Thursday, December 15, 2011

Trees & Schnee

(Sorry...I can't give up Fahrenheit!)

First, some good news: the first snowfall of December for Lux Ville is forecast for this weekend. At the moment, my phone tells me that there might be a few flakes of schnee tomorrow; on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, a few more. After weeks of cold, wind and rain, these snowflakes are practically a Christmas miracle!

And second, a few words about Christmas trees.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Weekend Roundup, Dec. 9-11 (and beyond)

This is the last weekend roundup of the year – and my very last appearance on Sara Flanagan’s 9-11am block on ARA City Radio (103.3 & 105.2). Please feed my ego one last time (on the radio, anyway...) and tune in!

A few events for this weekend follow below...but we all know that the real stars of the show this time of year are the Christmas markets. So, be sure to check out my Christmas Market Roundup, a compilation of dates and links to markets throughout Luxembourg and along the French, German and Belgian borders. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bittersweet News

Hello there.

Well, I wish I didn’t have to write this post, but I suppose it’s better to spread the word sooner rather than later… So, here goes:

Friday, December 2, 2011

2011 Christmas Market Roundup

My dad at the Strasbourg Marché de Noël
I’m just going to come right out and admit it. I’m a Christmas market junkie. I love the wooden chalets, I love the lights, the festive tunes, the holiday bustle, the treats and of course, the glühwein (or vin chaud, depending on where you’re sipping it).

Last year, in addition to Luxembourg Ville, we enjoyed visiting the markets in Trier, KasselBad Hersfeld, Strasbourg, Maastricht, Valkenburg, and (pausing for a breath) Montreux. If you’re heading to any of those for the first time, I’m happy to share thoughts or recommendations for all of them if you e-mail me at

On tap for us this December: Köln, Brussels, small towns in Alsace and the Black Forest, Stockholm, Paris and Besançon – whew! (Something tells me that I’m going to need to borrow a pair of pants from Santa Claus himself by the time this month is over…)

If you have nearby markets to add to the list or any tips, recommendations or maybe a glühwein recipe to share, please contribute to the comments section below!

Joyeux Noël!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Weekend Roundup, Nov. 25-27

It won’t come as a surprise to you to hear that there’s lots more to eat and drink this weekend as the holiday season officially kicks off. So, loosen your belt buckle and get ready for some serious noshing!

And please tune in to ARA City Radio (103.3 and 105.2) between 9-11am tomorrow to hear me dish details on these events and more!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Weekend Roundup, Nov. 18-20

I'll be highlighting a few of these events on Friday morning between 9am and 11am on ARA City Radio (103.3 and 105.2), so please tune in! 

And as always, if there's an event you'd like me to highlight, shoot me a note at

Here are my picks for the weekend, and some additional event-finding resources:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How to Saber a Bottle of Crémant

Today is the 20th anniversary of the release of the very first bottle of Crémant de Luxembourg. But I’m not writing this post to tell you about that. You can read all about crémant and how it came to be such a success for the Luxembourg wine industry in my Luxemburger Wort article at this link.

Right now, I’m here to teach you the ultimate party trick. I’m going to tell you how to saber a bottle of crémant.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Weekend Roundup, Nov. 11-13

I’m stopping by during Sara Flanagan’s 9am-12pm block on ARA CityRadio (103.3 and 105.2) on Friday morning to talk about a few of the events below. I hope you can tune in!

Do you have an event you’d like me to include on next week’s Weekend Roundup? Or a funny joke I can tell on the air? (I need all the help I can get, folks…) If so, send me a note:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

User’s Guide: What the U.S. Embassy Wants You to Know

Read their brochure.
About three years ago, a small group of Americans walked up to the U.S. Embassy in Luxembourg and rang the buzzer to alert the guard. When he answered, they announced that they were there for dinner. It was Thanksgiving, after all, and they had heard that the Ambassador always prepared a large holiday feast for all U.S. citizens in the area.

While the U.S. Embassy offers a number of services to Americans living in Luxembourg, an all-you-can-eat Thanksgiving buffet is not one of them. (Though I definitely think they should reconsider this policy, don’t you?)

So just what is the Embassy good for, if not for a decent slice of turkey? I had the opportunity recently to sit down with David Fetter, the Embassy’s chargé d’affairs (i.e. the guy holding down the fort until the new Ambassador arrives in a week or so) and Dr. Stephanie Shaheen, the Embassy’s public affairs officer, to ask a few questions, like: When is it appropriate to go to the Embassy with a problem, and when it is not? How long should a person expect to wait for a response from the Embassy? and Why doesn’t the Embassy ever update its web site?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Weekend Roundup, Oct. 28-30

I’m headed back to ARA City Radio (103.3 and 105.2) this morning with City Magazine’s November cover model (!), Sara Flanagan again this morning around 10am with a few highlights, and I hope you can tune in! Because there’s so much going on in Luxembourg this weekend, it’s scary.

No, really: it’s scary. There are plenty of events around town this weekend for children and adults who want to celebrate the American tradition of Halloween, from a spooky castle tour to horror films and chances to get freaky on the dance floor. The Wort/English has a great list at this link

But there’s one Halloween treat that’s not a trick: daylight savings time ends this weekend, so clocks fall back one hour. After all of that spooking, you’re going to need that extra hour to get some rest.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Vacationing with Vauban

Cancale oysters, fresh from the ocean.
Three weeks ago, Nick and I were on the Brittany coast of France, in the town of Cancale, sitting in the sunshine on concrete steps and slurping raw oysters pulled fresh from the ocean, pried open by women who spend their entire day shucking oysters of all sizes and shapes for locals and tourists who visit their stands. There are normal-looking oysters for the ridiculously inexpensive price of 5€ to 8€ a dozen, and there are also oysters for sale as large as your hand that you’ll wonder how in the world people eat without dripping oyster liquor all over themselves. Then there are the briny Plate-Belons, les plates, the flat regional specialties that the women will tell you to eat as they are; you won’t even be allowed to buy a lemon to take away with your douziane. And no matter which stand you buy your huîtres, you’ll hear the same advice: when you’re finished eating, oyster shells get tossed into the sea; lemon rinds and plastic plates and knives go back to the stand.

