23 November, 2007

How Was Your Thanksgiving??? Here is How Mine Went!!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day with family and friends...and beer and food. Crappy football was of course to be watched but thank god I didn't have the watch the cowgirls suck it up over the Jets. Speaking of football...I spent my Thansgiving Day with a bunch of football fans but the other kind of football....

I had to fly to London for the day to visit a new client and do some work. Although I wasn't able to be at home with my family (which I have been for the past 31 years or so) at least I was able to spend most of this holiday with a bunch of English speakers, even if I could not understand everything they said.

I had a flight out of Luxembourg at 6:55 am which means I was up before the butt crack of dawn. Although I only live less than 30 minutes from the airport, I for some reason got up at 4am and was at the airport by 5:20 am. Although it is not good to be up that early and at an airport, at least I was able to part literally 75 yards from the front door of the airport and I was checked in, through security and siting at the terminal in 10 minutes. The flight was uneventful and we arrived at the London City airport at about 7:15am. No it was not a 20 minute flight, just a time difference change from Luxembourg to the UK.

After taking the light rale train from the airport and then the Underground a few blocks from the client, we were there. Yes "we". I was traveling with a co-worker from Italy who works in Luxembourg as well. The work day was fine. Met a handful of guys from the client that were upset that their beloved England lost the night before in a football match against Croatia and therefore ending their changes of making the Euro Cup for 2008 but do we really care about that? Probably not. On to the rest of the day.

We left the client a little before 5pm and heading back on the trains to the airport. That is when the day took a less favorable turn. Before we even got on the second train that we were to take, it was delayed and when we finally got on it, it was packed like a nice hot and smelly can of sardines. We got to the London City airport with a good amount of time to make our 7:15pm flight to Luxembourg. London City is a regional airport right in the heart of London, just a stones throw from the Canara Wharf business district. Although we could have flown into Heathrow or Gatwick, they are far too busy and a bit more out of the way. Plus they are better for international flights.

When we got off the train at London City, it was a mad rush to the airport terminal for many that must have been on t^he brink of missing their flights. We had time and were able to check in rather quickly as we were flying Luxair, which not a great deal of people do, and we were in business class (more on that in a minute) which lets you check in quicker. A quick trip through the security check and we were at the terminal. It is nice to not have to take your shoes off in the European airports that I have been to so far, just your belts and metal items.

The terminal at London City, I believe there is only one, had a nice duty free shop and a few other shops and some cafes and a restaurant-bar that was very busy. The area to wait for your plane was general and not specific to a gate so it was a big mass of leather chairs in rows with men and women in suits drinking beer and wine. We wanted to get in on that fun so I quickly made my way to the bar and ordered up a few Boddington's for my friend and I. We found a little standing area near the bar and settled in for a refreshing beer on this holiday to be thankful. After about 2 sips of the beer, the fire alarm went off...and didn't stop for about 20 minutes. Some folks started to exit the terminal with the help of airport staff, out onto the runway. We held out for awhile to finish most of our beers but the fire fighters eventually made us leave and head out to the runway area. It turns out there was a fire somewhere in the airport but not where we could see it. Some guys had the right idea and brought their beers out with them to the runway. They were some real English drinkers I would have to say.

After about 2o minutes outside in the cold, we were heading back into the terminal and fighting to get a spot near the bar at a table. We did and we also got a few more beers. Stella at this point. Our flight was delayed about an hour or more due to the overall backup of planes from the supposed fire.

We finally made our way onto the plane and we settled down into our business class seats. The only problem with that is that in a prop plane with rows of 2 seats on either side of the isle, there is no real distinction between coach and business, other than the price I guess. Maybe the food service. I am not sure and I could not tell because if I turned my head around to look back into coach, changes are I would have gotten my ear clipped off by one of tall Luxembourgish women running the flight. At least there was a decent food and drink service, even for a flight that is barely over 1 hour in duration. Beer and wine is included in the meal service which is always nice.

After the food came and went, it was time to catch a few winks of sleep before we landed in Luxembourg. Or at least we thought it would be Luxembourg. Right when I thought we would be making our descent into Luxembourg, the captain came on and said that it was too foggy to land in Luxembourg and instead we would land in Leige, Belgium or Saarbrucken, Germany. We ended up choosing and landing there before midnight. When we got there they were nice enough to say that we would have a bus shuttle to take us to Luxembourg which was about a drive of 1 hour and 2o minutes or so. The hitch was that the bus would not be available for another hour and 30 minutes. That was the last straw. When we got off the plane we headed quickly to the taxi stand and grabbed a cab since we didn't have checked baggage. The cabbie said it would be a ride of about €170 but for a ride of over an hour, we could live with it, even if he only took cash.

