Tart!

This is my first post since the New Year, so I’d like to start by wishing everybody a Happy New Year. I hope, if you did anything, that you had a good time.

I had a quiet time last night. I don’t go much past 9pm these days, I managed until about 10pm last night (thank you, Arnie, but I gave up and am watching the rest this morning!) but was sound asleep by midnight. Even some local fireworks (apparently) didn’t stir me. But last night, I also had a little help…

One thing I do like to do on New Year’s Eve is to crack open a nice bottle of wine. I’ve never drunk large quantities of wine, even less now, but it is something which always fascinated me. I used to love going over to France to visit the wine regions and maybe add something to the collection.

Probably our most successful trip was down to Burgundy in 2002. Not only did we all have a brilliant time, it was very warm, sunny weather and the gite had a pool, but I managed to bring back a few cases of superb wines, direct from the producers. My daughter, who was then about three, even enjoyed coming tasting with me (although her sips were limited, and I was driving)! And Burgundy is hallowed ground in wine terms. There is a road between Dijon and Beaune, the D974, and the villages and vineyards along the road read like a who’s who of world-class wines. Before God invented road numbering, it was simply known as the Route des Grands Crus, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

© Ecrivin.fr

But because I found learning about wine preferable to drinking it, once I returned from France, my collection would only decrease very slowly. So this was my treat last night (or, two glasses of it. The rest is there for today, to enjoy with my cheese sandwich):

Don’t let the grubbiness of the label fool you – it is grubby because I have let it sit, untouched, for twenty years. This is actually a bottle of grand cru wine, 1995 vintage. In (Burgundy) wine terms, a grand cru is the highest reputation vineyard. It refers to the vineyard rather than the particular wine or the year, although the vinyard gains its overall status, of course, based on the wines produced there over the years. A grand cru is about as safe a bet you can get for a good wine.

The grower, the Louis Latour company, owns plots in several vineyards in the region, and the Chateau Corton Grancey ranks high among them. I always liked the French appellation system because just these few labels narrow the origin to a specific couple of fields – in the world – not just for wines but all sorts of other foods too. Plus Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) status guarantees a certain standard. If we think there is any merit in identifying regional foods, we should be using that system too. In the UK, it exists for very few things but is not widespread – we’ve usually no idea where our food has come from.

Ahhh… nothing better than remembering a decent holiday over a delicious glass of wine! Delicious? I’ve got to say more than just delicious. How about sublime? Burgundy is my personal favourite region in any case – surpassing even Bordeaux – and something like champagne is vinegar in comparison. When I taste a Burgundy, I expect to be transported back, and fortunately this wine did not disappoint. So, let’s say that by bedtime, 2019 was looking better, and New Year’s Day, at least, doesn’t look bad either! I’m sure it’ll start going downhill tomorrow!

Lastly, my featured image. Orange tart. Wine was not all my daughter managed to try out!

Luxembourg (2011)

I have written about my earlier trips to Luxembourg here and here.

I did think I would neatly close this chapter by writing about my third trip. Until I realised that I’d forgotten one! The third trip was actually very brief, so I shall cover both it, and my fourt trip, which was more substantial, in this post.

You know I mentioned last time that I’d loved Echternach, and made a mental note to return?

Well, the trip I had forgotten was in the early 2000s. By that time, I had a wife and a daughter, who’d have only been three or four. And I organised an overnight stopover trip to Echternach, on our way home from our annual holiday. I have a feeling that the main part of the holiday had been down on the French Mediterranean coast not far from Marseille.

We stayed rurally, in the countryside just out of Echternach. The Hotel Eden du Lac. As you might imagine, beside a lake. The hotel was comfortable enough, although I wanted to show the family just why I’d remembered the beauty of this medieval town. So we headed into Echternach for dinner. It was a Saturday evening at the end of summer, several restaurants, all with terraces, and before we knew it, the town’s oompah band was giving us a performance. My overriding memory of that stay is my three-year-old daughter marching up and down the town square.

Fortunately, no disasters this visit, but Echternach was added to the growing list of places we wanted to see more of.

Despite wanting to see more of many places, it was not until 2011 that we got to return to Lux. This time, it was the main destination of the holiday. In fact we stayed about ten miles (15km) away from Echternach, in a village called Beaufort. My featured image today is actually the emblem which has been adopted by the commune, and I’ve tried to show it on this map:

We drove down to Luxembourg via Belgium, where we overnighted in Namur and met the mighty river Meuse. Of course, I had heard the history of Bastogne so wanted to visit there too. A Sherman memorial stands in the town, really well looked after, 75 years on, although the town itself is basically a crossroads.

Namur
Bastogne

Beaufort was actually set on a plateau above Echternach. I had the bike with me and, boy, I felt that plateau every time! But, being so close to the border, it allowed me to cycle not just in Luxembourg but into Germany.

But, of course, it was a holiday for the family, not just for cycling. We also saw Echternach again, Luxembourg Ville (but it was too hot to stay long in the city). And more excursions into Germany, to the nearby town of Bitburg, and a bit further afield to the beautiful town of Cochem, on the Moselle.

Cochem

But being based in Beaufort, and having time, we also rambled locally. This area is the beautiful Petite Suisse area of Luxembourg. It is called that for a reason, wooded and hilly.

