Saturday, December 1, 2012

Thanksgiving in the 'Bourgs: Strasbourg and Luxembourg

With Thanksgiving coming up, we tried to come up with ideas of where to go on a 4 day weekend. We decided on Copenhagen, but the tickets were expensive. Then we thought about Nice, France. But the flight times didn't work. We thought about going somewhere in Germany. We considered staying home.

Then Fionn suggested, why not Luxembourg?

I was skeptical about tiny, unknown European countries that start with L after our Liechtenstein experience. But Fionn insisted Luxembourg was bigger, cooler, and way more awesome than Liechtenstein, so I agreed.

We decided to break up the trip and see Strasbourg first. It was so great being in France again! My French really got a workout. Our hotel, Villa d'Est, was amazing. The room was great, the location was good, and we got a great last minute deal. Yeah!

We only had one day in Strasbourg, so we tried to see as much of the old city as we could. I'd been there once before when I was studying in France, but it was nice to go again. We saw the Cathedral, lots of goofy stork hats, and we stopped at a bunch of bakeries to try the treats in the window (including Kugelhof!). They were setting up the Christmas markets, but sadly none of them were open yet. Boo :(

Finally, we stopped at an Alsatian restaurant and had Alsatian specialties for our Thanksgiving dinner. Fionn even tried snails for the first time (and liked them!).

The next day it was back on the train to head to Luxembourg!

Fionn was right, Luxembourg was awesome!

We only got to see the main city (Luxembourg City) but it was such a cool place. We arrived in the afternoon and took a scenic walk into the old city. Luxembourg used to be a huge, walled fortress and the fortress walls are still there. It's currently run by a Duke, who is pretty popular with the people, mostly because he seems to be a down to earth guy.

We walked all through the city as it got dark, and finally decided to stop in a restaurant we'd heard about on the internet for some real Luxembourgish food.

Luxembourg is famous for unfiltered beer, so Fionn tried that and I had some white wine from the Mosel region. Fionn ate boudin (blood sausage) and I had "sucking pig", as the English translated menu called it ;) It all came with Luxembourgish sides-broad beans in gravy, potaotes, apple sauce, sauerkraut, and caramelized onions. We were pretty stuffed by the end, and even though we were tired, we decided to walk back to our hotel to make up for our gluttony :)

Saturday we got up early to explore the city by daylight. We visited the Cathedral where the Duke was recently married, saw the Palace, and stumbled upon an outdoor market. We signed up for a walking tour given by the Tourist Office, and then visited the Art and History Museum.

Afterwards we did some shopping and Fionn had his first macaron. They were so good, and the lady even gave us a cassis flavored one to try for free! Mmmm... We also found a guy giving free samples of Swiss fondue. He melted this huge wheel of cheese under a heat lamp, flipped the cheese wheel, scraped the melted cheese onto a plate, cracked pepper over it and served it. It was so delicious.

Soon it was time for our walking tour. It was great. Our tour guide was so friendly, funny, and knowledgeable, and she showed us so many cool things. It was one of the best tours I've been on and I really felt like I got a good feel for Luxembourg.

The tour ended around 6, so unfortunately we didn't have time to see the American Cemetery and Battle of the Bulge stuff or see where General Patton is buried (yeah, I didn't know he was buried in Luxembourg either). However, at the advice of our fellow tour mates, we tried out this Tex-Mex restaurant called Chi Chi's. Holy wow. It was really good, and pretty spot on for Tex Mex. Normally European Mexican food is shorthand for "Terrible Attempt at Reinventing Turkish plus German food and calling it Mexican" but this place actually got it right. Fionn had enchiladas and I had a beef taco and chicken taquito with Mexican salad and beans and rice, and it was all good. Definitely felt like a chain restaurant, but it was Mexican!! :)

We both liked Luxembourg so much we were sad when Sunday rolled around and we had to return home. I thought it was a great place and so interesting! Plus it was wonderful to speak French again and be around French culture. That was a really cool part about Luxembourg-they have 3 official languages (French, German, and Luxembourgish) and they use they all simultaneously. Shopkeepers and waiters speak to you mainly in French, laws are written in French, but the newspaper and TV are mostly in German. Funny, right?

Anyway, check out Luxembourg if you get the chance and make sure to take one of the Tourism Office's tours!

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