Europe’s forgotten gem

When life gives you cheap flights, grab them with both hands.

£8 two people + £30 hotel = two days in the city of Luxembourg. I think anyone would be crazy to turn down this latest adventure that me and Filip literally grabbed with both hands. London’s Stansted airport has become an all too familiar sight to us meaning we blissfully bi-passed all of the other confused lost jet setters, breezed through security finding ourselves a spot in Harris & Hoole where we commenced another all to familiar task of coffee/cake  consumption. Travel was on our side today unlike the start of our last much bigger voyage, our plane boarded on time allowing us to settle into our seats, myself opting for an episode of AHS where as Filip took the normal more creative route of sketching a photo from his recent trip to Edinburgh. One AHS episode barely complete announced the arrival of our 75ton arrow shaped lump of metal onto Luxembourg soil. This being an evening flight as well as the dense fog that our pilot some how managed to guide us through (Oh technology you amaze us all) the cold air greeted us kindly as we clambered our way down the aircraft steps into the terminal building where we were greeted by the always stern faced border control officials. Now I’m not sure if we are just generally lucky but we almost never have any hassle when it comes to queues and border control, I’ve heard some horror stories and at this point I’m just not sure whether i can accept any of them in the future since again we simply walked through without a delay. Perhaps its our extremely long legs, tip toeing through the terminals ever so fast beating the rest of the plane to the finish line.

Airports with easy public transport links right outside generally will always have a place in my heart, with only a matter of minutes gone by since leaving our plane we purchased two €2 bus tickets, before boarding the number 16 bus that would take us for 20minutes through the cities streets with glimpses of modern architecture rising above the rich history that is obviously notable all around.

Our hotel room was bright and spacious with high ceilings that would be a delight for any family of spiders, one noticeable missing feature of our room however was a lack of bathroom, which strangely enough was located opposite our room in the corridor. The floor in this hotel was not to be trusted, we were only one floor up but from the stairs to our room, which was only a mere few steps away, the floor felt like it was caving in on itself. Like a shallow bouncy castle the floor dipped and pressed in, this was not a floor and I for one was certainly not pleased with it, so much that I refused to walk across the corridor. Instead I leaped to the bathroom and side stepped along the corridor to the stairs and back. After paying visit to the amusement parks crooked house, oh sorry let me start that again…After dropping our bags off into our hotel room we headed back out to grab a light bite to eat in ‘Vapiano’, an Italian styled self service restaurant that gives you the sense of an up scale establishment but without the actual table service. Self service can be a pain if you’re indecisive as us as you end up running back and forth in the restaurant, getting the feeling of being in your own kitchen, oh yeah and we don’t speak French, that makes ordering food easier, doesn’t it? But seriously, enough complaining because the food was pretty great. Once we fulfilled our dietary needs we tasted our first Luxembourg brewed beer before deciding to head back in preparation for our sightseeing packed day ahead.

I always get quite excited about the prospect of a hotel breakfast, perhaps its the feeling of waking up and knowing there is a whole array of food waiting for me to consume. Once Ihad quite literally leapt into the bathroom then side stepped towards the stairs we were met with a modest spread of fresh bread, cheeses and jams. Not to mention the endless fresh filter coffee, not the usual hot breakfast we were hoping for but still a breakfast that set us up for the rainy city beyond the walls. Our first destination was the not so famous sister Notre-Damn cathedral that sits high above the surrounding valley. A much smaller in scale cathedral compared to Paris’s namesake but still ever more impressive to look at. The views that surrounded this early 1900s cathedral could easily take away your breath with the smallest of looks, it was clear that our day ahead was to be met with many breathtaking moments as the valley that cocooned this city  enabled mother nature to shine at her greatest. As we hunted a break from the slow drizzly rain we came across ‘Golden Bean Coffee Experience’ a small simple cafe that offered its own roasted beans as well as the much needed warmth we desired to plan our next stops of the day.

Luxembourg is home to the European Court of Justice, the General Court, and the Court of Auditors along with the European Investment Bank, it was here that we were next headed. The court of Justice wrapped in a bronze shell that struck out of the ground, over shadowed by two out of place golden towers, perhaps the start of a much bigger building plan. The golden colours that caused the surrounding drizzling rain to glisten in the air, a great show of wealth, a reassurance that the EU still had great meaning. The European bank looked nothing like what you might picture a bank headquarters to look like, instead I was half expecting the 11:45 London bound service to come chugging out below its vast shell of glass, a haze of hustle and bustle surrounding the neatly paved entrance. Instead in the haze of the rain, 28 European member flags fluttered in the wind, hardly anyone in sight with very little traffic, only a handful of security personnel could be seen.

Across the ‘Avenue John F. Kennedy’ sat the equally impressive Philharmonie Luxembourg, a concert hall turned convention centre. The impressive white structure mostly hidden underground incased by a simple black shell of open public space, the turning autumn trees offered a spectacular contrast, creating a fiery backdrop of colours, a blazing sunset that could be walked amongst. Beyond the trees stood the modern art museum flanked by the museum Drai Eechelen, a fully restored 18th-century Fort home of a permanent exhibition tracing Luxembourg’s history from 1443 to 1903. But again it was the view that accompanied us that provided the perfect backdrop to any location. The view of the winding river lined by the old towns many historic buildings, it was a view that made you feel like you were watching a real life movie, was it even possible to experience so much depth and richness with our own eyes in that very moment with no filters being applied. Even in this cold blustery weather I think we could have stayed in this spot for a while, mother nature had us tightly in her gripped we were hooked and we wanted it to last forever.

Our hunger reaching its peak we retired deep into the historic city in search for lunch, coming across a small independent coffee shop we satisfied our needs with their selection of vegetarian sandwiches and unique reclaimed furniture. From here we continued our tour across the city this time hugging the valleys edge before diving down into the centre, although luxemburg city has its fair share of modern architecture it’s still very much a historical city standing tall side by side with some of the world’s largest economies. It is a part of the power house of Europe but is often overlooked as a destination to visit. The relaxed laid back culture that we experienced was a far cry from the mayhem you would expect in one of the European homestates, coming back to London was a breeze before we once again endured the true nature of a major city, gridlocked on one of the UK’s busiest roads we could only wish we were back standing high up on that valley edge watching the sleepy city ofLuxembourg.

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