Do you know, I sometimes wonder if flying is worth the trouble. Arriving at the airport around two hours before the plane departs, then queuing at the check in desk before undergoing the kerfuffle of security measures where you lose your coat, shoes, belt, jewellery, liquids and dignity. You may even have a pat down from an airport official into the bargain. The flight itself is an endurance test and you have to do it twice.
Now, travelling by coach is a different matter. No queuing, walking shoeless through security, or paying extra for having luggage a few pounds too heavy. You get to know your fellow passengers and everybody can just sit back and relax. At your destination, there are no parking problems and no hunting around for somewhere to eat. Seemed like a no-brainer to us, so that’s how we arrived in Luxembourg.
That morning, we had arrived in Dover on our Buzzlines coach to meet the DFDS ferry to Dunkirk. Before long, after a pancake smooth crossing, we were leaving France behind for Belgium and a few comfortable hours later had crossed the border into the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, which would be our home for the next few days.
Our base for the duration of our short trip was the Grand Hotel Vianden (www.grandhotelvianden.com) in the fairytale toy town of the same name. Owners Bart and Wil Peverelli are great hosts and make sure guests have everything they need for an enjoyable stay. One morning they arranged for us to meet the mayor, Marc Schaefer, who welcomed us to his chambers in the town hall to enjoy a chat and a glass or two of the local Riesling.
Vianden, six miles from the German border, has as one of its most popular annual events the nut market, usually held on the second Sunday in October. This is held to commemorate the area’s history of walnut production. At one time, a fifth of all Luxembourg’s walnut trees grew in Vianden`s orchards. Now all kinds of walnut based products are on sale at the market including (the very potent) walnut liquors and brandy, walnut milk, walnut confectionary, walnut cheese, walnut bread, even walnut sausages.
French author Victor Hugo stayed in Vianden on several occasions between 1862 and 1871 and during those times was inspired to record its beauty and setting in poetry and prose. In modern day PR terms, Hugo did a good job of promoting Vianden’s attractions to the outside world. Besides its walnuts and Victor Hugo though, Vianden has as its main claim to fame a gloriously theatrical medieval castle shrouded in mists and a backdrop of heavily wooded hills, perched on an outcrop overlooking the town. But sights like that are not unusual in this tiny country and chocolate box landscapes, from dense forests and dappled valleys, to lazy rivers and sheer cliffs more often than not topped by a dramatically perched ruined castle, greet you wherever you go. In summer, a chairlift operates from the river bank in the lower part of town carrying those who dare high above the castle.
One day our coach whisked us to the Caves de Wormeldange, a vineyard and production centre where we were given an informative tour with lots of wine tastings. Following that, we had a scenic tour through the region known as Little Switzerland, a great place to enjoy the fresh air while crunching along the woodland trails, or for the more adventurous, hiking or mountain biking. The Perekop rock overhangs the road by almost 130 ft and daredevils can take the staircase carved out of a narrow crevice in the rock to its summit. If you do, you will find yourself level with the forest canopy and have king of the world views.
Another highlight of our visit to Luxembourg was a gentle cruise along the Moselle river, a tributary of the Rhine, to Trier in Germany, said to be that country’s oldest town. As we sailed gently along the river enjoying Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cakes) we passed vine clad slopes, pretty villages and herons perfecting their motionless stance by the water’s edge. A civilised way to travel!
Of course, we made a visit to the capital, Luxembourg City, which evolved from a 10th century fortress on a rocky promontory. We had a guided tour of the sights including the Grand Ducal Palace, a modest chateau and official residence of Grand Duke Henri, Luxembourg’s reigning monarch. It is guarded by a single soldier. Ladies visiting would do well to forget the heels and wear flat shoes here, the cobblestones can be hard to negotiate otherwise. We also ate a jolly lunch in the Grand Hotel Cravat (www.hotelcravat.lu) in the city centre. This is the only time I have ever seen waiters come round to offer diners a second helping of food!
On our journey home, we stopped at Bastogne in Belgium. This densely forested Ardennes region of Wallonia is famous for the ‘Battle of the Bulge’ fought between the Allies and the Germans in December 1944. 2014 marks the 70th anniversary of the battle, a defining moment of World War 11 and the museum and nearby memorial tells the story – a sobering tale.
And so our first visit to Luxembourg by coach came to an end. We had enjoyed good food, more than an excellent tipple or two and even learned a little of the Luxembourgish language, merci (thank you), addi (pronounced ‘eddy’) meaning ‘goodbye’ and ‘moien’ (hello). Well, okay – three words, but it is a hard language to learn! Most locals however, also speak French, German and English.
The country’s motto is, ‘Mir wëlle bleiwe wat mir sin’ (‘We want to remain what we are’). A strong motto for a small land, but then the Grand Duchy is very much its own country.
How To Get There: Many coach tour companies who are members of the Coach Tourism Council offer holidays to Luxembourg . See www.findacoachholiday.com for more information. Leger Holidays (www.leger.co.uk t: 0844 846 0808) has 5 day/ 4 night tours on various dates. Prices from £375 pp and include a walking tour of Vianden, visits to a vineyard, Luxembourg City, Trier, Echternach and touring through Little Switzerland.
More on Luxembourg at www.luxembourg.com
Article and Images ©Gilly and Mike Pickup