a few highlights of our trip to Berlin earlier this year: Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, Trabant Museum, and the Berlin Wall Memorial.
If you’ve been keeping up with our blog, you’ve probably noticed that John and I have become quite comfortable in our daily routines and haven’t put a lot of effort into planning for public holidays recently. Unfortunately, Ascension day was no exception. Fortunately there is Google.
A quick search of “Paris’s best kept secrets” landed us on Heather’s FABULOUS blog. She is an American-born writer and tour guide, who has lived in Paris since 1998, and her newsletter is packed with a wide range of tips for locals, expats, and tourists alike. For example, Heather recommends skipping the long lines and big crowds at Chateau de Versailles and enjoying a leisurely stroll and a bowl of raspberries and cream at Chateau de Chantilly instead.
Through Heather’s blog, we met chef, baker and author David Lebovitz. In addition to great restaurant reviews and tips, David’s blog is bursting with food porn. The pictures were so amazing, we planned our whole weekend around his recommendations for restaurant in “our” arrondissement (neighborhood).
A lot of David’s reviews also appear on Paris by Mouth, another great website that let’s you find non-tourist traps near major attractions. It was on this site that we found Verjus, a wine bar in the cave below their full restaurant. After cross-checking the reviews on David’s website, we knew we wanted to eat dinner here after our visit to the Louvre. Delicious, familiar and affordable…definitely a winner!
Seven years ago, we walked (7 miles!) from the Arc de Triumph to La Defense on our first night in west Paris to avoid “wasting” one of the days on our metro pass. On a college budget, we sustained ourselves on baguettes and pastries, and the requisite crepe at the Eiffel Tower. That was an experience I would’t trade for anything, but it sure was nice to treat ourselves to a little different experience this time around.
When John’s boss recommended that we check out Trier, Germany on our way back from Luxembourg, we had no idea how much there is to see there! Since we only had the afternoon, we had to stick to the highlights: Porta Nigra, Liebfrauenkirche, and the Roman Bridge. However, the next time we’re in town we are definitely going to visit the Barbara and Imperial Baths, the Igel Column, and the Cathedral of St. Peter.
On our way to Luxembourg City, we made a quick stop to the city of Vianden. While we didn’t take advantage of the walking routes the visitor’s office provides through the hills and meadows on this trip, we did enjoy the chairlift ride with amazing panoramic views of the city and the castle.
We also took a moment to visit the American military memorial where we learned that Vianden was the last Luxemburg town to be liberated in WWII. According to the plaques, the 1255th Engineer Combat Battalion attached to the 6th U.S. Cavalry took the upper city of Vianden on February 12, 1945. Eleven men were killed in action and fifty-one men were wounded. Ten days later, the 28th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squad crossed the river and seized the lower city of Vianden.
On our way out of town, we drove passed these amazing fields of yellow flowers. A few weeks later, Jackie went on a tour in Champagne, France and learned these are commercial rapeseed fields. The flowers are grown all over Europe for animal feed and vegetable (canola) oil.
As with many things this year, Easter weekend snuck up on us, so we decided to find something that was close and small enough not to require a lot of research. After an evening on the Visit Luxembourg and Luxembourg City Tourist Office websites, we decided Luxembourg City was just the place.
We spent the morning enjoying a leisurely stroll through Upper Town, checking out the Grand Ducal Palace, William Square, and the Adolphe Bridge. Then we headed to the Old Quarter to check out the Viaduct and Bock Casements. As a result of the treaty between France and Prussia (1867), most of the fortress and tunnels were demolished. However, seventeen kilometers are still intact, and you can see some amazing views of the city from inside these tunnels.
On Easter Monday, we went to the fish market in search of ‘Péckvillercher’, the small clay birds that we had read were sold at the Éimaischen festival. After shopping the whole market, we picked out three little birds and giggled all morning as adults ran around blowing their whistles like kids. We also stopped by the bakery for a delicious assortment of treats, including our very own lambie-pie cake!
Last week, I had to take an alternate route home, and I came across a sign for fresh asparagus and strawberries. Since we didn’t get any white asparagus last season, John and I thought it might be a fun Saturday to check out the stand.
It took me a while to retrace my route, so we pulled up to the asparagus stand just as the farmer was packing up his trailer. A little bummed that we had missed our opportunity, we were surprised to find out that Farmer Swinkels was more than willing to chat about his business. Even better, he has an asparagus vending machine (automaat) that’s open 24 hours a day! After stocking up on peeled asparagus and fresh berries, John and I decided to go in search of the hiking trails I pass on my way to work. That’s when we found little hexagonal signs for the ‘Peel en Maas route’.
We knew that the ANWB is the Dutch version of AAA, so we decided to follow the signs and see where they would take us. Turns out they mark a round-trip journey through 109 km of farmland and forests! We also found a 42 km long network of walking trails. We decided to keep driving, but we’ve put hiking in ‘Stempel van de Maas’ on our bucket list for later this summer.
The rest of our ‘Peel en Maas’ route had several treasures in store for us, including a garden market, a chicken farm with an automaat full of free range eggs, and a zoo. John even found a The Longhorn Steakhouse down the road from some really angry sheep! All in all, it was an extremely relaxing Saturday.