What a lineup!
When the tide is high, those concrete steps disappear into the ocean. When the tide is out, sailboats sink lazily into the muddy floor of the Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel. Nearby, men in waterproof bucket pants work the oyster beds on foot or by tractor, meters from where the fruits of their labor are distributed to happy stomachs. All day long, the silhouette of Mont-Saint-Michel sits on the horizon, an especially breathtaking sight against the tangerine glow of sunrise.

Even though it ends in an “r” – as the best oyster-eating months do – October is the off season in Cancale. Which is why we love it there. It’s the only place we’ve been to twice on vacation while living in Europe. I mean, let’s face it: fall colors + quiet seaside town + cheap, fresh oysters + the most unreal deep turquoise ocean you’ve ever seen, well, that all adds up to a pretty stellar vacation for this household.

Oyster beds in Cancale
Lest you think I’m in cahoots with the Cancale Tourism Office by using fancy phrases like “tangerine glow” to describe the sunrise, this post isn’t actually about my vacation. It’s actually about something interesting I learned while on vacation that ties back to Luxembourg.

(But I’m including a few more Cancale tidbits at the end of the post, in case you want to go.)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Weekend Roundup, Oct. 21-23

This face was meant for radio and today, it's going to do just that: I'm making my debut this morning on Luxembourg's ARA City Radio for a very brief, shining moment during Sara Flanagan's 9-11am block to plug a couple of events going on this weekend in Luxembourg. This might be my only shot at radio fame, so wish me luck! (If it goes badly, at least Urban is on my way home.) 

Or, instead of wishing me luck, perhaps you could help everyone else out and chime in below? Overall, I have to say that this is a pretty awesome weekend to be a kid in Luxembourg (check out the Saturday events). But what other activities should be included in the Weekend Roundup that you've got your eye on? 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

User’s Guide: Getting to Germany for a Klein Price

Over the past several months, I’ve shared tips for getting to Paris (and the rest of France) on the cheap, I’ve told you how to get to and from Luxembourg on Ryanair, and I’ve told you how to visit wineries in Provence via public bus.

Now, it’s Germany’s turn. And there are a lot of wunderbar deals to be had on the Deutsche Bahn (DB). Of course, the standard rule applies: the earlier you can book, the better your chances of scoring a cheaper ticket from Luxembourg. But there are several ways you can be creative about booking your travel, and several options for last minute trips from Luxembourg Ville.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Mythbuster Tour

It’s taken me two days to sit down and write this post because I haven’t been able to walk to my computer.

Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but my legs have been a bit sore. That’s because Nick and I did a Very Awesome Thing this past Sunday: we went on a 6.5 hour guided walking tour around the former fortress fortification lines of Luxembourg Ville.

It’s a program that has been offered once a year for the past four years by the Luxembourg City History Museum and this year, I happened to stumble upon it on the museum’s web site. (A notice also appeared in Lux Ville’s CityMag; order your free subscription by e-mailing your Lux mailing address to

The walk was essentially a combination of the Vauban and Wenzel city walks, with some passages through outlying neighborhoods thrown in for good measure. There were only nine people in the English-speaking group including Nick and myself, so I’m guessing that you may not have been able to make it to the event. But don’t worry, I’ve got a few fun facts from our fabulous, fearless guide to share that will make you feel like you went along for the tour...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Bragging Rights for the Unathletic

As a newlywed, there are certain things you agree to because you think your significant other will eventually forget about them. Like riding your bicycle halfway across the country.

A few weekends ago, we finally completed a ride that Nick has wanted to do for over a year: the Piste Cyclable 2, a bike path that stretches from Luxembourg Ville to Echternach on the Luxembourg-Germany border, a one-way ride of 42 kilometers. It wouldn’t be our longest ride ever, but I was nervous because we had ridden part of this path last summer; I remembered more than one large hill, and had a nagging fear that there could be a lot more. And if there’s one thing that this House Frau does not like, it’s hills. (This would be in addition to wind and rain, if you’re asking.)

While I secretly prayed for a thunderstorm, we went ahead and made plans to ride to Echternach on a Saturday and spend the night. On Sunday, we would cycle home along the Sûre River on Piste Cyclable 3, a short 24km and mostly flat ride to the Wasserbillig train station where we’d catch a train back to the city.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Time to Wine

It’s a given that the wines of Luxembourg are delicious: grapes for wine have been grown in this country for over 2,000 years, so, winemakers here obviously know what they’re doing. Taste aside; moving to Luxembourg last year, I immediately discovered two wonderful reasons to drink Luxembourgish wine.

First of all, wine is bigger in Luxembourg. Oh yes, you read that correctly: in one of the world’s smallest countries and the only Grand Duchy on the planet, the wine is bottled in 100ml bottles that are 25 percent larger than a normal wine bottle. Which makes your lovely dinner last about 25 percent longer. (Don’t worry, it’s available in normal 75ml bottles, too.) We’re talking co-operative produced table wine in big bottles here, but it’s tasty, crisp and refreshing and – to get to the second reason I love Luxembourgish wine – it is so much easier for me to recycle. Instead of walking my grocery cart full of empty jars and wine bottles all the way down the street, nearly a full mile, to the nearest recycle bin like I normally do, I can just skip to the grocery store two minutes around the corner with my giant empties. (Score!)

Alima grocery stores in Luxembourg Ville have a large, boxy green machine, usually near the registers, where you can insert your empty 100ml wine bottles and – voila! – out pops a coupon refunding the 20 cent bottle deposit that you didn’t even realize that you paid because the wine was so inexpensive to begin with. You can use the coupon toward groceries. Or toward more giant bottles of wine.

