May 9, 2019

Luxembourg - What do we actually celebrate on May 9th?

Following a lively argument with my friends, I've decided to look into this day and give you the answers, because as usual not everything is clear as water. So what do we, as Europeans, celebrate on May 9th, also called Europe Day?

If you are a little bit older than me, you might remember that on May 9th we used to celebrate "Victory day" that was the day in which in 1945 the Germans surrendered and the WWII was over. It was celebrated mostly in the former soviet republics and the countries in the Eastern Block and particularly in Romania replaced the May 10th, King's Day. Celebrated, but not declared a public holiday (i.e. you had to go to work that day).

That was then, but now on May 9th we celebrate "Europe Day" or the "Schuman Day". On May 9th, 1950, the French foreign minister, Robert Schuman proposed to place German and French coal and steel production under one common authority. It was after the WWII ended and quickly the West German Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer agreed to the proposal. Four other states adhered to the same document, Nederlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Italy and on April 18th, 1951 the Treaty of Paris was signed creating the European Coal and Steel Community.

This first organisation paved the way to what we today call European Union. So on short on May 9th we celebrate the European Union, hence Europe Day, which we started celebrating in 1964.

What makes me celebrate Europe day?

Well believe it or not, Romania is a European Country and since 2007 is a member of the European Union. My tone of disbelieve comes from the fact that people in Luxembourg still don't know Romania is EU. It does not have euro yet (but only 19 out of 28 member states are part of Eurozone) and is not part of the Schengen Area.

None the less as a Romanian and a European I enjoy certain benefits. Let me explain:

1. Free movement. Basically every time I want to go on holiday in Europe, I don't have to bother with visas and other papers. I can only pack my bags and have my passport and that's it. Not only that, but within the EU the same rules apply and if let's say the plane is late, I can benefit from at least a sandwich if not a payed room in a hotel.

2. The ability to work anywhere I want within the EU. We enjoy this sunny life in Luxembourg, because without that much effort we relocated here. True, that only in 2011 Romania enjoyed this freedom (remember we are EU since 2007), but nonetheless now if I want to apply for a job in let's say Amsterdam, I can move there within 6 months. Believe me, I've done it, moving from Ireland to Luxembourg and from Romania to Ireland.

3. The benefit of Erasmus. I am a little bit older for it, but nonetheless Erasmus exists and it is that time in which students choose to spent a semester in another country. Not only that, but recently students over 18 benefit from pre-payed train tickets to travel in Europe, cool no?

4. Protection from unfair treatment at workplace. Apparently under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights if I choose to move to Amsterdam and someone chooses to discriminate me on that, EU will protect me. I am lucky that never happened to me, but know you have that right.

5. Using phone and Internet at the same cost within the EU or no roaming charges. This is fairly new (2017) so let me explain. Before June 15th, 2017 when you would be on holiday in Luxembourg and phoned home to see what the dog was doing, you would have payed a charge on top of what a regular phone call would cost. Also your personal data is protected under EU law.

6. Returning products within 30 days. Also EU is responsible for that, because within EU if you buy a product in Belgium and decide you don't like it, you can ship it and get your money back. It works not only if you buy something from another EU country, but also within your country.

7. Same high standards for food. There is a trend within the Influencers world, where they test the same products in different countries and although on some examples Eastern Europe countries fall short, you as a European citizen can complain to EU authorities.

8. Peace and security. This is the most important one. I can guarantee you we could live without all of the above, but we absolutely need peace. We as Europeans would always find something to fight about and if you google the number of wars that happen in Europe you will be shocked. We enjoy the longest period without war and that makes EU the most successful peace project in human history.

What happens in Luxembourg?

Well Luxembourg is big on celebrating Europe Day being in the middle of it all. In Luxembourg May 9th is as of this year a public holiday, which means you have all the time in the world to tend to your business or to come to Place d'Armes and visit the European Village, where all of the EU countries have a stall and present their country. If you are not a big fan of crowds and noise, I suggest you head to Schengen on the Moselle River and have a nice family day on the banks of the river, visit the museum and find out more about why we should celebrate Europe.

What about Schengen?

Well Schengen is the best example of how peaceful and well made is the European Union, as it is a small village spread between three countries, Luxembourg, Germany and France. It was there that in 1985 the five first countries within the EU, Luxembourg, Belgium, Nederlands, France and West Germany signed a treaty on a boat sailing on the Moselle River. It is said that the windows were covered so the people signing the treaty do not know in which country it was signed. The Schengen Agreement is the founding act of the Schengen Area, where there are no borders and no passport controls. The Schengen Area comprises of 22 countries out of 28, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania are legally obliged to join the area once the meet certain criteria, Ireland and Great Britain opted out of the Schengen Area, by their own will and there are 4 states which are not member of the EU, but are part of Schengen, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

I do think this is a long and a sort of tl;dr post, but if you made it this far, pour yourself a cup of tea or coffee and while you sip it in silence enjoy it! As long and as complicated the history of Europe has been, now we are enjoying the most peaceful age yet.

