My dad flew back to the States yesterday. It was a teary-eyed goodbye; I truly had a great time with him. We laughed, we cooked, we ate and drank (I drank a little too much a couple of times), but as we all know (and loathe), a vacation is just that... a vacation, and now we have to get back to the daily grind. For me, I'll be spending some well deserved time with my dear little blog which I have neglected so...
... and I have tons of stuff to write about.
I'm going to diverge from the food themed posts for the moment and go with a few more travel-related posts. Since my dad was staying for a month, we planned to take a few side trips from Paris so that he (and I) could experience more than just the fabulous French life. We wanted to go to Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Belgium, London... places you can easily get to by bus/train/plane. Of course, just as I predicted... halfway through his visit I was summoned to do some freelance work. So, we didn't get to see all of the places on our list, but the few we did see, were memorable nonetheless.
Our first side trip was to Luxembourg. When my dad was about my age (actually a few years younger), he lived in Luxembourg City for a summer working for Coca-Cola. It had been over 40 years since he'd been back, and since I'm currently doing a similar "move across the ocean to a foreign country" thing, I wanted nothing more than to see the country from which I've heard so many stories.
Luxembourg is a peculiar city. With Germany, France, and Belgium bordering Luxembourg, you're left with a country that officially and simultaneously speaks three different languages; French, German, and Luxembourgish. I've never been to a country where you have to ask what language the person speaks before actually speaking to them (you have to ask in about 3 different languages too). Luckily, with my dad's amount of German, and my amount of broken French, we were able to get by without many problems... and most people spoke enough English to help us if we got into a real bind.
If you can brave the cold weather, autumn is a perfect time to go to Luxembourg. For me, growing up in Florida meant you didn't experience seasons. It's just HOT. I didn't even know people had "seasonal wardrobes." You don't see the leaves changing from green to yellow to red. It's different in Luxembourg. It is absolutely breathtaking in the fall... and the best part about it; there aren't as many tourists.
In Florida, you also don't experience the uphills and downhills that seem to be the norm in Luxembourg. Florida is pancake-flat. A daily morning stretch and a month long training on a stair climber pre-trip, and you'll be ready to tackle Luxembourg.
We spent the first 2 days in Vianden, a small town in the Our valley of north-eastern Luxembourg. Overlooking the city, Vianden Castle is the main attraction of this fairytale-esque town, and attracts floods of tourists during the warmer seasons. Being that it was mid-November and quite chilly while we were there, the streets and shops were almost completely empty.
We stayed at the Hostelling International Youth Hostel, which by far has the best view and price for the backpacking traveler. It is located at the top of Vianden near the castle, making it the perfect hub for castle go-ers. The bus into town drops you off at the bottom of Vianden, near the river, so prepare yourself for a 20 minute uphill hike if you don't have a car.
It is one of the cleanest and safest hostels I have ever stayed in, with the only downside being that they have lock-out/in hours (10am-5pm/10pm-8am). Well, and that it's at the top of a hill. So, if you plan to get to Vianden in the morning, be sure that you pack light, otherwise you will be carrying your luggage or backpacks (like we did) until they open at 5pm.
If you have the opportunity to choose your room, ask for room #1.2, which has the most perfect view of the castle. I bet the people staying at the 100+ Euro per night hotels can't even see the castle.
If you're staying for more than one night, bring a lock and store everything in the lockers provided before you leave in the morning. I left my towel hanging on the edge of my bunk bed, and when I got back that evening, it was nowhere to be found. The staff was nice enough to look in their lost and found and laundry bins, and when they still couldn't find it, offered me a fresh towel.
We visited the castle and walked around the town, but unfortunately it was rainy and cold during the 2 days we were there, so we didn't get to do any hiking or walking through the forest, which is a big attraction here.
We did however, eat our hearts out. Breakfast at the hostel (which is included) consisted of football-sized slices of German bread with an array of meats and cheeses. Taking after my dad, I made an extra sandwich to take with me for lunch. We splurged a little for our dinners, and after asking the receptionist at the hostel for a good restaurant, we found ourselves at Café du Pont, a charming restaurant overlooking the Our river.
*You can't miss it, it's right next to the main bridge that crosses the river and the name of the restaurant is painted on the side of the building.
I had the most tender and juicypork with mushroom cream sauce), and my dad had the truite meunière (trout dredged in flour and sautéed in butter). I didn't get a chance to take a picture, but to give you an idea of how good it was, my plate looked like it just came out of the dishwasher. Full to the brim, we very slowly walked back up the hill to the hostel where we finished the night with some Luxembourg beer.
*If you are staying in Luxembourg City, Vianden is easy to get to by train + bus, and can even be just a day trip. From Luxembourg City, take a train to Ettlebruck and then a bus from Ettlebruck to Vianden.
Being the first leg of our Luxembourg journey, I am going to pause it here. I will be splitting this up into several posts so you don't get too overwhelmed! There's a lot more to come!