We awoke to a misty morning, such that we could barely see the bank on the other side of the Moselle River. However, within an hour of first light, the sun slowly started to burn away the mist. Wisps of mist slowly rose from the water, giving the whole scene a very ephemeral feel. A grandfather and his grandson stood on the river bank twenty yards or so away from us, fishing. Within just a few minutes, they were hauling out the most enormous fish into their net. It was possibly a pike, we couldn’t tell from our distance. However, after admiring it and showing it to the other fishermen, it was duly returned to the river. Fishing always seems a bit of a pointless activity, to me, if you are just going to throw your catch back, but each to their own. I read in the Lonely Planet that ‘Pike in Green Sauce’ is one of their favourite dishes in Luxembourg – sounds revolting, and I made a mental note to avoid the fish as we travel on to our next destination!
After breakfast, we packed away, and thanked the lady owner profusely for such a lovely pitch. We had been warned by a couple walking their dog by the campsite, as we struggled to open the entrance gate to the campsite the night before, that the proprietor had a fierce reputation. Consequently, on check in, we had been politeness personified, which clearly paid off, and resulted in us being such a prime spot by the river. A French couple that followed us in, driving a Big White, appeared to get the sharp side of her tongue. My understanding of French is not good enough to understand what they had said to her, but they got send to the end of the campsite, with no view. Mindful of this, we made a point of thanking the lady again, and I received a huge hug, and was invited to come back again. A bit like the Cybil Fawlty of campsites, I suspect!
From our campsite last night, we had spotted a castle, sat high on the hill, a little along the river bank. Consequently, we couldn’t resist popping along to the local village to take a look. It turned out that this was the ‘Chateau des Ducs de Lorraine’ (Castle of the Dukes of Lorraine), built around the 13th century. In the town was the Old Clock Tower from 1294, which housed a cell, where apparently in 1619 , a ’witch’ called Alicon Bartholomy was imprisoned, before being burnt to death, for the crime of poisoning through witchery spells. I must say, that the whole town looked a little dilapidated, after the pristine town of Ribeauville yesterday, but maybe more authentic perhaps.
It was only a short fifteen minute drive and we found ourselves crossing over the border into Luxembourg. Initial impressions of the country were rather underwhelming. After the stunning scenery in the Alsace yesterday, with it’s wonderful medieval towns, we suddenly found ourselves driving through flat arable farmland and rather ordinary looking towns, with rather characterless buildings. Frankly, we could have been driving through the back end of Cranleigh (no offence meant to my friends who live in Cranleigh!). We made our way into the capital, Luxembourg City. Luckily, we found ourselves a parking space next to the Square of Liberation, and set off for a wander. The city basically sits on two levels, with the old town high up on the hill, and the newer city down below, around the banks of the River Alzette. An elevator is provided for those who do not wish to climb either up or down. We grabbed a coffee in a pretty pedestrianised street in the old part of town, and then set of to explore. We took a look inside the Notre Dame Cathedral, and then followed paved lanes to the Palace Grand-Ducal, the winter residence of the Luxembourg royals. In the square opposite the palace is the building of the Luxembourg Parliament – an elegant building, but pretty small. It reminded me of a Rowan Atkinson song that we used to listen to as students, called ‘Do Bears?” In it, there are the lines, ‘Is the Pope Catholic? Is Luxembourg small? And do hairy bears sha-la-la-la in the woods?’ It always used to make us laugh, and for some reason these lyrics came to mind, as I considered how small the parliament building was. I’m guessing though, that only those of us of a certain age, will have the slightest idea of the song I’m talking about. Howard has just You-Tubed it, and is sitting opposite me as I type in utter hysterics!!
We then found a lovely walkway around what was left of the ramparts, which gave us a birds-eye view of the city below. On the way back to Oscar, we passed by the ‘Maison de l’Union Europeenne’, an information centre about the EU. Inside the lobby were all the flags of the EU lined up. I must say, I found it ironic that it was the Union Jack that sat proudly next to the flag of the EU. Howard insisting on posing next to the two adjacent flags – maybe a historical shot in the future? I must say, that I warmed to Luxembourg City as we walked around it. The old historical centre was quite charming, and the whole place was vibrant and buzzing.
Tour completed, we headed out of town and into the country again. We headed to a place called Esch-sur-Sure – a hamlet on the banks of the River Sure, that sounded interesting. As we were approaching, we luckily spotted a lovely campsite down by the river, just half a kilometre short of Esh. We had originally sourced another camping ground about half an hour north, but this one looked so nice that we just drove in and checked in. Of all the campsites that we have stayed in, this one had to have the least bureaucracy of them all. In some campsites, we have been asked to deposit two passports, fill in multiple forms with name, age, DOB, car registration, home address, camping card number, home and mobile phone numbers – it goes on and on. Here, the lady just took 17 euros and the deal was done, and told us to go and pick our own place.
We quickly set up, and then took the lovely little riverside walk into Esch-sur-Sure. It is a gem of a place. Old, quaint, set on a steep hill, with a beautiful church and a fort at the top of the hill. We climbed up the narrow cobbled street, and then took a stone path up to the fort. At the top, we had magnificent views back over the town, and along the river to where our campsite sat. My initial impressions of Luxembourg were swept away – this place has character in shed-loads.
We climbed back down the hill, and rewarded ourselves with a drink on the terrace of a bar, popular with bikers. It would have been a peaceful spot, overlooking the oxbow bend in the river, had it not been for the bikers, constantly revving their engines whenever one of them left. Why do they do that revving thing?!!
We then made our way back to the campsite, and reflected on our day over tea. Our expectations of this place were, I admit, not high. However, we have been proved wrong. Luxembourg may indeed be small, but there are some rather charming places here, if you take the time to find them.
I fear, though, I will go to sleep tonight, with the Rowan Atkinson song ringing in my ears. ‘And do hairy bears sha-la-la-la-la in the woods…’!!!!