Oh, and did I mention that these giant bottles can be purchased for less than 5€ each?

(Keep reading and you’ll get a primer on Luxembourg wine, and a heads up on two can’t-miss wine festivals taking place in September.)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fête de la Mirabelle (August 27 & 28)

Adding to the list of delicious things to discover in this part of the world is the colorful assortment of fruit available this time of year. Take the plum, for instance. Red and black plums are nothing new to me, but when I shop here, these old standards are part of a rainbow of selection of more colors and varieties of plum than I ever even knew existed: like yellow plums, the green Reine Claude, smoky purple quetsch and, of course, the golden mirabelle.

Mirabelles are the tiniest plums I’ve ever seen, about the size of a shooter marble. They taste plummy, but not as tart; they’re a much more mellow, sort of sugary sweet. You’ll find them in countless ways; cooked into tartes and tartelettes, preserved in syrup, made into confiture, and perhaps most popularly, turned into eau de vie, the fiery, alcoholic after-dinner digestif created to burn a hole through the large dinner you’ve just eaten.

This weekend in Metz, you’ll have a chance to find mirabelles in all of these forms and more, at the 61st annual Fête de la Mirabelle.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The 671st Schueberfouer (A Bit of History)

You’ve seen the posters up all over town; you’ve read articles in the news and on blogs in recent weeks, the program schedule has been released and finally: the Schueberfouer is here. It officially opens tomorrow (Aug. 18) at 5pm, though restaurants open at noon and rides are available from 2pm onward. This is the Luxembourg version of the summer state fairs you’ll find in the United States, but without the farm animals and without the deep fried pickles, Coca-Cola, Snickers and Twinkies. (Yes, world…Americans really have deep-fried everything.)

The Schueberfouer is a big deal. It attracts more than two million people annually, has been the subject of documentaries and a number of books, and is one of Luxembourg’s oldest traditions.

But like most things in Luxembourg, there’s more to the Schueberfour than meets the eye.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Congé Annuel

The congé annuel is a beautiful thing. As long as you’re not me, trying to take my father on a pastry hunt.

Last summer, my parents visited Luxembourg for the first time. Nick and I whisked them off on a grand tour of the country and the greater region, but, I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say that my dad’s favorite part of the trip was scoping out window after window of colorful, mouth-watering pastries and crusty loaves of bread at the boulangeries and pâtisseries that adorn so many street corners in this part of the world.

(Honestly though, who can blame him?)

Seeing this, I knew there was one window that I had to take him past: Jean-Claude Arens, a pâtisserie and chocolaterie near our apartment that has a window display that knocks my socks off every time I walk past. With a puffed chest, I led my dad around the corner to show him what would surely become his very favorite window of treats in town and… the shades were drawn, the lights were off, and a sign on the window read: Congé Annuel.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Luxembourgish Delights (and a new place to find them)

I never, ever, ever leave Luxembourg for a visit back to the U.S. without several tubes of Moutarde de Luxembourg in my suitcase. Really! In fact, my brother, who recently received a tube in Afghanistan (where he is temporarily contracting), thinks I carry it around with me everywhere I go. He has a point: I probably should.

First of all, it is absolutely delicious. Second, at a cost of about 1€ per tube, it’s cheap. And third, since it comes in a toothpaste-like tube, it’s easy to pack…which is also a good thing in case I get hungry while I’m on the road!

But lest you think that I’m a lover of moutarde alone, I’ll also have you know that I have been stopped at least three times by tourists scouring the wine section of Alima, and I always point them toward my favorites of Luxembourg’s predominant grape varieties. And, no guest ever leaves our apartment without a small bottle of Luxembourg wine or eau de vie as a souvenir to take home.

If you live in the Grand Duchy, you already know that there are more delicious foods and beverages produced in Luxembourg than you’ll ever have time to taste, and that each region of the country comes with its own specialties.

But, did you know there’s a map to help you find all of those tasty treats??

Thursday, July 21, 2011

User's Guide: Getting a Haircut

"Cousin Itt" (circled).
There comes a time when living in a new place that the thing you’ve been avoiding finally becomes inevitable. A time when you finally have to confront the fact that you’ll soon be confused with “Cousin Itt” if you don’t take action soon. And a time when it becomes painfully obvious to everyone that your natural hair color is not actually the lovely shade of sun-soaked golden brown that you hope people will think is natural.

Ladies: you know what I’m talking about. I’m talking about making a hair appointment.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sunday Funday: Women’s World Cup & Wine (July 17)

It’s never really too early to start thinking about the weekend, is it? 

(I didn’t think so.)

I just hope you’ve recovered your voice from cheering (or jeering) during the exciting Germany v. Japan and Brazil v. USA women’s football matches over last weekend, because you’ve got more cheering/jeering to do this week.

But, if football isn’t your thing, maybe you’re in the mood for a wine festival this weekend?  

Or, maybe you're interested in both? I am, too. So, read on...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wine Tasting in Provence…by Public Bus

I try to make it a rule to never turn down the chance to go to Provence. And a little over a month ago, I had the opportunity to spend exactly one day there.

Nick was headed to a work site near Provence on business, and then on to the Loire Valley area before heading back to Luxembourg. He would be gone for a few days, and, once he realized that he’d be in a car by himself for 20+ hours, decided that it might be a good idea to invite his charming, intellectually stimulating and always entertaining wife to join him for the ride. Oh, okay, fine: he really just wanted a co-pilot along to help keep him awake and to plug addresses into the GPS.