On the ride from Germany to Luxembourg, we were greeted with German talk radio and then some dance or trance music when the cabbie pulled out some burned CDs from the glove compartment and started to jam. After stopping for gas at a roadside stop and making our way through the fog, we arrived at the Luxembourg airport to pick up my car at close to 1am. The best part was that the ride from the airport to our flat was a little over 15 minutes.

Although most of the day sucked it big, I at least got to come home to Paula and Molly, asleep, and I did get to talk to my mom and find out how the Thanksgiving dinner went at my Grandmother. All in all it was not the best way to spend this holiday but it could have been worse.

Although I didn't have any turkey as it is not easy to find in Luxembourg, at least I was able to have a few beers and doesn't that always make things better?

18 November, 2007

The Beers of Luxembourg

You may, or may not, be wondering what the beers of Luxembourg are like. I may have gone into that a little in some of my earlier posts but I am going to make a point of trying all the different beers that are brewed in Luxembourg and reporting the results here, good or bad. In addition to trying all of the beers I could find in cafes and supermarkets, we are also going to try to visit all of the breweries Luxembourg. Visiting all the breweries of a country would be a daunting task in America, Belgium, England or Germany but not in Luxembourg since there are only about 7 breweries or brewpubs.

The beers of Luxembourg are almost entirely lagers. Pale lagers and a few dark lagers. The alcohol content is relatively low which is to be expected with the lager style. Luxembourgish beers start off at about 4% abv and top out at about 7% at a max. There are a few newer beers that I have seen that seem to be lower than 4% and possibly marketed towards a non beer drinking crowd. There are the occasional fruit beers but nothing that I can really find that has a Belgian influence in it. The beers are mainly influenced by the beers of Germany.

One of the main breweries in Luxembourg, Mousel-Diekirch is owned by the Belgian beer giant, Inbev, from what I can determine. The others seem to be Luxembourgish owned. Without further delay, here is the extensive list of beer makers in Luxembourg:

Mousel-Diekirch - This brewery makes beers under both the Mousel and Diekirch labels with several beers in each. The beers of Mousel include Premium Pils, Altmunster and what I am told is a rarely seem beer, Gezwieckelte, which is a Euro pale lager. I have so far tried both the Pils and Altmunster and thought both were decent.

The other label of this brewery is of course, Diekirch, which is a very pupular beer in Luxembourg. Most bars, cafes and restaurants in Luxembourg that serve beer have a sign out front with the name of the main beer they serve. These signs are 99% of the time either Diekirch or another brewery I will mention below, Bofferding. It seems that these 2 large breweries dominate the scene. The beers of Diekirch include Premium, Grand Cru, Grande Reserve, Exclusive, Christmas and a newer beer that I have seem around, Surf. All of these beers are in the lager style.

Battin - Another Luxembourgish brewery is Battin which produces about 6 or 7 beers. The beers they produce are Gambrinus, Extra, Edelpils, Donkel, Christmas and one that I just noticed at the supermarket and picked up, Fruit. I am not sure which fruits are in the beer, I will have to wait to find out.

Bofferding - Bofferding is the next brewery we see alot here. I think they dominate the bar and cafe signage scene. They product just a few beers including their Lager, Hausbeier and Christmas. There may be a few others that they produce on a seasonal basis but that is all I have found so far.

Simon - The last real brewery in Luxembourg, and probably the smallest of the group is Brasserie Simon. Simon produces 5 beers as of now. There is the Pils (which I am drinking right now as I type, Dinkel, Regal, Prestige and Noel. Again, as with the other breweries, all of these beers are in the lager style. Although they are a relatively small brewery, I think they produce the best beers in Luxembourg overall.
There are also a few brewpubs that I am not familiar with yet but will get familiar as time goes by. In the coming weeks I am going to gather together all of the Christmas beers offered by Luxembourgish breweries to do a tasting. Stay tooned for the results.

