Day Ten

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Travelin-Tigers

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Tigres de Voyage

May 20, 2002
Monday

Paris to Luxembourg

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Breakfast  / Metro to Gare l'Est

Train to Luxembourg / Check in

Luxembourg City on Foot 

Day 09 Return to Main Page Day 11

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Breakfast at the Renaissance / Metro to Gare l'Est

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Dave: It was a sad morning, as we had to leave the ample confines, wonderful beds, and modern telephone modem jack of the Renaissance Hotel La Defense and head to the train station and onto Luxembourg. It was Monday morning, and I learned why we got the week-end rate Sunday night, too. Today was a work holiday in France, and the plaza and entire area was again deserted. But it was Monday, so the concierge room was open for free breakfast (gratuit petit déjeuner). And it was good. American style cereals, juice, coffee. European style meats and cheeses. Oh, and did I mention gratuit?

We tried to have fun with the young man in attendance, and he tried to be fun but just couldn't do it. He confirmed that today was a French holiday (that's why nobody was in the plaza) and dutifully asked about our stay and how long we had been in Paris, etc. I tried to engage him to give us French lessons, but he spoke good enough English that he could not understand a single word of my French. I still could not get the hang of dropping the final consonant sound. But today I wanted him to help translate "en Francais" the name of our travel companion, "Mr Puppet Mouth". This is our  familiar hand signal, sans puppet sock, that appears whenever any of us are tired of listening to the complaints or long explanations of the other. I had looked up "Monsuir", "Pupee", and "Bouche", but could not get confirmation that "Mis-ure Poop-pay Booshe" was correct. I also tried this joke on him: since "Bouche" is mouth, isn't it logical that "Boucherie" (Butcher shop) should actually be a "Dentist" (dentiste)? Such fun wordplay, with my mangled pronunciation and purposeful misintention was totally lost on all Frenchmen. Here it was met first with concern then with a blank stare. Eventually, he understood I was attempting humor and smiled gratuitously for me but, oh, just nevermind.

We stopped at the busy desk (busy with tour groups, not business travelers) and checked out, barely mentioning our complaint about the way Marriott points were so undervalued for the Paris hotels that we ended up paying cash instead. We figured we would  just gripe about it here instead.

Despite its great rooms and low week-end special price, the Renaissance Grand Arche / La Defense is a horrible place for a tourist to stay in Paris. First it is miles from most attractions, requiring usually two Metro trains. And second the entire complex is so HUGE that the simple trek to the Metro itself was half a mile (of pure modern French ugliness). Finally, the complex was designed in Euro-Modern style, requiring inconvenient stairs (today with luggage), awful direction signs, and having to walk across inappropriately grand expanses designed specifically to be viewed from afar but not walked upon (How French!). Today, it was also raining on and off, and a ridiculous path was required to avoid rain for HALF of the time. You get my point; find a nice B&B or rental flat in a cozy Paris Arrondissement.

We caught a couple trains and brought ourselves to Gare d'Est, departure point for Luxembourg and points east. Originally, I intended to see one more site today (maybe the Louvre?), but Jess was adamant that we wanted to beat it out of town ("oust"). It was our last hours in Paris, and so our last chance to take pictures and buy souvenirs. We finished our collection of subway signs with Jesse and the forthcoming "L'Attaque des Clones" poster (premier 17-Mai), We decided to pick up four or five tiny Eiffel towers to give as presents to our friends back home. What a perfect memento for them of our trip to Paris. We eventually found some in the Gare d'Est gift shop, and picked them up (plus a coke and a sandwich d'ligne for the long train ride).

We had arrived at Gare d'Est a little early, with enough time to shop, take pictures, check out the area directly outside and try to find the photo booth made famous in "Amilee". Gare d'Est was the setting where the mystery man of the photo booths was finally revealed, and we snapped several pictures of various candidate spots, figuring to identify the proper corner after we buy the video (when it finally gets released).

Leaving our wonderful American-style room

Breakfast in the concierge lounge

The busy desk at the Renaissance

Jesse using the Paris Metro one last time

L'Attaque Des Clones

These adorable plush Eiffel towers stayed behind in Paris.