Figuring that four days in France would more than make up for the week of French classes I’d be skipping, I went along for the ride…with an ulterior motive, naturally. Hey, someone in this household has to build our French wine collection while Nick works, right?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

American Independence Day, Luxembourg Style

Last summer was our first 4th of July overseas. I spent the day stealing several moments to scroll through Facebook, wistfully reading through status updates of friends who were headed to cookouts or neighborhood picnics, Independence Day parades, and eyeing their plans to watch local fireworks displays that night. I was jealous…and more than a little bit homesick. Nick often jokes that I'm "America's #1 patriot" and, when it comes to the 4th of July, he's right!  

"Captain Mike" leads the Independence Day parade
in my old neighborhood in Ohio.
Growing up in a small town in Wisconsin, one of my favorite days of the year was the 4th of July, when my mom spent the entire afternoon popping a giant paper grocery bag full of salty, buttery popcorn that would double as dinner and a treat when watching the fireworks later that night from the high school football field. Years later as a teenager in Ohio, our neighborhood began the terrific tradition of decorating bicycles, wagons and lawnmowers in red, white and blue; parading them up and down the streets in an unofficial Independence Day parade, complete with a “lawnmower brigade” of several dads pushing walk-behind lawnmowers that stopped to perform military-style drills at points along the route! And for the decade that I lived in Washington, D.C., not even the oppressive heat and humidity could squelch the patriotism I’d feel while watching the fireworks from the lawn of the U.S. Capitol building, beneath the Washington Monument or along the banks of the Potomac River across from the Lincoln Memorial.

Ahh, there I go, getting wistful again.

I digress.

Anyway, instead of sitting at home scrolling through Facebook and feeling sorry for myself again this Independence Day, I’ve found a cookout to attend. And you can come, too!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Luxembourg National Day Events (June 22-23)

It’s the big day, folks: today is the start of celebrations marking the Fête Nationale, Luxembourg’s National Day. The weather looks a bit iffy at the moment, but claims that the rain should move out of Luxembourg Ville by about 6pm…let’s hope their forecast is correct, because we’ve got a lot to do this evening!

While the actual National Day is tomorrow, June 23, the celebrating starts today with concerts all over town (and all over the country), a torchlight parade, a dazzling fireworks display and more food and drink stands than a merry-maker would ever need to make merry. Read on for the schedule.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dialing for Dinner

A lovely view in Cascade, Idaho.
After 8 days, 6 cities, 3 states, two 10 hour flights and 1,000+ miles driving in a car through the great state of Idaho, I’m back. Nick and I spent the last week in the U.S. on a whirlwind tour visiting friends and family who promptly wore us out by dishing out great stories, stuffing us silly with American favorites, and showing us a truly terrific time in general. Just take a look at the incredible view to the right.

We landed at Findel yesterday morning and, by some minor miracle (i.e. a four hour afternoon nap); I actually managed to muster the energy to cook dinner last night. Because usually after returning home from any kind of out of town trip, this House Frau is first in line to suggest that we order in for dinner. So frequently, actually, that I’m a little embarrassed to tell you that I’m pretty sure the guys at Royal Bengal know my regular order.

Anyway, it took me a little while after moving here to discover that we actually could order food for delivery in Luxembourg, so I thought I’d share my growing list of restaurants that offer home delivery with those of you who are new to Luxembourg Ville. It’s so nice to have the option to not cook on those nights when you’re just back from a trip, when it’s raining, when walking around the corner to pick up take out just seems too far to walk, when it’s Wednesday…you catch my drift.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Le Chien a Mangé Mon Devoir (The Dog Ate My Homework)

Since moving to Luxembourg a little over a year ago, my French has gone from nonexistent to awful. And this is actually something I’m incredibly proud of! Hey, progress is progress.

When I moved here, I knew a few important words that had stuck in my memory from previous vacations, like s’il vous plait (please), merci (thank you), pardon (sorry), ou est le toilette (where is the bathroom) and un autre verre de vin, s’il vous plait (another glass of wine, please). But that was all. Hardly enough to live on in a country that only recognizes French, German and Luxembourgish in an official capacity. I knew that I’d be able to get by on English to an extent, but hey, I’m in Luxembourg; I should be speaking a language spoken here, not expecting everyone in Luxembourg to speak the only language I speak. So, I started researching language classes.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

User’s Guide: Crime Buster! (Well, almost...)

Last spring while waiting for a bus at Hamilius one Sunday afternoon, a few teenagers appeared, clad in black trenchcoats, piercings, and one sporting a giant Mohawk. They seemed possibly a little bit drunk and definitely a little bit rowdy. Out came a can of aerosol hairspray and a lighter, which they proceeded to use to blow flames at each other and also at buses, spraying flames directly onto the windows where passengers sat on the opposite side. Looking around, Nick and I saw other people sharing furtive glances and moving a little further away to wait for their respective buses. Nobody seemed to know what to do to get them to stop, including us.

We had only been living in Luxembourg for a month or two at this point, so we were at a bit of a loss for what to do to help the situation. Did this constitute an emergency, one worth dialing 113? We weren’t sure. So far, there had been no serious property damage and the teens clearly were just being stupid in their dangerous actions, probably not out to hurt anyone intentionally. I decided that since nobody around us seemed panicked, the non-emergency number would be our best bet. I whipped out my phone to start searching for a number to call. But after nearly ten minutes, I still could not find a better number for the police than the 113 number designated for emergencies.

Fortunately, a bus driver with his wits about him pulled in, yelled at the teens, and (I suspect) notified the police. Minutes later, a police van roared around the corner, sirens blaring. They diffused the situation, and everyone went on their merry way. Except me, who kept stewing about not having being able to find a non-emergency phone number for the police. (Usually, I am an exceptional Googler!)

Early this morning, though, I finally earned a little redemption.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Octave Procession (May 29 at 3pm)

If you’ve been in Luxembourg any time over the last three weeks, you’ve probably strolled through the giant fun fair set up on Place Guillaume II. There, you’ll find enclosed restaurants that have popped up on the square to serve fried fish and other items, you’ll find carnival style games, more sweets stands than you could ever imagine; and of course, the infamous Jean le Gauffre Luxembourg’s most recognizable waffle man, who is out in full force with a VIP waffle room set up for the occasion.