12 November, 2007


They are everywhere in Luxembourg which is great. Except for the occasional poop on the sidewalk. The dogs come in all shapes and sizes and they go everywhere...in the pedestrian walk areas, on buses, in parks, sitting near their owners at the outside cafes, in shopping malls, supermarkets, indoor restaurants. We even saw a dog the other day in the fine dining establishment, McDonalds. These are just a few of the cute K-9's we have come across and were able to snap photos of before they ran off!

You don't see cats nearly as much although they are out there based on the size of the cat food isles in the supermarkets we frequent. We at least see one cat a day..Molly.

The Wenzel Walk

About two weekends back Paula and I went into the City Centre on a Sunday to do a walkabout and see some sights. We walked through the main part of town for awhile and then started on the Wenzel Walk which is cultural and historical. The Wenzel Walk guides you through the oldest quarters of the City. In 1994 this historical core of the old town, as well as some of the fortress works which are still in good condition, were declared World Heritage by UNESCO.

The Wenzel Walk guides you through the millennial history of Luxembourg City. Its name pays tribute to Wenceslas II, Duke of Luxembourg between 1383 and 1419 during whose rule a part of the third ring, the so-called Wenzel wall, was erected.

Take a look at all of our pictures of the Walk at the following link.....http://www.flickr.com/gp/19438244@N03/p72h67

10 November, 2007

Our First Real Belgian Beer Haul...From Belgium

Paula and I took a trip today to Arlon, Belgium, right over the Luxembourg border. We first hit the Ikea at the border for some much needed household items and some Swedish meatballs. Ikea in Belgium is just the same as Ikea on Pennsylvania only measurements are in cm's intead of inches. The products are the same for the most part as well. We saw a handful of things in the store that we currently have in our house in Paoli. The only real difference I saw was the price of light bulbs. We bought a few small desk lamps that were €3 each which is about $4.50. The kicker is that the light bulbs for the lamps were €9 for 2 bulbs.

Anway, to the beer haul....

After leaving Ikea we drove another 15 minutes into the heart of the town of Arlon, Belgium. Last week we drove by the Miorge Mihoublon bottle shop but they were closed due to the holiday but today they were open. When you walk into the shop you are greeted by a bunch of nice Orval, Chimay and other brewery signs and breweriana. The store has shelves on either side that are composed of wooden crates which is really cool. There is also a smaller set of shelves in the middle, creating 2 rows to walk down. The store is pretty cozy but there is enough room to get around unless the store is filled with people. There were only a few other people shopping when we were there, a few women actually.

The selection of beer at this shop is all Belgian and very interesting. There are alot of bottles that you would expect to see like all of the available Trappist beers except for Westveleteren which you can't really find anywhere these days. They also had a nice selection of beers from the Arlon area which was good as they don't seem to be available in the mainstream beer outlets but the few I had were pretty good. In addition to a bottle selection of probably more than 150 different beers, they had a very nice selection of glasses. I bet there were glasses for about 40% of the beers they had. Beyond the selection of Trappist beers was a small room of lambic beers from Boon, Cantillon and 3 Fonteinen. The prices throughout the store were very good but for my money, the bottles in the back room of lambics were the best. I picked up a few beers including a Cantillon Fou Foune (€8 or just a little over $12!), Cantillon St. Lamvinus (€9 or about $13), Boon Geuze Mariage Parfait (€4 or so), 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze Vintage 2003 (€5 or 7) and a 3 Fonteinen Schaerbeekse Kriek for about €9! All the prices were excellent from my experience, even for a bottle shop. In addition to a handful of other bottles and a few glasses, and a €5 beer map, our total came to just about €64 which is not bad at all.

After leaving our new favorite bottle shop, we headed to the Del Haize supermarket in Arlon. Del Haize is a large Belgian supermarket chain that has stores in Beligum and Luxembourg. We had been to one in Luxembourg before and were happy with their beer and wine selection so we thought the beer would be even better in Belgium. We were right. We picked up a few additional treats there included Rodenbach Red in cans. Yes I said cans. I just had one tonight and it was just as good as the bottle. A 4 pack was €3,72. I also picked up a six pack of Hoegaarden Rosee and a six pack of their Special Ale as well. I don't usually go for Hoegaarden these days but these are 2 that I hadn't tried before. The best deal we found at Del Haize and maybe for the whole day was a nice 750 bottle of Deus for €10,20 or about $14 which is a crazy deal I think!!
See more pictures of our trip to Arlon, Belgium below....