Having learned our lesson with our reservation confusion in Rennes, we immediately located a ticket booth ("billeterie") and verified our train's departure and that no reservation would be required this time. A kind and patient woman ("English?", "A little"), confirmed the train, no reservation required, and that the track "Voie" would be assigned 30 minutes before departure. She played French teacher as Track "Voie" is pronounced "Vwa" as Three ("Trois") is pronounced "Twa". I pointed to Vwa-Twa then paused and added "wah-la" and laughed. Again, she was concerned by my attempt to find humor with the French Language (Fran-say), and needed three repeats before giving me an "oh", and a courteous smile and nod. Oh, nevermind.

We quickly found the proper schedule board "Depart Grandes Lignes", and were confused by the two line display of our train (two trains?). When the track number was finally displayed, we scooted there and confirmed with the conductor that the train was headed for Luxembourg.

There's our train to Luxembourg, #357. We wern't sure if the two lines meant two trains (no, just one). This time we
knew to look for "Depart Grandes Lignes" (Main-Line Trains). Can you read the warning in French across the top?
By now, we could. "The track number will be posted about 30 minutes before the train departs" (liars). 
By the way "Vwa Twa" (Voie Trois) is track number three (a French rhymer).

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Train to Luxembourg / Hotel Check In

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Dave: This train was again sparsely populated, so we took the single chair side facing the small table in the middle of the first class car. We travelled only in coach style cars, never sleepers, with one train having a door closing true compartment (just like the movies!), one a pseudo-compartment with each set of 4 chairs facing each others, and the rest having these subway style omni-directional chairs. By that I mean, there was no "front" or "back" direction as, just like subway cars, half the chairs faced forward and the other half faced backward. In the cars we rode, they met in the center with one privileged pair having a small table top. The secret, when there are no reservations, is to run in first and grab this set, so you can use the table for the laptop.

This train was about half full, with a young family grabbing the adjacent four-top, allowing their six-year-old daughter to color and draw during the long trip. It was fascinating to see her doodle with a colored pencil, in a small flip style notepad, just like Jesse did at that same age on an airplane trip to Disneyworld. A universal childhood experience. Also, two single mothers, each with a cranky baby, were in our car and the babies grew restless toward the end of the two and a half hour trip. Lucky for us, they each exited at a mid-point stop, just as their little ones were wearing on our nerves.

Thionville, France, was the last stop before crossing the border into Luxembourg and many passengers exited. I remarked that in the days prior to the EU, there would have been a border checkpoint, with the  necessity to change tickets or paperwork. Now, it was just another five minute train stop where I noticed the customs and border crossing signs had been painted over and the office closed.

We exited the train in Luxembourg, and the handsome young conductor that had greeted us in Paris and checked our tickets en route blew his train whistle and jumped onto the moving car stairway (instead of shouting "all aboard"). He turned and nodded and waved to us and clearly said "bon voyage". What a delightful goodwill ambassador!

Jesse, reading up on Be-Ne-Lux (before his nap).

Dave, Luxembourg bound (before his nap).

Our arrival at the Luxembourg train station

As we headed from the platform to the exit, we encountered a clever machine assisted belt for transporting your heavy suitcases up or down the stairways that accompany all train platforms. It was a clever design, that sensed if you were at the top or bottom and moved the bag slowly enough that you could scamper up or down the stairs before it arrived. I hadn't been in the country 10 minutes yet and I already like the Luxembourgers!

Best Western LuxembourghWe stepped from the station and immediately spotted the Best Western hotel as it was, as promised, directly across the street. There would be no walking a couple miles over cobblestones (like Brugge) or wandering about in the rain (like Caen). We just crossed the street at the light and checked-in.

The man at the desk was delightful, portly, with thinning Grecian- formula black hair and wearing a Wal-Mart blue vest. He had a twinkle in his eye and a laugh in his voice. I remember him asking if we were traveling on "business or Monkey-business". Then when we asked directions, he winked and motioned to the young woman helping at the desk ("Would you two like a beautiful lady to escort you around town tonite?") and she just rolled her eyes and shook her head.

What a clever suitcase belt!

