Luxembourg and Metz

First impression of Luxembourg (or Lëtzebuerg in Luxembourgish), it has a very nice train station:

Luxembourg train station
Luxembourg train station

This photo was taken while waiting for a bus to my friend’s house to drop our stuff off. Afterwards we came back into town, found the Christmas market (which was still on for some reason) and had some Glühwein. Then we went for a walk and attempted to take photos of Luxembourg by night, such as this one:

Hmm...
Hmm…

As you can see, my camera is not made for taking photos in the dark!

The next day, we took a trip to Metz, which sounds German but is actually in France. It probably was German at one point though. Metz is the capital of the Lorraine region of France and home to the University of Lorraine.

The sun was shining when we arrived, and I was actually able to get some photos of the Cathedral with blue sky behind it:

The name of the cathedral, Saint Étienne de Metz, means Saint Stephen of Metz. Who knew? I would certainly never have guessed that Étienne is French for Stephen!

Inside the cathedral were many stained glass windows, as Catholic churches tend to have:

A stained glass window inside Saint Étienne de Metz Cathedral
A stained glass window inside Saint Étienne de Metz Cathedral

Here is the St Marcel bridge. This would have made a much prettier picture in summer!

St Marcel bridge, Metz
St Marcel bridge, Metz

Metz is 49° North, as this tower so kindly informed me:

Metz - 49°N
Metz – 49°N

There is a bridge castle in Metz called the German’s gate (Porte des Allemands) and being there with two Germans I obviously wanted to find it. Here it is:

Porte des Allemands, Metz
Porte des Allemands, Metz

The street you can see through the gate is the Rue des Allemands. Naturally – because what else would you call a road leading to the gate of Allemands?

The next day, New Year’s Eve, we headed up to the Kirchberg area of Luxembourg, which is where many of the EU buildings are located. From there, you can look down on Luxembourg City:

Luxembourg viewed from the Kirchberg
Luxembourg viewed from the Kirchberg

No, I don’t have a clue what any of the stuff down there is…
On the Kirchberg, there is also a reconstructed fort: Fort Thüngen. There’s a museum inside, which is pretty interesting. We got in for free, but we’re not sure whether that was because it was New Year’s Eve and half an hour before closing time or it’s always free. Interesting nonetheless, and there are old maps of Luxembourg in there. We spent a while checking each one to see whether we could find the area of Luxembourg that my friend lives in.

Fort Thüngen
Fort Thüngen

At midnight we obviously wanted to see the New Year’s fireworks, so we went and stood on a bridge.

FireworksFrom there we could see the fireworks going off all over the place, some more professional than others. These ones seemed slightly more professional (although there was no “official” fireworks display from the town – apparantly they did one when the prince got married earlier in the year and one official fireworks display is enough!).

Luxembourg fireworks
Luxembourg fireworks

On New Year’s Day we slept late, had a long drawn out breakfast (or “brunch”) then spent the rest of the day watching TV and playing board games.

We weren’t leaving ’til around 4pm on the 2 January, so we dropped our luggage off at the train station and went to take a look at Luxembourg in daylight – or what passes for daylight in the middle of winter. The sky was rather grey…

“Daylight” in Luxembourg

We decided to go for a walk in the giant gorge that basically splits Luxembourg city in two. It’s incredibly quiet down there, away from all the traffic that thunders along the bridges that span the gorge, and you get to walk along pretty paths and down steps that look like this:

In the Luxembourg gorge
In the Luxembourg gorge

The walls of the gorge are made up of sandstone cliffs, like this:

Sandstone cliff
Sandstone cliff

And there is also a really cool church/chapel thing built into the cliff:

Church in a cliff, Luxembourg
Church in a cliff, Luxembourg

We then walked into the aptly-named Grund quarter of Luxembourg, which is located down in the valley below the main centre of Luxembourg city on the banks of the Alzette River.

River Alzette, Grund, Luxembourg City
River Alzette, Grund, Luxembourg City

I found this yellow cow outside a museum and couldn’t resist taking a photo of it:

Moo!
Moo!

After our walk around Grund (very pretty by the way – but go in summer when you might have a chance of blue skies!), we took the lift up through the cliffs back to the main part of town where we went for a late lunch before heading back to the train station.

A spot of lunch at Cafe Konrad
A spot of lunch at Cafe Konrad

And that was how I started 2013. I hope the new year began just as well for you!

