The weirdness of geography, another meal, another story, more photos

The thing about having a city that's built both vertically and horizontally around a series of steep meanders is that it does weird things to the road network. Yesterday evening I took a long detour on my way back from the office, a very different route, or so I thought... I came around a corner and looked down a street to the far intersection and thought "hey, that's weird, there are two Restaurant Kamakura in Luxembourg." Then I realized that was a street I've been walking down basically every morning I've been here. And the road network collapsed in on itself in my brain. 

Continuing my streak of wandering into delicious meals, I walked into a place called "Am Türmschen", which again was a combination of Luxembourgish and French foods. I walked in and it was as though I had banged open saloon doors: The three waiters in the first room all turned their heads and stared at me. I stared back. Eventually a woman in charge (it's always a woman in charge, non?) came in, welcomed me, and sat me down. The waiters warmed up, though, so no harm. My waiter brought by the suggestions de saison menu, which had three choices on it. The second and third were Boudin Noir and Blutworst, which reminded me that the first one, Treipen, was a Luxembourgish offal sausage I had read about before I came. That's what I ordered. Delicious.

While I was eating, a quintet of what ultimately turned out to be  GIANT (and jolly) Czech men showed up and said “Ve must each drink whiskey here! Is possible?” There was some negotiation with the waiters and they settled on Jack Daniels, "vith something sweet to follow!" Then they each took a shot and moved on. As I was finishing up they showed up again, considerably more red-faced. “Whiskey again possible?” Paging Kurt and Lotte...

Their lintel was disappointingly free of any mention of my speranza.

Hey look, it's the... prince? Dukette? again, and his missus.

Another picture post

I suppose since working like a crazy man was the whole point of me coming over here for a week, I shouldn't really complain about having no time to explore and photograph... but so it goes. Here's a post of cool things I saw yesterday.

That seems like bad advice.

I would LOVE to know what this house looks like on the inside.

Holy cow, it's a Twizy! I hadn't seen one in person before. Plug-in electric, technically a two-seater (front and back, although I don't imagine an adult would be too happy in the back). And parks sideways.

Apparently I am not just good for Miz Becky's heart.

Classy decorations in what seems to be a party street (many bars) near the office. 

That's it for now. I think I'll have some time to look at proper photos tonight.

More walking around

No narrative this time, just photos and comments.

The city is architecturally remarkable. Structures from the 1400s to, well, last week, all jammed together, sometimes literally stuffed into spaces between each other.

All the normal modern European city activities are going on, but jammed into a medieval street network.

The whole city is in a very pleasing palette.

The medieval fortifications are just part of the fabric of the city. Yesterday morning my walk to the office went across this bridge and down the tower stairs. Nice embrasure placements, by the way. Good coverage of the river approach.

A panorama of the river, and the corresponding Informational Sign. The bridge from above is over on the left side. Behind that is the 1850's viaduct that the train tracks run across (behind which are the Amazon and Microsoft offices).

Restoration, Luxembourg style. Rebuilding the bridge? Put a GIGANTIC SIGN ON IT.

Owlet, as always, is a terrific traveling companion. Also: Those two guys sitting on the table behind owlet each destroyed a giant bowl of mussels, expertly and methodically.

The Bacalhau story

By Sunday afternoon I was passing out on my feet, so I headed back to my hotel and took a nap. 

When I woke up, I felt much better, but not really feeling like moving. "I'll just get a sandwich from room service," I thought, "that's fine for my first day." "No," I told myself, "get your butt out there. You know you'll feel better if you start walking."

After a few more minutes of arguing with myself I got dressed and headed out the door, looking for somewhere interesting to have dinner. As it turned out, Sunday evening is not the best time to look for interesting food in Luxembourg, at least in the neighborhood I was in. I'm sure if I knew the city better I would have found something, but new-to-the-city-and-also-jetlagged me was lost. Subway and McDonalds? Chinese buffet? All open. Somewhere I wanted to eat? Ehhhh, no.

 

Eventually I gave up. I was heading back to my hotel to, yes, get a sandwich from room service, when I ran across the Brasserie du Laboratoire (on Rue du Laboratoire). In the window was a sign: "Spécialités Portugaises". That sounded promising, so I went in.

The inside was a typical bar-and-tables place, with one TV showing football, and another showing some kind of video lottery game. There were guys standing around drinking beer, chatting in French and Portuguese, and the owner was standing behind the bar, laughing. I stood there for a bit, looking confused, and the owner came over. She didn't speak any English, and my scraps of French only got us as far as establishing that I wanted to eat something. She finally turned to the crowd of guys: "falar Inglês?" One guy came over and raised his beer to me. "How's it going?" As it turned out, he didn't have much more English than I did French, but he had enough to establish that I wanted to know if they were serving dinner. That was enough to get us started: The owner and I started discussing dinner in a desperate pidgin of French, Portuguese, and Spanish: "Que comida?" "Ummm... Je ne sais pas."  (Something I didn't understand) "Ummm..." "Bacalhau?" "Si, obrigado!"  "HAH! Obrigado!"

She sat me down, brought me some water, and was confused as to why I didn't want beer or wine (I didn't try to explain that I would PASS OUT). She also brought me some bread, and a bowl of beautiful little black olives. These were the olives that canned black olives are supposed to taste like. Holy cow.

A few minutes later she came back: "Sopa?" "Si!" She went away again. A few minutes later, a woman came out of the kitchen with a tureen and handed it to the owner, who brought it over. "Sopa de galinha," she said as she ladled it into my bowl, a beautiful chicken soup: little bits of pointier-than-orzo pasta, bits of chicken, and a beautiful rich broth, glossy with schmaltz. She filled the bowl, looked at me, and then added a bit more.

A few minutes later, before I was quite done with the soup, she came back with the bacalhau. Cod fried so it was shatteringly crisp on the outside but perfectly cooked on the inside, with a rich tomato and onion sauce over the top, and a few more of the olives. Perfect.

While all of this was going on, the football game was getting closer to starting. There was endless commentary, and ongoing footage of people streaming into the stadium in Porto. As the stadium was filling up, the bar was also slowly filling up, and the owner was setting a long table in the middle of the room. 

Several minutes after I had gotten my bacalhau, the guys who had been filtering in started sitting down at the table. The tureen showed up again, and got passed around. The owner gave a couple of guys a hard stare and made them take some sopa. The kitchen brought up bread and potato chips. As I was finishing up, and the interminable pre-game show was finally showing "Última hora!", the kitchen staff brought up platters of fried fish, fruit, and other foods. I paid, told the owner and the guy who helped me "muito obrigado", and got a clap on the shoulder and hearty goodbyes from several of the football fans.

I wandered back to my hotel, full and happy.

Wandering around Luxembourg, day 1

After a largely non-intrusive flight, where my seatmate and I were in the same mode of "polite but not really wanting to chat", I landed in Luxembourg around 10:30am. The hotel didn't have a room ready, so I left my suitcase and wandered around for a few hours. 

Luxembourg city is built around a deep ravine, which I am guessing was based on making it maximally defensible (although I haven't actually looked at the city history in detail yet). It gives the city a remarkable quality, almost like an Escher drawing where there is a lot of interaction between high and low areas. You can also see the mix between medieval fortifications, newer buildings from the 19th century, and brand new construction. 

 

The other impact of the vertical structure of the city that delighted me yesterday was the number of narrow pathways up and down the sides of the ravine, between (again) very old to very new buildings.

 

And of course in a place where the car is not quite so much the king of the hill, there are accommodations for getting your bike up and down those stairs.