Luxembourg: Honoring American Soldiers

As this is the weekend of the 70th Anniversary of D-day, I thought it appropriate to post my experience on Memorial Day, when Luxembourg has a great memorial ceremony for fallen soliders. I really wanted to go to Paris for the D-day Activities this weekend but felt one weekend in five might be good to stay at home. It gave me the chance to write this post and actually start moving in, so time well spent I’d say!

The very impressive entryway to the Memorial Cemetery

The very impressive entryway to the Memorial Cemetery

The country is very thankful (to this day) for relief from occupation from the Nazis during WWII, and especially to American Soldiers who gave the first wave of protection to the country. They even donated land for the American Military Cemetery Luxembourg-Hamm, which is where the celebration occurred on May 24th. The land is recognized as American soil and contains the customary white marble headstones for American Soldiers that fell during WWII.

A very beautiful depiction of the war and the major battles

A very beautiful depiction of the war and the major battles


 
The ceremony was attended by the Grand Duke of Luxembourg himself, His Royal Highness Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg (full title=By the Grace of God, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Duke of Nassau, Count Palatine of the Rhine, Count of Sayn, Königstein, Katzenelnbogen and Diez, Burgrave of Hammerstein, Lord of Mahlberg, Wiesbaden, Idstein, Merenberg, Limburg and Eppstein). The U.S. Ambassador of Luxembourg, Presdient of the Chamber of Deputies, Prime Minister of Luxembourg, U.S. Ambassador to NATO, and Commander USAFE and Africa gave short speeches followed by a Wreath Laying Ceremony. It was a who’s who for government hob-nobbing, but the Grand Duke only stayed long enough to complete his duties. He shook hands and chatted with some WWII veterans then quietly left as the grand-daughter of General Patton took center stage. After General Patton died, he requested to be buried with “his men”, so his final resting place is within the cemetery in Luxembourg.

It was a very amazing, somber ceremony and one of the first times I’ve actually celebrated the holiday accordingly. As we have military in the family, paying homage in a correct fashion seemed appropriate. The day was beautiful and we walked the grounds after the ceremony. I would NOT recommend trying to take the bus, there were a few odd turns, highways, and eventually a cab involved, BUT very worth the effort. A few more photos below:

General Patton's Grand-daughter near his grave

General Patton’s Grand-daughter near his grave

The Famous General Patton

The Famous General Patton’s grave. No more ceremony to his tombstone than his men’s.

The beautiful wreathes laid in remembrance.

The beautiful wreathes laid in remembrance.

The future 🙂

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30 hours in Paris

I had the delightful whirlwind experience to attend an event in Paris sponsored by my company. It was a great chance to ramp up on in-person events as well as network with some of my new peers.

Hotel Balcony - so cheerful!

Hotel Balcony – so cheerful!

We stayed within the city limits at a delightful little hotel near Notre Dame – I can’t remember the name but I’ll update this post when I do. If you’re looking for a spa treatment, this might disappoint, but I was delighted with the room. It was clean, had a nice bed and coffee, and I had a pretty view of the street below and a box of red flowers. The front-room staff were very nice (which might be a change from the locals), and were especially nice to me as an American. The continental breakfast is pretty simple but supplied some crusty bread and TO-GO NUTELLA PACKAGES. What more could you want? Did I also mention we were three blocks away from Notre Dame?

After daily working hours the day before the event, we went to a little café and had some delightful dishes (fish, of course – this will be a theme) and house wine. The wine was pretty reasonable, about $5 euro a glass, especially when combined with a view of Notre Dame and the waterfront.

Magically light at dusk

Magically light at dusk

After dinner we strolled along the seine and caught the last few rays of the delicious sunshine hitting the cathedral. Per tradition, a few spins around the star in the square will solidify my return to the city!

Notre Dame

It’s so beautiful, I look photo shopped in!

Notre Dame

The scary side of Notre Dame – so beautiful yet creepy!

