Enroute to Barcelona, Spain, I have just had the best weekend of the trip so far. Only spending just a couple of days, I managed to see 4 of my European Bronco friends and travel with them to 3 countries. It has been a whirlwind of a weekend, I am exhausted but so thankful for the time I got to spend with them.
I arrived from Sweden on Saturday morning and met Victor (from France) and Ane (from the Basque region) at the airport in Luxembourg. Victor works in here in a finance firm, so we spent the better part of the day exploring Luxembourg City. It is a completely lovely and extremely interesting city. To me the city seemed packed full of people, but according to Victor, it was nothing compared to during the work week. Luxembourg is an incredibly small country located between Belgium, France, and Germany. The entire country only has a population of about 500,000 and would only take about 45 minutes to drive across. However, it is a major destination for financial firms and the center of the Euro due to having some of the lowest tax rates in Europe. It is a more expensive place to work, so about 150,000 commute to the country for work everyday.
The city itself is a beautiful European city. The kind of city that causes me to look up multiple times, breathe it in and think to myself how much I adore Europe. The downtown pedestrian streets reminded me of Rome or Paris. Although some things were closed due to the weekend, you could tell there were many mainstream and artisan shops alike, sprinkled throughout the city.
Although there may not be any major attractions to draw you to Luxembourg, it should definitely be on your list of destinations. We only spent a few hours here but were able to visit Notre Dame des Luxembourg. This cathedral was built over a 40 year period in the early 1600s and is absolutely breathtaking. The size and architecture will blow your mind and leave you in awe. We also spent some time walking through the city park. Much like Central Park in New York City, this comes completely out of nowhere and is surrounded by international bank buildings. This park, however, is unlike anything I have ever seen before. Truthfully it felt kind of like a jungle. It was extremely lush with paths, and stairs curling every which way throughout. It was a lovely walk and a great time to catch up with Ane and Victor since their time in Boise.
After our small tour of the city, it was lunch time. They brought me to a hamburger restaurant of which I was skeptical. If there is one thing that America can make extremely well, it is a burger. I was, however, extremely and pleasantly surprised. Although more undercooked than I would have wanted, the flavors were amazing and ingredients, fresh as can be. I was also highly impressed with the French fries, very good and perfectly cooked. (I am an Idaho girl after all) We stayed for quite a while at the restaurant in true European fashion. This is definitely something that I have missed while living in the states. In Europe, you can stay until you ask for the check, no one will bring it to you and try to rush you. It is a good thing to know so you are not waiting at the table, thinking someone forgot about you though. But it makes for a truly relaxing atmosphere and a great mealtime.
After lunch we were off to Saarlouis, Germany to meet up with two more exchange friends, Alex and Marie for dinner. The drive was gorgeous and only about one hour. The time flew by and soon we were in the small town of Saarlouis. Meeting up with our friends, they took us to a traditional German restaurant for dinner. Playing my favorite game, I let Alex order for me entirely. I wanted to make sure that I was getting the local favorites, and I was not disappointed. I ended up with schnitzel, a lightly breaded pork filet covered in a mushroom gravy served with French fries and salad, and to drink a wheat beer mixed with Coke. It was all new to me, but one of the best meals I have had the entire trip. The beer was an odd mixture but I actually ended up loving it. As for the food, Germany really knows how to do comfort food perfectly.
After dinner, we left Saarlouis and drove to Saarbrucken, about 15 minutes away, where Alex and Marie go to university. After a short walk around the downtown of the city, we grabbed an outside table at the café where Marie works for drinks. It was so nice to be all together again, I cannot even explain it. We shared stories, memories from the semester in Boise and laughed, a lot. It was an amazing night.
Afterwards we were off to find me a room for the night. I hadn’t booked anything because we didn’t have a plan for a while and I figured it would all work out anyways. Marie and Alex had found a budget hotel a few tram stops from downtown Saarbrucken and it was a great room. A bizarre beginning, we walked in to find no receptionist but rather a kiosk for booking a room. I paid for the room and it gave me a receipt with a code on it for my doors. For 39 euros (about $45) I got a room all to myself with my own bathroom and a TV. It was the nicest place I have slept throughout the trip. It actually was a wonderful option and something that I will add into my next trip, a private room once a week. It was so nice to be able to wash all of my clothes and hang them throughout the room to dry. Also I could plug everything in to charge overnight and not worry about it while I slept. It was a rejuvenating night and something that I think solo travelers especially should plan into their trip.
Saturday I spent the morning in Saarbrucken with Alex. We had a late brunch at the restaurant while Marie worked so I could spend a bit more time with her. A classic European breakfast of different breads, meats and cheeses it was delicious and filled me up quite well. Also, Alex said that I had to try cake in Germany because he recalled it being very different in America. Boy was it ever. I had a cherry crumble cake and it was amazing. Made with a thick cheesecake like crust and a yummy sugary crumble topping, it was the center of the cake that threw me for a loop. It was a mixture between the consistency of cheesecake in the creaminess and slight taste of cream cheese, but regular cake in the light fluffiness. I think I may be more in love with German cake than American cake after that.
After brunch I said goodbye to my friend Marie and Alex took me to see their university. Again completely unexpected. The campus is enormous! With about 5,000 fewer students than Boise State University, Saarbrucken is easily double, if not triple the size of BSU’s campus, and the buildings are all much taller. It was amazing how different it was. As another of our direct exchange destinations it was great to be able to visit and see where they go to school.
Mid-afternoon we were on our way to Nancy to meet back up with Ane and Victor. I have fallen in love with Nancy, France! It is very much like a northern Italian town, in look and feel, so it was a very homey to me. Nancy is another direct exchange site for BSU and where Victor attends business school so he was a great tour guide. We went through the major cathedral, again so completely gorgeous! Then down the major pedestrian shopping street before ending up in one of the most beautiful squares I have ever seen. The whole square shimmer with golden gates in the corners, and white marble throughout. We stopped for a beer and some great people watching before continuing our way through the city.
After some more sightseeing of Nancy and repeating for the millionth time that I would like to move there and learn French, we stopped for dinner. Looking around until we found what we wanted, the group settled on a French Italian restaurant. It was no Italy, but still incredibly good. It also featured a very popular French practice of doing a menu of the day. Essentially for one price you can choose an appetizer, entrée and dessert. We all opted for that and I had a delicious bruschetta with a French twist, pasta in a crème sauce with sugar snap peas and asparagus, and tiramisu. It was a great dinner and a perfect ending to a wonderful weekend.
We said goodbye to Alex after dinner and headed to Victor’s for the night. This morning we were up extremely early to take me to the airport in Luxembourg and Ane to airport in Belgium. Unfortunately, due to the fact that 80,000 Frenchmen enter Luxembourg to work everyday, the normally 35 minute drive took almost two hours due to traffic. But we got to the airport, said our sad goodbyes and they headed to Belgium.
This weekend was so much fun and made me so thankful for my friends spread throughout the world. I am so blessed to be young and able to visit these people who I know will be lifelong friends. We had a great time-sharing stories, languages, and cultures. I cannot wait to see them again. As much as I am excited to be back to solo traveling again, having my group of friends throughout this week has been a breath of freshair. It is a beautiful thing to have people who are so incredibly different from you, become some of your favorite people in the world.
-The Very Hungry Traveler