Thursday, July 21, 2011

Perfect Luxembourg

CURRENT PREFACE: After visiting many metropolis's throughout the world this postage stamp city and country stands out to be the front runner of all. It seems way too good to be true but our inquiry amongst it's residents held steadfast that Luxembourg has won our prestigious "Most Perfect City in the World" award. Would I want to immigrate to perfection? I don't think I could handle the pressure of living up to it's flawless surroundings so Bisbee don't worry, we aren't going anywhere but home.  

Down to the last day in Paris and a quick decision had to be made whether to go directly to the Netherlands to spend our entire five remaining days on the European continent or make a quick side-trip stopover somewhere on the way to wooden shoe land. Then I had a geographic recollection regarding a mini-country somewhere on the northern border of France called Luxembourg. I knew nothing about this little known or heard from nation and that alone was cause for their monarchy to welcome us upon our arrival.

The City Hotel with the train station on the left
Semi early Friday morning we sobbed as we said our goodbyes to best friend Lisa and arrived by bus at the Nord Est railway station. Crossing the wide boulevard of traffic and the even wider arrival area fronting the station we found the ticket office that is now known as the slowest service queue in rail history. I knew what train we needed and allowed for an hour to purchase the tickets, find the platform and have a cup of coffee. I didn’t allow for everyone in front of us to plan their complete summer holidays with each ticket agent. I could have used a ticket issuing vending machine but our country, the old backward USA do it our way, doesn’t adhere to the rest of the world’s latest embedded chip technology for credit cards which disallowed any hope of an alternate method to purchase tickets and left me standing in line anxiously waiting until ten minutes before my train was scheduled to leave. One of the three ticket windows opened for our service and we rushed up first asking if the saleswomen spoke English and she instantly referred us to the next clerk which was busy. I didn’t let a little communication issue stop me at this point to purchase two one way tickets to Luxembourg for the next train. Within five minutes we had our tickets, walked quickly out of the office into the boarding area, checked the platform location,  showed our ticket to the rail master and boarded the train with a couple minutes to spare. The only hang up was we were in the wrong car…yes it was a second class coach but our assigned seats were in another car so we just sat meekly in some random seats and fortunately no one claimed the seats for the three hour trip to Luxembourg.
Bridges and manicured gardens

There was a light rain when we stepped outside from the picturesque train station and though the King, the mayor, nor a large crowd of citizens gathered to formally welcome us, the genuine happiness in the faces of the general public was welcome enough. We walked around serveral blocks of streets for about 45 minutes scoping out hotel possibilities and decided on the City Hotel because it was close to the rail station and the penthouse corner room with a view of one of the main streets was great plus they provided a great breakfast included in the price of the room.

Every country could use one of these
Upon checking in I decided to query the elderly cheerful desk clerk about his country, which he was a native. “How are your politicians?” I asked. His reply was quick and direct. “They seem very honest and they work very hard”. I couldn’t believe this but his sincere answer without hesitation lead me to believe it was true. “I don’t really hear of Luxembourg getting involved in any wars, how can that be?” He smiled and said the country hasn’t been to war in 250 years except for that “German thing” which they didn’t have anything to do with and he doesn’t foresee anything in the near future.  When asked about hiking around the city, “We have many beautiful hiking trails through our city so it is not necessary to travel very far.” Is this utopia or what? It was getting late so we dropped off our bags in our beautiful room and walked through the ultra clean streets of the old part of the city. What we first encountered in the early evening light was truly as our desk said. Beautiful streets, walkways, pedestrian paths, and trails all around the city with views of many ancient buildings, incredible green landscapes, and very tasteful shops and restaurants populated the old city center plus everyone was really friendly and again our inquiry to everyone we meet seemed to be very happy to live in their country.  We wandered (got it right Lisa) into a large square where a large stage was set for an orchestra performance. There were small booths selling sausages, beer, and wine so we had a couple glasses of wine and within 15 minutes the youth brass orchestra began to play. The weekend music festival was put on by the "Ministry of Respect". Yes can you believe this country has such a governmental agency? This is what the US needs more than ever! The setting was storybook like and the musical performance was flawless.
The train station

We ate dinner at a restaurant recommended by our desk clerk for traditional Lux food. Sharon had the culturally recognized thick ham steak and I had a local fish. Both dishes satisfied our culinary desires and we slowly strolled back to our hotel along the quiet streets of our new favorite city.

The morning gray skies and low hanging clouds didn’t dissuade our desire for the urban hike on the trail we caught a glimpse of the night before. The river canyon cuts through the center of the city and provides a lengthy lush pedestrian pathway for visitors and residents enjoyment. A light drizzle put a gloss varnish on the stone steps leading down to the path making it very slippery. Once at the bottom, the manicured parkway lead us through the maze of trees, bushes, lush carpets of grass, and interesting historic homes and churches. The rain increased just after we ducked under cover of a small family entertainment spot featuring miniature golf . The rain drained from the last cloud and the sun made its d├ębut as we continued our hike under the high stone arches of the bridges above, threading the paths dividing the well organized gardens and eventually the path popped us out onto the winding narrow streets of the city routing us back into the central zone where again another music venue began as part of the weekend festival.  So incredibly beautiful this city was I couldn’t help wish that all city planners should be required to visit Luxembourg as example of how to make use of common areas in an urban environment.

The next morning we reluctantly boarded our train to Amsterdam leaving our beautiful City Hotel room and Luxembourg, a city so great they had to name it twice…Luxembourg Luxembourg. (sorry New York, you aren’t the only one)

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