Thursday, February 28, 2013


Franz Schneider of leads the way on a fun ride last night across the snowy, muddy, windswept fields of  the Luxembourg countryside. Franz knows all the best places to ride in the Grand Duchy and I hope to tag along on many rides in the future.

Here's a sort-of mixed bag assortment. Some random thoughts, impressions and occurrences from my first few days in Luxembourg.

(Feb. 16, a few hours after we arrive.)
It’s 4 .m. but to me feels like 7 p.m. and given that I’m deep in the throes of a jet-lag funk, I can’t sleep worth a damn. So I go out for a walk in this city I’ve never been to before.
I walk through a nice park which has signs that appear to say no ball-playing, kids with helmets, or apple cores among other things. It also has the most amazing clipper-ship playground which, whale-and-clipper-ship lover that I was as a child would’ve been absolutely heaven for me. (An admitted Aubrey-Maturin series nerd--"Master and Commander," etc.--
it still knocks my socks off!) 
Even though it’s getting to be 4:30 in the morning, I begin seeing singles, lovey-dovey couples and drunk folk walking down the streets around me. I follow to where they appear to be coming from and find We Own the Night, a hopping nightclub with pulsating lights and music and and dozens of young Eurohipsters hanging about. I watch the spectacle for a bit—it’s as if I’m invisible, a function I take it, of me no longer being young and pretty— then head down into a pedestrian area very similar to Rue Claire in Paris.
Yeah, baby!
Pretty soon I hear two guys and a woman—all French—walking behind me. She’s singing, is quite pretty, and holding a full glass of wine. It’s like something out of a movie.
Eurohipters themselves, they say “Bonjour,” “Hallo!,” “Wei geht’s,” to me and when I don’t really react—like I say, I’m jetlagged like crazy and not really sure what I’m seeing--one of them finally says “What’s Up?” in a phony American accent.
Then, “Weed … do you know where we can find some weed?” they ask.
They tell me they’re from just over the border in France, and seem disappointed that I can’t help them. I tell them I’m from America, near Seattle, which seems to somewhat impress, but also confuse them.
“You moved from Seattle to Luxembourg?” one of the Euroboys asks. “You’re going to be very depressed. There’s nothing to do here; you’re going to need Xanax to live here.” (Since Xanax is for panic attacks, that’s probably not what he meant, but I got the idea.)
As they stumble away down the cobbled street, the woman calls back over her shoulder, “Good luck, Seattle Boy!”

Just one of the countless cool, Europey buildings here in Luxembourg.
(Feb 16 - later that same day.)
Our first full day in the city we rent a van, an Opel not much bigger than our Versa and head to an IKEA just across the border in Belgium, known here as Belgique. (It’s less than 10 miles from our apartment.) We pick up a couple beds, a desk, some chairs and more during an exhaustive 5-hour shopping marathon. We note that the cafeteria offers IKEA-brand beer. Bake and I are so tired that a couple times we sit down on chairs in the store and nod off for 20 minutes.

(Feb 17)
Got out for a 90-minute ride to a forested area south of Bertrange (I think). Fun, pretty mellow. Though dirt and mud, there was nothing narrower than a city street. Still, amazing to get out in the Luxembourg countryside. Early in the ride, met a Danish rider named Jesper who let me follow him for a bit and pointed the way to this forest. He rode a Cannondale MTB with 26-inch tires and a rigid carbon fork.
Ornithological observation: There are magpies here the way we have Stellars Jays back in Western Washington state.
Later, Jen and I rode bikes downtown (Centre) to a McDonalds. It was Sunday and no grocery stores, or really anything was open. We notice that everything that’s extra-large or extra-meaty is the “American” this or that. (Same thing in grocery and retail stores; 'American-size' seems to be code for XL or XXL.) 

A couple blocks from our apartment I came across this mural of Krusty the Clown, my spiritual leader and adviser.
(Feb 18)
After-dinner exploratory night ride down into the gorge (Petrusse Valley). Incredible. Spooky cool. Expected to see homeless or nefarious types down there but it was empty. Lots of birds (crows?) in the trees, seemed upset by my presence.

(Feb 19)
Stopped in at a bike shop. (I don’t know the name.) It’s a combination high-end (Pinarello/Cannondale, etc.) bike shop and Shuck’s auto-supply store. You pay for stuff at the  store's only check-out counter near the front exit whether you’re getting Mavic Cross Max rims or windshield wiper blades. 

Later, at one point during a short exploratory ride, wherein I'm pedaling cobbled streets past the ducal palace while contemplating the city's thousand-plus-year history, I say aloud to myself: “I loooove this city!” (I may have thrown a "frickin'" in there for effect.)

Later, later, during a run, I stopped in to check out Luxembourg’s Notre Dame Cathedral, which dates back to 1613. It’s stunningly ornate and beautiful. I love big old European cathedrals and the art within—were religion not involved, I would so be Catholic.

(Feb 20)
With the potential for four different languages—French, German, Luxembourgish, English—combined with my eagerness to throw myself into it, I get confused. Yesterday at a bakery, I said “Si” for thank-you. In general, if people don’t speak English, they speak German and I can sorta try that. “Was ist das?” goes a long way as does “Wei geht’s?” “Danke” and “Auf Weidersehn.” Plus, if they want me to, I can count to 20 in German, but that hasn’t come up yet.
Lots of bike lanes here in Villa de Luxembourg!
(Feb 24)
Saturday, along with another trip to Belgique and IKEA (15 minutes away) we went to Cactus, a huge grocery store Strassen, a neighbring town of L'bourg. As soon as you walk in, you’re greeted by a bar and a sort-of food court area. Also, some retail stores like a mall.
Yesterday, I rode down into the Petrusse Valley to take pics of the snow. (We’ve been having the oddest snowfall I’ve ever seen—non-stop snow for going on 48 hours and yet total accumulation is an inch, maybe two.) Hooked up with another mountain biker and he took me riding east of the city, to a nice forested area with some fun mellow trails. Getting there and back was cool too—up and down various narrow cobbled streets, along the river, past an ancient monastery, etc.
It was a Sunday morning and hearing church bells gonging through the valley of an historic European city makes you feel, yet again, like you’re in a movie. It’s incredibly moving. 

Last week Bake and I had to get physicals in order to prove our fitness for living in Luxembourg. Next up, we get chest X-rays and are tested for TB which, from what Jen said, is a sort of creepy experience. Lookin’ forward to it!

1 comment:

  1. Cool. Enjoyed the update. Keep 'em coming...