08 November, 2007

The Apartment Search....is Over

Which one of these places is our new flat????? Read below and follow the picture link at the end to find out....

Part of the agreement to move to Luxembourg was that my company would put Paula and me up in a corporate apartment for 2 weeks to give us time to get settled in and to find a more suitable permanent apartment, or flat as it is called over here. We were lucky enough to have the services of a co-worker at my firm, Sami, who set up all the appointments, took to us to each to show us around and to help interpret the lease terms as they are all in French. The first flat we looked at was a one bedroom right in the heart of the City Centre above all of the cafes, restaurants and bars. The square below is a really nice area and great for people watching, eating, drinking and shopping. Amongst all of the cafes and bars there is a McDonald’s and a Quick. Quick is basically a Belgian version of McDonald’s so nothing special there. There is also a Pizza Hut and Chi-Chi’s in the same area. The kind of places you try to get away from when living away from the U.S. but it seems like they are everywhere these days so we just have to deal with it. Besides, after eating pork knuckle and all sorts of sausages for awhile, a nice greasy and cheesy pizza is a welcome change. The cool thing about McD’s and Quick is that their French fries are called pomme frites, the way they should be named as they are not really French but rather Belgian in origin. They also come with mayo on the side to eat like the Belgian’s do.

Anyway, back to the flat hunt. The first place in the middle of the Centre was nice, tile floors, good windows onto the Centre and a back alley. There was even a washer and dryer in the kitchen. Overall the place was pretty much all positives but there was not parking included or near the place and based on the area it was in, it would have been difficult to park late at night after work. The next 2 places that we looked at were only a few blocks from my office and in a brand new building still under construction. The first was a one bedroom that was great and in our ever expanding price range. There was parking included, a plasma tv with satellite and over 200 channels. The second place was a bit larger and was over two floors. It had a loft for the main bedroom and an area for a spare bedroom but it was over €2,000 which is a bit expensive. That price translates to almost $3,000 which is crazy for rent of a 1 bedroom but Luxembourg is an expensive country and the cities surrounding the heart of Luxembourg City are very expensive. One of the perks of being the richest country in the world I guess.

Over the next week we looked at 3 more flats in 3 different neighborhoods including Strassen, Kirchberg and Bonnevoie. The apartment in Bonnevoie was decent and had more space that any of the others but each room was down a different part of the hallway, each closed off by a door which made it feel very closed off, despite its size. The kitchen was really nice but closed off as well. The bathroom had 2 sinks and very nice enclosed shower that had about 10 shower heads and possibly a phone but overall the place just had a weird vibe to it and there was someone still living in it so we had to look at all their crap still in there. It was also near the train station which is a noisy area and not as desirable as some other areas.

We ended up picking a nice one bedroom apartment in the Strassen section of Luxembourg which is about 10 minutes outside of the City Centre but on a bus route so very easy to get to. The best part is that the town is about 15 miles from the border of Belgium. The apartment is on the 1st floor which is really the 2nd floor by U.S. definitions. When you walk through the front door there is a nice little hallway that has a cabinet to store stuff in and a mirror to make sure everything is on straight before leaving for work. To the right is part of the bathroom. I say part because through this door is a nice sized cabinet, sink with storage and a shower/bathtub. There is even a cool little towel rack on the wall that is heated to dry your towels. You may notice that I didn’t mention a toilet. That is because it has its own separate room. On the left hand side of the main hallway is a little room with just a toilet, a mirror and a little sink. More than enough room for what needs to be done in there but the sink is about the size of my hands when washing and the sink only runs cold water. Right outside this little room is a storage area for misc. stuff (beer and cat food).

The main part of the flat is closed off from the hallway by a wood and glass door which is sort of odd. When shut, it is like you are peeping into someone’s house. When you open the door you walk right into a wide open floor plan that going clockwise from the left has our kitchen, dining room and living room. The bedroom is off to the right in a separate room.

The kitchen is pretty darn nice and has all the appliances included. The landlord also included new utensils, plates and glassware so we didn’t have to send ours over or buy new ones. There was also a complete set of pots and things like a coffee maker (for Paula), a toaster, rice cooker and microwave. The oven and fridge are a bit smaller than what you are used to at home but you get used to it and buy things accordingly. And although the oven is smaller, that does not mean that it cooks at a lower temperature. In fact it seems to warm quicker than we are used to. That, or we just can’t figure out the temperature levels yet. One of the better parts of the kitchen would have to be the eat in area that is right inside the main living space door. This surface can be used for food prep or eating as there is probably space for about 4 chairs here if needed. It also serves as a good starting point for our cat Molly to jump on and start her walk over the kitchen countertops. The stove is built into the countertop and has the burners below the surface so it is each for her to walk right over. She will stop that practice when she walks over a hot grill she can’t see and jumps a few feet in the air after scorching her paws.

