A Travellerspoint blog

Part 1 - Paris, Luxembourg and Germany

And how I finally managed to pronounce Gerwerstraminer

overcast 15 °C
View Bits of Europe on tway's travel map.

Ah, Premium Class. I splurged when I bought my plane ticket (I'd clicked OK and got a giddy, guilty feeling, but...), and I had visions of glassware, stemware, white linen napkins, a menu... all those classy things I used to see when the curtain opened to reveal those stuffy uptights in First Class, while I gnawed at my knees for hours on end. So it was heaven to skip the Economy line, and my stomach fluttered to be called to board among the first, and oh, but those 6 extra inches of legroom were bliss - bliss! But who am I kidding? I didn't mortgage the house for a ticket - I paid a low-fare airline supplement. And so, along with endless glasses from the box (yes, box) of wine the flight attendant passed around, those were the perks. Still, they were lovely - and I could cross my legs without putting my shoe up my nose. Could I really ask for more?

Neal met me early in Paris. He'd arrived the day before from Luxembourg and checked in to the hotel I'd stayed at 4 years ago. Going through the Métro was like déjà vu - everything seemed so familiar, like each stop was on the tip of my tongue. "Wait till we get out," Neal said to me, and he was right. The street outside Convention was bustling and noisy and we fit right in. Does Paris every really change? Here at home, buildings are torn down, new ones go up, and within a few years the old familiar is barely recognizable. But Paris? Change a store here, a name there, a colour or two - I'd reconize it anywhere.

We spent the first day, half exhausted, just walking. Around the Pompidou Centre, along the Seine, through the Latin Quarter, up the steps across the river from the Eiffel tower. I have a picture of my mother, from 1968, leaning against the lookout, the tower in the background. I never got the angle quite right the last trip, but Neal found just how to mimic it. My mother and I - almost 40 years apart. One for the livingroom wall.

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The next day we headed to Père Lachaise. It's where Neal and I met, in September of 2003 - he going one way, and I the other. So without a map (how could we forget the spot!), we headed to the back, on the left - searching for Oscar Wilde. The pathways are mazes - running in circles, like Paris streets. Neal and I tugged each other up and down the wrong paths for an hour, until I finally spotted a small crowd and we went looking that way. Oscar Wilde's grave is covered in a greasy tribute of lipstick kisses, but we opted not to add our own. We simply read the epitaph, held back from repeating our how-we-met story to the unsuspecting German couple next to us, and went on to search (in vain) for Jim Morrission's grave. It was nice to come back.

By then it was well past lunch, and we had yet to even have breakfast. In a fit of nostalgia (and hunger), I bought a banana-Nutella crêpe from a road stand, only to have a rogue chocolate-covered slice fall right into the 1-inch opening in my purse I'd forgotten to zip shut. Messy stuff. We then headed for Sacre Coeur (I won the should-we-walk-or-take-the-funiculaire argument, only to discover the lift was closed for repairs). Then we went back to eating, this time at some far-off place where we had Tartiflette (yum) which was served to us by a stinky waiter (ick). {I saw a TV ad in France for a deoderant that claimed to keep one fresh and dry for 48 hours. Which sounded nice, until you realize...wait...did he just say... 2 days???} Still, with the food and the wine, you hardly notice.

And so back to the hotel, and up early, and then it was off to Luxembourg. Neal has been living there since September, so it was nice to be headed somewhere where I could sit back and follow. The TGV was fast, although - rediculous, I realize now - I thought the scenery would go by in a perfect blurr. From the train station, it was a short bus ride to Neal's - a big, bright, bachelor-messy place on a street that reminded me of Florida. Each house was painted in different bright colours, and there were trees everywhere. Luxembourg is like a strange mix of city and woods. We then headed through the forest to the old town - a rambling, Hansel-and-Gretel-looking place that was right out of a fairy tale. Between the rock face, the abundance of trees, the river, the old buildings, the aqueduct, and the stone wall, it was breathtaking. I even marvelled in revoltion at the huge slugs that crossed our path, and vowed never to eat a snail again. (I don't care if they shrink and taste yummy with garlic - they're hideous!) We stopped at a pretty bar and sat along the river, soon joined by Neal's roommate and 2 of his co-workers. It was nice, and familiar, and welcoming. And the beer was lovely.

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The next day, the rain started. And settled in. It never got much warmer that 11 C, and the two sweaters I'd brought with me didn't come off once for the next 4 days. Nevertheless, we toured the old city, outside the palace (with a few pics of the poor guard on duty, who looked all of 12), down around the river (where we spotted people wrapped in plastic wrap, painted white, lying around in garbage bags, and even one poor soul crawling across the river wall in his tighty-whities - turns out they were making a short film...some movie!). We spent hours at the grocery store (wine is cheap! cheese is cheap!) and I shopped for my birthday gift (and bought another sweater). It felt like fall, except for the lush trees - but for that I remember it just like a fairy tale, with the wind and the bundling up and the mystery of it all.

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Neal decided he wanted to take me to the border, so I could cross into Germany. So we took the bus to Remich, along the Moselle - which divides the two countries. It was raining and blustery, but we crossed the bridge and spotted the "welcome to Germany" sign and I added another country to my "been-there" list - only... there was just a gas station. And tents. Not even a restaurant or a landmark or place to sit. Just... "You took me here to see a campground?" I asked Neal, to which he replied "But you're in Germany". To which I repsonded "I'm in a campground in Germany", but he wasn't to be fazed and nodded to the "welcome to Germany sign" again and we walked back, him elated, me in a bit of a huff.

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Still, we checked the local map back in Remich and discovered a vineyard up the road so we walked and walked and missed closing time for the tour but sat outside the restaurant and ordered a Riesling for Neal, and a Gerwerstraminer for me. Only I pronounced it "gerswish-swish" or something ungodly and the waiter nodded and Neal smirked and I huffed again. "It won't stick in my brain," I said. "The German." So he pronounced it impeccably and I tried again but the consonants kept getting in the way, and by now the waiter had come back with two small pitchers and glasses and we each took a sip. Lovely. "Gerwisterstister?" But he shook his head again. "Ger-verts-tra-meaner - like that." But it was no use, really.

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The next day we headed to Germany - this time for real. We took the train to Trier and spent the day walking around the old square, stopping for more wine ("YOU order it!"), marvelling at how everyone obeys traffic sigals (even the pedestrians!), and buying Neal running shoes (he finally acknowledged that jogging in shoes you get at the grocery store isn't great for his knees). We met another of his colleagues for a drink (Riesling this time), and then a fellow Irish colleague for supper, where I was the only one who didn't speak at least some German and managed to muddle up "water," of all words. Still, lovely, lovely food, and wine, and company. The next day we were on to Switzerland - the main part of our trip, the place we wanted to see most.

And Gerwerstraminer? I finally got it right - in Marseille. But that's for later.

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Posted by tway 13:52 Archived in Luxembourg

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Comments

I believe the spelling is in fact Gewürtztraminer..

by Peter

Dang.

by tway

Awh Tina - walking down memory lane - really enjoyed reading this!

by Purdy

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