Resolutions time

I am back in Karlsruhe, it’s 2013 and so it must be time to post my new year’s resolutions…

  1. Get back to doing my exercise DVD. What with illness then the stress of Christmas I’ve been neglecting it lately, and I can tell! I feel weak, sluggish and some of my clothes are getting tight. Must get my Jillian on again this year!
    Little N Large
    Little N Large (Photo: Will-Joel-Taylor)

     

  2. Keep on top of the housework better. I’m a firm believer that life is too short to spend it cleaning, but over the past few months the flat has looked bad even by my standards.
  3. Become a better translator. I want to improve my style this year and maybe get at least one or two translations back from the proofreader without any corrections or style suggestions. Maybe then I will also get to do some nice translations for a change, instead of always being responsible for the technical ones!
  4. Finish visiting 30 German towns before I turn 30 and blog about them. I believe I am up to 7 blogged about (although I have visited loads more!) so I have a lot of work ahead of me…
  5. Save up and do some OU courses. I have a whole list of short courses that sound interesting and this year I actually want to do a few.

That’s all. I think 5 is enough for one year!
Now that I’m back I’m going to atempt to visit all the blogs I read and see what I’ve been missing out on – providing this computer will let me! If you don’t get a comment from me it’s probably because Mr. Computer has taken a dislike to your blog and decided to freeze rather than actually loading it…

Happy New Year!

Hello!

If you can read this then it’s worked – my first ever scheduled post!
I’m not actually on the computer right now, but somewhere in Luxembourg. Probably watching fireworks with a glass of sparkling wine in my hand.

A very happy New Year to you all! May 2013 be everything you hope for and more!

Fireworks in Edinburgh, New Year 2011
Fireworks in Edinburgh, New Year’s Eve 2010

FINALLY Friday (time for some Friday letters!)

Day 340/365 - Letters to Santa
Letter to Santa (Photo: Great Beyond)

It’s Friday again, and this week I am unbelievably glad that it’s finally arrived. Work has been slow for past few days (which I actually find worse than when it’s stupidly busy and I have to do overtime – although the up side is that I got to leave at 3 p.m. today becasue there was just no point in me staying for another 2 hours) and it feels like everyone has just been waiting for the week to end. I am now on holiday for two whole weeks!! The thing I am looking forward to the most? Sleeping for more than 6 hours at a time! Anyway, here are my final Friday letters before Christmas.

Dear Thoughts Appear. You mentioning Gremlins on your blog made me realise just how long it is since I’ve seen that film. I didn’t have it in my collection, so naturally I had to order it, and it arrived the other day (in time for Christmas!). I’m sooo looking forward to watching it. Thank you for the inspiration!

Dear boyfriend. We’ve had our ups and downs, but overall I think this year’s been good. Thank you for making such an effort recently. I love you!!

Dear Christmas. I have finally written and posted all my cards, finished wrapping gifts and got all my parcels sent off (some of which probably won’t actually arrive on time…). I think I’m almost ready for you to come now.

Dear magic housework fairy. My flat currently looks like a bomb’s hit it, and I really want to get it cleaned up in time for Christmas. If you’re not too busy, a little help would be very much appreciated!

Dear friends. PLEASE could you stop having babies/getting married for a while? I now have three cross stitch samplers to do, for April, May and June and I have no idea how I’m going to manage!

Thank you
Thank you (Photo credit: Avard Woolaver)

Dear readers. Thank you for all your lovely comments on the state of my relationship. All of your opinions and advice are very much appreciated. As is the fact that you read my drivel at all. You are amazing – every single one of you!

Dear rest of the year. Do you think you could maybe go a little slower than the months leading up to you have? I need some time to sleep, and I also need to work on various cross stitch samplers (at this point, I feel the need to reiterate that I have three events to stucth for!), spend time with my boyfriend and we are going to Luxembourg for New Year. Of course, if the world ends tonight this won’t be necessary 😉

Dear world. If you’re actually going to end could you please get on with it. I’m sick of hearing about Mayan calendars now…

Dear boyfriend (again). Didn’t anyone ever tell you ebing ill on Christmas is not allowed?! You need to hurry up and recover from your cold. And don’t go giving it to me either – I don’t have time to be ill this close to Christmas!

That’s all from me. I now have to go back out in the pouring rain to purchase some vegetables for tonight’s tea. And after that I have a date with some dirty dishes. Housework fairy, I’m waiting!

