31 August, 2008

A Cruise on the Moselle River in Luxembourg

Since it was such a great day outside today, Paula and I made our first visit to the Moselle wine region in Luxembourg. This wine region runs along the Moselle River on the East side of Luxembourg which boarders Germany. We headed to the town of Remich which is less than 30 minutes from our flat and very easy to get to. When we arrived the town was completely full with people everywhere. There were many motorcylces running around town and many people lining the Moselle River, sun bathing and unfortunately some of the were wearing speedos!

We hopped on a cruise boat that takes you up and down the Moselle River for about 1 hour. For only €7 per person this was a deal and a good way to get some sun while taking in the sites. On the Luxembourg side it seemed like there was nothing but wine fields and nice apartments facing the River.

2008 Schueberfouer in Luxembourg

On 25 August the 668th edition of the Schueberfouer opened up on Luxembourg City. The Schueberfouer is a huge fair that takes over the large Glacis parking lot in the Limpertsberg section of Luxembourg City, right in from of one of my company's offices. There are tons of rides to thrill kids and adults including a farriswheel, a bunch of things that left you up and spin you in all sorts of directions and even a little water ride!

In addition to the rides, there are tons of stands to win all sorts of prices from stuffed animals to Playstation 3's, Nintendo Wii's and plasma tvs. If would not be a fair in Luxembourg without tons of food and drinks and there is plenty of that. We have been to visit 4 different days already and have had several meals here and a good sampling of the drinks as well.

The fair runs until 10 September and during the week is open from about 11am to 1am and on the weekends runs until 2 am! We were there this weekend until after midnight and it is still packed with people of all ages enjoying the rides, food and drinks but there tends to be more punky kids at that point.

Check out our pictures so far from the Schueberfouer...we will be back several more times before it ends!

17 August, 2008

Brussels Flower Carpet

Once every 2 years (.... 2004, 2006, 2008) the Grand Place in Brussels is completely filled with a huge flowercarpet made of begonia flowers that is put on public display. The total size is larger than an American football field. The flowercarpet this year was on display from 15 through 17 of August. Paula and I took the train from Luxembourg to Brussels on Saturday morning to check it out for the day and to take in the sites of Brussels again. For €3 you can go into the City Hall building and view the carpet from the 2nd floor to get some pictures. Viewing from the street level is free and you can stand all around if you like, you just have to watch out for crazy picture taking tourists from all over the world!

Follow this link for more details on the history of the flower carpet in Brussels

Check out pictures from our visit, some from today!

While snapping some pictures of the flowercarpet, we also visited some of the best beer bars in Brussels, again. Check out some pictures

14 August, 2008

Our Trip to København (Copenhagen) Denmark

Check back soon for some tales for our trip, including yummy hot dogs, great cultural and beer destinations and a few prostitutes thrown in for good measure....

Our Visit to Stockholm, Sweden

Stay tuned for some well thought out (not really) words about our trip to Stockholm!

12 August, 2008

The Beer Scene in Scandanavia

On our trip to Stockholm and Copenhagen we visited some of the best beer destinations in the world and some would never know they were there. The beer landscape in Scandanavia is dominated by Carlsberg and Tuborg but there are many great craft brewers in Sweden and Denmark and some in Norway and Finland as well. One problem with beer in Sweden and Denmark is the sales tax applied. I think in Sweden taxes were about 23% on top of the price and in Copenhagen it was even higher at 25%. Despite that, we had to take advantage of being in this great beer area!

We first landed in Stockholm on 8 August and after checking into the hotel and roaming around a little, we took the T-metro to Akkurat, a bar that has been described as one of the best on earth with many rare beers made exclusively for them by Cantillon and other Belgian brewers. When we arrived at maybe 7pm, all of the outside seating was taken and most of the seats in the bar area as well but we were able to snag one bar stool and then an hour later a second stool.

The bottle list at Akkurat is simply amazing. They have a very extensive selection of Belgian beers, many from old vintages and many hard to find or rather I should say impossible to find beers. There were about 5 main beers that I was hoping to get while here, most of them from Cantillon. After having a nice Cantillon Gueuze on tap, I grabbed the huge bottle menu and asked for a rare Cantillon Soleil de Munuit but was sad to find out it was no longer available. I then "settled" on a rare Cantillon Reed Gueuze Pinot Noir and after several minutes of the bartender searching in the beer cellar (which is behind lock and key) for this beer I was relieved to see him come back to the bar with a beautiful bottle and a nice wicker basket to serve my beer from. He also brought 2 nice glasses for Paula and I to share. The beer was in a champagne bottle, like nothing I have seen from Cantillon and this was one damn fine beer!! The beer was several years old but the fruit character from the Pinot Noir matched very well with the tartness of the gueuze. Although this was a pretty expensive beer (about 400 Swedish Kronas which is approximately 40 Euros) but it was definitely worth it and due to the fact that it is not legal to take bottles away from bars in Sweden, I didn't feel bad spending the cash.