Friday, May 20, 2011

7 June Events You Won’t Want to Miss

If you asked me which one month of the year I’d recommend for visiting Luxembourg, it would be June, hands down. The weather is warm, outdoor cafés are bustling with customers soaking up the sun, sausage and beer truck season is well underway, the hiking and biking trails are full of happy people, and there’s an event on the calendar practically every weekend. So, if you happen to find yourself in Luxembourg next month and you’re in the mood for a Luxembourgish folk festival, a street party, a major sporting event or a centuries old tradition, read on for dates, locations and a bit of background…

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Trier & Cochem: The Ultimate Day Trip

Whether you’re in search of castles, vineyards, charming villages or outdoor adventures paired with astounding views, there are loads of great places to visit in and around Luxembourg. But if you’re going to leave the Grand Duchy in search of a cross-border outing, I’d argue that there’s no better bang for your buck than a day trip to the German towns of Trier, Germany’s oldest city, and Cochem, a postcard-perfect wine town on the Mosel.

Before you read on, though, I think I should give you fair warning: this is almost too much blog for one post.

You see, when I take friends and family on day trips, I typically take them to Trier or to Cochem – or to both, on separate days – because there’s a lot of ground to cover in both places. But when my good friend Kelly came to visit last month, calendar constraints meant that I had to rise to the challenge of squeezing both places into one jam-packed (or in our case, Reisling-packed) German adventure. Here’s a rundown of our trip, in case you’d like to attempt the same feat:

Thursday, May 5, 2011

User's Guide: Getting to Paris (and the rest of France) on the Cheap

What do Big Foot, Sasquatch, the Loch Ness monster and the 25€ Luxembourg to Paris TGV special have in common? You’ve got it: none of them actually exist.

At least, that’s what I thought. But then I spent an afternoon clicking around the web site of France’s national train service, SNCF, and made a life-changing discovery: even though the 25€ Lux to Paris special never, ever appears when you try to book a ticket, there actually are ways to get to Paris on the cheap, for very close to 25€.

In addition to that, if you’re willing to make a few extra clicks on the SNCF web site, there are ways to get to other places in France for much less than you’d expect. And there are other inexpensive ways to explore places in France that are a little closer to home, too.

So, Francophiles: read on for my roundup of cheap ways to get to France:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Take a Hike

Walking through
Little Switzerland
It’s been an incredible spring here in Luxembourg. The sun has been shining consistently for at least a month with few rainy, gray days to speak of in between; the air is thick with the scent of flowering trees and I can’t dust fast enough each day to keep yellow pollen from instantly re-coating every surface of our apartment.

Normally, Nick and I would take advantage of this perfect spring weather to take out our bicycles and explore one of the extensive cycling trails that run throughout Luxembourg. But, with five stitches in my left hand from the recent unfortunate tapenade incident, biking is out of the question for the next couple of weeks. So, this past weekend was a perfect time to try something that’s been on our list of things to do in Luxembourg: hiking.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Rubber Duck Invasion This Saturday (April 30)

It’s an avian April here in Luxembourg Ville. Last weekend, we were invaded by ceramic bird whistles at Éimaischen and on tap for this weekend, 10,000 rubber ducks will flood the Pétrusse River for the 10th annual Duck Race, a yearly fundraiser put together by the charitable organization Roundtable Luxembourg.

The duck race will be held this Saturday, April 30 in the Pétrusse Valley by the viaduct, which is next to the mini golf and the petit train. There will be food and entertainment on from noon onward, and the duck race starts at 3pm. It’s definitely a family friendly affair, but a good time for anyone who is looking for a Saturday afternoon activity with the opportunity to hit up – you guessed it – a sausage or beer truck.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Péckvillercher (Éimaischen 2011)

My souvenir péckvillercher.
Easter Monday is a national holiday throughout most of Europe. But on this day in Luxembourg Ville, every year, tens of thousands of birds of all colors and shapes invade the city and chirp away without end. With a little human help, that is, since the birds are actually ceramic whistles called péckvillercher.

The celebration is a uniquely Luxembourgish festival called Éimaischen…a festival that I also like to think of as the official kickoff to sausage and beer truck season. (Sausage and beer trucks are common staples of Luxembourgish festivals that you’ll be seeing me mention regularly in the coming months.)

This year was our second Éimaischen and so far, the best. Last year, Nick and I wore winter coats and froze our fingers tasting our very first mettwurst, but this year we enjoyed loads of sunshine, much warmer temperatures, and the company of our friends Ashleigh and Scott, who drove up from Switzerland to spend Easter weekend with us.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

User’s Guide: Medical Care in Luxembourg

I think I am about to enter fun withdrawal. The last month has been a bit insane, in an awesome but crazy busy way. Since my last post, Nick and I have been happy to host several guests. First up was a college friend of mine who I dragged all over Luxembourg, out to Trier and Cochem, to Champagne and then off to Paris. The day after I left her in Paris to catch her flight home, my aunt, uncle and cousin arrived and were given the grand tour of the Grand Duchy. The day they left to go to France, I left for Frankfurt to catch a flight to the US for the weekend to attend a friend’s wedding. I returned home yesterday, a little jet lagged and happily exhausted from my friend’s beautiful wedding and a terrific weekend of catching up with old friends that I adore, and ready to see my husband, who I feel like I’ve only seen briefly in passing for the last two weeks.
The tapenade that caused
all of my ER drama.

So, naturally, not long after Nick returned home from work last night, I gashed my left hand while trying to open a jar of olive tapenade for dinner with a bread knife. (Dumb idea, I know…I often have a tendency to learn things the hard way.)

