28 July, 2008

Our First Trip to Paris

This past weekend Paula and I made a trip to Paris, France for the first time. With the train ride just over 2 hours from Luxembourg, it could not have been easier to get there. We left at around 10 am on Friday and got into the Paris Gare East train station a little after noon. At first we didn't realize that our seats on the train had numbers so we were sitting in someone elses seats for the first few stops until they got on so we have to move to the end of the car but no big deal.

Our hotel was just one metro stop from Gare East so we were above ground and searching for our hotel within 15 - 20 minutes of arriving in Paris. It took me another 10 minutes or so to locate the tiny street our hotel was on but we eventually got there and just in time as we were hungry for lunch so after leaving our bags at the hotel, we went on the prowl for lunch! We packed our handy and helpful Rick Steves guide to Paris so we used a suggestion and headed off to the Rue Cler area which was a bussling shopping district with tons of cafès, wine shops, cheese shops and all kinds of other little shops right next to each other. We figured we had to start our holiday in Paris out the Parisian way by having lunch outside at a cafè so we found a cool little place that had some open seats. By this time 99% of the outside seats at all cafès on Rue Cler were taken by eaters, drinkers, people watchers and smokers. We found a nice table on the edge of the outside seating and the inside part of the restaurant so we had the best of fresh air, a front row for people watching but also a bit of shade. We had a nice little lunch accompanied but what else but some French wine.

After lunch we took the short 5 minute walk from Rue Cler to the Eiffel Tower which is amazing to see in person. You see it first from so far away but then to actually get right under it, it takes about 10 minutes or so to walk to. We talked through the Parc de Champ de Mars which is a huge park that leads the way to the Eiffel Tower and makes for some great photo opportunities which we did not pass up on. We did not actually go up into the Tower, we will save that for another Paris trip, but we did walk around and when we got right up to the Tower, the police were holding everyone back as if someone special was coming. We figured it was maybe Barack Obama as he was in Paris that day and we heard others saying the same thing but we didn't actually see anyone and after 15 minutes or so they little people back to the lines to climb the Tower and back to their normal lives. Before that happened there was a small explosion under the Tower but it looked like maybe it was something the police set off to scare away pigeons, at least that is what we want to believe.

After a walk around the Eiffel Tower, we decided to walk along the River Seine and then headed for the famed Avenue des Champs-Elysees and the shopping, window shopping that is. After a walk of maybe 30 minutes or so we arrived in the middle of the Champs-Elysees and started up towards the Arc de Triomphe which is another of the great historical sites to visit in Paris. It is also home to one of the craziest roads it the world it seems. We passed by tons of high end shops on our way to the Arc but nothing really peaked our interest too much. The think that was most exciting was seeing an old blue or green Mini Cooper wizz by us on the Champs-Elysees. Over the course of our weekend in Paris we counted 12 different old Mini's, Paulas favorite car.

After tooling around the Champs-Elysees for a bit, we retraced our steps off this grand avenue and found a little café with some outside seating so we could enjoy a bit more of wine. We found 2 more seats in prime people watching position on got to our business of watching.
Check out our various different sets of pictures from Paris

19 July, 2008

A Visit to Brasserie Achouffe

Today, Saturday 19 July, Paula and I took a day trip about 100kms or 1 hour North to the Brasserie Achouffe for a tour and some drinks and bits to eat. I can't believe that after nearly 10 months in Luxembourg this was our first visit to Achouffe but it certainly won't be our last.

We arrived for a tour that was in French but we figured we could understand most of it. The tour turned out to be in Dutch and French but the tour guide, Carine, did some of it in English for Paula and I. The tour starts right outside the giftshop and works into the brewhouse and then you get to peer into the fermentation room but were not allowed in as they were cleaning or it was too hot or something like that...

From there we took a few minute drive to the bottling facility for Achouffe. Upon entering this facility, you are greeted by 2 huge tanker trucks. They take the fermented beer from the brewery and fill the tanker trucks and drive the few minutes up to the road to the filling lines. The inside of this building is massive with many many rows of kegs and bottles and all the bottling and kegging equipment.