Gargoyle close-up

Gargoyle close-up

The next and last full day was our corporate event that went off without a hitch! Cultural moment: One of the attendees was lost and started asking for directions in rapid French. After excuse myself, saying “I don’t speak French (yet), the delegate replied (in PERFECT English) ‘I do not speak English – Why are you in France if you can’t speak French”? I decided talking about my language classes and tutor would be too complex, so instead I just apologized and walked away. I’m sure he found his way…

pana cotta

The best dessert I’ve tasted thus far —

After wrapping up, a few of the team members and I sought out this very authentic Italian restaurant. Seemingly an odd choice, one of our companions lived in Paris before and had on good first-hand authority that the owners were specialized in the makings of the cuisine. After our Italian speaker charmed the waiter, we were quickly brought a nice bottle of red wine to share and amazing crusty bread. I ordered the tuna pizza without cheese (the only pizza that had ingredients really sustainable without gooey deliciousness) and we all shared a pana cotta (only one bite, I promise!)

After the team dinner, we walked along the key bridge and were surprised to find ourselves at the Louvre. An adventure for another day, but I am taking comfort in the fact that my spacial awareness is better in some countries than what I’ve proved as internal GPS in Luxembourg! I ended the night meeting up with a lovely college friend and we had an amazing  ! She is living in Paris now for almost a year and introduced me to a great little “only-locals-know-about-them” restaurant and then pub. It was so nice to have a night with an old friend and I am trying to find out the next weekend I can go and visit!!

Night in Paris

Pont des Arts aka “Love Lock” bridge – Go see now, they are going to be deconstructing due to the weight and strain on the bridge!

Secret bar!

The next morning I was back on the train to Luxembourg after a few hours’ sleep, feeling very satisfied with my whirlwind adventure. The bullet train is very fast and convenient from Paris to Luxembourg, four stops and just over 2 hours. The ride is smooth, the scenery gorgeous, and the only small item of complaint is the lack of WIFI. After devouring a Starbucks Latte that was immediately regretted (a grande soy latte really DOES have an abundance of soy), my seat-mate left me at Stop #2. Stop#3 introduced me to new seat-mate and I immediately sensed entertainment would ensue.

“Train hopping” is illegal and fined heavily, and each leg of the journey attendants come filing down the rows in very authoritative suits demanding paperwork. I was actually followed back to my seat on the route up to the Paris since I did not carry them with me to the bathroom, and we saw one man get arrested upon landing in Paris. This leg was to be no exception. The very polite, albeit, mussed teenager asked me if the seat was taken, and when I answered “no”, quickly sat down and feigned sleep. At this point I started mentally popping the popcorn. Following this boy were two friends who looked equally disheveled, with a pillow case and torn suits completing the look.
As the attendants came to my seat I handed my tickets and watched as my runaway friend shifted uncomfortably in “sleep”. After being prodded awake (at which point I’m of course pretending to read an email yet watching every delicious awkward moment), the boy confesses to not contain any materials to pay. Or Identity for himself. *Monica tries not to lean in as the Train Marshall is summoned*.

All three boys are now standing and being searched by the train operators.After a few “yes or no” answers, the full story starts dribbling out of their mouths like strawberry jam I’m sure they wish they had for consumption: They were from the Netherlands and had been attending a party (check: Suits. check: rich/privileged. check: no parental oversight). Somehow they had found themselves being “stolen” and after a few nebulous non-english words, “dumped” outside of Germany with amongst the three: 2 passports, 1 credit card, and $70 euros. No phones, no wallets, no SOS. Their plan was to ride to Luxembourg, get a bus to Brussels, then find their way back up to the Netherlands. The boy with the credit card sadly took the receipt for two tickets, while the boy with the euros seemed dismayed, when after proclaiming “this is all I have!”, the agent still took the money. The best part? After tearing off the receipts, the agents had these few words: *shaking head* “Next time, don’t take the train”.

I thought about giving them money, but decided against it. They seemed to be pretty capable, and I just started chuckling, thinking about how much trouble they were going to be in and how often they would look fondly on this adventure in the following years. It reminded me of a similar experience in Germany where police dogs and jail were threatened… but that’s for another time.

Luxembourg: Rugby Edition

I have now experienced a European pastime that will quickly become one of my favorite sporting activities: Rugby.