We went back to Akkurat the following day shortly after they opened and found it to already be half full but we had no problem getting 2 seats at a table in the bar area. I had one purpose in mind at this point, getting a bottle of Westveleteren 6. The production of this beer was stopped long ago and there are really only 2 or 3 places on earth that I know of that still have this beer and one of them won't sell it. Akkurat had it listed on their menu and although it was about 30 euros for a 33cl bottle, I felt it was worth it for this 1996 gem. The wait was worth it as the taste was still very present, malty and it was served in a proper Westvleteren glass! Overall Akkurat was a great experience and the 2 bartenders that we talked to on both occasions were very nice and helpful. They even remembered us the 2nd time we went, probably because we dropped a nice pile of kronas on both trips.

Later that same evening we ventured out in the rain to Monk's Cafe. No, not the Monk's Cafe in Philadelphia but the unrelated bar in Stockholm. This is a relatively new bar but has gained a great name for carrying a large array of Swedish, Belgian, German, American and other beers. Although the prices for some beers were quite high (like about $500 for a bottle of Sam Adam's Utopias) there were several reasonable beers and several on tap brewed by Monk's Cafe at their little brewpub or for them by local brewers.

We only had about an hour or so to spend here at Monk’s but we enjoyed it while we were able. Upon walking in I was greeted with a BeerAdvocate magazine sitting on a wine barrel at the entrance so I grabbed it to get a good English read in! We were quickly greeted by the bartender who spoke perfect English and was helpful in providing beer suggestions. As Monk’s brewed a few of their own beers or had them made my local breweries, I decided to start with their British IPA and then later moved on to an orange ale which sounded interesting and turned out to be pretty good. The bar was pretty empty and we found out was closing at 9pm as they had a late night the previous night due to the Stockholm 08.08.08 festival.

Check out pictures from beery travels through Stockholm

On the afternoon of 10 August we made the short flight to Copenhagen to take in the culture and the beer. In Copenhagen is what many believe to be one of the best beer shops in the world, Olbutikken. Olbutikken is a small bottle shop but has a crazy selection of Danish, Belgian and even American craft beers. The shop is owned by Jeppe, the brother of the brewer at Mikkeller, a great Danish craft brewer. Olbuitikken has several beers made especially for the shop so I was geeking thinking about getting the chance to try some of these. Before we left for our trip I had traded emails with Jeppe to setup a time to visit his shop on Monday as they are only open 3 days a week for a total of 12 hours. Jeppe was kind enough to open up for us at 2pm on Monday and we took advantage of it. The shop was only about a 10 minute walk from our hotel so we headed towards the shop a few minutes before 2pm with a bag full of American beer to trade with Jeppe.

We got to the shop a little after 2pm and were greeted by Jeppe from the back room. I spend the first few minutes just circling around the shop looking at all the Danish, Belgian and American beers that he had to offer. Although the size of the bottle shop is not large, the quality of what he has packed into the space is just amazing, all killer, no filler. It seemed like they had every available bottle from Mikkeller including the newly released Beer Geek Brunch One – for - One which was made in a limited quantity for Olbutikken. The selection of Belgian beers was also great including Black Albert and Pannepot Grand Reserva from Struisse and several Cantillon beers including Blabaer Lamik, a blueberry lambik made exclusively for Olbutikken. I think the Blabaer was actually brewed by Jeppe at Cantillon. There was also a very nice selection of American craft beer including some from Allagash, Southampton and Jolly Pumpkin.

We spent about 40 minutes in the shop talking to Jeppe about beer and Copenhagen. He spoke English very well and was a wealth of information. I brought 6 beers from American craft brewers including some Russian River and Lost Abbey to trade with Jeppe. Thanks to my cousin Keith for sending these bottles over to me to help out with this trade. After I selected about 8 bottles or so to take home, we worked out the trade so that I owed nothing for my acquisitions! I tried to pay Jeppe but it would not allow it.

For the rest of our time in Copenhagen we had some decent Danish beers at a few bars and made a quick trip to the Norrebro Bryghus brewery to sample a few of their beers.

Check out beer related pictures from our Copenhagen travels

03 August, 2008

Is There Bocce in Luxembourg?