After hanging out in the bottling facility for awhile, we were directed to the end of our tour which was to a bar where we were able to use 2 tokens each for Achouffe beers and we took advantage of these tokens by each ordering up some wonderful Achouffe brews. All this for €7.50 each which is not bad.

A Visit to Brasserie Fantome

Today, Saturday 19 July, Paula and I took a little day trip to visit Brasserie Achouffe and Brasserie Fantome. Fantome was the second stop on our trip and about 30 minutes further North than Achouffe. Although not very far, we did have to travel on some tiny farm roads. So tiny that if a car was coming in the other direction, we would have had a very hard time to move forward or to pull over. Luckily we didn't come across any other vehicles on such roads.

We didn't make it for a brewery tour although we probably could have gone on one. We decided to stop into the bar for a few drinks. We were lucky to get there when we did at 5 minutes after we entered is started to rain cats and dogs and cows even! When we got into the bar, there were only 3 or 4 others including the brewer and I think his mother. At one point the brewer left to get some food from home for his mom which was very nice. From time to time they looked at us as we were out of place but we still were welcomed there. We had a few of the wonderful and odd Fantome beers. Before leaving I purchased a few bottles to go. I asked if there were any other bottles for sale and the brewer led me to the bottling room which was just behind the bar. The bottling room and the brewery is very old looking which just adds to the mystique of Fantome. A few of the beers I purchased were hand labeled by the brewer right in front of me. Too funny.

We will definitely come back in the future for a tour eventhough the brewer speaks little English. That should not be a problem at beer is a universal language.

08 July, 2008

Fuller's Brewery Tour in London

On our Friday in London, we decided to take a trip out to the Fuller's brewery for a tour and a few brews. The tour started in the pub attached to the brewery and after putting on some bright construction type jackets, we were off on the tour which passed through the working brewery and then off to the tasting room in the cellar which was nice as they gave us samples of everything and even a few more for good measure!

06 July, 2008

The 4th of July in London

What a better way to spend the 4th of July than in London, England! At least that was our best option since we were not planning on returning back to the U.S. for the holiday. During the few days we planned to spend in London to see a Jack Johnson concert and to view the historic sites, we also found out that there was an American craft beer festival at a bar/restaurant called the White Horse. The fest started on July 4th and was set to run until the 6th.

We were only able to go on the 4th but that was the best day to be there! After a few Underground transfers, we had just a few minute walk to the bar and when we got there about 7:30 the place was packed beyond belief. The outside patio area at the front of the bar was crammed with people so we made our way into the bar and took a look at the special beer list they had for the fest. At any one time there were about 27 beer on tap and a good deal of them were cask! They had a nice selection of beers from Sierra Nevada (Bigfoot, Southern Hemisphere Harvest, Extra Special Pale, Porter, etc), Flying Dog, Brooklyn, Terrapin, Anchor and a good number of English cask beers using American hops which was nice to see. One beer that really caught me by suprise to see on the list was Struise Black Albert in cask! It was a suprise as this was an American Beer Fest and Struise is Belgian but it was more of a suprise that the beer was in England and in cask none the less! Due to the rarity of this beer I had to try a glass, despite it not being American.

We met up with a group of very nice folks from http://www.babblebelt.com/ , mostly from England and one woman from the U.S. We ran into a few of these fellow beer lovers in Antwerp in December and had another great time.

Overall I tried several very tasty American beers, a few English, a Black Albert, and met up with some great people. Overall a great night!

A 4th of July Celebration in Luxembourg

Our Holiday in London!

Paula and I took a little holiday to London to see Jack Johnson in concert and to take in the sites that this great city has to offer. As I took a few hundred pictures, it will take us awhile to describe them all but for now, take a look at the pictures so far.

