Monday, January 24, 2011

10 hours to Luxembourg or Why everyone died on the Titanic

Luxembourg on Chrismas Eve
  The Train Ride from Hell
At 8 am I left Ghent to travel to Brussels. After an hour and half wait my train arrived. We boarded the train and by station 2 we had about 30 people in the aisles and standing in the door area. At 7:30pm I arrived in Luxembourg. It should have taken 2 hours, It ended up taking over 10 hours on the train. It included being stuck in Germany in the snow, people refusing to let people in "when there was no more room at the inn" And trust me when I say they were lying. People stealing seats from old ladies and women with babies! The insanity level of the train ride was set at a pretty high level. Hundreds of people crushed on the platform when only 2/3 were let on the train at each car. This ride brought out the worst in the human condition and I now know why everyone died on the Titanic. Because I was on this train where they refused to let babies on the train (when there were seats available!)

I got to Luxembourg very late on Christmas Eve. This was due mainly to the snow issues but also because my train got stuck in Germany. Having lost the entire day on a train with no food, no bathroom and very angry people I had been looking forward to exploring Luxembourg. I could not that night due to the snow and the dark. Luxembourg is not very well lit at night and is built into a mountain, so walking in the dark was hardly advisable. I got to my room to find everyone sleeping. At 8pm. I had also had my pillow stolen by the cranky Russian woman below me. I hung out in the lobby for a while, ate my Christmas eve dinner out of vending machine (Waffle, chips and hot chocolate. A well balanced meal!) I also tried to watch 'Bridge to Terebithia' in Dutch. Didn't work out so well although I've read the book hundreds of times and have seen the movie version before. So off to bed I went so far disapointed in Luxembourg.

I awoke the next morning to an amazing breakfast. Some of the best bread I had my whole trip. I had a pleasant although slow conversation in French with a couple from Swiss. They eventually switched to English when they realized my french was "tres horrible". Then back to my room I went where I ended up meeting Amanda and Sharon of Taiwan! As you know, I have a deep love of Taiwan and we bonded a while over Taiwan before I had to pack up and go. But they were very sweet girls and agreed with me that the Russian lady was crazy and mean... Something about the cold just makes Russian people more unpleasant than the rest of us. It must be a natural defense for them or something.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland!

The Grund Fortress

La-La-La Luxembourg
I wish I could have spent that original day in Luxembourg. In hindsight I should have not spent the night in Ghent and tried to make the Lux the night before. But c'est la vie! Luxembourg in the snow is a beautiful experience. You hear the crunching beneath your boots; you see the trees covered in snow/ice and they look like lace from the distance. You walk up the hills in the snow and it takes a bit of a work out but it's totally worth it. Nothing was open when I was in Luxembourg due to the Holiday but I could still enjoy the feeling, the architecture, the spirit of the town on that Christmas Morning. 

It looks like a christmas card from a Bing Crosby movie. All the rooftops covered in the snow, all the little tiny buildings huddled together, the smoke coming from the chimneys. It was really beautiful and it made me like the snow that had been mucking up my whole trip so far. I walked past the Grund which was an old prison in Luxembourg. It was built into the mountain, using the natural to be part of the support structure for the Fortress. This helped the Grund not be completely destroyed during WW2 when the Nazi's bombed Luxembourg. 

I didn't know this before I went to Luxembourg but the country was completely destroyed by WW2 between the deportation of it's Jewish citizens (There is an empty train car that is left as a memorial in Luxembourg, very moving! Highly recommended.) And the bombing of the city, 95% of the city of Luxembourg had to be rebuilt or restored after WW2. And now Lux is the richest country in the world despite being the smallest country in the world! (It's about the size of Delaware.) The high value is due to low taxes on money held in banks, and the number of international banks in Lux. Highest bank ratio of anywhere in Europe. It's a little HK!
A Christmas card kind of town!

After I left the hostel, I arrived at the train station to see my train delayed again... Got a train to Mentz at noon and then only had to wait 10 minutes for my train to Paris. VICTORY! I got to Paris where I got lost again.... (UGH.) I ended up taking a wrong turn and ended up in the middle of town when I should have gone north. I asked for directions several times but ended up being sent to the wrong hotel not once, but twice! A very nice man named Amir at a hotel ended up helping me. Once again tears seem to be the thing to get French People to help you when you're really screwed.

See how everything in Luxembourg is built into the hills?

Who would want their food to be second hand? Not I, said the cat...

Paris, So We Meet Again
I arrived at the hostel to find it to be really awesome. Got a roll-away bed rather than a bunk because I hate the sound of someone creaking above me! Realized that he Le Regent Montmarte hostel in Anvert had HANDS DOWN the best bathroom of any of my hostels. The tub was huge and I could have taken a bubble bath if I had wished. BONUS!

Also down the street from the hostel was a french cafe open on christmas. I resigned myself to a McDonald's Christmas dinner but was pleasantly surprised to find "Le Panorama" open. It was a perfect French cafe with the paintings of can can girls on the wall and the pleasant lighting. I had a wonderful 3 course meal for 15 E. (including coffee). I highly recommend the restaurant to anyone staying in the Montmarte area of Paris. Good prices, nice waiters, close to Sacre Coeur. When I found the Panorama I knew my luck was finally turning around this trip. I made a vow to slow down in Paris and really enjoy the city over the 4 days I was there. And Paris was very good to me overall!


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