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.