30 November, 2008

Our Favorite Bar Dog

A few times over the last several months we would visit a corner bar in Strassen. Although it is a bit smokey inside and it is locals bar, the main reason we go is because there is a dog that hangs out at the bar that comes over to talk to us and let us pet her. Her name is Tricksy and she is very friendly and seems to greet everyone that comes into the bar. During the warmer months they leave the front door open and the comes in and out from time to time to check out what is going on outside the bar. We realized that Tricksy does not speak English so she really doesn't understand what we say when we talk to her but she is friendly all the same!

23 November, 2008

A Daytrip to Brussels for the Cantillon Quintessence

I got an email a few weeks ago from the Cantillon brewery in Brussels noting that they were having a cool open house tasting event on Saturday, 22 November that included about a dozen of their fine lambic beers, paired with local and regional foods and the kicker of it all was that it was only €15 per person! With todays exchange rates that is only about $20 to taste a full lineup of some of the best beers in the world and beers that are fairly expensive if, or should I say when, you can find them in the U.S. I emailed the brewery a few days later and made a reservation.

We debated about going up Friday night to stay 1 or 2 nights in Brussels but this would be our fifth trip to Brussels in less than 1 year so we opted to take a 8:24 am train from Luxembourg to Brussels which is so convenient and reasonably priced at €58 roundtrip for 2 people at a special weekend rate. We arrived in Brussels about 11:30 am and had only a 5 minute walk to the brewery. When we got there we were greeted by a bit of a line at the door but we were able to pay and have a tasting glass in hand in 5 minutes. The tasting was one from 10 am to 4 pm and for your money you got 10 tickets that were good at each of 10 different stations throughout the entire brewery. At each you got a nice sample of a Cantillon beer and a finger food items, mostly on bread. At a few stations you got to sample 2 beers. In these instances we were able to try to standard fruit lambic like their Kriek and then the premium version with more fruit added like the Lou Pepe Kriek. In most cases we got a little story about the beer we were sampling.

During the tasting we ran into our friend Chris that owns a great bottle shop in Arlon, Belgium, Mi-Orge Mi-Houblon. He was at the Cantillon tasting with about 20 members of his tasting group which meets each month at his shop for different beer tastings. We also got recognized by the Cantillon brewer which was pouring their gueuze so that was cool. We last saw him at Mi-Orge Mi-Houblon a month or so ago doing a tasting at the shop and then we were at Cantillon in September with Ed and Kelli. I guess from seeing a few times in the last 2 months he remembered us which was cool. At the 9th of 10 stands we started talking with the guy pouring Cantillon Iris which was matched with a fantastic peacan tart! When we started to speak English he asked where we were from, we said Philly and he got all happy when we said that. He talked very highly about Tom Peters, one of the owners of Monk's Cafe in Philadelphia. This fellow, named Lorenzo, also mentioned that he is good friends with Sam Calagione, the owner of Dogfish Head in Delaware. It was a nice end to a great day of tasting.

We left the Cantillon brewery a little after 2pm and walked into town and stopped at the Mannekin Pis frite stand for some lunch. After that we did a little shopping and then stopped at the Delirium Cafe for a drink or 2. Even at this early part of the afternoon the bar was packed but we were lucky to find a table in the back. We sat in the section clearly marked "NO SMOKING" but there were a good 15 people or so smoking in that section so it was pretty much a joke. We left and did more shopping and got caught up in some snow but nothing big. We then hit 1 or 2 more bars before stopping in the evening for a pita in the Greek area of town and then we were on a 8:37 pm train back to Luxembourg and in our apartment by 10 minutes after midnight. It is nice that Brussels is so close and we can do a day trip from there. It was nice to sleep in our own bed and wake up in our own apartment the next morning.

Check out the pictures we took of this cool tasting day!

The Luxembourg Festival of Lights and Trees

A week ago Saturday, the 15th of November, Paula and I met up with a group of Americans to take a walking tour of the Luxembourg Festival of Lights and Trees. I could try to describe it all to you but it would probably be better if I just lifted some words I found on the internet that describe things....

The tress & lights festival concept was started in Geneva in 2001, with 18 international artists involved, but the concept of having open-air art festivals in Luxembourg started in 1995 when Luxembourg was the European Capital City of Culture. And credit also goes to Prince Felix who recommended that the festival be brought to the Grand Duchy.

This festival will see 10 artists' creations across the city, including four Luxembourg creations and three created specifically for this festival.

ArcelorMittal and LEO (Luxembourg Energy Office) are credited as main sponsors, the latter contributing to a 100% sustainable energy source for the festival exhibits.

