Friday, 20 February 2015

Luxembourg - My favourite city center

When I hear the word city-center the impression I have is shopping arcades, buzzing streets, food vendors, cafes, restaurants and lots of tourists if it is a touristy place. Somehow I never imagined a city center with beautiful hills, valleys, gorges and a river flowing through it. Luxembourg city center has this and more to offer.

After a perfect day with a our couch-surfing family in Fischbach, Luxembourg
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we drove off to Luxembourg city. A twenty minute drive from Fischbach and we found ourselves in amazing Luxembourg city. First look at the place and I was totally amazed! 

Beautiful hills, gorges, old fort ruins and river all blending into one and serving as a recreational park right in the center of the city makes it my favorite so far.

Luxembourg city is really small and super easy to explore on foot. The best sites are very close to each other and can be easily done in one day's easy walk. Generally visitors find it difficult to chose a starting point of this grand 2-3 hours walk. Gladly we parked the car right next to the bock and began our walk from the Bock itself with Casemates du Bock on one end and Adolphe bridge on the other.

The view from the top is stunning. I just stood there for long just soaking it all in.

The walk down to the Grund is really sweet. What amazed me was the silence. No loud noises. Only flowing river, chirping birds and fresh clean air. We had a lunch break at the Grund and even the noise of munching chips seemed too loud.

We walked up and down in and around this place so many times without once repeating a chosen path. It could very well be a maze. The views are really out of the world and I could not stop clicking.

We rested at this one sunny spot in the Grund where I could see the river flowing down below and the rising cliff walls all around me. Just the two of us there with no one else to intrude made it even more special. It was amazingly quiet and peaceful there. I think it is my new favorite spot in Europe so far. I felt I was one with the place and not just a visitor viewing it. A glimpse of the place is in the picture below. It captures just a fraction of how amazing it really was.

We walked by the river Petrusse for almost a stretch of a kilometer and back from the Grund to the old town side. Many joggers ran past us and I could see how they were really enjoying their regular jog. I wouldn't mind jogging around such a beautiful scenic view by a river either.

A casual lazy walk around town-wide and we came across the Luxembourg Palace. It is undoubtedly grand however when I hear Palace I expect a little more than what I saw. The shopping center was just a 2 minute walk.

The town-hall, Place Guillaume II, is an excellent example of classic European square with a historical statue. Luxembourg is the world's only remaining grand duchy and I highly recommend a visit to this rich but small country.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Valentine's in Fischbach, Luxembourg.

Generally people flock to Paris for Valentines and rightly so since it is considered to be the most romantic city. I too dabbled with the thought of spending Valentine's in Paris however for some reason I couldn't get Luxembourg out of my head. So we decided to ditch the routine roses or popular Paris and visit Luxembourg instead and do something different.

Instead of choosing to stay in some swanky hotel and spending time alone, we chose to go couch-surfing and stay with locals. Couch-surfing mostly has singles registered on it, few couples and travel enthusiasts. Rarely have I seen families on the site. I was pleasantly surprised to see a family of three  ( Luxembourg gentleman, Japanese lady with their girl ) not only on the site but with a huge number of references. Somehow I was really drawn to it and wanted to spend time with this adventurous family and gladly Gabi was open to the thought as well.

Our couch-surfing family was based out of Fischbach, a small village about 20 minutes from Luxembourg city. The drive up to the house through meadows, green landscape and low hills was absolutely stunning. The landscape and houses reminded me of Switzerland.

We reached our destination by mid-day and were welcomed into a beautiful country-side house in lush green surroundings by our CS family.

Michel invited us to join him on his daily walk in the forest. Even though it was drizzling and cold, a walk in the forest sounded fabulous and too good to refuse.

Walking hand-in-hand with Gabi, enjoying the views, chirping of the birds, clean fresh air, alternating sun-n-drizzle and Fischbach stories from our CS host Michel, was how we spent our afternoon, our Valentine afternoon. It was simple and perfect.