Beaufort

Beaufort even had something about it, a small waterpark, even its very own chateau!

One of our other excursions was up the autoroute into Belgium, where we visited a European Space Agency facility near the town of Transinne. My first job was in the space industry, and my wife loves sci-fi, so it was an obvious destination. A lifesize model of a space shuttle, a scale model of an Ariane rocket, simulated moonwalking, plus astronaut food – dehydrated mint choc chip ice cream! (which we ate on the way back to the chalet – it hydrates in your mouth and tastes surprisingly like mint choc chip ice cream!)

Simulated Moonwalking. We were in a hangar, so the light was weird and doesn’t look natural.

So that was our big vacation to Luxembourg. At the end of the holiday, we had a nice leisurely drive north to spend a weekend in the Netherlands, which you can read about here.

Luxembourg (1996)

(Using a different flag today because the title is so similar to the last post.)

My first trip to Lux was in 1995, and I wrote about it here. I enjoyed the first trip so much that I went back just a year later. I was in a new job, in a more senior role, which was probably just as well. This time, I had a longer break, and flew to Paris, where I picked up a rental car. I would’ve only have been driving for a year and this was probably my first rental. I drove from Paris all the way to Luxembourg (about 4 hours) – I think that because I hadn’t been driving long, I was surprised when that short line on the map took far longer in reality. I arrived late in Luxembourg – I’d enjoyed my hotel the first time around so stayed in the same place this time around.

With wheels, my range increased and I enjoyed a lot more of Luxembourg. I had several days to see what was a very green country, forests (Luxembourg is essentially in the middle of the Black Forest, or Schwarzwald) with lots of cultivated fields and agriculture. North-east of my hotel, I found the beautiful town of Echternach, right on the border with Germany. Very picture-postcard, very medieval, very Germanic, this town was even more pleasant than Luxembourg Ville. I made a mental note.

Echternach

Echternach lies on the River Sûre, and in fact the river forms many miles of the border between Luxembourg and Germany. There was significant fighting here as the allies advanced in 1945, and of course many readers will recognise Bastogne in the map above.

On the Sunday I again underestimated my distances, and drove up to Spa, in Belgium (off map), to watch the grand prix. My only grand prix – it was very loud, very expensive, and you get a much better view on tv. But all sporting events are better on tv, I find. It’s nice to watch something live because of the atmosphere, but you’ll get a better view in your armchair. Even then, though, I had only a passing interest in motorsport (non-existent now) so was satisfied with just this once – I can say I’ve done it, but the experience got it out of my system and I was never even the slightest bit interested in going to another.

Tired after the drive, I got back to the hotel, only to be greeted by the sound of the Rolling Stones, who were playing a concert in the next valley (it seemed like the next room!). No thank you. I can barely stand them at the best of times, certainly not at the end of a long and tiring day.

The next day was my last. Back to Paris, hookup with a friend, then flying home the day after. At least, that was the plan. But I hadn’t counted on…friction (lack of)!

I was about to step into the shower. It was a good, powerful shower, exactly what you’d expect in a five-star hotel, and I remember thinking That might be slippery, I must be careful.

And so began my acquaintance with the Luxerbourg Health Service! I remained conscious, complete with dislocated shoulder, and with the help of the concierge, managed to get some trousers on. The concierge got a taxi for me, and I ended up in the Clinique Sacré-Coeur.

Of all the things to remember, I met an Irish guy there who was coming in to have his ingrowing toenail sorted… just before I passed out.

When I came to, I was in a hospital bed. My shoulder was very sore but at least now looked like everything was where it should be. After resting for a few hours, they discharged me later that day.

Obviously my hookup in Paris wasn’t going to happen, as I rested up for the night still in lots of pain. The hotel were happy for me to stay the extra night, though helpful as they were, they made sure they still charged me for it. I suppose I should not have expected any favours, anyway. Although I cancelled my night out, I didn’t wish to cancel my flight, which was the following afternoon, so the next day, the day after I dislocated my shoulder, I found myself driving back along the autoroute to Charles de Gaulle airport.

I suppose when I wonder now whether I could drive one-handed, there is my answer! In fact, I have often thought that just getting hold of a left-hand-drive car, especially an automatic, would solve my problems altogether. Anyway, on arrival at Charles de Gaulle, finally some good news – the airline check-in staff had taken pity on my sling and upgraded me to Business! The only time it has happened in my life. For a 40-minute flight 🙂.

At least in the UK I was on home soil, though driving (right-hand drive) was near impossible and I must’ve driven all the way back home (Oxford) in fifth gear.

Work the next day – well, obviously there was no work the next day! In fact I was off the whole week waiting for the pain to ease, and still wasn’t properly recovered when I did go back. That was, I suppose, lucky in that for that short time, I could get away with just being in telephone contact with them. There was politics going on at the time anyway, so it was as well I was out of the way.

Not quite the end of the story. A full nine months later, onto my mat dropped a bill from the hospital in Lux! €300. About $300, give or take. In theory, we are all EU so I should have been covered, but there was some form-filling I’d have needed to do, and in the state I arrived at hospital… I realised, of course, that it was purely speculative, I had since moved so it only got to me because my mail had been redirected, they had no idea where I was now, but at the time I’d needed them, they were there, I felt like I owed them so I coughed up.