23 June, 2008

Luxembourg National Day

What does Luxembourg National Day entail you might ask???? Well let me just say it includes alot of people, alot of beer and wine tents, plenty of food, a touch of heavy rain, wonderful fireworks and many other things. Give us some time to relax and sleep after this great night and we will report back! And since tonight (22 June)was my birthday you can understand why I am slow to report.


22 June, 2008

Beer Passion Weekend in Antwerp, Belgium

This past weekend (20 - 22 of June) the Bierpassie or Beer Passion beer festival is being held in Antwerp. I decided that since Paula had to work at the Sacred Heart graduation on Saturday I would take an early train from Luxembourg to Antwerp to take in this festival and also to visit the Kulminator as no trip to Antwerp would be completed without a trip to this fine beer institution.

07 June, 2008

Open House at Brasserie Artisanale de Rulles

Today Paula and I visited the La Rulles brewery in Rulles (province of Luxembourg in Belgium). Yes, there is a Luxembourg area in Belgium, right across the border from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. This area was given to Belgium many, many years ago from the Grand Duke in Luxembourg but back to the beer.

La Rulles was started in June 2000 and each year in June (7th and 8th this year) they have an open house at the brewery where can take a tour of the brewery and sample all of their current beers at very reasonable prices. They had their blonde, brune, estivale, triple and Jean Chris. We sampled all of them. We also got a little serving of Orval cheese and some local meat.

02 June, 2008

What Does a $45 Pound of Cheese Look and Taste like?

Well check back over the next few days and we will let you know. Paula and I went to a Spring fair last weekend in Luxembourg and ran across an Italian specialty stand that had some great cheeses and meats. We tried a few different cheeses and bought a little block of one thas was about €6 or $12. Not so bad. Before leaving I spotted a block of cheese that looked very interesting so I asked for a taste and was greeted with a slice of a very sharp cheese with Italian Brunello wine grapes on top. Not only was the cheese great but it was covered with some of the most expensive wine grapes the world knows. They were dried but still very tasty. I asked for a little block and almost fainted when I saw that it was €60 for a Kilo which is a little over 2 pounds so that is about $90 for a kilo or $45 a pound!

01 June, 2008

The Counting Crows in Luxembourg

Last night, Saturday 31 May, Paula and I went to see the Counting Crows in Esch sur Alzette, a town about 15 minutes from us in Luxembourg. The concert was at a very modern and new looking placed called the Rockhal. It is right next to a huge old steel plan run by Arcelor-Mittal the largest steel company in the world and probably the largest employer in Luxembourg. It is also right near a huge new RED bank building complex for Dexia, one of the larger banks in the country. Although the building looks huge from the outside, the actual concert area was fairly small and maybe held 2,000 people or so. It looked similar on the inside to the main floor of the Electric Factory in Philadelphia but was not as deep.

We didn't know what to expect as we have been to a ton of concerts back in the U.S., mainly Dave Matthews, and we usually get there several hours to tailgate and avoid all the crazy traffic. The doors were to open at 8pm for the show that started at 8:30pm. We showed up at about 7:15pm as the drive was very quick and we hit no traffic. As the concert venue is right next to an old steel plant and a huge bank complex, all of which is still under construction, parking was odd but easy. We were the only car in line when we entered and quickly found a nice spot near the exit. For only €2 (or $3) we were able to park where we wanted with no little annoying kid with an orange wand telling us there to park and how close like you get back in the States usually. As this was our first concert in Luxembourg, we were unsure about potential tailgating ability and we didn't really find anyone doing it but I am sure we could have.

It was about a 300 yard walk to the venue but it was easy so no big deal there. There was already a line of several hundred people waiting at the front door to get in before the doors opened at 8pm. As it was a general admission concert I was worried we would be too far in the back but that ended up not being a problem. Instead of going right to the line we went to the beer truck and got a quick drink. Paula got a cremant (Luxembourgish champagne) and I got a typical Luxembourgish beer, Diekirch, a deal at €2. No ridiculous concert beer markup here. This is basically the price you pay at a bar or festival or anything in Luxembourg so I was happy for that. It is always nice to be able to buy a drink with a coin and the little €2 coins come in handy for things like this. After getting the drink we got in line and waiting for 20 minutes or so until the doors opened. Once they opened it was organized and easy to get in and get a good view. As the venue only held 2,000 or so, we were able to get near the front of the stage, maybe 20 feet away, pretty quickly. For the most part we had enough room to move about without having someone breathing right on your neck.

The show was set to start at 8:30pm and did right on time. There was no mention of an opening bank so when the band came out at 8:30pm we thought for sure it was the Counting Crows. We had not seen them in a long time and had not see pictures in awhile so when the lead singer had straight brown hair, no dreadlocks as the lead singer Adam always had, we were a bit suprised but thought it was just the fact we hadn't seem them in awhile and maybe they changed their appearance. I also thought there were 7 members to the band instead of 5. Anyway, after a few songs that we didn't recognize and words from the lead singer in another language, we realized this was an opening band called Dreamcatcher or something like that. I think they were actually from Russia but sang most of their songs in English and were pretty good. One song was called "f*** you" which was funny.

Once the opening band ended and some time passed to clear the stage, the Counting Crows came on and we knew for sure it was them as there were dreadlocks, t-shirts and guys looking high. They sounded just as good as they had in the past and played alot of the songs you are used to hearing from them and some new songs as well. The crowd was a mix of people from Luxembourg, France, Germany, Belgium and some Americans like us. We were chatting with a couple behind us from Germany that were big fans of the Counting Crows and they traveled all the way to Lux since they were not playing in Germany this tour. It was also very interesting to watch people in Europe at a concert. A good of them were obsessed with taking pictures on their mobile phones or cameras. There was no restriction on pictures I guess and I am kicking myself for not bringing our camera as we were really close to stage. It was also interesting to see a few people near us that wanted to clap at every song that played. I don't mean clapping at the end but it seemed like they wanted to start a group clapping during every song and they got it started several times but it died out quickly.

The Counting Crows played for about 2 hours and ended with one song for an encore. There is a curfew in Luxembourg and apparently that is 11am so they had to stop playing by then. After the encore song they played California Dreamin' over the PA system and Adam the lead singer remained on stage to sing along with the crowd to the song which was pretty cool to see. Most people in the crowd seemed to know the words to the song which was also cool to see. Seems like it was the think that the band does after all their shows but not sure.
The exit out of the venue was just as quick as the entrance. After a 5 minute walk we were at our car and in another 15 minutes or so we were heading into our parking garage at home. That is how a concert should be but most are not. Since Luxembourg is so small, I guess the concerts are as well. Despite the small size there have been and will be some really good concerts here besides the Counting Crows including Jame Blunt, Seal, REM, Avril Lavigne, Little John (YEAAAH!), Backstreet Boys, Mika and coming soon....KISS!

After getting the concert bug I went home last night and looked up some other concerts in Europe and was thrilled to see that Jack Johnson and G. Love & Special Sauce are playing throughout Europe in the next month. They will be in Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Holland, Germany and France. They will also be in London so it looks like we are going to try to get tickets and turn it into a little holiday to London around the 4th of July. If we can't be home with family and friends for this holiday, at least we could be in a fully English speaking country for it!