Behind the kitchen is the dining room which is all part of the open floor plan so there is no wall. You can see TV from anywhere in there which is cool. The living room right now just consists of a glass dining table that could probably fit 6 if needed. There is also a funky old lamp in the corner that will go as soon as we can find a replacement at Ikea. Next to the lamp is a stand alone freezer which is much larger than what we usually have attached to our fridge back in the U.S. In talking to our landlord they included this as the freezer would not fit below the fridge so they added a larger unit by itself. Good for us. Next to the freezer is a glass case that is full of different glass and crystal glasses and objects. We are not really sure why it is there but it is. We have no intentions of using the items, we just hope that our cat Molly has not intentions of breaking anything in there. She walked into the bottom of this display case the other night as she thought it was clear. That was funny to see.

The living room is made up of a large sectional couch and a similar style chair on the other side of the room. There is thankfully a decent little TV with a DVD player, satellite box and VCR included. We have some English speaking channels right now (CNN and MTV Europe) and hope to get a satellite card very soon so we could at least pick up some UK channels. We purchased Season 7 of Seinfeld over here so we could watch it on our DVD player. Most if not all U.S. DVD’s don’t work here as they are coded for a different region and you can only play certain DVD’s on certain players. We just remedied that by purchasing a cheap DVD player that places discs from most regions so as of now we can play all of our U.S. DVD’s and also any European discs we buy while over here. That was the best 30 euros we have spent so far.

Another nice think about the apartment is a set of large windows in the living room that open. All 3 of the windows open from the side and one of them also tilts forward so give some fresh air without having the window completely open. As windows here have no screens, having the windows completely open with a cat would not be a good idea. All the windows in the apartment also have blinds on the outsides of the windows that can completely shut off any light into the flat which is nice and bad at times. If you don’t have an alarm set in the morning, you may not wake up. Trust me.

As you may be able to see from the pictures of the living room, when we moved in there were funky little head and arm rests all over the couch and chair (12 in all!). They had an awful pink tulip design on them but we quickly put them in storage.

The last room in the flat is the bedroom and it is good size. When you walk in there is a little chest with some needed drawers and a good sized mirror above it. There is also wood flooring and a wall of three different cabinets that each have hanging storage and shelves as well. Much needed for the amount of clothes we have together. Plus the way things are setup, it gives Molly a nice area to walk under my hanging suits so she could cover them in her fur before I head off to work. The bed is rather large, probably a king by U.S. measurements. So as of now we don’t have sheets to fit the bed completely and finding the proper sheet sizes and styles here can be a real challenge. Fitted sheets are not that common and if you find one, it is probably just in white and no other colors.

Check out more pictures of our old and new flats below...

07 November, 2007

Little Facts About Luxembourg - Part 1

Luxembourg is also known as the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. It is a constitutional monarchy ruled by the Grand Duke. Luxembourg is the world's only remaining sovereign Grand Duchy.

Luxembourg covers only 999 sq. miles and has approximately 480,000 inhabitants. 60% of the population are nationals of Luxembourg while the remaining 40% are foreigners to the country, just like Paula and I.

There are 3 official languages (Luxembourgish, French and German). English is usually spoken in the business world and many Luxembourg residents are fairly fluent in English as well. Of the official languages, French is spoken the most.

Nearly 120,000 “borderers” (people that live in bordering countries of Belgium, France and Germany) commute into Luxembourg each day and head back at night.

Unemployment is typically less than 5% and on a per capita basis, Luxembourg is the richest country in the world.

Luxembourg has an army of only around 800 and has no navy (as it is landlocked) and no air force. It does share some military planes with Belgium and NATO.

