September 9, 2019

Luxembourg - 15 fun things to do this Autumn in Luxembourg

Ah Autumn! The schools start, the traffic on the motorway starts, the weather changes, the trees get some colours, the blankets start to be sold again in stores and also the sweaters and jackets. Ah Autumn!

I have to admit it is my favourite season. It is not cold yet so you don't have to wear your warmest jacket, there are a lot of fruits on the market, the forests around Luxembourg look amazing, there are a lot of harvest events as people start coming back from the holiday mood and things are slowly, but surely moving in our little Grand Duchy.

So what is there to do in Luxembourg in Autumn, you ask? Well, here is my list. It is subjective, of course, but it could be a reference to you if you want to have an active autumn.

1. Enjoy Schueberfouer - I know our beloved Schuebi only lasts up to September, 11th, but it is still in autumn and if it doesn't rain enjoying some mules on a terrace, taking advantage of the panorama offered by the wheel and tasting all the little delicious treats that a fair has to offer is still an option.

2. Take a walk in Mullerthal and notice the change in seasons - Autumn is still the season for the nature walks and what is the area everyone recommends? Mullerthal. Have one last hike before the winter season, take your camera and snap thousands of pictures to last a lifetime.

3. Visit the Vianden Castle and take a hike or go by car around it and admire the changing colours of the foliage - the Autumn colours are a spectacle in itself, but imagine all that with Vianden Castle as a backdrop. Taking that perfect picture is a Sunday task in itself.
4. Enjoy a wine tasting tour and try the beaujolais - Before coming to this region I had no idea what beaujolais was. We call it in Romanian, "must" and it is the first wine, it doesn't have that much alcohol and it is sweeter. Most of the Moselle Villages have wine fests in Autumn, search Facebook or the internet for one and prepare your glasses.
5. Take a trip along the Moselle or Saar rivers - See the Saar twisting and turning at the Cloef. I am not a fan of the wooden structure they install recently, but still the views from the Cloef are amazing. On top of that, if you are on a more active side, you can climb up and down the hill through the forest. I did it once, it was fine, never again :)

6. Immerse yourself in the Steam period at the Fond de Gras Steampunk Convention - This is the event to check in autumn in Luxembourg. I've skipped it last year and everyone was talking about it so you have to check it out. It is on the weekend of 28-29 September.

7. Take a final dip in the Upper Sure Lake or go kayaking - It really depends on the weather here in Luxembourg, as half of August was cold, who knows if we will really have that one last dip or kayaking trip, but you may never know.

8. Enjoy the last braderies and open markets in the towns as they will close during winter - What is nicer than walking around the stalls and spotting little treasures? Keep an eye on Facebook as by now they learned how to make those Facebook events and you have all the details there. The Arlon one is called Marche aux Puces and it takes place on the first Sunday of the month till October.
9. Cross the border in Belgium and do a beer tasting accompanied by beer cheese - That is a must if you live in the area. I know there is a war going between beer drinkers in Belgium and Germany deciding which one is better, so why not check them both? While you are in Belgium though, take a cheese plateau when visiting a trappist brewery, you will definitely thank me. My favourite is Lupulus.
10. Take a walk in the forest - any forest will do. As we do not have that many parks in Arlon, walking Luna in the forest is always on our list. And although we tend to go to the same forest, the forest is never the same. Sit there quietly and listen, it is something I always like to do.

11. Enjoy the local produce, autumn vegetables and take a jam making class - That is my plan anyways. I've never made jam in my life and I would like to learn how. Also there are a lot of vegetables I associate with autumn such as pumpkins, mushrooms, cabbages, corn, and a lot of warm dishes to be made from those. Try some!
12. Pick an apple in Steinsel, a pumpkin in Beringen, a plum in Mamer and nuts in Vianden - All those are events I've been to and enjoyed to an extent or the other. It is an experience to pick your own fruit from the trees so gather some friends and have a picking Sunday. You will like it despite the crowds!