I had never cut myself that deep before and I was pretty sure that it was too deep to heal on its own under a Band-Aid, so I told Nick I thought we should go to the hospital. I keep emergency numbers on a post-it in a kitchen cabinet, but when we reached for it, it felt a bit silly to call an ambulance for a cut hand. After all, I was in pain but not in any kind of mortal danger. So, we called a taxi instead.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Village Hopping in Alsace

There are several problems with the Alsatian region of France.

First and foremost, Alsace is so close to Luxembourg – less than 3 hours – that it’s a perfect weekend destination; the problem is, when you get there, you’re going to want to stay longer than a weekend.

Second, once you do get there for a weekend or otherwise, you’re going to have to make some critical decisions. Should you follow la route des vins, la route de la choucroute, la route du chocolat, or la route du fromage? (I’m only listing half of the suggested routes here, but rest assured: all roads lead to your stomach.)

Then there’s the problem of where to stay. You see, there are scores of tiny timbered towns that make up Alsace and each and every one of them is charming and unique in its own way. Some towns sit beneath ruins of centuries old castles, others have been singled out by the Conseil National des Villes et Villages Fleuris for their town’s collectively dazzling, colorful displays of flowers and landscaping.

Finally, there’s the problem of what to eat. Alsatian cuisine is a perfect blend of German heartiness and French finesse. But with only a few precious meals to enjoy during a weekend stay, how does one choose between the choucroute garnie, the baeckeoffe, or anything that involves Muenster cheese (invented here)? And will there still be room for kugelhopf the next morning?

And most importantly: how many orders of tarte flambée are appropriate to share in one day?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bretzelesonndeg (Pretzel Sunday) - April 3

It’s time for another pastry post!

Those of you who live here will have seen some mouthwatering, giant almond-coated pretzels filling the windows at pâtisseries across the country. Those of you who don’t live in Luxembourg (...yet): from the looks of it alone, this pastry is a good enough reason to move here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Grillwurst That Got Me

A little over a month ago, I rolled out of bed, threw on the warmest layers of clothing within reach and scrambled out the door to get in line for tickets to the Luxembourg v. France football match. It was a big game: a qualifier for next summer’s Euro 2012 championship. Tickets were to go on sale at 9am that morning, and knowing how popular the match would be, I wanted to be in line early. There were just over 8,000 tickets available that would be on sale at several locations throughout Luxembourg.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

User's Guide: Reading List

Destination weddings rock. For the last week, Nick and I have been enjoying a ridiculous amount of fun in Canada, where we attended a beautiful wedding in Whistler, B.C. In addition to toasting and celebrating our friends’ marriage – and gettin’ down with our bad selves on the dance floor – we ate our way around town, did a little skiing on Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, and had a blast on a guided snowshoe hike where we tasted a few natural forest delights like tree sap and an edible moss called “grandfather’s beard” (as our guide promised, both tasted like tree), and learned about bear scratches…including tips on how to I.D. the scratches that mean you need to run. It was a great final taste of winter.

But this morning, as I rolled my jet-lagged self out of bed to the sound of birds outside our window (which had cruelly been chirping at me to wake up since just before 5am), I realized that I had a lot of Luxembourg news to catch up on. While away, I scanned a few headlines here and there, but being such a long distance and so many time zones behind definitely takes a toll on staying caught up on the goings-on around town.

So, as I’ve been flipping through my favorite English language local news sources, I thought it might be helpful to those of you who are new to town to take a look at my reading list. Then you, too, can stay caught up on all of Luxembourg’s news, from the crazy (e.g. the swan that was shot in Diekirch, or the recent would-be muggers in the Grund escaping to freedom via elevator); to the helpful (e.g. this weekend, there’s a job fair at Luxcongrès; also this weekend, museums around the country are offering free entry).

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Please Help

If you are reading this post, I think it’s a safe gamble that you have a roof over your head, you’ve had a hot meal within the last day and probably a refreshing glass of water to wash it down; you’re likely able to enjoy the comforts of electricity and central heating, and you probably know exactly how to get in touch with your mother, your grandfather, or your best friend. At this moment, there are millions of people in Japan who wish they could do even one thing on that list.

On Friday, March 11, the world forever changed for millions when Japan endured a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, one of the largest earthquakes recorded, ever. And that wasn’t the only horrible, cruel hand they were dealt that day; they then faced a powerful tsunami and then, as a result of the sheer force of the tsunami and earthquake, now have radiation exposure to contend with.

News outlets are writing that this crisis could be the most expensive in history, totaling $100 billion (71.5 billion euros), probably more. And, so far, funds raised toward aid and rebuilding efforts are pitiful. The NonProfit Times wrote today that five days later, only $25 million (17.9 million euros) had been raised in America: an embarrassing one-tenth of fundraising seen for other recent natural disasters. I wish I could find a global statistic to refer to, but I’m afraid the trend would be the same.

I know we can do better than that, and we can start right here in Luxembourg. Here’s how:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Stréimännchen 2011: The Video Recap

Every year on Ash Wednesday, the town of Remich holds an event called Stréimännchen. It’s a celebration that marks the end of the Carnival season, but is also a ritual held to chase away the winter and welcome in the spring. Stréimännchen is Luxembourgish for “straw man” (in leap years it’s a Stréifrächen, a straw woman), which is what Remichers carry through the streets of town and to the top of the bridge that crosses the Moselle River and connects Luxembourg with Germany, where the straw man is then lit ablaze.

