Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Happy Hour at the Royal Park

When the days were still sunny and warm we went to the Royal Park and danced and twirled all over this green, leafy space nestled between the EU headquarters and the royal palace. We were determined to smush out all the unusually warm weather would give us from those long summer afternoons. On this day we even called Kirk and told him to please just meet us at the park on his way home from work so we could linger longer.There is something about a Dad still in his business suit playing outside with his little girl. The relief and stress of the workday fade away and the importance of play and laughter immediately take over.
The new sculpture exhibit in the Royal Park is eye catching. I am not sure if it is permanent or temporary. But the rust-colored curley qs were a hit with our little one!
It was a great evening at the Royal Park. We threw leaves in the fish pond and played hard on the playground. I already miss those warm evenings of early autumn. How quickly the temperature changes!

Luxembourg City

Our final stop on our Mosel Valley weekend was in Luxembourg City. This tiny country is right next to Belgium and seems like we should visit if only just to say we did. But Luxembourg was more than merely a 'check it off and say you've been there' kind of place. It had history, marvelous views, and loads of beating sun on the day we were there.We first came across this wedding dress shop. Needless to say the gowns certainly caught my eye. One vintage and straight out of The Great Gatsby and the other adorned with black lace!In another city shop the window displays had me oooh-ing and aaah-ing. It was too bad it was closed. The animal plates were enough to draw me in, but my very favorite was the Little Prince china set. I would have definitely gotten a few pieces if it had been open. Aren't they charming?
Luxembourg had a palace and still has royalty. I think it is called the Grand Duchy. The 'Red Bridge' is also considered a notable sight.
The best Luxembourg activity is walking along the fortifications and ramparts of the city. The views are wonderful and really showcase the unique texture of Luxembourg.
We toured the city center and headed into the hills to see the nearby American Military Cemetery at Hamm. This is the final resting place of 5,076 of the 10,000 American troops who fell in Luxembourg during WWII, in the course of liberating the Grand Duchy and fighting the Battle of the Bulge (1944-45). We have made a loose commitment to check these out when we are nearby. Something about being American abroad and needing to pay respect to other Americans so far from home. Connor enjoys these visits and we tell her all about the men who served our country for her freedom. Connor now darts directly into a cemetery seeking "my flag, my flag, my flag"!
There are 101 graves of unknown soldiers and airmen, and 22 sets of brothers buried side by side. The identical graves are arranged without regard to rank, religion, race or place of origin, the only exception being the grave of Gen. George S. Patton (because of the many visitors to his gravesite).
When Connor locates the American flag (her flag) she gets right under and cranes her neck up. It certainly makes us all feel a little closer to home.
Kirk and I have talked about what it is that draws us to these cemeteries. He points out that if it weren't for these sacrifices our world would be quite different. And we certainly would not have the opportunity for this type of abroad experience. These men directly impact our day to day, moment to moment life. We thank them every chance we can.
We also stopped at the National Museum of Military History in Ettelbruck. The lifelike dioramas were moving and the tales of war very touching. It is easy to forget the terrors of war. And it is good to be reminded.
These stats made us swallow hard. 75,552 Americans lost in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium and Luxembourg. How is that possible? Seventy Five Thousand! So far from home. Yikes.
Finally we drove through the Valley of the Seven Castles on the Eisch River Valley. Supposedly the scenic little area holds one of Europe's finest concentration of castles... I am not sure if it was just us, but we drove the winding roads and barely saw ONE castle. We looked and we looked and seemingly missed the other SIX! But a gorgeous detour, nonetheless!
Luxembourg made for a happy, thoughtful, learning Sunday. And the Orval/Mosel Valley/Luxembourg region a terrific and fulfilling road trip!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mosel Valley

After Berg Etz we traveled deeper into Germany's Mosel Valley. This region has been on my travel wish list all year and it was the perfect time to visit during peak season when the grapes were ripe and ready for harvest. And ready those grapes were!We traveled first to Beilstein, the quaintest of all Mosel towns. Cozy Beilstein is Cinderella-land - touristy but tranquil, except for its territorial swans. Indeed the swans were pretty aggressive. Luckily Connor was able to hold her own with them!
And the vineyards were absolutely everywhere. I have never seen such vertical grape vines. They just popped right up into the air, leafy and tall and beautiful!
The Mosel River Valley was deeper and wider than the Loire Valley in France. There was something very settling and right with the place. We met the swans, basked on the riverbanks and listened to the oom-pah band in Beilstein.
Beilstein was simply adorable. And a great stop to 'drink in' all the glory and celebration of Mosel Valley wine season.
Reislings are my favorite wines. I am a sweet wine kind of gal! So I was in wine wonderland in this home of Reisling.
Next we traveled downstream a few miles to the town of Cochem. I thought Cochem's castle loomed mysterious above the river. The barges and river cruises passed with regular frequency.
Mom, this big flat boat was named "Aqua Linda!" It definitely made us miss you!
Cochem was a busy tourist town, bigger than Beilstein but with lots of character and lively activity. We had a yummy German dinner right beside the mighty Mosel. The waitress went to pieces over Connor and somehow managed to shower her with little toys to play with and keep as her own. It was an all around great outdoor meal.
We drove from Cochem to the town of Traben-Trarbach where we were staying for the night following a VERY busy day. All the rooms in Cochem had booked due to the high season, but no matter because we loved Traben-Trarbach even more than we expected we would! And the drive at sunset with the steep vineyard hills squeezing around us was unlike anything I have ever seen.
Fall was in the air in Traben-Trarbach. Red leaves are wonderful. Makes you want to grab a sweater and eat something with pumpkin, right?
We awoke to a misty magical morning on the Mosel in Traben-Trarbach. The fog was lifting rapidly, but I had just enough time to snap these photos before the sun took over.
The grapes were honestly growing everywhere our eyes could see. Even right through the town center and between the buildings.
Germany's Mosel Valley is not to be missed. I am actually surprised I have not heard of more travels to this place. It is a marvelous blend of action and peace, tourist activities while not being over the top. I will never again drink a Reisling and not think of this region of the world.
On the drive home we stopped along the Luxembourg stretch of the Mosel just to compare to Germany. We went to a couple vineyard stores to sample. While Germany's Mosel seemed the better place to settle in and stay, Luxembourg was very picturesque also.
This may be one of my all time favorite family photos. Kirk managed to self time the camera at a perfect angle to capture the setting. It looks surreal, but there we were right with the acres and acres of grapes.