Another Header

November 15, 2011


Filed under: Europe, Photography, The List, Travel, UNESCO World Heritage — anotherheader @ 8:24 pm

Ville Haute's skyline

After a long international flight we’re always looking for a comfortable place to crash for a day or so.  To cope with the jet lag and the disorientation from the travel we want an oasis of calm before the immersion into the chaos of a foreign culture.  This time we chose to stop in Luxembourg, Luxembourg City to be more precise, after our flight into Frankfurt Germany from San Francisco.  Luxembourg is about 2 and half hours by car from Frankfurt’s flughafen.

Ville Basse

Tucked in between Germany, France, and Belgium, small Luxembourg, covering just less than a thousand square miles or about twice the land area of Los Angeles, just escapes being labeled a “microstate.”  Measured by per capita GDP, Luxembourg is one of the most prosperous countries in the world.  And, like the other small states that occupy the top spots on the GDP per capita list, the tax regime is the key to the economy.   In Luxembourg tax advantages for international banking and administration drive the economy.  But there’s more to do than business in this very livable metropolitan area of around 100,000 people.  Indeed, the “City of Luxembourg: its Old Quarters and Fortifications” warranted UNESCO World Heritage List membership.

At the confluence of the Alzette and Pétrusse Rivers, Luxembourg City is split between two levels.  Pretty and quiet, the historic low town, Ville Basse, lies near the rivers.  On the hill above, surrounded by massive ramparts, is the busier high town, Ville Haute.  Though Ville Basse’s Grund district feels older, the high village is actually the “old” town.

Luxembourg City’s fortified walls are a major attraction.  In fact the promenade along the top of the ramparts, the Chemin de la Corniche, has been called “Europe’s most beautiful balcony.”  I won’t weigh in on the inevitable “most beautiful” debate but Luxembourg’s ramparts do make for a particularly pleasant extended scenic stroll.

Indeed, Luxembourg is excellent for walking tours.  Prosperity translates to safe and clean streets.  And there’s plenty to see.  The city’s interesting architecture, showing the French and Germanic influences, is broken up by nice green open spaces.  Car traffic is modest.  The only problem for a walking tour is the terrain.  Steep hillsides capped by the ramparts separate the Ville Haute from Ville Basse.  It’s a grunt to hike up the hill.  Not that you have to hike up.  If we had looked more carefully at the tourist map before setting out on our tour we’d have always used the elevator through the rock that links the low and the high towns.

Left to right: No doubt where to take pictures! Becky finds a new friend. A bus stop.

Gigi, our International Bordachinhuahua Terrier, was unfazed by the hills.  She enjoyed her long walks with her humans.  She tells us that she expects to continue to get such long walks when she returns home.  For her, the foreign “p-mail” left by the local dogs required no translation.  Luxembourg, it seems, has plenty of boy dogs anxious to meet a young girl dog like herself.

In the evenings Gigi enjoyed being able sit at our feet as we dined.  The waiters in the restaurants often made her welcome with a bowl of water.  One waiter even slipped her a chocolate wafer at the end of the meal!  (Later, after a hurried search of the Internet, we determined that the amount of chocolate in the wafer was too low to do damage to our iron-gutted pooch.)  For sure, Gigi had a good time on her first European outing.  There was one thing, though.  That elevator thing at the end of the tunnel into the bluff was scary.

Luxembourg has three official languages, French, German, and Luxembourgish or Letzeburgesch. (If the name of the language is hard to pronounce, does that mean that language is hard to learn?).  Contrasting the Luxembourgers, our household has, despite our feeble attempts at learning another, one official language and a collection of nearly incomprehensible hand gestures.  Somehow we imagined that the Luxembourger’s knowledge of multiple languages might prepare them for our particularly bad French.  This would be a good place to warm up the linguistic tires for France, wouldn’t it?  Of course that thought was naive.  Our French was just as ineffective in Luxembourg as it is everywhere else.  The truth be told, at the end of our trip, after 3+ months in France in the last year and a half, a friend remarked that she was surprised that we could not speak French any better.  Fortunately for us, in Luxembourg, like most other places, everyone knows a little bit of English.  Bart Simpson has been a Johnny Appleseed of simple English.   

Luxembourg turned out to be a perfect locale for our European entry stop.  The town is clean, small, and particularly livable; it is a comfortable pause.  It is worth a visit, even if you are not working through the jet lag.

Ville Basse with Ville Haute on the hill

Reflections from Luxembourgs shiny pots



  1. […] a long drive from Luxembourg we pushed through Lyon’s rush hour traffic and found our hotel, the Hotel le Phénix, along the […]

    Pingback by France: Lyon « Another Header — December 23, 2011 @ 7:49 pm

  2. […] is another reason why we enjoyed our stay in Montpellier.  After cold days in Luxembourg City and a hot sweaty sojourn in Lyon, the Mediterranean weather was perfectly ideal.  Days like this […]

    Pingback by France: Montpellier « Another Header — December 23, 2011 @ 11:51 pm

  3. […] Luxembourg: Its Old Quarters and Fortifications (Luxembourg, 2011) […]

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