Monday, October 18, 2004

Anniversary in Clervaux

Once again, it's time for another "Karyn and Lance took a trip somewhere" update. We decided to take a little getaway to Clervaux, Luxembourg because it's was relatively close (a 2 hour drive) and looked to be a pretty nice place to relax. Clervaux is a tiny town with a few things of interest, but not so much that we have to cram in a lot of sightseeing, so it sounded pretty good to us.

We left yesterday at around 10 am. The drive was interesting, since there was construction and we were made to go on a detour that took us on some pretty winding mountain roads. The area is in the Ardennes mountain region, which stretches from southern Belgium to northern Luxembourg. The Battle of the Bulge was fought in this region during WWII. We went through some picturesque small villages and past some really quaint hotels and restaurants.

When we finally got to Clervaux, we were pleasantly surprised at our hotel. It wasn't where we wanted to stay originally, but it was a 4 star hotel and the nicest one we've stayed in so far since we've been in Europe. It had a king size bed, a balcony that looked out onto a mountainside with a view of a charming little church and old railroad buildings, and a bathroom with a bidet. We had never seen a bidet before, so we had no idea what it was at first. The room was also quite large...most of the hotel rooms we've stayed in so far have been cramped. We had no shower, but a big bathtub, which was good enough. We were half-board guests, meaning that we got dinner and breakfast with our room rate, but it was only about lunch time when we arrived, so we decided to venture out in search of lunch.

It was quite cold and I was in the mood for soup or a sandwich. So we walked to 10 minutes or so into the touristy part of town. Most everything was closed except for the restaurants, the Chateau de Clervaux (Clervaux Castle), and the Abbey. We stopped to look at one of the few WWII monuments set up to honor America before we looked for a place to eat. We found a restaurant called Splendid, which served sandwiches and such, and had a bakery attached. And it wasn't too expensive. So I got the Quiche Lorraine, which was very good. Lance got the spaghetti carbonara.

After we ate, we decided to head to the chateau to have a look around. The chateau houses two museums: the Family of Man and a museum devoted to the Battle of the Bulge. Right inside the castle walls is an American tank from WWII and a howitzer. We decided on the Family of Man museum, which is one of the most famous photography exhibits in the world. There were several hundred black and white photographs depicting human life all over the world. Some of the photographs were pretty famous...some appeared in Life magazine...and I recognized at least one photo from Ansel Adams. It was a very interesting exhibit.

There was a Gregorian chant concert scheduled at the abbey at 3 pm, and I really really wanted to go. So Lance and I decided to head to the abbey after our visit to the chateau. The abbey is at the top of a mountain, so we had a lot of climbing to do to get to the top. There were a couple of trails that went up there. We took the one that took us past the large Clervaux Church, so I could take a look at the beautiful mosaics on the front. We took a peek inside too, but it was very simple on the inside, unadorned except for the stained glass windows.

We reached the abbey around 3, but didn't go to the concert. Lance wasn't particularly interested in it anyway and they wouldn't let people in past 2:50. So we walked around the grounds for a bit to get a closer look at the building and then went to a small museum inside that explains the history of the abbey, the order of the Benedictine monks, and the various musicians that have worked there (the only name I recognized was Claude DeBussy). The museum was all in French, so I didn't understand enough of it to get anything out of it, although Lance and I had to laugh at the picture of the monk in full monk regalia, wielding a weed whacker as he was tending the abbey lawn.

After that little exploration, we decided to go back to the hotel and get some rest. The main point of this trip was relaxation, after all. And it was raining between a fine mist and a pretty steady rain, so we wanted to get warm and dry. So we hung out in our room and watched television for a bit (CNN was the only thing we could find in English), then walked back to Splendid to get a couple of croissants and some drinks to tide us over until dinner, which wasn't being served until 7. After we had our snack, we laid down for a nap.

A little after 7, we went down to the dining room for our dinner. I had no idea what to expect since we never did the half board thing before. I ended up calling it the "No Choice Cafe" because they didn't give us a menu. They just served us food and we had no idea what we were having until they put it in front of us. There were four courses total. The first course was a very smooth and creamy potato soup, served with bread and butter. Lance and I both liked it. However, he was less than thrilled with the second course, which was salmon on toast (I like salmon though, so I didn't mind it) with capers and pearl onions on the side. For our main course, they served us a HUGE very raw steak topped with herb butter with a big bowl of french fries to share between us. And for dessert we had a mirabelle tart, which is a tart with tiny green plums on it (they looked like olives). Lance picked all his off and just ate the crust and whipped cream. I ate mine, but I had no idea what it was, and I didn't particularly care for it. I asked the waiter later on what it was.

So after almost 2 hours of eating, we walked up to our room, feeling nearly ready to explode. After letting the food digest a bit and then taking a bubble bath, we went to bed.

This morning we awoke and went down to breakfast...had a gorgeous meal of croissants, brotchen, various spreads, meats, cheeses, hard boiled eggs, yogurt, orange juice, and some of the best hot chocolate ever. We walked back to Splendid to pick up a couple slices of very luscious looking chocolate layer cake to have for dessert for our anniversary dinner tonight, and we stopped in the grocery to pick up a bottle of Federweissen, which is a seasonal beverage that I heard about from my German friend Katrin. It's not wine, but she calls it "rotten grape juice." It's bottled at the in-between grape and wine stage, I guess. It was cheap, and I hear it's really good, so it's worth a try.

We went back to our hotel, packed up our stuff, stopped to pose for a few pictures together using the self-timer on my camera (because it seems we never get pictures of us together when it's just the two of us traveling). And then we checked out of our hotel and drove home.

No comments: