Monday, March 16, 2009

Luxembourg

Homeward bound! (yes, this is my last vacation blog - whew!)

Kids were all very sad to leave our little apartment- they had a great time in Oostende.
We (of course) decided to go home a different route than we drove in on so we could stop and see something. After some research we decided to hit Luxembourg.

I'd heard of Luxembourg, but that was about it. I had an idea that it was it's own little country - but, in the land of so many wars, how did such a tiny place keep it's autonomy? I think, in some ways, being here in Europe is like going back to school (OK, I admit, I'm only doing Cliff's Notes, but still). Would I have ever read up on Luxembourg if it wasn't for living here? I think not. YOU can read all about it too on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luxembourg. It is a teeny country - only 966 square miles, it has 3 official languages (all of which you must be proficient at to graduate high school so, like, half of them don't.). Also, it has a HUGE immigrant population (37%) - we saw that was true when passing this church - they have services each week in french, english, dutch and portugese. (The ironic part of this is, only one of those 4 languages is an official language of the country. Also I like the national motto of this country, which is: Mir wölle bleiwe wat mir sin (luxembourgish for "We wish to remain what we are") Also, they have had lots and lots and lots of wars - if you are interested in that bit - make the pic to the left full sized and you'll get a quick breakdown.

Did you know that most countries have national mottos or used to have them and now don't? Here is a list of them: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_motto I prefer the defacto US one (e pluribus unum) to the 'official' one (in god we trust). Other ones I liked were Bermuda (whither the fates carry us - guess they are a flexible lot) and the former motto of Austria (Austria is destined to rule the world -hey, why abandon such a statement?) It did suprise me that certain states (like Isreal) had none. I mean, if there was ever a place united by an parseable idea, it's Isreal. I know they have a lot on their mind over there but I think they need one - can't they organize a contest or something?

So, we make pretty decent time and get to Luxembourg around 11am. Our main goal is to explore the casements. According to the handy brochure (OK, you may be sick of me parphrasing brochures, but it is what it is) Luxembourg city is one of the most powerful emplacements in the world. A so called "Gibralter of the North". The amount of battles etc... that went on over this tiny patch of earth are staggering, but, the cool part is, there are stillover 17 kilometres of tunnels underneath this city. They can (and have, during WW1 and WW2) sheltered up to 35,000 people at a time. So, of course, we want to explore in the caves. Well, unfortunately, they are not open to the public until April 1st! Argh!!! We walked by this hole in the mountain side and were tempted to sneak in. However, being the model citizens, and parents, that we always are, we chose to refrain.


Well, it turned out fun anyhow. We saw so much amazing stuff and all in about 2 hours. The whole city is basically a fortress, filled with steep climbs, towers, tunnels and great views.

We passed the three towers (and went under them) looked down on the Grund River and the amazing gardens of the neumunster abbey (sounds like a cheese). We also saw the Palace of the Dukes. Luxembourg is the only EU country to still be ruled by a duchy - no king - no president. I found this kind of strange. I mean, if someone pointed a man on the street out to me and said "Look, the Duke of Luxemburg!" I'd probably not even realize he was in charge of the place. In my mind, Dukes have bosses. Of course, we went to the Bock casement, which had amazing views and where we could gaze, yearningly, at the casement doors (locked). We headed back toward the parking lot, passing through William Square where they were selling gorgeous tulips for 4E per dozen (no vase in car - wah). We also passed this amazing centaur statue - you may have noticed I like my mythological creatures quite a bit. On another windy street, we came across this giant G. Of course, I tried to get Griffin to pose near it. You see, the other kids had found their own lands during this trip - although we hadn't visited them (Calais was Callie's place, Zandvoorde, Zanders - also, incidentally - I saw what must have been my dad's anscestral village - Geekvoorde) Griffin was sad we hadn't found his place yet. So I tried to get him to pose near the inlay, telling him this must be Griffinworld! Then erupted one of Griffin's strange tantrums. In general, he is a very mellow little guy, only having tantrums for 'normal' things (i.e. you aren't letting me do what I want) on rare occassions. Griffins' tantrums, instead, are usually centered around the insistence that something that is true, isn't. In this case, he was adamant that his name didn't start with G. Perhaps this is a bit understandable, since, in French, the letter G is pronounced like we say the letter J. But he wasn't biting on J either. MY NAME DOESN'T HAVE THAT LETTER! Let me chronicle some other common arguements Exhibit A (of course has to be): I am a big boy and I poop in my pants. Exhibit B: Peanuts are pistachios Exhibit C: That is a train (when it is really a bus) Exhibit C: I only like downstairs water (from the tap in the downstairs bathroom - as opposed to our kitchen tap) Exhibit D: I hate tomato soup and I love pink soup (these are the same thing). It's hard to know how to handle these situations. Sometimes (usually when it involves food and I want him to eat it) I lie G: Mama, is this downstairs water? Mama: Of course, now drink it Other times I try to sympathize without agreeing. "Oh, you think there is no G in your name. That makes you so angry" He is so funny - it seems he needs to scream for about 2 minutes and then he will say. I'm sad, can I have a hug and kiss? Once he gets that he's back to his old self. Maybe he just need to get some frustration out sometimes - I know I do. We saw this awesome circus performer sculpture near our parking garage - reminded me of how much I miss my Philly circus friends. We finally hit the road for the last time, we had 4.5 hours to make a 3 hour trip. We had to return the car by 6pm (closing time) Sat night. Well, the kids (and us) were just sick of the travel. They were very uncomfortable in the car and ended up basically naked in the back as we drove along. You can see evidence of this looking at Griffin during an, all too frequent, pee break. (Hey, they were strapped in, you have to choose your battles). Despite our best efforts, we were just barely able to make it to the rental agency by 6 to return the car - we did call to ask for a 5 minute extension so we could drop our stuff off at home before getting there, but these French - they want out when the day is done! The place is closed on Sunday so we would have had to pay for 2 more days rental - definitely not in budget! So, we went straight there and made it just in time to give back the car. Unfortunately - we had beaucoup baggage too! The heartless car rental workers literally just dumped us and our stuff out in a parking lot, miles from home. Would you do that to a family with 3 little kids? There was a bus stop nearby, but, unfortunately, it was not the line that drops us off right in front of our house. We ended up calling our hero, Olivier. Andre' ran over there, got his car, and we loaded our stuff into it and brought it the final leg of the journey.

You know that feeling you get when you get home after vacation? The kind that relieves the sadness of ending vacations? It's like my soul saying "Look, it's my place. My bed, my stuff - my home." Well, I didn't have that feeling when I came back and I didn't realize I don't think of this place as home until it was so noticeably not there when I walked in our door. Of course, I said nothing about this to the kids who seemed happy to be back but later, when I tucked Callie into bed she said "Mom, I'm happy to be here, but I want to go home to Philadelphia. This doesn't feel the same." Well, we've only been here 6 months - I was in Philly 15 years - not too suprising, right?

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