Later when we asked if we should keep the room key or leave it he asked us "Shall you keep the key so you can lose it, or leave it here so I can lose it?". He took time to explain the Letzebuergesch language (sounded to me like a "soft" German or "hard" Dutch), and to teach us a word or two, after explaining that EVERYBODY spoke English. Sadly, we did not take his picture right then. And when we returned from dinner and when we checked out in the morning he was not at the desk . So within the first 10 minutes, we knew that we were in a verrry different country, and that we would enjoy ourselves.

We got a city map, recommendations for a restaurant and sightseeing, and a brochure for a bike rental (which we didn't use). He explained how to catch a bus to the airport in the morning and directed us to a place for a quick lunch.

Our room was on the top floor
Luxembourg train station from our room window.

Ten minutes later, we had ditched the suitcases; freshened up; retired the now used up Eurailpass; transferred around our Euros and organized our money belts; packed an Eau, the GPS,  the camera, and our maps into a backpack; and we were on our way downtown for the evening.

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Luxembourg City on Foot

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City of LuxembourghDave: It is hard to explain just how much our legs and feet ached. Neither Jesse nor I normally do much walking, and we had done nothing but walk every day for over a week. But tomorrow we would have a car! We would see the rest of Europe like proud Americans! We talked about renting bicycles (highly recommended in Luxembourg City) but talked ourselves out of it. From the Best Western / Train station we walked the two blocks toward "old town" and took a brief, very brief, tour on foot of famous Luxembourg City.

Crossing the Bridge and `Lower Town` 

A couple of tired clowns in Place Guilliam
Dave in front of the "Cathedral Notre Dame"

We stopped for pictures at the Cathedral Notre Dame, and at the casements overlooking the panorama of the valley. We walked a couple blocks through the shopping area, window shopping and walking about. We headed into the Place d'Armes and found that it was a city block sized plaza completely encircled by small cafes. It had cafe chairs and tables set about under the trees in the central space. We walked to the next block, Place Guilliam, containing a horseback statue of King William II of the Netherlands (Grand Duke of Luxembourg) and fronting the City Hall (Hotel de Ville). It was filled with kids skateboarding and others kicking a soccer ball. Parents and children snacked on ice creams from a  vendor and we witnessed the worlds worst clown / mime try to make balloon animals for the kids (a promotion, I'm sure, for birthday party gigs). We walked about and we window shopped some more (the stores were all closed), viewed the major civic buildings among the two squares (but didn't go in), then walked back to Place d'Armes and enjoyed the most tasty meal I have ever had in my entire life. 

Statue in Place Guilliam

South Side Place d`Armes 

North Side Place d`Armes 

The Place d'Armes is completely surrounded in cafes, with choices for every taste and style. Several of the restaurants also had inside seating and a more dignified setting. We searched each menu (skipping Pizza Hut, Chi-Chis, McDonalds, and Quick) and settled on one offering a blend of French and German cuisine. The waiter spoke French to the other customers, and English to us, and unfortunately completely avoided our table throughout dinner. Jesse drank water and when his glass ran dry, we eventually refilled it from the bottles in our own backpack. Our outrageous defiance did not even register with our invisible waiter. How French!

But the food was incredible! Each of the selections had its culinary roots in German (Veal, Smoked Meat, Schnitzel, Sausage) but were prepared with a lighter flavor and more spritely seasoning more reminiscent of French cooking. This was also true of the potatoes and sauerkraut. My fish soup was delicious and I even celebrated with a couple glasses of Mousel, the famous local beer (which was golden with medium body, my favorite beer taste). It was without a doubt the most fantastic tasting food I have ever had, and thanks to our waiter's almost rude inattention, we sat and relaxed and talked away hours, spending our last evening on foot in a most delightful setting. It was our most expensive dinner, and our best (by a long shot!).

A delightful meal
Our cafe in the plaza under the trees
Jesse calling Home

After dinner, we walked back to our hotel lazily, as our aching legs quickly returned despite our extended rest. We barely saw any of the city of Luxembourg, and did not set foot inside any museum or public building, but we had a most enjoyable time. and it is on our list of places to return and explore. On the way back, we stopped to call Lyn and tell her about our delightful dinner. We could never find the elevator down to the bicycle rental place (in "lower town") but as we talked to Lyn we figured out that the elaborate phone booth was actually the mysterious missing elevator of Place Guilliam.

Day 09 Return to Main Page Day 11


Original Web Upload May 2002
Last Update: March 18, 2008