France, 2018

Our driving trip through northern France


Tuesday, May 15, 2018 — Vianden, Luxembourg

We had breakfast at the hotel and left about 10:00. Anne and Jeff—do you remember the time we were in Paris in the late eighties or early nineties and our hotel elevator was so small that we stayed on the main floor and you two went up the stairs and we sent the suitcases up one at a time? The elevator in Chartres may be a tad larger, but only holds one person with a suitcase at a time. It brought back those funny memories.  We headed north out of Chartres in the direction of Paris. The sun was shining when we left but soon it became cloudy. As we got closer to Paris the traffic got very congested. We skirted around Paris and headed east to Luxembourg. and were on a divided highway, the A4, with little traffic. On the way was an exit for Verdun, the site of one of the costliest battles in history. It lasted over 300 days in 1916 and about 377,000 French soldiers and 337,000 German soldiers died. We may have stopped if we had more time. Barbara finished reading Less, a novel that just won the Pulitzer Prize. She started Stephen King’s book Sleeping Beauties, but it’s over 700 pages long so she probably won’t finish it on this trip. We arrived in Vianden, Luxembourg about 4 pm and it was sunny 72 degrees. It didn’t even make it to 60 degrees in Chartres yesterday, so the weather is much appreciated. The 6 hour ride was quite relaxing as it was mostly highway driving. Lunch was just some snack food in the car. We must have decided months ago when we made our hotel reservations that we would like a contrast to staying in hotels in city centres close to the cathedrals. Vianden is a small, laid-back town close to the German border that has a castle on the hill and a Victor Hugo museum, as he stayed in this town a few times in the 1800s. The house that he lived in for a while is a museum and maybe we can see it tomorrow, although Luxembourg City is our destination for the day. Vianden is about 30 miles north of Luxembourg City. The fellow at reception at the Belle-Vue Hotel where we are staying is also the waiter in the restaurant. We had dinner there and asked him if he was born here and he gave us his long history since his birth in Prague. He said he lived in Prague in his party years and went to study hospitality in Martinique in the Caribbean. Learning French was a requirement there so he taught himself. Now he speaks 8 languages and told us that French is the official language of Luxembourg although many speak a combination of French and German. Our room at the Belle-Vue is very large with a balcony. It has some amenities that we haven’t seen for a long time—an elevator with a capacity of 8 people, a bathroom that would hold 10 people (and has washcloths), a shower that would accommodate about 10 bodies, lots of space for luggage, lots of outlets to charge all our electronic devices, a big closet and small refrigerator. The first hotels we stayed in had a coffee/tea maker but we haven’t had them lately. We’d be happy just staying in this nice room (it only costs € 106 a night) but there is much to see nearby. The Belle-Vue’s info book says many celebrities have stayed here. The only names we recognized were Patrick Swayze and Mick Jagger.

Here are some random thoughts about traveling in Europe:

  • 1) People are much quieter than in the U.S. The tables are close together in restaurants but you usually cannot overhear conversations. Children also seem quieter.
  • 2) You don’t see people looking at their cell phones, especially not in restaurants. It’s refreshing.
  • 3) It will be interesting to see how autonomous cars change driving in Europe. With all the old buildings and curving narrow streets it should make it much easier for tourists. There’s definitely a shortage of parking places in small as well as large towns.
  • 4) It’s nice that the places we visited on this trip use the euro as their currency. We remember back in the old days we had to keep changing currencies and in some places making a conversion to dollars in your head was difficult.
  • 5) It’s also nice that wifi is free in all the hotels we’ve been to and also in restaurants, although we didn’t use it there much. Sometimes getting on the internet is time-consuming and sometimes the connection isn’t great but we were able to keep our blog going even though we couldn’t do it in a couple of places.
  • 6) We’ve seen a little car called a Twingo a few times and it made us think about the MN twins, who apparently aren’t doing all that badly—playing close to .500. The Twingo is made by Renault. We’d be zipping around more easily if we had one of these smaller cars, but we wouldn’t have anyplace to put our luggage.
  • 7) We’ve found some nice radio stations that play a combination of favorites from the U.S in English and many beautiful songs in French.
  • 8) The French love their dogs. We’ve seen them in restaurants, in strollers and in the arms of their masters. One yesterday was refusing treats (with a bark) until he got a satisfactory one.
  • 9) At every hotel except the one in Chartres has had square bed pillows and we found them very comfortable. We may have to get some at Amazon when we’re back home.
  • 10) The radio deejay (in German today) was talking about Harry and Meghan’s royal wedding on Saturday. We’ll be in the Netherlands then and may have a chance to watch it live.

Our room at the Belle-Vue in Vianden

Bust of Victor Hugo by Rodin on the bridge

Vianden - the River Our

Vianden - Vianden castle on the hill

Belle-Vue Hotel

Wednesday, May 16, 2018 — Luxembourg City

Today just wasn’t our day. Barbara didn’t sleep well last night and had dizziness issues. This was our day to visit Luxembourg City and we planned to take the city tour, so we drove the 30 or so miles into the city. It was a beautiful drive, as this is a heavily forested, hilly and very picturesque part of Europe.. We went through a number of tunnels to get to the city and immediately got caught in a horrible traffic jam--cars everywhere and not moving. We sat in traffic for about an hour, looking for a place to park. There was virtually no street parking here and we couldn’t get into a lot. Finally we found a surface lot and went in. We found one empty space and it was too small for our car. We hated to give up, but we didn’t have much interest in sight-seeing at that point. There’s another Notre Dame Cathedral here and we never got close enough to see it. We drove back to Vianden and had lunch at a restaurant by the river called The River. It was our first meal that was just okay. It rained a little while we were eating outdoors but stopped, so we decided to find the chairlift and take the ride to a viewpoint above the city. It rained a little so the view wasn’t as great as it would have been had it been sunny. We returned to the hotel and relaxed until about 7:00 when Jay went down to the restaurant and bought us a cheese plate. We had a few crackers, apples and nuts and called it dinner. 

Driving to the city

Several tunnels

JFK Avenue in Luxembourg City

Hotel Victor Hugo in Vianden

Chair lift to scenic view of the area

Vianden Castle

Vianden from chair lift

This is the end of the Luxembourg portion of the blog. The next section will be about our visit to Cologne. Click on the “Cologne” tab at the top of the page or click here .

© Jay 2020