As usual if you would like to say something to complete this post or if you just like to stay in touch, I'm on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu.

May 6, 2019

Belgium - Floralia Brussels 2019

If you live in Luxembourg you should keep an eye on what is happening across the border in Belgium, France or Germany, as many times I've found interesting events in the neighbouring countries which are easy to reach even by public transport, if you own a car, even better.

And one of these traditional events is Floralia, Spring Flowers Exhibition which takes place every year in Brussels. I consider it a good alternative for the years when we don't get to plan a trip to Holland to see the tulip fields.

More than one million flower bulbs were planted for this year's Floralia Exhibition, which takes place for about a month every year at the Groot-Bijgaarden Castle on the outskirts of the Belgian capital city. The property has 14 hectares and includes an indoor exhibition on a 1000 square metres green-house, an orchids show in the chapel and a tower.

This year the exhibition was opened for a month, between April 6th and May 5th and if you did not get a chance to go, here are some photos.


If you are interested, they have a website and a Fb page so just keep an eye out for next year. As usual I will wait for you on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

May 3, 2019

Fashion Revolution Luxembourg - Be sustainable when it comes to clothes

The talk about sustainable fashion as opposed to fast fashion (what we experience in our days with the abundance of clothing stores each one with their own collection that you have to have) has amplified, so much so it created the need to celebrate it and in return the Fashion Revolution week was born. In Luxembourg they organised a lot of interesting events, all under the slogan "who made my clothes?". A valid question, but not sufficient.
Almost always when it comes to sustainable fashion, the talk about pricing follows, cause someone pays a price, either is you the buyer, or the manufacturer. That is why fast fashion is on a trend right now, because clothes have become a commodity, something you buy cheap and it is supposed to last you just one season. We live in the age when we follow trends more than our common sense and that, unfortunately, doesn't refer only to fashion. That is why we live with influencers, people capable of disseminating the information for you and giving you the results. We only consume what we see others consuming and long is gone the era in which everyone wanted to be unique, when women would innovate in the way they dressed, wanted to be different from their neighbour even wearing the same dress.

In this era when the abundance of clothes is on our threshold, talking about sustainability seems pointless, but still there is a conversation we should have. Here is what you can do to be a little more sustainable.

1. The most sustainable clothes are the ones you already have. Go to your wardrobe and instead of thinking "I have nothing to wear" or "what sparks joy", think "what I could do to the clothes I already have, so I could be unique". There are a lot of possibilities of revamping your wardrobe. Try patches, try dying your clothes, try customising what you already have.

2. Mend your clothes. When was the last time you stitched a button or patched your jeans or even shorten your jeans? Even in Luxembourg there are stores from where you could buy buttons if you haven't kept the extra ones that came with your clothes. You don't have to be a perfectionist, be an artist! Craft your clothes.

3. Learn to love your clothes. You know the wardrobe essentials, the white shirt, the little black dress, a decent skirt, some casual pants, there are even people who preach living with just 5 items of clothing, I'm not that drastic, but learn to love your wardrobe essentials. Mine are, the red blouse I bought in Dublin and I love it to bits, the pants that fit in that certain way I like, the blouse with blue stripes, the not so little black dress, which I love wearing. They are pieces that make me feel good wearing them, pieces attached to a certain memory.

4. Learn to smart shop. Go shopping for clothes when you really need something, or when some piece has become unwearable. The stores are strategically placed for you to go inside and never leave empty-handed. They all call your name, don't they? Well they don't, because you don't need them. This year yellow is trendy and the clothing stores are full of mustard yellow items. I can almost bet that you have at least one item of clothing that is mustard yellow. Find it and wear it. Shop inside your wardrobe if you want, discover forgotten, but loved items.

5. Invest in clothes. Another part of smart shopping is investing in clothes. Spend a little more on a piece of clothing, but buy something that would last at least two seasons. Create those essentials you can go to and you know you look good in them and feel comfortable. Instead of buying three t-shirts at a small price, buy one of a good quality. Buy good quality accessories, they should transition from one season to the next. Invest in that bag you always wanted.

6. Read the labels. Try buying natural fabrics, plastic is no longer fantastic, plus it makes you sweat. Most if not all the fast fashion stores have organic cotton, linen, wool or even hemp lines. Buy those! Even though they are a little more expensive, they are sustainable on the long run. You know my collection of Romanian blouses? Most of them are more then 50 years old and they lasted so long because they are made from natural fabrics.

7. Be unique, be you! Fashion is there for you to choose and adapt it to your style, to your needs, to your figure AND not the other way around. We talked about mustard yellow, but maybe you are white as snow, you will loose yourself in that yellow. Buy red, buy whatever makes you happy. You like flowers, but they are not trendy? Wear flowers. You will start your own trend and most definitely you will not be lost in the crowd of mustard yellow.