As a very enthusiastic American Football fan (now living in Europe, football = soccer,  less I wish to die a very painful end from death glares), I knew I needed to find a sport that would pacify my yearnings for tailgates, college bands, and American Football. Football is fine, but I’ve never played and it seems to be a sport that’s more enjoyable when you know the rules, so I was a bit worried. Luxembourg is not on the map because of their sports prowess, so I knew options would be limited. ENTER: Rugby!

Rugby: My new sport obsession

Rugby: My new sport obsession

Now, rugby is no joke. It’s like American Football without pads and less rules. The guys look like beasts, they are built to act as human battering rams. Most come off the field bloody, dirty, and at the very least sore if not wounded. On the Luxembourg team, there is a Team 1 and Team 2, and this weekend I got to watch my first-ever rugby match with Team 2! Something to note: Luxembourg city has the BEST teams in the league. The 2 Team is undefeated and the Team 1 is heading to the championships. When we got to the field, Team 2 was already up 45 points to nothing. I’m not sure what a normal scoring game looks like, but it usually doesn’t include the other team taking a time-out to discuss forfeiting!

Here are the rules and plays that I was able to pick up during the match:

Rules

  • Must throw the ball backwards, no forward passing
  • Anything can be done to the ball, it’s soft like a football but shaped like an American Football (confused yet?)
  • No hits above the shoulders, and can’t use the shoulders as an impact force, and not supposed to punch
  • Win points by crossing the end zone
  • Lose the ball (turnover) when it is dropped during a play or ripped out of a player’s hands

Plays

  • Scrum – Players get in a huddle (from both teams) and look like they’re doing a massive hug-out. In reality, they are doing terrible things to each other that the refs can’t see, all while trying to kick or touch the loose ball and grab for their team. This happens after something I can’t remember, but acts as a reset on the game.
Scrum: The most painful hug you'll ever receive

Scrum: The most painful hug you’ll ever receive

  • Line-out aka Human Pyramid – This was my favorite play! If the ball is kicked or thrown out of bounds, where the ball lands, it is kicked back into play by the offensive team. The defensive team gets a chance to throw one of their team mates into the air (for all my lovely cheerleader friends an “elevator”) to try and catch or pitch the ball to a teammate.
Line-out #1 - only 1 team throws up.

Line-out #1 – only 1 team throws up.

Line-out #2 - both teams make human pyramids.

Line-out #2 – both teams make human pyramids.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To put it mildly, the team dominated. The final score was 111 to 0.
It is a fast-paced entertaining game and I can’t wait to go to the next one in a couple of weeks! Team 1 is playing at home and it should be a great game. Did I mention these guys do this for *fun*? They are sponsored but all have day jobs, very impressive!

And to top it all off, look what I found:

My next conquest and post!

My next conquest!

Luxembourg: Food Edition

Thank goodness my favorite restaurant is here!

Image

Psych. (although I am intrigued by the chicken wings…)

A Luxembourg specialty - Sorbet in vodka!

A Luxembourg specialty – Sorbet in vodka!

The good and bad thing about Luxembourg is that everything is delicious. Because the area is such a mix of nationalities, there is pretty much every kind of cuisine available here. And, since it is such a mix of nationalities, the cuisine is usually prepared by someone indigenous to the original area. We’re talking waffles made by Belgians, paella constructed by Portuguese, Italian canolies…. you get it.

Additionally, there is a huge support for local produce and a weekly farmer’s market. It’s amazing – within two hours there are free-standing shops where at first there was only a bazaar and concrete. Vendors line the streets, and everyone gathers in the main square with their re-usable bags and rolley to-go carts. The market really reminded me of Seattle’s waterfront, with tons of flowers, fresh fruits and vegetables, and rows of poultry, fish and beef.

One of the many stalls in the square

One of the many stalls in the square

Just a few of the selection of beautiful olives

Just a few in the selection of beautiful olives

There is unfortunately no comparison, but these suckers are huge!

There is unfortunately no size comparison, but these suckers are huge! More than twice the size of my hand

Please sir, can I have some more?

The differences:

  • Authentic Italian pastries
  • Fresh baked bread that my French friend has claimed is quite on-par with Paris
  • Pretzels that are out-of-this-world amazing, most likely baked in Germany this morning
  • Salami and cheese carts that go on for days
Holy cannoli!