06 November, 2007

Our First Holiday Trip - Switzerland

After getting our temporary car the other day and having some free time over this weekend due to the holidays on Thursday (All Saints Day) and Friday (All Souls Day), we decided to take a weekend holiday trip. This first trip was to a tiny Swiss town, Saignelegier which is almost 400 km’s from Luxembourg. The main attractions in this town are horse shows and beer. More specifically one of my favorite breweries, Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes (BFM). I was first introduced to their wonderful beers in early 2006, I believe, at a tasting featuring their beers at Monk’s Café in Philadelphia. The brewer, Jerome, was at the tasting and was very interesting and into his beers and into talking about them. Their flagship beer, L’Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien, was my favorite of that tasting and since then it has become a relatively hard beer to come by and at a high price. Bon-Chien averages about $30 or more a bottle in a bar and a little above $20 a bottle at a bottle shop if you can find it.
Back to the trip to Saignelgier and BFM…..

When we realized that we would have a car and no plans for this weekend, I remembered that I had read on either Ratebeer.com or Beeradvocate.com that BFM was having a special weekend party for their 10th anniversary. At first I thought it would not be possible to get there but once I mapped the route out online and talked to Paula about it, we figured a nice 4 plus hour trip through France and Switzerland would be fun.
After waiting at our flat in Luxembourg until 4:30pm on Friday for DHL to show up with all of our possessions and not having them show up, we decided to hit the road for the 4 and ½ hour drive that covers over 400 kms and has us traveling out of Luxembourg, into France for the largest part of the trip and then into Switzerland for less than an hour. Doing this trip mainly at night was not the best idea for a few reasons. First we didn’t get a chance to take in the sights on the way down and second it is harder to find a needle in a haystack when you really can’t see where you are going. We did print off detailed directions from Google Maps and also brought along our newly purchased GPS unit to put it to the test. At first the paper directions and the GPS were taking us the same way but once we got deeper into the heart of the French countryside, they started to differ. Although both sets of directions probably would have gotten us there, the GPS was a god sent for navigating the little French and Swiss roads. Like most of Europe, these countries have a big thing for round-a-bouts or traffic circles as the friendly voice on our GPS likes to call them. On the trip to Switzerland we probably passed through about 15 traffic circles. After you get used to the rules of driving through one, they are pretty fun and if you miss your turn the first time, you just go around the circle another time and get on the right exit. Just like on National Lampoon’s European Vacation….”looks kids, there is Big Ben and Parliament”.

The drive down was mostly in the dark and pretty uneventful. Oh except for when we stopped for gas and a snack. The problem with that is that I stopped for gas but I had a diesel car. I put in a few litres of gas before I realized what I was doing. After some fretting I filled up the tank with the correct fuel, diesel. I was worried that the car would crap out at some point but it drove fine all the way to Switzerland and back home.

We arrived in Saignelgier before 9pm, a bit later than we had expected but still in time to catch a few hours of the BFM fun. We checked into the Hotel Bellevue which also had a pizzeria, pub and restaurant. We didn’t have dinner yet but decided to head right to BFM. We knew the place was close to our hotel but we were not really sure where and it was getting a bit foggy. After driving around in circles for a few minutes we realized BFM was about 3 minutes or 500 meters from the hotel. We arrived, found a spot to park and were greeted by a gaggle of guys outside the brewery drinking and smoking. The brewery was hard to find as it was basically in a strip mall or small industrial building. When we walked in the party was in full swing. There were 2 main sections of the party. When we walked in there was a small section right in front where a handful of old ladies were cooking up a bunch of food items for the masses. There were about 20 items on the menu including appetizers, main courses and desserts. Across from the kitchen was a section of about 8 large beer hall type tables. There was a large crown sitting down and also at the bar setup behind the tables. On another side of the brewery was another area of 15 or so large beer hall tables and another bar. Hopefully the pictures we took do some justice to the brewery. It had a very homey feel to it as the kitchen, tables where everyone was sitting and the bars were all makeshift. We quickly grabbed the beer list and hit the bar for a few. They had 5 beers on tap including: La Cuivree – a pilsner, La Salamandre – a blanche with some fruit notes, La Meule – a blonde ale, La Mandragore – a funky stout, and La Cuvee de 10e – the special anniversary beer that was debuted at this party. They had their remaining beers in bottle as well: La Torpille, La Cuvee Alex le Rouge, La Cuvee de 9e and L’Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien 2006.

