Friday, September 4, 2009

Petite Suisse Luxembourgeouise

The Michelin Guide gives three stars to the Petite Suisse Luxembourgeoise, a small area of the country near the German border, bounded by the Moselle River. We would have taken a boat trip along the river, which is really quite narrow in many places, but we couldn’t find a parking space in Remich, one of the towns where the boat docked. I mean literally....nowhere to park at a quarter to three on a Sunday afternoon.The reason? The entire town and many visitors from Luxembourg, France and Germany were all playing in the riverside parks or having their Sunday lunch in the parade of restaurants looking out over the river. So we ended up cruising the river …in our car, which was really no hardship, since the views were spectacular, and we were able to stop off in a number of the small villages set amongst the vineyards which lined both banks of the river.Although my father was a fan of German wines ( he developed an appreciation for them AFTER he was rescued from a German prisoner of war camp), I have never been particularly fond of them. However, our first stop was Ehnen, a small wine growing village, where we enjoyed a bottle of local Rivaner in a riverside restaurant which offered a Sunday noon all-you-can-eat buffet. Nine hours later, and I still was not hungry.

One surprising feature of the regional small towns along the river was the extensive use of colour on the buildings. However, looking across the river at the small German villages, I realized one also finds a similar colour palette. It’s not quite as dramatic as Albania, but it’s certainly more colourful than what we found in Belgium.At one point I thought about going over the bridge to Germany to look around, but decided against it. However, an hour later I was surprised to have someone race past me with German plates. When I looked more carefully, I realized that most cars had German plates. Somehow I had crossed into Germany without even realizing it! At that point, Sally decided to turn the navigation unit on and fifteen minutes later, we were back in Luxembourg.

After a day of exploring and being tempted by the hot spring waters of Mondorf-Les-Bains, a popular spa town, we decided to settle for the night in the very attractive town of Echternach. Since we had not reserved any accommodation, I spent an hour searching hotels on the internet while having a drink in a cafe overlooking the main square... only to end up booking the one hotel recommended in the Michelin guide which turned out to be right next door.A major consideration in choosing this hotel was its very high satisfaction rating from previous guests. If you don’t use TripAdvisor or similar websites to check out guest comments, you are missing out on some useful information. As an aside, I was tempted by some photos and the description of a more deluxe hotel set in extensive gardens just outside of the town. However, when I checked the guest rating it was not that high and comments noted that the property was located at the junction of two very busy streets and one guest complained that the least expensive bottle of wine in the restaurant was 28 euros.

(I will add my comments about the hotel where we stayed. It was well located; extremely clean and good value for money. But the TV was very small and although there were 34 stations, none were in English! There was also no internet, both a blessing and a curse. )
The next morning, we set off for Vianden, a very picturesque hillside village, overlooked by a very large castle. We could have spent quite a bit of time exploring, but we were looking forward to getting to Brussels and wanted to keep enough time for other finds along the way as we drove through the Ardennes, the forested and mountainous region of Luxembourg and Belgium.

It was not quite like driving the road to Squamish, but with a lot of tight hairpin turns it was a very different experience than touring the rest of the country which is about as flat as the Richmond Golf and Country Club. The road included plenty of warnings for motorcyclists (I suspect there had been a few accidents) and it was interesting to see roadside markings painted on trees that had been specially planted along the side of the road in some areas.On a somewhat related matter, when I read in the Vancouver Sun that there had been a tragic accident in Vancouver at a location where there had been 60 other accidents in the previous four years, (the Assistant City Engineer said it was about normal), I could not help but wonder why the city doesn't install signs letting motorists and pedestrians know this is a dangerous intersection.

Also, compared to Belgium, Vancouver pedestrian crossings are very poorly marked. Here one often finds pedestrian crossings marked by tall black and yellow poles with extra lighting, even in the middle of a small town. It might be overkill (if you'll pardon the pun) but I suspect it works!

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