13. Decorate your house for Halloween or celebrate the local version of it called Trauliicht, when you can carve a beet lanterns instead of pumpkins. Apparently, in Munhausen they celebrate this local Halloween. As in previous years I've complained as no one celebrates Halloween in the traditional way in Luxembourg, I'm excited to find out what is this Trauliicht all about. If I find the right info I will go and report back here on the blog.
14. Check the Eastern European Movies at CinEast Film Festival - I always like to check out at least one Romanian movie as usual they bring only the latest productions. But, go to the movies, see the differences between countries, enjoy a well organised festival!

15. Prepare yourself for Christmas - The winter lights will be lighted this year in November and also the Christmas Markets will start in the region around the same time. Granted, it is not related to autumn, but it is Christmas. This year I hope to properly celebrate it, as last year I was so busy I've almost forgot about it altogether.

I hope you enjoyed my little article as much as I've enjoyed writing it and as usual, you can find me on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

September 6, 2019

Spain - My bits and bobs about a holiday in Spain

Spain was not on our radar for this year. I wanted to rent a caravan and tour U.K. before they leave the E.U., but as faith would have it we ended up "touring" Spain on our way by car from Luxembourg to Almuñécar.

As it was on short notice we decided to save the 49 euros per day we would have used for Luna's holiday hotel and bring her with us. Was it challenging? Sometimes yes, but most of the times was a real pleasure as I feel better knowing where she is at all time and how she is treated. I might be one of those possessive dog persons, but a holiday is not a holiday without her.
Holidaying with a dog in south of Spain

It is not impossible, but it has its moments. We researched the area and the only beach allowing dogs was one in a nearby village (Motril) where we went at first until our friends told us that on all the beaches dogs are not allowed, but are tolerated. So, we ended up on a more private (smaller) beach in Almuñécar, where Luna wasn't just tolerated, she was the main attraction.

We discovered that she is most of the times a well behaved dog, who loves to bits to be near us, so if we went in the water she would want to be in the water, if we were on the beach she would crawl under our lounges, she had clean water to drink at all times and I rubbed her nose with sunscreen, so for most of the days she was more than fine.

She did not like the pebbled beaches and frankly I wouldn't either, but it reminded us of beaches in Ireland especially Bray.

She was allowed on all the terraces we checked out, we mostly travelled by car so I don't know about public transport, but she was not allowed inside monuments and museums. There we had a bit of a problem, as it was very hot to leave her in the car and we wouldn't normally do that anyways. So we took turns in visiting monuments and museums.

The taste of fruits and vegetables

Let's say it was different, but different in a bad way. We are truly blessed to live very close to a Grand Frais and if you are familiar with the concept, you know that there you can find seasonal local fruits and vegetables, which taste as it should with the occasional imported produce. And most of the imported stuff comes from Spain.

So when we went to the supermarket and picked the most appealing tomatoes, the best watermelon and the juiciest peaches, only to arrive home and discover that the tomatoes were yellow inside, the watermelon was unripe and the peaches were good enough to put a nail in a wall, we were confused.

I don't know what had happened, but their fruits and vegetables do not taste like the ones in here. I will not go into the long discussion of them being picked unripe only to mature on the trucks or ships, but for real here they taste different.
Those Spanish people do like to talk, loud talk

I come from a Latin country, so I'm not inexperienced when it comes to loud talking, but they are from a different league. A walk down the promenade was torture, enjoying a meal at a restaurant was an impossible task, relaxing on a beach was nonexistent and all because they all like to talk at the same time, talk all the time and scream at each other and their kids.

I also now live in a semi Latin country, in the Walloon region of Belgium, but for real the Belgians are more quieter, not to mention that I don't know even, 6 years in, if the Luxembourgish people do exist or are just part of myth and legend.

I happen to speak some Spanish, so I did understand they were not arguing with each other nor with us all the time, but man they do like to talk!

They live on a different schedule

The locals would wake up around 10 a.m., go to the beach around 12 p.m. by the time they had breakfast, I was having lunch, they do the siesta in the afternoon, they eat dinner after 10 p.m. and probably go to bed at 12 a.m. as at 11 p.m. they are still on the beach, on a terrace or at a restaurant.