Our walk back was awarded by yet another picturesque view and a rainbow

We enjoyed dinner together sharing stories of our respective countries, cultures and of-course food. Dum-aloo ( which I had carried for our dinner together with me ), egg-plant with Japanese rice from our host.

A Spanish dessert prepared by our host Yoko

The house was better than any five star hotel! Truly! Each and every corner was perfect and so clean. Later Michel told us that their house had won awards for the energy preservation techniques used. The house was naturally warm and used no artificial heating. The toilets functioned using the natural rain water. Michel himself was an engineer and energy conservation was both his profession and passion. Turns out he was almost a celebrity in this field and a published writer.

The surprises did not end there. Later at night after dinner we all went down to their basement living room where they had a piano. Michel's wife, Yoko played beautifully. We stayed there for sometime and then excused ourselves to our room on the top floor. As I prepared to sleep I could hear the family laugh and enjoy themselves together. It was all so beautiful and honest. As I drifted off to sleep to the piano music I whispered a small 'thankyou' to this universe, for the beautiful experience on the day of love. It could not have been spent better.

A big Thank You to Michel and Yoko for having us over. It was a pleasure to have them as company and experience staying in their beautiful eco-friendly house!

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Giethoorn - Venice of the Netherlands

Giethoorn, is a small enchanting village in the Netherlands about 1.5 hours from Amsterdam.  It is a car-free village and for the longest there were absolutely no roads in the village and the only means of transport was by water over the many canals. Now there is a narrow bike-path made to explore the village on bike or on foot.  Even to this day cars have to be left outside the village - how cool is that.
I had never heard about Giethoorn up until recently and I am glad I could visit this mesmerizing place.

It is popularly known as the Venice of the Netherlands however it is much smaller than Venice. Venice was somehow oozing romance while Giethoorn to me seemed straight out of a fair-tale. Both have their own charms nonetheless. Walking around the Giethoorn was a bewitching experience and I could not help feel part of a magical fairy-tale. If there is a fairy-land it must be a lot like Giethoorn!

The village has about 1800 small bridges which connect the village and the small island-houses. Almost each and every house is amazingly captivating. With only 3000 people living in the village I believe it must be one of those places where everyone knows everyone.

Some houses were up for sale. I wondered how it would be to live there - a mixed bag I think - with a beautiful enchanting surrounding but with curious intruding tourists peeping into the houses and the house being almost on a display forever. The place was amazingly quiet however we were told that it can be very busy in the peak season.

Biking, walking around and sailing in one of the famous 'whispering boats'  are some of the activities to engage in while at Giethoorn. We did a whispering boat tour for about two hours ( at about 13 euro / person ) - sailing in and around the picturesque canals. The whispering boat tour gave a much closer look however I personally enjoyed exploring the village on foot more.

The the size of the village the number of restaurants were definitely sufficient for locals and travelers alike. We enjoyed yummy Italian meals in the heart of the village. Some unique souvenir shops just added to the experience and of-course I had to collect my most favorite one - a fridge magnet!

There are many good b&b in the village itself and the people there are known for their hospitality. Most of them also provide bike-on-rent and whispering boat tours.

Giethoorn became locally famous when Dutch movie Fanfare was shot there. Once back from my trip I saw the movie as well and it was interesting to link it back to my trip.

I would definitely love to go to Giethoorn in Spring again and maybe this time I can stay with the locals than in a hotel. It can also be an easy day trip from Amsterdam ( 1.5 hours one way) and I highly recommend it. 

Tuesday, 3 February 2015


I believe any goals or targets need to be penned down if they have to be achieved. That is the first step I follow to accomplish any goals. All my 2015 goals are well sketched out and one of the major ones is to travel to 15-20 countries. So here I am penning down the list of countries on my wish-list of 2015. It would be awesome to review it by the end of the year.

My 2015 travel wish-list:

Turkey : I hope to visit Turkey with a friend from India. We do have a rough plan in place and I hope we are able to do it.

Bosnia : It is high in my travel list. Looking forward to visit the Sarajevo War Tunnel and the Bascarsija.

Ireland: Considering the flight tickets to Ireland can be 30-40 Euros return from Amsterdam it will be a sin to not visit this heavenly place.