It’s a celebration that is unique to Remich and was very cool to be part of; I highly recommend adding it to your calendar for next year if you’ve never been. But in the meantime, here’s a show-and-tell to give you a feel for the event:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Buergbrennen This Sunday

The long list of winter’s end celebrations in Luxembourg continues this Sunday, March 13 - rain or shine - with Buergbrennen, a ritual that is uniquely Luxembourgish. Traditionally held on the first Sunday after Carnival, Buergbrennen is a giant bonfire that is lit in order to chase away the winter, so the spring can arrive. And aren’t we all ready for that?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Free Beer for Confetti Victims

Yesterday, Nick and I began our afternoon by squeezing onto a train from Ettelbruck to Diekirch, squished between a green bug, a pirate, a mushroom lady and a giant ape (which was wisely sans head for the stuffy ride). We were on our way to the 32nd annual Diekirch Cavalcade, a parade of floats, marching bands and majorettes that would wind through the streets of town to celebrate Carnival season.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

User’s Guide: Getting Around

The Luxembourg public transit network is hands-down the absolute, very best deal in the country. For a mere 1,50€ – slightly more than the cost of a croissant – you can ride any bus or train within Luxembourg for two hours. Actually, I’ll clarify: you can ride any combination of buses and trains within Luxembourg, as many times as you want, for two hours. You just need to arrive at your final destination before your time is up.

Riding a city bus to the end of the line is a great way to get your bearings if you’re new to town. And long distance buses and trains are a great way to take in the Luxembourg countryside on the cheap.

So, whether you’re new to town or visiting on vacation, here’s what you need to know:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

You Say Carnival, I Say Fuesent

Everywhere I turn, it’s Carnival. On a quick overnight trip to Cologne a few weekends ago, costumed revelers were already out on the streets making merry with local kölsch beer. In Luxembourg, storefront windows are dressed in Carnival themes; costumes have filled the aisles of Auchan and other stores all over town, students just returned to classes this Monday after a week away for Carnival vacation, and I’ve spotted the occasional poster for a Carnival ball, in addition to eyeing tasty Carnival treats that have been on display in windows of bakeries in town.

In Luxembourg, Carnival is actually called Fuesent. Fuesent season in Luxembourg begins on February 2 with the Liichtmessdag/Candlemas Day holidays that I’ve blogged about here, and continues until Aschermëttwoch (Ash Wednesday), which falls this year on March 9. If there’s a holiday in Europe, you know that there are special pastries to accompany the celebration, which I’ve written about here

If you’re interested in attending a Fuesent/Carnival event in Luxembourg and you’re an out-of-the-loop American like me: read on. I’ve been busy investigating leads on upcoming can’t-miss events, and have compiled my findings for you here:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Powdered Sugar Overload

I just bought a pastry called a nun’s fart. Really! Okay, that’s actually the English translation of their real name, which is nonnefäscht in Luxembourgish or in pet de nonne in French.

It's Carnival season here, which means that new pastries are filling bakery window displays, full force. I've been spying these knotted donut-like treats for several weeks, so I finally decided to do a little investigating (er, tasting). So, today, in the name of research, I visited seven - yes, seven - different boulangeries to try to track down the five kinds of special Luxembourgish Carnival treats that I had read about here, and on a few other blogs. And Lux residents: I'm going to need your help tracking things down.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Ryanair Experiment

Balanzza: the best gift ever.
(Thanks, Mom!)
One of the very best gifts I have ever received is a Balanzza, an impressively accurate hand-held scale that lets you weigh your suitcase before you get to the airport; allowing you to avoid awkwardly unpacking and repacking your belongings at the check-in counter when told you have exceeded the maximum weight for checked airplane baggage...a pre-Balanzza situation I've found myself in far too many times. Which is to say, I am the kind of traveler who likes to pack 20lbs of you-know-what into a 10lb bag.

And this is the reason that I have been utterly, completely terrified of flying Ryanair.

Ryanair is one of several low-cost airlines operating in Europe that lure passengers by offering ridiculously inexpensive flights. Then, they nickle and dime these same unsuspecting, unprepared travelers at every possible travel day opportunity with strict luggage restrictions, confusing rules, and hefty fines for forgetting things like printing your boarding pass at home. If you read the fine print, you'll be okay, but it is still a pretty intimidating process.

Flying in and out of Luxembourg is not cheap, however, so I knew that it would only be a matter of time before I had to figure out the deal with low-cost carriers in the region. And last weekend became the weekend that I would finally learn to overcome my fear of Ryanair. But if I can do it, you can, too. So, if you'd like to fly to or from Luxembourg on the cheap, read on...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

User's Guide: Lux vs. France 2012 Qualifier Tickets (on sale Feb. 17)

I've been trying to figure out how to score tickets to a Luxembourg national team football game for a while now. The Fédération Luxembourgeoise de Football (FLF) web site is not incredibly informative, and online searches are most likely to take you somewhat shady web sites selling tickets for outrageous amounts. Yesterday, however, my luck changed when News352 published an English translation of news from FLF about how to purchase tickets to the Euro 2012 qualifying match between Luxembourg and France, coming up on March 25, 2011.

Tickets are not available by phone or online, but there are a number of outlets where one can purchase tickets starting tomorrow morning (Thursday, February 17) in person. No information, however, on when sales outlets open or about methods of payment. So, I marched myself down to Voyages Emile Weber in Luxembourg to ask a few questions, and then called their location in Kirchberg to confirm sales details at that outlet. So, for those of you planning to buy tickets in the city, here is what I learned:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Köln Special

Whether you spell it Köln or Cologne, it's worth the trip from Luxembourg if you're looking for a night out of town. And right now, Luxembourg's rail system (CFL) is offering a Köln Spezial, reducing the ticket price to just 19€ each way, so there's really no excuse not to go - especially since the famous Cologne Carnival season is well underway. More on Carnival in a minute. First, let me give you a little bit of background on the town:

Monday, February 7, 2011

User’s Guide: Be Counted or Pay Up (Lux Census 2011)

Sometimes I wonder whether my 86 year old neighbor is in cahoots with my mother, updating her on all of my latest activities. Usually once a week or so, as I’m coming or going, I hear the key turn in her lock and just before I’m out of earshot I hear “Jessica! Veehre haahve you beehn?!” I then trudge back up the stairs or back into the hallway and proceed to chat (or listen) for somewhere between 15 minutes and an hour. She is an incredibly kind lady with a fascinating personal story and she’s always been quite generous to Nick and me, gifting us chocolates, containers of ice cream, and at one time even offering me her old collection of well-worn high heeled shoes (they didn’t fit).