So it took us a while before we adapted to their schedule, but for most of the time we did adapt. I don't know if the same goes if you are on holiday in a more touristic area, such as Marbella or even Malaga, but that was the case in the area we've been to.
They still have some Moorish gems

I was told that all the towns called Al-something were Moorish at some point and I got that feeling. The almost riad style houses with that specific architecture would have me stare at them for hours. The narrow streets and oasis like private gardens, I liked so much. The small towns with a fortress on top, such as Almuñécar or Salobreña and even the Alhambra were places I'm glad I've visited.

The pebbled beaches

I did not get it, but I was told that in the more touristic areas the beaches had sand. It took a short second to get accustomed with those sea shoes, it made sitting on a blanked impossible to bear, but at the end we were fine.

As I've said it reminded me of the Bray beach in Ireland or of the beach on Brac Island in Croatia.

The inexpensiveness of it all

Coming from Luxembourg where in the centre a burger in Oscars is 25 euros and a good beer is 6 to 10 euros, to eat a paella and drink a sangria for 40 euros for two people is very cheap. Also different from Luxembourg you would have free tap water in the restaurant. Here in Luxembourg I think even tap water comes with a price.

I was told that it was not the same everywhere in the south of Spain and that in the touristic areas the prices were comparable, but I was still left with the feeling that everything was cheaper than here.
The joy of life one would get after a holiday there

I am a complainer. I always complain and make comparisons and debate more than it needs to, every situation, every conversation, everything. But Spanish people are more laid back. So what if the beach has pebbles, you go to the Chinese store and buy a beach chair and that's it. So what if it is hot, you stay inside or under an umbrella and that's that. So what if you are hungry, you have a fruit and you wait for the dinner time and that's that.

I think life is much more simpler that way and I don't think it depends on the region, maybe the Belgians are laid-back as well, I was just too fierce to notice.

I couldn't wait to get home to my things and my rituals and my familiar places, but I did manage to enjoy being with friends, being with my family in a nice place. So if you like me join the rat race every day, do allow yourself a holiday in Spain from time to time!

Those are my two cents about a holiday in Spain. As usual you can find me on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

September 2, 2019

France - What would be the only castle you would choose to visit from the Loire Valley? - I chose Chaumont sur Loire

The Loire Valley is another place we have to check again soon. On our way from the south of Spain to Luxembourg we passed by the area and decided we would visit just one castle. As my husband would settle with any castle, I had to choose one from the large list google provided and I choose Chaumont sur Loire. Why you ask? Because it looked round and welcoming, because it had beautiful gardens and because at one point belonged to Catherine de Medici. 

As usual Luna was allowed inside the property, but not inside the castle and to visit the gardens you have to pay the full ticket. So we took turns in visiting the castle and I liked it. It was furnished, although it could use a little vacuuming (I do understand it is old and the pieces inside are antiques, but so are all the ones in German or Luxembourgish castles and they don't give me a dust allergy as soon as I step inside). 

From the time you see the signs towards the castle from the road until you pass the garden the castle remains hidden, I've rushed all the way through to see it and pretty much this is the first thing you see (the first picture). It has round towers from outside, it is in an U shape and from the inside courtyard the castle is similar to the ones in Belgium. The visit takes about an hour, it is not guided so you visit in your own pace. 

The gardens should also get a mention and I particularly liked the Loire balcony where they have these covered benches similar to the beach huts in Belgium.

As I hope to come back one day, I will not give you many details, but I was pleased with my choice. I liked the castle, did not understand why one would put feathers in the garden, but to each their own, I found out that the first Romanian king stayed there at some point, although I did not find out why, I learned more about the way of living in that era, the furniture, the decorations, I loved the tiles. All in all, a nice visit.

I hope you enjoyed my little article as much as I've enjoyed writing it and as usual, you can find me on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

August 30, 2019

France - An evening in Bordeaux

I do agree, Bordeaux deserves more than just an evening, but that was all we were willing to give it this time. I'm sure we will be back someday. 

First thing that popped out of google as soon as I've searched Bordeaux was a statue of a turtle. So all I wanted to see was that statue. We checked in at the hotel and then took a tram to the exact place the statue was and then walked in the centre and tried a burger at one of the restaurants.