Holy cannoli!

I spent the morning wandering through the bazaar and taste-testing the edible wares being sold. After that, a trip to Osean’s, the only large supermarket (cross between a Safeway and Fred Meyer) for the remainder of items for this week. The whole dairy-allergy really adds a complex layer to eating out, so for me cooking most meals is at home is a good option. It IS possible to get around the city with allergens, as most staff speak English, but the menus have far less options readily available for those of us lacking the right genetics to digest the gloriousness that is all things cheese, crème, etc.

The funny thing is, I’ve had taste tests of different desserts with known dairy in them, an I’ve been fine. No inflammation, no Quasimodo face like at Christmas, no breathing problems. I’m wondering if the “unpasteurized” dairy is the difference. Not that I’m going to start a personal human experiment, but if anyone else usually is intolerant (not to epileptic extremes) to dairy, I’d give European fare a go, or a least a nibble.

Literally, twice as big as my hand. Yes, of COURSE, eaten in the same sitting

Literally, twice as big as my hand. Yes, of COURSE, eaten in the same sitting

The final product!

The final product!

I decided to take a chance and grab some deliciousness that might tempt the allergy gods… Italian pastries and a pretzel, among other fresh fruits and veggies. If you can’t pronounce it, that means the allergies won’t come, right?

What's lunch without authentic Italian pastries and a capuccino?

What’s lunch without authentic Italian pastries and a capuccino?

 

I’m off to Paris next week and although it’s a work trip, I’m sure I can find business justification for submitting 80000 receipts for palmiers. I will use the little French I’ve learned thus far and try to remember the tips from my language partner. I can confidently order up to “10” of something and ask for the check nicely. Will report back next time!

Mother’s Day in Luxembourg

The city today is noticeably quieter than usual, and I’m sure that’s because all families are taking to the time honour their mothers. While I am not able to be with MY mother (at this moment in time the book title “Are you my mother” is coursing through my brain) today, I wanted to make sure she knew I was thinking of her! A poem for my mother:

From the day of her birth (months premature),
with a doctor’s note “her health, we’re not sure”
she looked down and said “she’ll be fine”, kissed her head
I love you, my child, my own.

When the child stubbornly frowned, kicked and cried
Scared her sister, said not “I love you”, only “bye”
The mother, patience abound, said “give her time, she’ll come around”
I love you, my child, my own.

Enter school when the teachers at Elementary,
Would comment “unlike her sister, for certainly”
The mother would quip “she’s unique (get over it)”
I love you, my child, my own.

When the means kids would trip her and tease
she would beg and cry “keep me home please!”
The response “absolutely not – give it another shot”
I love you, my child, my own.

In the later years, when sound advice was not heeded
there were stumbles, relationships felt cheated
The response? “I love you so” instead of “I told you so”
I love you, my child, my own.

When the last big adventure became real
After the house, bags were packed – came the last meal
She smiled, cried and said “Use your wings, fly ahead”
I love you, my child, my own.

motherdaybouquet

Happy Mother’s day to my most beautiful and wonderful mommy – I would not be here (well, obviously, but still) without you!

I love you my momma, my own.

House-hunting in Luxembourg

As will continue to be notated, Luxembourg “centre”, aka Luxembourg city, is both a very desired and very expensive location to live. Because most of the banks (majority of jobs) and business are located within the hub of the city, as well as a few popular bars and restaurants, finding a home is challenging and expensive. I was lucky enough to have a relocation specialist assigned to my profile, so we looked through the selection on the market and she set up ‘viewing’ appointments.

During our first meeting, she was very strict and stern about trying to find a place on the first day. Rental spaces are severely limited, and the combination of single (unfurnished) apartments, in-city, and low budget was definitely a challenge. There is no time in the year where demand is higher or lower, and most places are furnished and very expensive. Those coming to live in Luxembourg are usually on a contracted work assignment of two years, so the locals get a very good deal based on supply and demand. Room shares are very common, so I’d suggest for anyone moving here to ditch all your stuff and look on the following website to co-habitate: Appartager. Once you put in your details, automated messages of those “matching” your parameters will be listed, and you can contact directly. Instant friends AND the best deal! If in a pinch, my friends have had good luck with AirBnb for short-term lodging.