Two weeks ago, she stopped me as I was rushing out the door to catch a bus. I explained that I was in a hurry, but she forged ahead anyway, telling me that the census people had visited my apartment. She pulled out all of the documents they left with her and showed me that there were instructions in English. I wasn’t sure what the urgency was, but now I understand why she stopped me. The census is mandatory. If we do not return our census form, we could be fined anywhere from €251 to €2,500!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Punxsutawney Phil: Meet Liichtmëssdag and Chandeleur

No matter where you are in the northern hemisphere this time of year, it’s a sure bet that you’re looking forward to winter coming to an end. So, there’s no time to start looking forward to spring like the first week of February, which marks the halfway point between the first day of winter (Dec. 20, 2010) and the first day of spring (March 20, 2011).

In America, we wait every February 2 for our favorite Pennsylvania groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, to peek out of his hole and let us know how close we are to spring weather. As the tradition goes, if Phil sees his shadow, we’re in for six more weeks of winter; if he doesn’t, it means an early spring.

Unless Punxsutawney Phil has a distant cousin in Europe that I haven’t heard about, I think it’s safe to say that folks don’t wait for a groundhog to predict the weather here. Instead, they take things into their own hands and just forge ahead and celebrate the fact that winter is half over and spring is on its way by engaging in rituals that have been handed down and have evolved over centuries.

Today, February 2, two holidays are being celebrated in our neck of the woods: Liichtmëssdag and Chandeleur.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I Heart N(anc)Y

Nancy, France is a stone's throw away from Luxembourg in the car or on the train, and has been on our list of day trips for a while. The city is the capital of the Lorraine region of France (you've had quiche Lorraine, right?) and has its own special flair, but if you blink twice you might think you've stepped into a tiny version of Paris. At least that's how we felt when we stepped off the train in Nancy on a recent weekend.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thisclose to Being Kicked Out of Germany

This is the first of probably a very, very long list of "learn from my mistakes" posts to come.

Today, I went on a day trip with a friend to Saarbrücken, Germany. On the bus, we started chatting about carrying around our U.S. passports, and I was genuinely surprised when she told me she carried hers with her at all times. I don't, because I always worry about losing it; I also assumed that with open border agreements in Europe that I'd never need it for a quick day trip close to home. Plus, I've traveled in and out of the Luxembourg border countries several times and have never been stopped before.

Well, wouldn't you know it, just about ten minutes later, our bus was stopped by a police blockade.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

User’s Guide: Adventures in Grocery Shopping

Last weekend, I braved the masses on Saturday to go grocery shopping at Auchan. Auchan one of the biggest stores in town (read: country) and is pretty much a megamarket of the kind that rivals the biggest Target Greatland or Super Wal-Mart you’ve ever seen. In fact, since there are no department stores in Luxembourg, mega grocery stores like Auchan are actually anchors for the few indoor shopping malls in the country, believe it or not.

Anyway, I enjoy buying bread from the boulangerie up the street and flowers and vegetables from the farmers’ market when I can, but I love, love Auchan. This place has helped me to not only improve my work-in-progress French (via puzzling over labels and trying to decide if the product I’m eyeing is actually the product I want), and it’s the only place in town where I can buy an 18-pack of Diet Coke and a family pack of chicken breasts to trim and keep in the freezer in one stop…so, it’s like a little slice of the USA, right here in Luxembourg. So, if you’re new to town and are overwhelmed by the price of meat (so expensive) or underwhelmed by the over-picked produce selection at the grocery stores in town, hop on the bus and head to Auchan. Just make sure you’ve got a sturdy rolling grocery cart and keep a few of my following tips in mind:

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sunday Staycation

We do not own a car in Luxembourg and - at least so far - having wheels at our disposal is not something we miss on a regular basis. But when we do rent a car, as we did this past weekend, it is a real treat to be able to both run errands and to do some sightseeing in the area, visiting places that would otherwise require more complicated bus or train travel to reach. Yesterday we went to Rodemack, France, then followed the Moselle River up to Schengen in Luxembourg and ended the day at the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial, just outside of Luxembourg Ville.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Gambling House Frau

Today was a gray, cold and rainy day; yet another in a long stretch of gray, cold and rainy days here in Luxembourg Ville. So, what's a bored house frau to do when she wants a mini adventure on a rainy day? Why, head to the casino, of course!

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Pastry for Every Holiday

On its country profile of Luxembourg, the US State Department writes that it is against Luxembourg law to collect information about religious practices...but our Luxembourg guide book says that the country is 90% Roman Catholic, so we'll go with that figure. Being such a Catholic country, there are a number of religious holidays that are celebrated much more widely here (and throughout Europe) than I ever noticed being celebrated back home in the US. And there seems to be a delicious pastry to go with every single one of them.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

No broken legs & I still have eyebrows

Nick and I wrapped up 2010 in Garmisch-Partinkirchen, Germany, visiting Nick's sister Jill and her boyfriend, Tim.  They treated us to great skiing (so great, in fact, that General Petraeus was skiing at the same place with his family while we were there!); to some near-death experiences on New Year's Eve during a town-wide homemade fireworks display, to an annual New Year's Day ski jump competition, and to yet more near-death experiences on sleds down a ski hill the day after.  It was an excellent spot to bid adieu to the old year and ring in the new one, and here is a writeup with photos to prove it:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

9 Months In

They say that some of the most stressful things in life include selling a home, moving, leaving a job, and planning a wedding.  In 2010, my (now) husband, Nick, and I did all of those things.  So, with the craziness of last year behind us, it's time to start blogging about our experiences living abroad!