We asked that question when we arrived and several months ago Paula found some bocce courts in a park near her office in the Kirchberg section of Luxembourg. About a month ago I finally found some bocce ball sets at our local supermarket, Cactus. We had looked in several places for awhile and found nothing and one night while at Cactus I decided to look in the kids toy section and found a bunch of outside toys including the bocce (or boules) balls. That is right, instead of calling it bocce, it is called boules but seems to be the same. We bought one set of 6 balls and the palino marker ball. Knowing that we needed 8 balls, 4 for each team, we also bought a set of 3 so in total we have 9 balls. Molly plays with the 9th ball at home. All the balls are silver with no other colors on them so we bought some blue tape to mark 4 of the balls from the other 4.

We have now played a few bocce games just by ourselves on a few Sunday afternoons, including today. I won't say who won but I am not happy about it.... Paula was walking by this park during the week and noticed that around lunch time there were 4 games going on in the 4 courts and it was full of office workers in suits (no coats) and dresses. The guys had their ties tucked into their shirts. People were sitting around watching, eating and drinking (some beer and wine). There is a little café not far from the courts so we will have to play some games during lunch to take in this odd display Luxembourg lunch breaks!

Check out our Luxembourg bocce practice!

Tracking Jason Bourne Through Europe

Being a huge fan of the Bourne series of movies, I had to track down some of the scenes from the movies as we traveled through Europe. So far we have been to Paris where scenes from Bourne Idntity were shot and London where scenes from Bourne Ultimatum were filmed.

The first movie in the series was the Bourne Identity so when we visited Paris last weekend, we had to stop on the Pont-Neuf or new bridge because there is where an important scene was shot when Jason Bourne was trying to figure out his past and who was after him. He found a cellphone and called who he later found out was the CIA. He told the CIA guy to meet him on Pont-Neuf at 5:30pm and to come alone. Bourne then watched from the roof of a hotel that looked down onto Pont-Neuf. We took some pictures in the Pont-Neuf metro station, on the bridge and of the hotel Bourne looked down from.

We were also recently in London where some scenes from the Bourne Ultimatum were shot so we headed to the Waterloo train station to take in the sites from the movie. It was in this train station that Bourne confronted a newspaper reporter from the Guardian who had information on Blackbriar, a supersecret CIA program that Bourne was part of but did not remember. Bourne realized that the reporter was being followed by the CIA so he tried to direct him safely out of the station but was shot in the head by a CIA sniper before he could get him out.

There are many other locations throughout Europe that we would love to visit that parts of the Bourne movies were shot in. Some of the other locations include Zurich in Switzerland, Marsailles in France, Madrid in Spain and Tangiers in North Africa. I don't think we will make it to Russian where some scenes were shot but you never know....

Ok, I realize that Jason Bourne is not a real person but is rather Matt Damon. Just like Jack Bauer from 24 is not a real person but they sometimes seem real!

Enjoy my pictures so far...

A Saturday Night Out in Luxembourg City

Paula and I decided to have dinner in Luxembourg City so we took a bus into the city at about 8pm. Although the city was still busy with shoppers and those out eating and drinking, it was not as busy as usually due to the holiday season when many Europeans are somewhere else on vacation. We thought this would give us a chance to get a good table at one of our favorite restaurants. We head over to El Campenero, a Cuban style restaurant for some tapas. We thought we could get a table inside but apparently they were full or at least full of later reservations. We found a table on the front deck which worked out well, despite it being a little cold outside. After a few mojitos and some excellent tapas, we were off to a café a few steps away for an after dinner drink.

I am not sure the name of this café but it is right behind the Grand Palace and they have very reasonable drink prices. By this time it was about 11pm and was getting more and more busy. We are still trying to master the technique of going out for dinner a bit later so that we can stay out later at much of Europe does. After a drink at this café we headed for the bus back home to Strassen.

On the bus ride home we decided to get off a few stops early to get a drink at a Strassen bar we have visited once, Benelux. It is a locals corner bar but we felt welcomed in here. When we entered a noticed that there were a bunch of tables with poker being played at WWE wrestling on a tv! After sitting down with a drink, we noticed that there was a cute dog hanging around one of the poker tables. A few minutes later the dog came over and sat next to us to let us pet him. We found out his name was Tricksy and he just loved to be pet.

A few minutes later a guy came in with a poodle type dog on a leash and he sat down at the bar and his dog sat down at a barstool next to him. A bit later, Tricksy the dog jumped up on a barstool to sit next to some guy that walked into the bar with no shoes on. We figured this guy lived above the bar but still don't know why he would walk around with no shoes.

It was too funny to see 2 dogs sitting at a bar with their owners just enjoying the night. When we open a bar someday, we are going to have to institute a dog at the bar policy because it just makes for a happier bar!