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.

Herinneringen aan België

My eyebrow was raised this morning when I looked at the stats for this blog. It showed that in the last few days, a bunch of Belgian readers had visited.

Made me smile.I used to love going across to Belgium. We went all over, over the years, it was often a “pit stop” place to spend the last few days of a holiday by the sea, but it became more than that.

I used to love my cycling, including track cycling. What better to go to see the Six Days event in Gent? A beautiful place to visit for a few days, too. Gent was also on one of the motorways from Calais deeper into Europe, and was only 45 minutes from the tunnel. Brugge was even closer, although whilst I liked Brugge it was more of a tourist trap.

We’d also go deeper into Belgium. As I said, we liked the sea, and I distinctly remember staying in the resorts of Oostende and Blankenberge. In later years we visited the town of Nieuwpoort, which became a favourite of mine. In other directions, we knew Namur and Liege, we even went to a European Space Agency site right down in the south. In fact, we came north for that one, because we were staying in Luxembourg at the time. Although it’s a small country, there is a definite split between the French- and Flemish-speakers. The split is roughly North-South, with the north being Flemish, including both Gent and Brugge.

I always found that a little strange, since that land is quite near to France. Relatively-speaking, in any case. But what do I know? I don’t know the history of the area; for all I know, Flemish might be prevalent precisely because of the proximity to France. I’ve got a lot of admiration for Napoleon, but he was no respecter of boundaries. But certainly I found cities like Liege and Namur (who can forget the mighty Meuse) had a stronger French influence (although if I think of a map, they’re probably quite close to France too, just not the northern coast). If anything, I found it easier to communicate there, because my French is okay. Even though I haven’t visited since the stroke, I still keep in practise on Facebook. My Flemish was never any more than a dozen words. I did once try to learn, but the stroke washed away all traces. The capital, Brussels, is a bit weird since it is a French-speaking enclave in the Flanders region, I only ever went there once although drove around its Périphérique a few times.

It is silly to talk about favourites, but I always loved Flanders in particular, I suppose because of the association of the region with cycling. I always felt nostalgic there. Plus, I suppose, Holland became another of our favourite haunts, and the languages spoken are near-identical. Those are places I would one day like to get back to – one of my visits to Gent was by train, so I know it is possible, if I can muster the stamina. Even to continue up the coast to Amsterdam.

Ahhhh, happy memories!