Mozart, mountains and modern art

Salzburg

So, I promised to tell you all about Salzburg. And here I am, getting ready to tell. Where to begin?
This time, our New Year’s holiday was almost a week. We travelled to Salzburg on 26 December and came back on 2 January (I had to be back at work again on the 3rd. Boo hiss!).
I was overjoyed to be back in Austria again. I lived there for about 10 months in 2005/2006 and loved it! (I didn’t actually live in Salzburg, but Austria is Austria, right?). Salzburg is mostly famous for 2 things – The Sound of Music (which we attempted to ignore completely – although I did take a photo of the gazebo from the film for my mum) and Mozart, who was born there. We paid tribute to the latter by visiting the house he lived in as a teenager and going to a concert  featuring mostly pieces by Mozart (plus one by Schuhbert). We’re so very cutural 🙂

Schloss Leopoldskron - we saw this as part of the "In Mozart's Footstep's" tour, but it also features in The Sound of Music film
Schloss Leopoldskron – we saw this as part of the “In Mozart’s Footstep’s” tour, but it also features in The Sound of Music film

It was also nice to be back among mountains. I used to have one outside my bedroom window when I lived in Austria and it was always great opening my curtains to see it. Karlsruhe is possibly the flattest town on the planet (the highest “hill” here is in the zoo… and it’s man-made!) and England isn’t exactly known for its peaks, so  even small mountains are something I don’t see every day. While the weather was behaving, we took the cable car up the Untersberg (just outside Salzburg)  – Jan wanted to walk up but all the paths were closed due to snow so we weren’t allowed – I was devastated, clearly 😉 At the top there was quite a bit of snow, and also a wonderful view.

At midnight on the 31st, we were partway up another mountain – the Kapuzinerberg. That one’s actually in Salzburg and gave us an excellent view of the fireworks while allowing us to avoid the drinken idiots shooting rockets at each other in town.

We also went to the Museum der Moderne – a modern art museum on the Mönchsberg. They currently (January 2012) have an exhibition by Evan Penny, which I thought was neat. Unfortunately you weren’t allowed to take pictures in the museum, but basically he makes sculptures of humans and, in this particular exhibition (Re Figured) they’re all distorted in some way. The results are a little freaky but very, very cool.

Other highlights included the fortress, where there was so much to see that we didn’t even make it all the way round, and the Haus der Natur, a natural history museum with an attached Science Centre where you could literally spend all day! The only reason we left after 3 and a half hours was because Jan wasn’t feeling too good – we hadn’t seen anything like everything! The Science Center part is all hands on and mostly aimed at kids, but adults can have their fun too! If you ever find yourself in Salzburg and the weather isn’t too good definitely check out the Haus der Natur! Naturally we also had to stop at the Cafe in Hotel Sacher for a slice of Sachertorte (a kind of chocolate cake with a layer of jam in the middle), which was okay, but the best hot chocolate of the trip was definitely the one I had in Demel on Mozartplatz. So thick and creamy it was almost more like a dessert than a drink. Mmmm! And the slice of chestnut cake I had there was delicious too!

Fortress

And now I shall leave you with a view of the city taken from a window at the Hohensalzburg fortress. Most of what you can see is the old town, and the river in the background is the Salzach. Still a pretty place, even in the middle of winter. Salzburg, I shall return!

So this is Christmas…

Well, it was anyway. It’s pretty much over now.
We’ve had a pretty good couple of days. (Well, I think so anyway). We decided to do a double Christmas, opening the gifts from German people yesterday (live on Skype in the case of those from Jan’s mum) and leaving the ones from each other and from my family for this morning. I got some nice things, including a necklace from my grandparents, books (lovely, lovely books!), four Counting Crows CDs – despite only asking for one 😀 – and concert tickets from Jan. We’re going to see Kettcar in February!! None of you will ever have heard of them (they’re a German band), but I’ve wanted to see them for ages so I’m very happy.

Today we went out to a nice restaurant for lunch. Jan suggested it – I was planning to cook! The food was delicious, as was the wine (chosen by Jan) and we came home happy and with full stomaches. I spoke to my dad after lunch, and my family liked their presents too, which is always a good thing.

We’re off to Salzburg for a week tomorrow, so that all that remains is for me to wish you all a Merry Christmas (what’s left of it) and all the best for the new year. “See” you in 2012!

Plans and potatoes…

Despite all my promises to get back to regular blogging, once again it’s been over a week since my last post. That pesky little thing called life has reared up its ugly head and got in the way again! So what have I been doing that’s kept me so busy?

~ Learning Spanish! Jan and I started another Spanish course recently (our third), so now that’s where we go on Monday evenings. Each lesson is an hour and a half and let me tell you it’s hard work! Hopefully it will be worth it in the end though!

~ Socialising! Last Saturday a friend of Jan’s who moved to Frankfurt was back in town for the day, so we met up with him and went to Stadtfest. Then in the evning we met up with friends for “Dirty Old Town”, the annual event in which all the pubs in Karlsruhe’s old town have live music all night. And on Wednesday our favourite Irish pub celebrated it’s 2nd anniversary, so of course we had to be there.