We started off with drafts of La Meule for Paula and a La Cuvee de 10e for me. Since we were hungry we ordered a cheese and meat plate that was excellent and for 10 Swiss Francs it was cheap. That translates to about 6 euros which is about $8. The beers and the cheeses and meat paired very well together. The beers were served in large special 10th anniversary glasses and were only 4 and 5 Francs, respectively. The glasses were included in the price as well which was a nice treat. Throughout the rest of the night we had a few more beers each. I think I had all of the drafts beers and a few extras during the night. The vibe of the event was really cool. We talked to some of the bartenders and got a few sample beers from them on the house which was great. When I told the one bartender that I really enjoyed their beers and we came from Luxembourg via Philadelphia, he cracked open a bottle of the Bon-Chien and gave us a big glass to sample. Later in the night I ran into a guy from both Ratebeer.com and Beeradvocate.com that was from Switzerland and I had traded some emails with during the past few weeks leading up to the event. We talked beer for awhile and then talked to a few of the friends he was with. While we were talking the crowd started to clear out a bit but the beer and the music continued to flow. At about 12:30 am it looked like things were dying down so we got a few more beers. We were actually going to leave but I was egged on by a few of our new Swiss friends so I got another La Mandragore. This was one of my favorite beers. Although I am not the biggest fan of stouts, this one was malty but had a funky taste to it as well. It tasted like something that Russian River would brew and I love their beers. While I was waiting for my beer to be poured I had a short conversation with the brewer. I mentioned to him that I had met him at Monk’s Café a year or so back for a tasting and my affection for his beers is what brought us to his brewery. He must have talked to my Swiss beer friend Bov as the brewer asked if we were the ones that came from Luxembourg and of course that was us.

It seemed like everyone at the party knew each other and a good deal of them seemed to know the brewer. I was proud that we hung with the Swiss drinkers and outlasted as bunch of them as we didn’t leave the brewery until about 1am and we had another day of drinking at BFM ahead of us.

Day 2. We woke to the sound of a horse clopping around the streets behind our hotel, which did back into a far. I think we counted more horses and cows in out travels around than the town than we did count people. After grabbing a breakfast drink at a local cafe/library, we decided to head back to BFM for some lunch, both in the liquid and solid forms. We arrived at the brewery at noon and were not really surprised to see a pretty full house again. There were more families this time around and children as well. They were not drinking, as far as we could see. We sat down in the back room up against a wall of cases of beer that went to the ceiling. What was cool about the stacks of cases of beer was that they were all in plastic crates instead of cardboard boxes. It seems like a lot of European breweries store and ship their beer in such crates. We were also right next to a stack of cages that were filled with full 750 ml bottles lying on their sides and not labeled. Within these three large cages there must have been about 1,000 bottles or more. Although I don’t have official confirmation of this, I could only believe that they were the 2007 vintage of the Bon-Chien that have yet to be released. As the 10 anniversary beer was only available on draft at this point and not yet in bottles until January 2008, my best guess was that these non-descript bottles were Bon-Chien. I guess we will have to make another trip to BFM to find out in the coming months.

After inspecting the above noted bottles for a few minutes and after taking a few pictures we settled in for some lunch. BFM was nice enough to have a coupon on their website for one free beer per person for this Saturday so we took them up on the offer and get 2 beers free. We had to purchase the glasses this time but we didn’t complain as they were very nice and only 5 Francs each (about 3 euros). Paula had another La Salamandre and I had another La Cuvee de 10e for good measure. The beers went well again with cheese and meat plate that we ordered. The BFM beer mustard was especially good with the cheese and meat. We also got some sort of bread/cream cheese thing that looked like a piece of cake. It was very interesting and helped to soak up the beers. After one or two more beers we decided to buy some beers to go and then head into the countryside to explore more than just the brewery and our hotel.

It was hard to pass by the makeshift gift shop without buying a few things so we didn’t pass it by. We purchased a few things:
1 bottle of BFM mustard
1 package of BFM chocolates
4 bottles of Bon-Chien (750ml)
6 bottles of La Salamandre (33 cl)
3 bottles of La Cuvee Alex le Rouge (33 cl)
2 bottles of La Mandragore (33 cl)
2 bottles of La Torpille (33 cl)
1 bottle of La Cuvee de 9e (750 ml)
And 1 crate to store most of these bottles in.

The total for all of the above was 154 Swiss Francs which converts to about $133 or €92. The € value is much better as that currency is worth a bit more than the Swiss Franc or the US$ but either way you look at it, it was a deal. As I mentioned before the average bottle of Bon-Chien in the US is about $30 in a bar or more than $20 at a good bottle shop, if you can find it at all. The bottles directly at the brewery were about $14 or €10 and based on that I didn’t feel so bad buying 4 of them.