Jack Johnson Concert in London

Paula and I planned a 4 day/3 night trip to London, partially to see the sites in this great city for the first time and also to take in a Jack Johnson concert in Hyde Park in central London. Hyde Park is 350 acres of green smack down in the middle of London and a 5 minute walk from our hotel. Jack Johnson was the headliner and was supported by Macio Jennings, G. Love & Special Sauce and then Ben Harper.

We arrived in London around 9am and too the few minute walk from the train station to our hotel to drop off our bags. As we were several hours early to actually check into the hotel, we decided to walk to the park to figure out what the setup was like and then take in the circus that is the Harrod's department store.

We made our way to Hyde Park after a couple wrong turns and about 10 minutes. The concert venue was about 200 yards into the park and already had a crowd of maybe 50 people camping out waiting to be let in at 2pm to get to the front of the stage. As the event was general admission and just in a big field, getting to the front would be a good idea but also would not allow you to sit down and hang out in the lawn as we had planned.

After reaching the concert venue and talking to a worker about what we were allowed to bring in with us, we headed to the other side of the park towards Harrod's. After passing by a park working cutting the grass we ran into a guy who looked very similar to a certain guitar playing superstar. Turns out it was Jack Johnson and he stopped to talk for a minute when I said hello. He seemed like a really cool guy just walking around the park in a t-shirt, jeans, flip flops and a newspaper. I had a Phillies shirt on and I mentioned we were Philly and he got a smile and said we were from G. Love's town which was cool. Although it was just a passing minute, it showed that rock stars can be cool down to earth people. Some even a bit shy like Jack seemed. I didn't think quick enough to ask for a picture but I felt good that I didn't so he didn't think I was a big tool!

After walking around a bit more, having lunch and a pint at a pub, we arrived back at Hyde Park around 3pm to get into the venue. There were already thousands of people roaming around the venue, eating drinking and just having a good time. It rained a bit throughout the first hour or so of the concert but by the time G. Love came on, it was pretty nice out which made it easy to sit on the ground and to take in the sounds.

G. Love played alot of his best songs and a bunch from his new album. At first I thought his show would end without playing Cold Beverages but while I was in line for some beer and wine, he played it and everyone rocked out to it. G. Love put on a great show but I was a little diasspointed to see him be second in line and not third. It also didn't seem like the London crowd was that familiar with his music but he still got a good cheer.

After Ben Harper, who also put on a great show, Jack came on and everyone went nuts and finally stood up for his performance. He seemed a bit shy at the site of over 30,000 fans going crazy for him but he started out with some great songs from his new album and alot of the hits that you are used to hearing on the radio. Later in his show he brought out G. Love to play on Rodeo Clowns which I love and he also brought Ben Harper out later as well. For one of his encore songs he said he had 2 guests to bring out, G. Love and Jimmy Buffet! I could not believe that Jimmy Buffet would be there but sure enough he came out and they all rocked out to A Pirate at 40 or something like that. Cool song and a great show overall! Definitely worth the cost of flying to London for the show!

Check out some pictures we took at the show. Maybe a few videos as well.

Euro 2008 Futbol (Soccer) Championships

I am a little late in posting this but last Sunday, 29 June, was the final of the 2008 Euro Championships in futbol. Although Luxembourg did not qualify for the tournament, it was still a big deal throughout the entire tournament in Luxembourg. Although I am not much of a soccer fan, watching games throughout the tournament was alot of fun and I even got into collecting stickers for the Euro. I am sure the sticker books were geared more toward kids, it was still interesting to collect and brought back memories of collecting baseball stickers from back in the day.

For the final on 29 June, there were a huge screen setup in the center of town and there were a bunch of beer and wine stands and all kinds of food. Since the final was held in Austria, there was some Austrian food as well. Paula and I went a few hours early and walked around and took in the sites of all the crazy German and Spanish fans watching the game. By the time the game started there were about 6,000 fans going crazy. The game was exciting and fun to watch but the crowds got a little too much to handle so we too off in the second half and walked around a bit before heading back home. When the game was over, Spain won 1-0 and they partied late into the night.

The American Military Cemetery in Luxembourg