Saturday, June 6, 2009

Luxembourgaventures 1: The Restaurant

This is what I wrote in my travel journal last night about yesterday. Eep it's long, but it's my blog so deal with it (or "suck it" as Mandy would say). I also tried posting some photos, but I'm too hungry and this bar is to smoky so here's a link to my photo album:

I’m sitting in a restaurant in Luxembourg where the first two things I tried to order, they didn’t have. I don’t think the waitress likes me very much because I didn’t order the beef stew she recommended. (I can’t eat more beef!) She has a cute haircut at least.

I’ve been here since Wednesday, but I haven’t done much other then work since I got here. Work and eat. Last night: an Argentinean Steakhouse where you cook your own meat on a hot stone at yhour table. That’s where I ate beef. The beef was good but not my friend. I ate with A, my manager, and C, who is the Luxembourg office essentially. The night before, A her partner D and I ate at a place on the Place d’Arms and had wiener schnitzel with a very funny water and a very bad orchestra playing in the square (think “crucifying John Lennon”).

I left work early today (Friday) because I started at 7am. I took advantage of the time to walk around Luxembourg.

This a very interesting & pretty city. Right through the middle of downtown runs a deep canyon, ravine, gorge type thing that divides the city into several sections. It runs right in front of my hotel, the Sofitel Grand Ducal. I walked down into the Grund, as it’s called. Part of it is a large park. Picture a smaller central park stuck downtown and sunk about 300 feet below street level.

The other part is a standard old European town with houses (complete with laundry on clotheslines and gardens), restaurants and shops. It’s not overly touristy. I get the feeling that Luxembourg doesn’t really cultivate tourism because it doesn’t need to.

The highlight for me of the Grund and my first destination was the mini golf course. 3 Euro buys you a round on the most rundown, dilapidated course in the most beautiful site ever for a mini golf course. The scorecard stands were all rusted through. The lights by each hole (for night rounds) were draped in cob webs. No Astroturf. Just solid concrete.

There was nobody else on the course. In fact, the woman working there was sitting outside on a bench eating a sandwich with her dog. She had to come in to sell me a ticket and give me my club and perfectly round red ball. No dimples.

As there’s not much point in playing minigolf alone, I just randomly wacked the ball on the first hole… and got a hole in one! The course ranged from very easy to extremely hard with very little in between. You either had a straight shot at the cup or no shot. Mark your 6 down now and move along. And I’ll tell you, it’s hard to tell how a smooth ball will roll on hard cement. Totally different then turf. In the end, I shot a 50 with three holes-in-one (probably a personal best) and three 6s.

I wandered through the grund. Stumbled upon a picturesque bar on the stream (Scott’s Bar) and live jazz at the museum brasserie, but chose not to stop at either. I was driven and eager to explore.

I hiked up and out of the grund to the Corniche, the balcony that runs along it, and took photos of the view. With land being a premium in such a small country, they often tear down old buildings and build new ones. In some areas they’re built to look old and blend in. In others, they’re very modern. This was perhaps most striking looking down and out from the Corniche. Off in one direction down in the grund some very modern buildings were going up. In the other, new old looking buildings. Then across the way were large construction cranes building some more new old buildings right next to the 700 year old tower.

There was also a very pretty & functional vegetable garden growing along the cliff side below the Croniche.

Most (or at least a lot) of the people here speak English, French, German & Luxembourgish. More seem to speak French, so I generally try to use my few French Phrases (as Luxembourgish phrases are hard to come by), but then people think I speak French and it takes a minute for them to realize I speak English. I should just start with English. I don’t know why I think it’s more polite to start with French when French is just as much not Luxembourgish as English is.

And yet, the romantic couple sitting across from me at the restaurant are speaking English to each other but French to the waitress. Of course neither of them are native English speakers, but I can’t figure out where either of them are form.

It’s 9pm already and my meal hasn’t come yet. Speak of the devil, here it is. It’s very pretty. There’s a piece of bacon sticking straight up from my mashed potatoes. Got to love that.

After I’d walked along the Corniche, it was about 7pm. Ok, really it was 7pm as I heard the church bells chime. 7 also happens to be when most restaurants start seating. I wandered around the city centre looking for a place to eat. At one point I even went into a place and sat down, but it was more a bar and smoky. As no one came to help me, I left. Really the only reason I went in was the Scotty dog sitting in the doorway, but it turned out to belong to a patron not the restaurant.

Instead I wandered back to a little area known as the “Gastronomique” and found a place that looked busy. By now it was 8pm but most places were still empty. As eating alone is depressing enough, I didn’t want to eat alone in an empty restaurant.

(Ok, now I know the waitress doesn’t like me. After she translated the entire dessert menu to English for me from French, I didn’t order anything.)

But the restaurant is nice. Very pretty and good food. Oddly modern rock music playing (I’ve heard The White Stripes and the new Green Day). It’s about 9:15 now. If I hurry I can make it back to the hotel by sunset and either watch it from my room or go up to the panorama bar and have an exorbitantly priced beverage. We’re far enough north and close enough to the solstice that the sun isn’t going down until around 10pm.

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In 1789, the governor of Australia granted land and some animals to James Ruse in an experiment to see how long it would take him to support himself. Within 15 months he had become self sufficient. The area is still known as Experiment Farm. This is my Experiment Farm to see how long it will take me to support myself by writing.