Sunday, September 11, 2005

Karyn in Luxembourg

Yesterday I took an MWR trip to Luxembourg City. MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) is a military organization that plans activities for military and their dependents. Here in Europe, they very frequently arrange coach trips to various destinations. Usually they are day trips, but sometimes the trips last all weekend.

Anyway, the trip to Luxembourg took about 3 hours. We drove through the Belgian Ardennes (past Bastogne) down into Luxembourg, and shortly after passing the border, we were in Luxembourg City. It's the largest city in Luxembourg, but doesn't have the feel of a capital city at all.

When our bus arrived, a tour guide got on and showed us the city's sights. Our first stop - the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial, where over 5,000 WWII dead are buried. General Patton is also buried there. He died after the war ended, but his will requested that he be buried there with his men.

There is a Nazi cemetery down the street from the American one. I wanted to go in and look at it, but sadly, the tour did not include that. We did learn that over 9,000 Nazi soldiers are buried in that cemetery, approximately 5,000 of them in a mass grave.

The bus brought us back into town, where the guide pointed out various landmarks. We stopped at the casemates (the city fortifications) to look at the views of the valley below.

The bus tour ended around lunch-time, so we got off the bus, splitting off to do our own thing for the day. The guy who had been sitting next to me on the bus, Nels, asked if I would mind if he joined me, provided I didn't plan to spend my day shopping. I didn't plan to spend my day shopping, so I agreed to let him accompany me.

Our first stop was to find some lunch. We walked into a square with a variety of restaurants. I spied a Chi Chi's and I hadn't had Mexican food in some time. He agreed this was fine, so we decided to split a combination plate of their nachos. Honestly, the food was lousy. Chi Chi's isn't a great Mexican restaurant to begin with, but the overseas ones are really bad. I regret going there to eat. While we were eating (al fresco, I might add, although we were under an umbrella), it started sprinkling a bit.

After lunch, we decided to just walk around for awhile. The sky started darkening and we knew worse rain was coming (I was prepared, Nels was not). We ducked into a church when the rain started pouring down - Eglise St. Michel.

Once the rain let up a bit, we found ourselves going back toward the casemates. You can take tours inside it. There are various tunnels and caves inside where battles were fought. The rain started coming down again, so we decided to get tickets for the casemates tour and then spent the next hour or more walking through pitch black tunnels and going down slippery, narrow, winding stairs.

By the time we left the casemates, the rain had stopped and the sun came out again, so it started to get really muggy and miserable.

After that, we mostly wandered around, stopping for McFlurries at McDonald's. There was a jazz band playing in the square, so we listened in for a few minutes and then moved on.

We toured the Notre Dame cathedral, which isn't nearly as impressive as Cologne's, Strasbourg's, or Westminster Abbey. But it was still pretty.

About 45 minutes before we had to meet up with the bus to go home, we stopped at a restaurant called La Boucherie for drinks. (I wish we had eaten there for lunch. The food looked really good. And it was just 2 doors down from Chi Chi's). They had a new flavor of Cola Light - Sango (orange-flavored) that is being test-marketed in Luxembourg and Belgium. So I ordered that. It was very nice. (I ended up buying a big bottle of it to take home when the bus stopped just outside Liege on the way back).

Even though we didn't do much, we saw a lot of sights, and I could appreciate the things about Luxembourg that weren't particularly touristy. There were a lot of interesting details on both residential and commercial buildings, so I tried to photograph those things. The part of the city that lies in the valley seemed to be largely untouched by tourist traffic, so we enjoyed wandering around there as well. It was peaceful and quiet, with just a few sidewalk cafes and nothing that particularly catered to tourists.

We did a lot of walking, particularly on very steep (wet) cobblestone streets, which was a lot of fun, let me tell you. And there was a lot of stair climbing as well. But what I found to be really interesting about Luxembourg is that you can appreciate it on various levels. The views of the valley from the top of the casemates are equally as wonderful as the views from the valley. And in-between is nice too. I hope my pictures demonstrate that.


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