I want to live close in-city and have the furniture, so although options are more limited, if I can find an unfurnished apartment in-city it’ll still be less than a furnished on the outskirts. I’d rather my paycheck go to travel than rent, and I am keeping the advice of my beautiful friend and ex-roomie in mind: “Find a place that you like enough to come home to, but not enough that you’ll want to stay in all the time”. Wise words indeed, especially for my hermit-crab tendencies!

As for the process: This is my first-ever apartment, and I imagined house-hunting to be like “Say Yes to the Dress” – You want to go shopping, you want to try out all the pretty options, but saying “yes” on the first day? Not as romantic an experience as I was imagining. So we booked a few viewings and set off on the journey, with me expecting this to be one of many exciting days out.

If I’ve ever felt like Goldilocks before, this experience took the cake. I knew with my smaller budget I wouldn’t see the most ideal housing units, but one unit was so small a Queen Bed wouldn’t fit into the room! Another option had a beautiful balcony, which overlooked beautiful fields — because it was out in the country. Another option came in at twice the budget with half the square footage, but in town. Needless to say, I was starting to get worried. I have one month until I need to move out of temporary housing, and the combination of starting work and viewings occurring only during the day started a quiet panic. I decided that if something was found today, I’d put a bid in and see what would happen!

After lunch, with a renewed, competitive mindset, we set off for the next viewing. This place had just come on the market because the current tenant needs to move back home for family reasons. We were the first appointment since it was on the market, and like hyenas to a dead water buffalo covered in sriracha sauce; five other prospective tenants were already waiting at the door. Woa, this just got real — we had been quintuply (now a word) booked! A pursed lipped tiny blonde, two real-estate agents, another young gal, and me.

And of course – I love it. Beautiful bay windows overlooking a forest line in the front, out back overlooking a green pasture. Right in the middle of town (old town), within budget, charming, and bigger than anything else I’d seen! Tiny bathroom and kitchen, but large bedroom and a common room that will house all my lovely items travelling across the Ocean. There is a very noisy night-scene right next to the home, but around the bend and across the river, so there is almost no noise pollution. I will have a water view going to and from the home every day, which is rare as the “river” is a small stream that only is visible in a few places in the city.

We had one more viewing after what I shall call the City Cottage, but as soon as we got in the car, I had the agent drive straight to the office to put a bid on the house. We both put on our best faces and charmed the agent as much as possible without outright bribing.

Tricky items when renting:
– The agents take an exhorbitant fee (1 month’s rent+ 15%) for writing up the contract
– This is a legal contract bound by Luxembourgish law
– Contracts are a minimum of 1 year, non-breaking clauses non-acceptable
– When trying to obtain an apartment, you MUST specify all of your earnings. They will not allow a renter to spend more than XX amount of their income on rent so as to ensure they will get paid.
– Must put down a bounty of 2000 Euro during the length of the contract, available after final move-out inspection
– You have to buy your own washer/dryer (odd, new post coming soon)

After smiling like a crazed Toddler in Tiara, we finished putting in paperwork for the City Cottage and set off for the last house. Very pretty, but twice as expensive and farther out in the city.

The next day, we learned that purse-lips had also put a bid on the apartment. It was down to us two, and with the lower rent I was rather confident I’d win, but still stressed. Flash forward a week later and … I got it! I get the keys in one week and will hopefully be borrowing a blow-up mattress until everything else gets to the house. No pictures yet, but will post once everything is in place!

First Weekend in Luxembourg

*Disclaimer* The below format is pretty dicey, this is my first blog and still fighting through editing. I think coding straight HTML is easier than using wordpress’ function buttons. Have any tips? Please message me below! Okay, on with the show….

 

This weekend a lovely friend came back to Luxembourg to spend my first few days with me and introduce me to some locals. We attended a rubber duck race, ate cart-side sausage, and went out dancing after a rooftop meet-n-greet. Needless to say, it was a wonderful introduction! This will be mostly photos because I couldn’t take enough shots of the beautiful city!