It was a warm evening with a gorgeous sunset and as little as I've seen it, I liked the city. I also think you will have a lot of things to do and visit. I will not tell you about the wine as I don't usually drink, but as someone used to Moselle Valley, I thought all the land surrounding Bordeaux would be only vines and from the motorway I haven't seen none. 

Still, the turtle statue is a monument dedicated to the wine industry related to Bordeaux and it took a while for all the people to clear the statue so I could take a decent picture of it. Its shell has a lot of symbols sculpted on it, including the myth according to which the whole world is build on a tortoise shell. The monument is in Place de la Victoire and from that point starts the walkway through the centre of the city, the longest pedestrian street in Europe.

For us Bordeaux was an easy city to navigate as it is well connected by tram, I also liked the river promenade and its terraces. We enjoyed one last beer outside as the next day we went home where for the past two weeks it rained daily. 

I hope you enjoyed my little article as much as I've enjoyed writing it and as usual, you can find me on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

August 26, 2019

France - A pit stop at Carcassonne

When my husband found out that we might pass near Carcassonne went crazy and did everything in his power, including driving for another 5 hours after the visit, to check it out. I was responsible with checking if Luna was allowed inside and after a short google search I agreed to this little detour.

Have I searched more maybe I would have found what is this Carcassonne really about, but I found out as soon as we stepped on the cobbled stones that it is similar to Mount St. Michael in the sense that it is a castle/fortress surrounded by a city, where of course Luna was allowed, but she was not allowed inside the castle. I was happy to find a shaded terrace and tour the souvenir shops while my husband visited the thing. 

So much about the castle you will not find in this article, my husband loved it, but then again he likes most of the castles we visit. It did not have furnished rooms which led me to believe it was more of a fortress than a castle, in my head the difference is, a fortress was used to defend something as opposed to a castle where lords and ladies or even kings and queens would live. I am not moved by the way people chose to defend a structure in old days, but I am fascinated by the way they lived, how they managed to decorate those creepy castle walls, how they kept warm during winter, what they were wearing, those sort of things. 

Still, if you are in the area, or if you are passionate about castles, it is worth a visit. Inside the citadel (I guess I have to explain this one too, in my head a citadel is a castle surrounded by a town, similar to Minas Tirith in Lord of the Rings, so not only a defensive structure, but a living one as well) you will find a lot of affordable terraces with decent food and souvenir shops, you can discover all the hidden alleyways so, if you like me, have to stay outside with the dog, rest assured you would have plenty of things to do.

I don't remember parking being a hassle, but I think it was a little hard to find as usually in France they have a different logic, in the sense you really have to solve a puzzle to find the parking as opposed to say Ireland, where all is easy to find. 

In total, I think we spend three or four hours visiting Carcassonne and on the same day reached Barcelona in Spain, so if we did it, you can also do it. Here are the pictures:

I hope you enjoyed my little article as much as I've enjoyed putting it together and as usual, you can find me on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

August 23, 2019

Spain - Salobreña, the lovely town we discovered by pure chance

Spain, or south of Spain, lives on a different timetable than ours. So much so that when we were hungry everything was closed, when we left the beach because it was too hot, around 12 p.m., the locals would only arrive to the beach, if I wanted to eat something before 8 p.m. I would starve, I walked Luna on the beach around 8 a.m. with the tourists, so for us it took some time to get on Spain's schedule.
And on one of those days when in our town all we could find was a filthy terrace serving seafood for "our lunch", we decided to check out a fortress and then go to lunch on their schedule. The closest one left un-visited was the one in Salobreña, so in a short 20 minute drive we were parked on a steep slope and on our way through town to the fortress.

The town was something unexpected for me at least. White houses surrounded by gardens with red and pink flowers, narrow streets, crockery little benches from place to place where one could rest on the steep climb, small shops, of course closed as it was full on siesta time, and very close to the church and the fortress a lovely little square with a fountain and a terrace where me and Luna stopped as my husband would go and visit the fortress.
All I wanted was an agua con gas fria, por favor, when the waiter said the magic words: "would you like to have lunch?". I was exactly where I needed to be, Luna was treated with cold water, my husband was visiting something he liked and I had a menu with a lot of yummy stuff I could choose from.

