like Vianden. Hope to go back again someday, perhaps when it's not raining next time!
Andrew is online now  
Mar 22nd, 2017, 04:25 PM
  #8  
 
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fourfor - I have often read good things about Luxembourg which begs the question why I have always ignored them.

thanks for taking the trouble to tell us about your trip in your usual entreatingly style and good luck to the violinist!
annhig is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2017, 12:24 AM
  #9  
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Thank you, everyone for your kind words. We, too, had never given much thought to Luxembourg as a holiday destination. Once our travel date grew nearer I realized that we could have used another day, to visit Vianden and the U.S. Military Cemetery. (On a side note, our hotel served as housing for General Bradley and his troops as they prepared for what became the Battle of the Bulge. His signed photo thanking Mssr. Cravat hangs proudly in the lobby.)

Now that we have been to its capital, the little country is on my radar for perhaps the Christmas market season. Trier, Germany is also within striking distance, so the combination might make for a lovely long weekend.
fourfortravel is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2017, 06:46 AM
  #10  
 
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Vianden is almost too picturesque. Luxembourg is worth seeing in summer, too. This is what I wrote about the "Little Switzerland" area:

While the area didn't look like any picture of Switzerland I've ever seen, it had its own charms. Uplands with open fields and steep-sided river valleys were connected by rock-walled ravines and deep forests ... I drove through the dappled shade of tree-tunnels into the shadow of strange rock formations. I walked through evergreens to a cascading mountain stream, and later through a high rock maze labeled 'the Labyrinth'. And I found a wonderfully evocative ruined castle at Beaufort.

I didn't care for the Moselle area as much, but I don't find vineyards particularly attractive, YMMV. I spent a couple of nights in the Hotel Bisdorff - comfortable, a bit shabby, excellent food - but that was over a decade ago and the reviews now are a bit mixed. I had some excellent cheese and wine in the City at http://www.kaempff-kohler.lu
thursdaysd is offline  

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