And that ladies are my two cents about sustainable fashion. As always I'll wait for you on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

April 20, 2019

France - Reims - "Marie of Romania, queen and artist" exhibition at Palais du Tau

Fairly close to Luxembourg (about a two hours drive) there is this Reims. I have to say that in the five to six years living here I've never had the urge to visit it, but I did on the first proper summer's day of this year. And the reason I was so eager to go to Reims was an exhibition dedicated to Queen Marie of Romania.
A few words cause maybe you had no idea of this incredible personality.

Queen Marie of Romania was born into the British Royal Family as Princess Marie of Edinburgh, the daughter of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh (son of Queen Victoria) and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Rusia (daughter of the Tsar Alexander II of Rusia). After refusing a proposal from her cousin, the future King George V, she was chosen as the future wife of Crown Prince Ferdinand of Romania in 1892. Marie was Crown Princess between 1893 and 1914, and became immediately popular with the Romanian people (wiki).
This is in a few lines how she arrived in Romania. I've discovered her when I was a teenager, visiting with my family the Pelișor Castle in Sinaia, decorated by her, and if you happen to find yourself there you will surely discover the functionality of the place. Almost always when I visit castles that were inhabited I go from one room to the next, the audience room, the reading room, the bedrooms and so on, and I could not imagine someone from this present time living in there. But Pelișor is somehow functional, it makes sense, it is liveable.

After that visit, I've started reading her memories and then other books written by her and discover her accomplishments. She was the big promoter of the Romanian National Costume, wearing it and encouraging the women in her entourage to also have costumes made. My beloved Romanian blouses are part of that National costume. I even traced her footsteps in Iasi, because during the First World War they had to evacuate Bucharest and rule the country from my hometown. After that war, she was the force that led to Romania being united in almost the same territory as today.

In her long lobby with the British and French forces pleading for a united Romania, she visits Reims after it being destroyed by the war. So you see it somehow makes sense that an exhibition dedicated to her to be opened in that French town.
After this long intro, let's talk about the exhibition.

First thing first, it is good that it exists. Romania in general has a certain face for the French people and that impression, that stereotype is something that we (the ones living so close to France) have to battle almost daily. I would have brought to Reims the products of today's Romania and not something from the glorious past, but I dare to dream it is the first step.
You will see a few objects that belonged to Queen Marie of Romania, starting from paintings commissioned by her, furniture designed by her, a few pieces of her jewellery, books she written and painted, everyday objects and to finish, the crown and cloak she wore for her coronation day, October 15th, 1922.

For Romania, the exhibition, is a great achievement and if you are interested in this sort of stuff, know that there is another Romanian exhibition at Louvre, in Paris, with Byzantine Embroidered Textiles.
The location of the "Marie of Romania, queen and artist" exhibition is gorgeous. The Palais du Tau was the palace of the Archbishop of Reims. It is associated with the kings of France, whose coronation was held in the nearby cathedral of Notre-Dame de Reims.

The admittance fee is 8 euros and the visit lasts about an hour.

I hope you enjoyed reading my little article as much as I've enjoyed writing it. As always we can continue the chat on Instagram. You can find me @mademoiselle.ralu

April 8, 2019

Luxembourg - Via Botanica - The Daffodil Forest

Recently my Instagram feed got flooded by pictures of daffodils posted by the people I follow in Luxembourg. I (we) had to see the daffodil forest so I've started researching how to get there. I'm writing this article so you will not go through all that trouble.

Via Botanica starts in Lellingen, a small village in the northern part of the country and about an hour drive from the city. Apparently, as I've found out from an article written in 2009, Via Botanica is known as a hiking trail and only recently was discovered by the photography enthusiasts and Instagrammers.

It has 7.58 kilometres and my advice to you is to wear proper hiking/walking equipment, meaning at least some walking shoes. I did it in my fancy red boots and it wasn't that hard, but as I'm writing this my feet hurt more than my husband's, who on the last thought changed his footwear. I am definitely an Instagramer and not a hiking aficionado.

Second, if you want to photograph or just experience walking through the daffodils, go to the Via Botanica earlier in the spring. It all depends on the weather, so it isn't a clear maker in time to go and see the Daffodil Forest. Just keep an eye on social media and go on the first sight of daffodils in your feed. We went there in the weekend (so April 7th) and the daffodils were drawing their last breath.
Third, follow the daffodil sign. The trail is clearly marked throughout the forest, so even for an inexperienced hiker as we are it is easy to follow it.

Still, I think the trail is nice even without the daffodils, as you have a lot of places to stop and enjoy the nature and maybe have a snack. Be aware though not to litter as there are no litter bags on the trail, you will have to take your garbage with you.
The trail is dotted with benches designed by the artist Alan Johnston, at some point you will spot the poem "I wondered lonely as a cloud" by William Wordsworth and a haiku by Osaki Hôsai carved in Japanese, Luxembourgish and French.

The trail is a loop that starts and ends in Lellingen. We found there a cosy cafe and parking, so you will not have to worry about those little things that make or brake an experience.

I will leave you with my pictures and I hope I've inspired you to go in the nature and experience it at least on the weekends.

I hope you enjoyed reading my little article as much as I've enjoyed writing it. As always we can continue the chat on Instagram. You can find me @mademoiselle.ralu