We had lunch and a bit of sangria and then we went down the hill to our car, taking pictures and glancing over the fences in people's gardens. An unexpected little gem we stumbled upon by pure chance and I'm glad we did.
What I wanted to say was even if you purchase an all inclusive holiday at your hotel, visit the area, check the local attractions and you might be in for a treat. We are more interested in discovering the local way of living, admiring the local flora and taste the food from a small tavern forgotten somewhere, than having the biggest room with the most amenities and stuffing the most instagramable meal. But this is just the way we are and if in these more than 10 years since I'm writing on this blog I got to know you a little bit as well, you might like the same stuff.

I hope you enjoyed my little article as much as I've enjoyed writing it and as usual, you can find me on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

August 19, 2019

Spain - Renting a boat for a day

If you, like me, are not the beach potato kind of person (google couch potato!), meaning you dislike sitting all day long on a beach with occasional visits to the sea, I truly recommend you rent a boat for a day and explore the nearby towns and beaches.

We did exactly that on a Sunday, while on holiday in Spain, and I have to say it was an experience. I was sceptical at first, as we travelled with Luna and she is a shepards sheep dog, not so accustomed with water, but turns out that she is well behaved and she likes the water as long as we are in it.

My friend took care of renting the boat, so I don't know much about that, but a short browse on google would get you all the answers you seek. I will only tell my experience.

We started the "journey" relatively early in the morning (on 10 a.m.) in the marina of Fuengirola, a town about an hour away from our place. There we met our skipper, a very nice Dutch man who was our guide for the day.

The boat, a Bavaria Yacht, was a sailing one, meaning that it had an engine, but was mainly powered by the force of the wind. Our skipper was very enthusiastic in explaining how everything worked, involving the guys from time to time in pulling the strings and from what I understood inflating or deflating the sales. Sorry for my lack of knowledge or willingness to document it, but I assume there are a lot of my readers who, like me, would want an experience like that for the fun of it, and not because they are really passionate about sailing boats.

The boat had three cabins, two bathrooms, a living-room/kitchen, a terrace and a deck. I spent most of the time on the terrace (again I'm positive it is not called terrace, but bear with me) watching the sea, hoping to see some dolphins, eating and drinking, but my friends tried the water, sunbathed on the deck and at one point paddled to shore to buy ice cream.

So, overall a nice day spent at sea, learning a little bit about this sea lifestyle, as our skipper slept on the boat, found out that it is sustainable to live on a boat and also cover long distances at the same time. So in a nutshell one could sleep on a different port/marina every night.

Here are some pictures of our adventure

I hope you enjoyed my little article as much as I've enjoyed writing it and as usual, you can find me on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

August 16, 2019

Belgium - Spend the evening on top of Saint-Donat Church in Arlon

I wrote about the tower of St. Donat Church in Arlon two years ago and almost thought I've covered the subject already, but after reading the post I realised how many things are changing in our little bucolic village.
Two years ago I advised you to drop them a call or check the posters to see when the Belvedere (the tower and the whole area is called Belvedere Arlon, maybe easier to search on google this way) would be opened. This year they have a Facebook page and also Facebook events populated with people's photos of their visits. So although you might think Arlon is stuck in the past, it is slowly evolving.

On another note, also on Facebook you can find the page of the residents of the old neighbourhood, it is so interesting to see how they come together to clean up the area, to plant flowers and how they take care after each other.
Back to the St. Donat Tower here are some facts:
  • The whole tower structure weights almost 6 tons
  • The height of the tower is 35 meter
  • To reach the top of the tower you have to climb 144 stairs
  • You can see from the top to up to 50 km (on a sunny day you can see the Kirchberg towers in Luxembourg)
  • It has three clocks weighing 900, 600 and 450 kilograms
Les Nocturnes du Belvédère de St-Donat took place from the first of May to September, one evening each month. The last one would be on September 7th, on the National Heritage Day.