UK: To be honest I haven't ever been too fascinated with UK however I do wish to experience a Christmas in London. I have been planning this for years and I do hope 2015 Xmas can be in London.

Norway and Sweden : I missed visiting the Scandinavian Countries during my Europe travels and would love to visit this paradise soon.

Morocco: As funny as it sounds I have been wanting to visit Morocco since I saw the movie Casablanca. So 2015 definitely has to see Morocco.

Portugal: I had a flight booked to Portugal in January 2015 and this would have already been ticked off by now if I had not lost my passport in December 2014. I do look forward to getting back my passport soon and making a trip to Portugal and its warm island in the middle of the Ocean, Madeira.

Hungary: Movies do inspire me to travel to places and The Grand Budapest makes  me wants to go to Hungary, though Budapest is one place I have been wanting to for quite sometime.

Croatia: A summer week-ten days have to be spent in the sun and sand of magnificent Croatia.

Luxembourg: I have heard lots of wonderful things about this tiny-miny beautiful country and I shall definitely visit Luxembourg this year.

Denmark: Considering it is stone throwing distance from Netherlands and is considered to be one of the happiest countries of the world, it definitely deserves a quick visit.

Bhutan, Nepal: I missed visiting these countries while I was in India. I hope to visit them this year even if it is touch and go whenever I visit India this year.

Germany, France, Belgium, Italy : I have been to these countries before however there is lots there I have yet to see and I would love to go back and explore new cities, towns and villages.

India: A must.

Netherlands : There is so much to explore in this stunning country apart from just Amsterdam and I do wish to visit different provinces of Netherlands.

While it might seem a crazy travel list I think it is very doable and not outrageously ambitious. It is mostly exploring the neighboring countries and many can be an extended weekend trip, barring the South East Asia ones. I do hope to cover this list and it would be wonderful if I can add more as I go along. :)

Monday, 2 February 2015

One month - 19 movies!

January was a full-on movie month with 19 movies! That is, probably, the number of movies I used to see in a year and now I managed to squeeze all these in one month! Wola! Few were really, some were crazily boring, some classics, some new and Oscar nominated and some for which I am not an audience anymore. By year end I would love to review my 2015 movie list. For now the January 2015 ones are:

Heaven is for real ( As the name suggests I do believe that heaven is for real maybe not exactly how it is depicted in the movie. It was interesting to see how the father believed in his son against all odds and did not dismiss what his young son shared )

The magic of Belle isle  ( Sweet, slow and simple movie. Wouldn't mind a second watch simply cause of Morgan Freeman and the dialogues )

Esio Trot ( Sweet - one time watch )

Rocknrolla ( Watched it for the second time and loved it yet again )

Piggy ( The DVD was gifted to me. It has to be revenged and an equally torturous one gifted back! ;)

Boyhood ( Strong message conveyed via a very casual story )

You're not you ( I wouldn't watch it again )

Fanfare ( First ever Dutch movie made. I saw it to celebrate my clearing Dutch A1 level)

Good Will hunting ( Awesome of course )

Inglorious Basterds ( Great movie without doubt however playing with historical facts is just so weird )

PK ( First Bollywood movie Gabi and me saw together in a theater. I wouldn't watch it again )

Unbroken ( Very good message and a good movie however it has too much pain and blood thus I couldn't watch it again )

Tevar ( Typical Bollywood masala and a total time pass)

Love, Rosie ( Maybe I would have liked it some years back but found it dreadfully boring now)

Blackhat ( To me it seemed as if its a movie made for the heck of it. I did not find it special at all )

The Imitation Game ( simply a must watch! It's fantastic !)

100 hour movie ( loved the movie. Very engaging and ohh gives you ideas on how to set right a cheating partner ! ;) 

Into the Woods ( My conclusion- I am not a big fan of musicals and I should watch another one only if it is the last movie available on planet earth )

Lord of the Rings - the two towers ( and they say Bollywood movies are long )

Couple of months back I discovered a hard-core foodie in me and now a movie buff. Simple pleasures of life! :)