~ Cooking Sunday dinner! The meat was fried pork steaks, so it wasn’t a real Sunday roast, but my roast potatoes were absolutely perfect. Crunchy on the outside and lovely and soft in the middle. Luckily I made extra so I get to enjoy them again for lunch tomorrow. Mmmm.

~ Making plans! We’ve decided to go to Edinburgh for new year as we only got such a short time there (one afternoon!) during our trip around Great Britain this summer. And since we’ll be heading to the island anyway, it makes sense to spend Christmas there as well this year. So we’ve been looking at flights, trains and B&Bs and have finally come to a decision. We’ll be staying at my dad’s for 9 whole days! My little brother won’t know what’s hit him – he’s never seen me for that many days in one go!

So this is the New Year…

We got back from Italy on Sunday and yesterday I was back at work. A little disconcerting going straight from being on holiday back to real life, but it was ok. And tomorrow I’m off again because it’s Three Wise King’s Day (or Epiphany as we English speakers tend to call it) which is a holiday here in Baden-Württemberg.

I actually have pretty high hopes for 2010. I wasn’t dreading going back to work yesterday (which, as some of you will know, is a definite improvement over this time last year) and I’m quietly optimistic that I’ll still have a job once my probation period is over – unless of course I’ve just jinxed myself by mentioning it on my blog. As for other aspects of my life… well, I have plans, but nothing really concrete to tell you yet so we’ll just have to wait and see. I have a notion that things may be looking up though.

So… resolutions… having utterly failed miserable on all of last year’s I’ve decided it to keep it simple this time. So my resolution for 2010 is just to be better. Less selfish, less self-critical, more emotionally intelligent, a better girlfriend… whatever. Just a better me in some way, however small. Surely even I can cope with something as general as that?

I also plan to complete my dissertation this year, but that’s not so much a resolution as something that has to be done whether I like it or not – and which I’ll probably end up doing all in one weekend right before the due date but let’s not talk about that for now…

A very happy New Year to all of you.

Starting afresh

New year, new start. I’ve been saying those words at the beginning of January for years now. And every year all my good intentions last until about mid-March, then I find myself turning back into the same old me, returning to the same old routine of promising myself that I will make things better, right after I finish this game of Mai Jongg, and get to the end of that book and put this stack of old photos that I’ve just discovered into an album… Hopefully this year will be different.

So, resolutions. They have already been made, the boyfriend has been informed of them. Now all that remains is to set them down in black and white (well white on black really) in my blog. Because only once the whole world knows what I’m planning can it really be official, right? So…

Number 1. Last year I promised I was going to be a better girlfriend. It worked, for maybe a month. Then instead of moving on my relationship seemed to take a step backwards when Jan moved out. No, no. Not like that. We were never actually living together. Both of us just had rooms in the same student residence. Then Jan completed his degree,started working towards his doctorate and decided the time had come to get a flat. With a friend of his. He lated admitted that maybe, just maybe, asking me to move in with him might have been a better idea. But he also admitted later in the year that, although he loves me, I don’t make him happy and he’s not really sure what he wants. So this year’s resolution is to improve my relationship, to try to be a better girlfriend and to make my boyfriend happy. I also told Jan that if we’re still not going anywhere by this time next year, if he’s still not exactly happy with me but unwilling to make any decisions to imporve the situation I will go away and leave him alone, give him the chance to find someone who can make him happy. That is my most important resolution – to try for one more year to improve my relationship, and if I don’t succeed, to admit defeat.

Number 2 in the list of resolutions is to become better at work. I may not even have a job any more after this month. If that happens I’ll just have to try and improve myself at the next place, wherever that may be. This year I want to learn to work better in a team. I want to become emotionally intelligent, socially competent, organised, a good project manager. The kind of person bosses like to have working for them.

Resolution number 3 is to procrastinate less. To stop leaving my university assignments until the last minute. To actually do the reading that’s set for each week. I only have to keep this one up until the end of March when my last assignment for the year is due in. Surely even I can manage to stick to a resolution for 3 little months.

And finally, number 4 is to get out more. Between working full time and studying part time it’s pretty difficult to make room for a social life, plus I’m tired so much of the time that it seems easier to live my life virtually, via the blogosphere and facebook, but even I realise there’s more to life than this virtual reality, so this year I’m going to make more time to meet up with actual real live people, and not just on special occasions either.

So there we have it. Four resolutions. Now everyone please send lots of positive energy and willpower my way. I have a feeling I’m going to need it…