To visit the tower costs 3 euros (you cannot pay by card) for adults and is free for children up to 12 years.

For me it was a different experience. Somehow the whole summer I managed to miss this event, I was away or it rained and we did not go to walk Luna around the church or something happened, but on August 14th after a heavy rain I wanted to smell the fresh air from the Belvedere, Luna needed a walk and it happened that the tower was opened.

A word of advice, dogs are not allowed inside the tower, but as it was a nice evening we left Luna in the car for a couple of minutes, windows opened, and she was fine.
From the "balcony around the church" you cannot see your neighbourhood so it was nice to see it from the tower and also discover the other places in Arlon and around Arlon. I think we might have spotted a lake we did not know. Also it was a nice way to meet the local community, as only 12 people are allowed one time on the platform, we helped a couple take a picture and in their turned they helped us, we exchanged some impressions.

Also, as I was not aware of the event I did not bring my camera and all the photos are taken with our phones, but it was a gorgeous full moon on that evening and it was a real spectacle to watch the clouds pass by her.
If climbing the St. Donat Tower in Arlon in the evening is something that might sparkle your interest, the next nocturnal visit is on September, 7th.

As usual, you can find me on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

August 12, 2019

Spain - Is it worth to visit the Alhambra Palace?

The short answer would be NO.

So if you are looking for that STOP reading right now and enjoy your day.

If you made it this far, let's expand:
The Alhambra Palace was my dream experience for the south of Spain and somehow every time I was in the area I've missed it. So maybe that is why I've ignored the red flags on their ticket website and purchased tickets for me and my friends, the full ones, 14 euros. The whole shabackle with printing your tickets and only print them, with everyone holding on to their ticket, even the kids, with introducing all your personal data on their website, passed my mostly vigilant mind, and hit next upon next to get to the downloadable tickets. Not even the fact that there were tickets on only specific dates and you were somehow forced to pick a time out of your holiday schedule, raised any questions on my side. I wanted to visit Alhambra Palace and nothing mattered.

So, never mind that on the day I forgot about Luna, who is a dog and so not allowed inside, and had to stay with her and not visit the Alhambra Palace which made me more determined to really visit it this time and went again through the same process and purchased the next available ticket and went on visiting the palace on my own.
Talking strictly about my visit now. Of course, it sucked I was alone and had to rely on the willingness of strangers in taking a photo and as a consequence all the photos of me are bad, blurred, with my mouth open explaining how my fancy camera operates or even on one side of the picture. But talking about the visit, it sucked.

Although I started the visit at 6.30 p.m. so almost in the evening it was hot as hell, so I've suffered throughout the visit because I forgot to buy water. Than I had to rush the visit to the gardens because they were closing, than I had to queue to get inside the Nasrid Palace, then when I've finished with the palace the Generallife was closed, then I couldn't take one singe photo without people in it, then did I say it was hot as hell?
So overall not a pleasant experience. And on top of it all as I've rushed through all the things to visit, I forgot to buy any postcards or even a magnet from the inside boutiques and they closed. And to make things worse, from the palace I followed the same route back to the front gate, only to find out as I've reached the gate it was closed so I had to go back to the palace and use the car exit. I was pissed!

Don't get me wrong, the Palace Alhambra is great, its history is great, it looks great, the gardens (the ones I did manage to visit) were great, but the small things ruined that experience for me. Not having a sign on the palace that after 7 p.m. the gate would close and you had to use the other gate, still allowing people inside after 6 p.m. although knowing they would not have time to visit it all, closing the gardens with people inside, and if I am really honest, after visiting Morocco (even just Marrakesh), Alhambra is just but a bad joke.
Still, I'm glad I've visited it, I'm glad I took my mind off of it. So if, you like me, dream about that visit, do it! But if it is just a fling, just because you are in the area, save those 14 euros and go to the other smaller fortresses and palaces build by the Moors in Granada. Yes they lack the grandeur given by the Spanish Touristic Board, but your experience would be far better. And don't forget to have water!

As usual, you can find me on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu