After the whirlwind of travel we've been on lately, we decided to take the month of July to explore our immediate surroundings in the Netherlands, France and Germany. Fortunately, because Luxembourg is centrally located within Europe, these countries are just a scenic road trip away.
Before moving to Lux, neither of us had spent any time in the Netherlands, and we have come to love both the architecture and culture in the country. We've investigated Amsterdam, Leige and Leiden up north, but so far we've overlooked the southern region even though it's closer to us It is a quick 2 hour drive to Maastricht, Netherlands from Luxembourg and a complete cultural change. Maastricht is a university town divided by the Meuse River. It was founded by the Romans who built the first bridge across the river. It is known for having the most cultural heritage sights in the country after Amsterdam.
We enjoyed the small scale of the city and spent our time checking out the massive main squares, cobblestone streets and river walk promenade. We scaled the river bridges and stumbled upon a full marching band playing Purple Rain in a small square. We were moved by the surrounding Dutch crowd singing along to the band as the song played on for more than 15 minutes. We spent the night at a boutique art-focused concept hotel and enjoyed the Pop Rocks they handed out to guests along with a room key. This time of year it doesn't get dark until after 10, so we strolled the streets and watched the locals enjoy a perfect summer night.
The following weekend we planned to stay in Luxembourg, but after hanging out and watching movies at home Friday night we decided to wake up and head to Paris. Paris is only two hours by train and less than four by car, and we hadn't visited since we moved to Lux, so we booked a last-minute hotel, woke up early and were in Montmartre in time for Saturday brunch. We dropped our bags at the hotel and headed out for a 36 hour Parisian adventure.
We started by walking through the narrow, maze-like streets of Montmartre, past sidewalk cafes, boulangeries and hoardes of tourists devouring crepes. Our first stop was the Basilica Sacre Coeur, where we took a break from the heat to enjoy the church atop the highest point in Paris. We strolled down the front steps of the church and headed through the 9th arrondissement toward Les Halles, where we found a trendy dim sum spot for lunch. We are missing quality Asian food in Luxembourg so we savored sitting outside and people watching while tasting various steamed buns. From there, we headed to the Seine and Ile de la Cite, where we checked out Sainte Chapelle, a medieval Gothic royal chapel with perhaps the most gorgeous stained glass we've ever seen. We continued our walk along the Seine past the Louvre over to the Musee d'Orsay and then headed back to Montmartre for an afternoon siesta.
In all the times we've visited Paris, we hadn't seen a classic Parisian cabaret, so we headed to the Crazy Horse Paris for an early evening show and champagne. The club opened in the 1950s and has been frequented by artists and celebrities ever since. The attention to detail is so minute that all dancers must be between 5'5" and 5'8 and each dancer's high heels are adjusted so that all of the performers are the exact same height. It was a cool experience and was a great start to an evening about town. From there, we walked along the Seine as the sun set and headed to Trocadero Square to study in the Eiffel Tower from across the river. We watched the tower light up and took in the scene. From there, we headed back to Montmartre for late night crepes.
This weekend, we drove two hours in the opposite direction from Paris to Bonn, Germany to check out Schloss Drachenberg, or the "Dragon Castle". We met our friend Jordan and his daughter Twola and hiked up along the Rhine River to the hilltop castle. We started by continuing up the hill past the castle to the highest point, where the ruins of the original castle from the middle ages provided expansive views of the Rhine River valley as well as some ruin climbing opportunities. We stopped at a hilltop beer garden and enjoyed apple spritzer and pretzels before returning down to tour the main castles. It still amazes us how "German" Germany can be as they really do eat large pretzels, massive beer steins and foot-long bratwurst on the regular. We explored the gardens and grounds of the main castle and climbed steep spiral staircases to the top of the castle spires.
After touring the castle, we happened upon a "reptilenzoo" and thought we'd check it out. When we were ushered into a dome full of religious artwork, we were very confused. We took a back exit, wound around through a rocky cave, and ended up in a small reptile zoo, complete with anacondas, pythons and American alligators. It was very strange, but fun to check out random exotic animals along a hiking trail in western Germany. From there, we hiked down to the base of the hill, loaded up on German snacks for the ride (the Haribo factory was nearby) and were back in Luxembourg by early evening.
And what a better way to start your Sunday morning than with a visit to a local chateau!
We enjoyed taking a little break from extensive back-to-back travel, but we are ready to get back to it. Next up, Erin's brother, an incoming Miami of Ohio Freshman, joins up for an adventure trip in Majorca.
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