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The First Forray

sunny

Okay, this is working….I think. I had been worried about the class load and travel combination, but this might be doable. With only four hours of class every day, I have plenty of gaps in my schedule to study and get homework done. I just need to be vigilant about doing it and not slipping behind too much. Psh, if I made it through last semester, then this should be a piece of cake (is what I tell myself to stay sane). The teachers of my classes all seem sincere and understand the allure of travel mixed with schoolwork. Hopefully all will continue to go well like it has thus far.
I get the feeling you don’t want to hear about my boring classes, though. Hey, it’d be fun describing Mohr’s circle or the times when a flow can be called viscous, but let’s be real here: you want to hear about the travelling and what my croissant count is up to (only 10 I believe). This past weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Luxembourg and Strasbourg. Both were only an hour away by train and seemed to be a good baby step into the pool without diving in head first. The high-speed rail was fairly intuitive to figure out and travelling with a person who knew French made life much easier.

We left for Luxembourg at 8am and passed the time counting cows on the trip (it’s a game all the kids are playing these days). When we finally pulled in, we were surprised to realize that no one had even checked our tickets! Now, I don’t condone illegal activity, but we “technically” could have ridden for free…. Just saying. The train station at Luxembourg was nondescript, which in Europe means that the stained glass was only 100 something years old. Leaving the station, we ambled along the empty streets towards Luxembourg’s old town. Passing by some old churches, we popped our heads in and marveled at the (for lack of a more articulate words) craptastically tall ceilings that seemed to reach to the stars and were covered with frescoes of Jesus in every aspect of his daily life: walking, talking, biking to work, you name it. Luxembourg’s modern city is perched on the top parts of a valley. The fun comes when venturing down into the valley. This is where the old town is nestled. It’s a steep trek to get down and we were very much aware that every step down would mean another one coming back up. It was worth it, though, because the view was incredible. We spent several hours walking among the ancient battlements that had once been crucial during World War II and took in the views across the valley as we crossed the large connecting bridge.

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As lunch time approached, we moved back into the old town for a cheap bite to eat. Eventually settling on a popular sandwich chain called “Paul’s”, we were able to enjoy our baguette-sandwich’s whilst sitting in a park serenaded by musicians performing for the jazz festival. People were swaying to the music in front of us and enjoying the beautiful day just as much as us. There are moments that stick out in a memory, and this will be one of them.

Following lunch, we moved out of the old town and down to the Casemonts du Boc. These are a system of tunnels built into a looming rock wall which were used during World War 2. They offered an amazing view of the valley and led us down to a meandering river bordered by gardens. While walking down to the river, I heard familiar voices: there was a tour being given in Russian! I knew my 5 semesters of Russian would finally be useful for something: I could get a free tour! Although I wanted to stick around and be a nuisance to them, we moved on for a stroll along the river. We wrapped up the trip in the mid-afternoon and took the short train ride back to Metz. For first travel adventures, this one was a success!

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The following day was Strasbourg, a city to the south of Metz and close enough to the border of Germany that one could walk there in several hours. Leaving around 8am again, we arrived to the sight of a slightly more extravagant station. There was a massive glass awning that had been built over the old, stone exterior and which housed various shops and benches. Our plan was simple: walk to the old town and get lost. Unlike most other cities, Strasbourg did not have as many major touristy attractions, but could be appreciated more through its architecture, food, and big-*** church (Seriously, this church was massive). While walking to the city center, we heard it before we even saw it. Following the bells, we saw the building unfold from top down. This church dwarfed all other buildings around it. It even made ME feel small. The sculptures lining its sides were intricately detailed and its parts seemed to disappear and reappear again in the shadows that hid its exterior. We didn’t venture inside yet, because mass was being held. Instead, we would make our way back here later in the day.

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Instead, after having all sense of ego stripped away by the sheer magnitude of that church (which, it turned out, was named Notre-Dame. And no, not the Paris Notre-Dame), we moved on to the waterfront. There are several rivers that weave their way through Strasbourg, resulting in some cool mini-islands. There’s even a playground on one! I would have gone on it too if I didn’t fear being hauled off by the police for what might seem as acts of drunkenness on a Sunday morning. The waterfront provided a great backdrop for pictures that captured Strasbourg’s iconic architecture. We eventually made our way to a breakfast place that won my heart over. The foodie in me was just as satisfied as the frugal half of my brain that hates to spend heaps of money on small meals.

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As the day progressed, we headed over to our Airbnb to check in. There was some difficulty in finding the place, but when we did, we weren’t that impressed. For one, our host had an above-ground pool with a giant, pink flamingo half-submerged in its murky water. Tacky lawn ornaments were strewn across the grass and her three dogs barked incessantly with each ring of the doorbell. Unfortunately for us, she was not there at the prearranged check-in time. We waited twenty minutes at the door before turning back and heading into the city for the second time that day. We sent her various emails, text messages, and phone calls, hoping that she would eventually respond.

Making a beeline for the church, we visited the royal palace adjacent to it that housed three museums. There was an archaeological museum in the basement, a tour of the palace on the ground floor, and a posh art museum upstairs. Six euros was enough to get us into all three, all thanks to student discounts! The basement was full of rocks (yes, I paid money to stare at rocks) that had plaques written in French describing their importance. I guess I’ll just make up my own stories for them. Moving out of the palace, we went back for round two with the church. We went inside this time and felt our jaws drop as we crossed the threshold of the entrance. This ceiling truly stretched to the stars. Massive stone pillars lined the edges of the pews and led up to an impressive altar. We snagged some seats (because we’d walked about 8 miles at this point) and took a break.

As dinnertime approached, we began looking for good, cheap eats. We eventually settled on a German-themed place that was pretty popular with the locals. The line was long and the tables filled as we walked up, but it was very much worth it. I ate some potatoes mixed in with sausage which was reminiscent of kielbasa and pierogis. Leaving the restaurant, we took a long stroll to wear off the effects of eating a large meal. We continued meandering until we decided to head back to the Airbnb and give our host one more shot (she eventually got back to us that afternoon, but it was via email). If she didn’t show up this time, we would’ve hopped the last train of the night and gone back to Metz. When we came to the door backed by the cluttered lawn, we rang the doorbell three times with no answer. Right when called an uber to take us to the train station, our host came barreling out of the house with a towel on her body and her hair sopping wet. She had been taking a shower right when we showed up. Our timing was just very unfortunate with her. We were greeted by her three dogs and showed to the spare room. The bed was a welcome relief after walking over thirteen miles.

The next morning, we took an early train back to Metz. Although we encountered some delays due to technical issues, we passed the time by spotting cows once again and watching Green Arrow (DC’s less cool version of Hawkeye). It was good getting back early, because I had some time to relax for the afternoon and catch up on work. All in all, it turned out to be an amazing first weekend and an awesome introduction for what France has to offer! I’m looking forward to traveling to other small French villages and enjoying the culture. Although, next weekend, I was looking at going to Paris….

Until next time, Au Revoir (for those that only know American, that means goodbye in French)!

Posted by oklempay 13:14 Archived in France Tagged church jazz german luxembourg strasbourg airbnb casemonts

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