Saturday, November 2, 2013

Adventures in BeDeLux

Samedi, 2 novembre.

In the last week, I've travelled over three thousand kilometres through four countries: France, Germany, Luxembourg, and Belgium. That's two flights, three airport shuttles, four tram rides, a couple of car rides, and approximately a dozen trains and buses. And approximately 400 more photos on my already crammed iPhone. Thanks to a delicious diet of waffles, fries, and chocolate, I'm a few pounds heavier than I was last Saturday (although the weight lost by my wallet more than compensates!) and quite a bit more tired. Still, it's been an absolutely amazing couple of days.

The amount of things I've done, seen, and -- of course -- eaten in the last week is way too much for just one post! You'll have to stay tuned for a couple more posts about all of Molly's and my adventures in Luxembourg and Belgium. But first, an updated shot of my travels map, which has grown considerably since the last time you saw it!

You can find the whole map here (and check out more information about all the cities I've visited here on the blog). The purple pins mark places I visited during the first three weeks of orientation (Nimes, Avignon, etc) while the coral pins are places I've visited during the course of the semester. Blue pins represent the places I've yet to visit, but hope to soon!

But I digress -- back to my Adventures in BeDeLux. Which is, BTW, a pun on BeNeLux, the name given to the region comprised on Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. I like to think that our trip replaced the Netherlands with Deutschland! Well, sort of. Ryan Air -- the discount airline popular with study abroad students because it sells tickets for as low as 15 euros -- flies into Frankfurt-Hahn, a small airport in Germany not far from the Luxembourg border. Although the airport is quite literally in the middle of nowhere, we found that an inexpensive bus shuttle could take us from the airport to Luxembourg and on to Brussels. So hey, why not add another country to our list?

We arrived in Frankfurt-Hahn late on Monday night and spent the night in the hotel across the street. Luckily, I remembered just enough German 101 to check into our room. ("Hallo! Wir haben ein Doppelzimmer reserviert.") The room wasn't anything special, but it was clean and cozy and we had a blast watching German TV!

The next morning, it was time for our bus to stop number two -- Luxembourg! Unfortunately, after a beautiful sunrise and a couple of delicious breakfast pastries at the airport, it was hard to say goodbye to Germany. However, our beautiful two-hour bus ride through the German and Luxembourg countryside did make leaving a little easier. We drove along the Moselle River and passed through Trier, a beautiful German city considered to be one of the country's oldest. I alternated between napping and trying to capture the beautiful views out the bus windows. (Oh, and there might have been a selfie or two involved.)

Oh, how I wanted to get off the bus and just stay there forever! Luckily, however, I resisted the urge, because OH MY GOSH ... Luxembourg.

"Remember how we never wanted to leave Germany?" Molly asked me as we wandered through Luxemburg City on Tuesday afternoon. "That was a lie. I never want to leave Luxembourg!" There's simply too much to share about this gorgeous little country, so you'll have to stay tuned for more pictures and stories from our adventures in Luxembourg. But in the meantime, here's a sneak peek of the beautiful country where we spent Tuesday and Wednesday!

We reluctantly packed up our bags and headed out of the world's only remaining grand duchy on Wednesday evening before making our way to what quickly became our new favorite country ... and our final stop: Belgium.

A French friend we met on the way explained that she had moved to Belgium to escape France for a little while: despite their horrific accents, she found that Belgians were more relaxed and open-minded. I can't personally speak to the personality of the typical Belgian, but if their food is any indication of their temperament, they've got to be pretty great! On Thursday and Friday, Molly and I ate our way through Brussels and Bruges -- and picked up a little Flemish in the process. (Just kidding, I still have absolutely no idea what is happening in that language.) Again, you'll have to wait a little while for more pictures and stories, but here are a few shots!

Although I had grand plans to see the entire continent of Europe during this semester, you might have noticed when looking at my map that the majority of my trips have been a little closer to home. Molly and I made the decision upon arriving that it would be better to focus the majority of our travels in France. There's so much to see within our very own region that it seemed like a waste to spend every weekend jetting off to a different country! Besides, travelling within France allows us to continue practicing French -- something we wouldn't get to do on a weekend trip to London or Prague.

We decided that our weeklong break (in honor of Toussaint, or All Saints Day, a very major holiday in Europe) would probably be our best bet for international travel. So where to -- Rome? Prague? After countless hours spent trying to decode the Czech bus system and find bargains on the Italian regional trains, we decided to go in a different direction -- hence, Luxembourg and Belgium.

Our decision wasn't motivated by any particularly deep-seated desire to see the two countries, nor was it understood by most people we talked to. (My host family in particular thought it was more than a little bizarre that I was travelling to Luxembourg ... they had never been and couldn't really imagine why I would want to!) However, Molly and I were both surprised by how much we both fell in love with each and every place we visited. Every city and small town we visited was more beautiful than the next ... and each bite of chocolate was more delicious! We loved experiencing "real" autumn -- while it's still quite toasty in southern France, Luxembourg and Belgium both required coats and multiple cups of hot cocoa to stay warm. We really could not have made a better decision. (:

1 comment:

  1. Oh so nice to hear! You made a great choice for an autumn adventure!