After leaving the brewery and heading back to the hotel to drop off our haul and to pick up the GPS, we headed out of town in no particular direction to see the sights. We drove in one direction for about 30 minutes and encountered a few very small towns that had really nice main streets with a handful of shops and cafes on them. We also drove in another direction that took us through about 5 tunnels through the mountains which was pretty cool and a little scary at the same time. After exploring this direction for awhile, we headed back towards the hotel and went out of town in the opposite direction and found some amazing views of farms, mountains and some very deep valleys. Heading deep in the valleys at certain points I thought the car was going to stall out from coming to such a near shop to navigate some of the very sharp snake shaped turns. We stopped a few times for some pictures and then off we were again. The drive up the valley was a bit more enjoyable as I was able to play race car driver for a period of time…without falling off the edge of the mountain which was possible as there were no real guardrails on the tiny roads.

After having dinner at the hotel pizzeria we headed back to BFM for the night. It was really busy at this point and we had to sit on a bench near the kitchen while enjoying a bottle of Bon-Chien. While sitting there we were witness to all of the cooking operations and even some moments when one of the brewery cats was in the kitchen walking around the pots and pans with food in them. At one point one of the ladies cooking got a spoon full of something from the stove and fed it to the cat that was on the countertop. It was funny to see something that would hardly ever happen in the US. In general we saw a lot of dogs in the brewery and in the towns and restaurants as well. People in Europe have a much different view on having pets near their food than we do in the US and it is nice to see. Eventually we found a few open spots at one of the tables and sat down for a few more beers. When I went up for the next round I was given two new glasses and was not charged. We ended up leaving with 6 special anniversary glasses in total for the small price of 10 Swiss Francs. Not bad at all.

Car Shopping

This is the temporary car that we have. The Seat Ibiza....stylish, I know.

This is the car we are getting soon. The Seat Leon....more stylish and fast!

Maybe we should get a Porsche like this one in the parking garage of our flat...

As part of the deal of working in my office in Luxembourg, everyone from manager on up gets what is in effect a monthly allowance for a car lease. Not that the firm pays for the car for you but rather they pay for the tax on the car which is a nice bonus in itself since taxes are a bit high here. As a senior manager I get a budget to lease a car up to €950 a month. To put that into perspective, at the current exchange rates that is about $1,350 a month for a car! A monthly car payment here does include car insurance and a certain amount for maintenance on the car as well but to spend that kind of money on a car would be nuts. I am not pursuing a car in the €950 price range but I did see one quote that was for around this price and it was only a BMW 3 Series which is pretty common here and in the U.S.

I started to put my focus on finding a car that had 4 doors and some decent leg and head room but also storage space in the boot (trunk) for traveling to different places. Hoping that we will have friends and family come visit over the next 2 years, we thought a 4 door hatchback would be a good idea. Besides, 90 percent of all cars on the road in Luxembourg seem to be 2 or 4 door hatchbacks so we wanted to fit in.

There is a long list of cars and car makers here that you don’t see much or at all in the U.S. There are also newer models of existing cars in the U.S. that are not yet in the U.S. For example, we were looking at a cool Honda Civic model that is not yet available in the U.S. it is very sporty looking in either the 2 or 4 door hatchback model. We were going to get this car but decided against it for size reasons and the fact that it has a huge spoiler going over the back window that would make it hard to see out of the window.

The other cars we were looking at included a BMW 1 Series which is not available yet in the U.S., probably because it is smaller and gets very good miles to the gallon of gas or diesel but especially diesel. We also looked at a Mercedes A Class. Another smaller funky looking car that is not in the U.S. Although BMW’s and MB’s are usually a bit expensive, these models were somewhat reasonable based on what else you find over here.

After a bit of searching and price reviewing, we ended up picking a 4 door Seat Leon. Another car not available in the U.S. so that makes me feel special, but it is pretty common here in Europe. It is a Spanish car maker. The car is black, has some upgrades on it since it was a car that was in stock. We get heated seats (mainly for Paula), parking sensors, sport seats and suspension, upgraded 17 inch wheels and some other bells and whistles including deep tint on the back windows. I am sure we will look a little out of place in the car but it should be fun to drive as it has a decent sized engine and it a turbo diesel with a 6 speed manual transmission.