Here

 

they

 

come!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone in the town speaks French – for anyone visiting I’d highly recommend brushing up or learning a few simple phrases. The locals are very nice and will try to accommodate or help in English, which is pretty easy for them, since most locals know at least four languages. About half of the country is a population of emigrants, and those that do not come here for tax sheltering or gremlin-grinkotts jobs in one of the hundreds of banks, do so to bring their children up in a culture where knowing less than three languages is simply not acceptable. As such, they are very eager and willing to test out their English, or German, or French, or Luxembourgish, or Portuguese, or Spanis, or Italian…. on you.

The locals also have an affinity for Americans especially due to WWII, so there are many signs, avenues, and bridges dedicated to Generals and Presidents of the USA.

Beautiful Burrows

Luxmebourg city is made up of a few burrows to make it sound a lot bigger than it is. With talent, I was still able to get lost for a few hour each day and explore most of the small city. There are some burrows that I’ve found more attractive than others, and in having a propensity for beautiful and magical things, have focused most of my shots and time in the Pretty Places.

Belair

Beautiful and quiet, with a very heavy “French Quarters” feel, this spot in the city houses some wonderful parks, architecture and homes. It’s one of the outer-burrows of the city, ideal for families while still walkable to city center. Not too many pop-up-shops, no grocery stores and no night-life.

Pretty wisteria lines the streets

Pretty wisteria lines the streets

Greenery and fountains!

Classic Belair - French themed

Classic Belair – French themed

 

 

 

 

 

Limperstberg

My current quarters, this is just outside of City Center. I think a lot of young professionals live here due to lower (marginal) cost of living while still being close to the city. I find specifically intriguing all of the city and government buildings, and many churches along this avenue. There is also a movie theater and the main road out of the city to the airport.

Many gates and much greenery here.

Many gates and much greenery here.

Crest Flowers

 

 

 

 

 

City Center

The hub of the city. There are a few bazaars and some of the only shops open on Sundays are here. This is partly a financial district but also very desirable (read – EXPENSIVE) neighborhood to live in because it is just so close to everything. The main bus lines are here, most of the bars in upper town and a killer view of the valley. Naturally I want to live here.

Path down to the ravine and surprising outdoor workout center - free!

Path down to the ravine and surprising outdoor workout center – free!

Clock Tower, across the ravine

Clock Tower, across the ravine

The back side of the main Cathedral

The back side of the main Cathedral

Gare

Mostly financial/getting slummy part of town. This is the only part of town that might be considered a sketchy” area. Apparently many of the locals demand exorbitant fees for apartments, all under-the-table, to illegal immigrants. Even considered “sketchy”, I still felt safer travelling these streets than anything in Seattle. Reminder: Third safest city in the world, padres. But I don’t want to live here– no real break in trees, no parks, and an alarming amount of cigarette smoke that doesn’t dissipate with time. It is also home to the train station and a very populated, noisy district.

Looking across Avenue de Roosevelt to Gare

Looking across Avenue du Roosevelt to Gare

Impressive bank in Gare

Impressive bank in Gare

 

 

 

 

 

 Grund

Grund is what every little girl (or boy) hopes to stumble upon whilst singing to woodland friends and looking for berries. It is home to some of the most quintessential historical buildings and maintained to an otherwise unrealistic standard of cleanliness. It also has a trail that connects it to Clausen, CIty Center, and Gare via the ravine under the City Center.

Clausen/Grund waterway

Grund houses on the water

Grund houses on the water

 Clausen

And the winner in beauty is … Clausen! If you want fairy tales and sparkles and magical beautiful wonder, head to Clausen. This is where most of the seemingly ‘stock’ photos come from. It is absolutely breathtaking, with a tiny river, even tinier dam, and old-world charm. A very steep (about 15%) road heads into the heart of the burrow, so every angle above can turn into a picture-perfect moment. The only reason I don’t want to live here is A) bus lines are harder to come by B) I am a sunshine fiend and the natural beautiful trees keep it darker and more humid. For the short while that I am stationed here (we are moving buildings to upper city) I will relish in its exquisiteness.

Clausen water

Clausen waterway

Clausen dam

Dam in Clausen and the Alzette Uelzecht

Clausen steeple

Taken from the Montée de Clausen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here are some birds–

P1080335