The festival opens on Friday evening (24 October) at 19:00 on the Place Guillaume with a "Nuit du Festival", until 30 November. Jugglers, musicians and open fires will amuse visitors to the exhibits, and roasted chestnuts, tea and gluwein will also be available. And a tourist train will start from the Place de la Constitution at 20:00, taking visitors to all the exhibits. Additionally, three guided tours will depart from the Hotel de Ville on the Place Guillaume at 19:00, 19:30 and 20:00. The LCTO will also be organising free guided tours throughout the festival on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 18:30, starting in front of the Hotel de Ville.

The artists and their creations are listed below:
- "Brothers and Sisters" by Ron Haselden (England) at the Place des Martyrsds
- "Light Trees" by ACT Design (Belgium) at the Place de Metz
- "Focusing Life" by Marco Godinho (Luxembourg) at the Place de la Constitution
- "Hana-mi" by Simona Braga (Italy) at Bld Roosevelt
- "Le Trésor" by Cédric Le Borgne (France) at the Pont du Grund
- "Cohabitation" by Géraud Périole (France) at Square Robert Brasseur, sponsored by KPMG
- "TransGleditsias" by Elvire Bastendorff (Luxembourg) at the Grand Rue
- "Cellule originelle" by Studio CS (Switzerland) at the Bld Royal
- "Ouni Titel (7m héich)" by Mertens & Quetsch (Luxembourg) at the Place d'Armes
- "L'envoi" by Jean-Francois Arnaud (France) at the Place Guillaume II

Check out some pictures from our 2 hour journey around Luxembourg City at night to take in the lights!

05 November, 2008

A Second Visit to Amsterdam

For Halloween weekend Paula and I took a train up to Amsterdam to enjoy the sights and sounds once again. We had visited for a day in May when visiting Utrecht but this time we spend the entire weekend in Amsterdam and Amsterdam only. We got up there early on Friday afternoon and checked into our hotel near the Van Gogh Museum. We wandered around for awhile and then found a pancake house for lunch and some traditional Dutch lunch pancakes which were yummy. We eventually ended up at the Anne Frank house for a tour of this sad but historic museum and then we headed off for a drink and then on to the Van Goghn Museum for a visit of his paintings. On Friday nights they open the Van Gogn until 10pm and have a dj and light food and drinks. We stuck around for a glass of wine while hanging out in the lobby of this cool museum. After the Museum we walked over to our destination for a late dinner, The Pantry, which had traditional Dutch food that was very good. My dish consisted of 3 different types of mashed potatoes and a meatball the size of a softball which was great! Paula had a nice dish of grilled prawns and we shared a really good bottle of Dutch wine. I didn't know there was good Dutch wine but apparently this was one of the best. After dinner we headed back to the hotel for a few drinks at our hotel bar.

On Saturday we were greeted by rain throughout the day but we made the best of it. After a proper English breakfast at a nice little cafe, we roamed the city doing some fine shopping and dipping our heads into a cafe here and there for a drink or 2. We had lunch at a nice cafe off the main track but still busy with locals. It was canal side and we happened to be across the street from a bar where a group of about 8 American's and maybe some Dutch were still dressed for Halloween...as several world leaders including Barack Obama, Kin Jon Il, Vladamir Putin, Tony Blair, Nelson Mandela and several others. After smoking a few cigarettes and downing a few beers, they jumped on this huge red bike that all of them could peddle on. Check out a few pictures of this at the link below.

Later on Saturday we had dinner at Boom Chicago and then stayed for their very very funny show about the presidential election called "Bye, Bye Bush". We had heard about this show when we were therer in May and had to come back for it, especially since it was only a few days before this historic election.

Sunday was our last day in Amsterdam so we spend the last few hours before our train doing more shopping, picking up some little touristy things here and there, including by big orange clog slippers! All in all another fine trip to Holland which made me wish more and more that we were living back in Holland. Maybe somedays...

Phillies Win....Phillies Win....Finally the Phillies Win!!!!

The Philadelphia Phillies have finally won the World Series after 28 years of pain! My brother Ed and I were at the last Phillies WS win in 1993 and that was a great feeling but watching them win it all is the ultimate. I stayed up late or got up early to watch all the playoff games against the Brewers, Dodgers and Rays.

Although we know the Phillies had a great season and a great team, one fact you don't hear about how they broke their curse of no championships relates to a Chase Utley Smurf that was born in March 2008 in Ghent, Belgium, before Spring Training started in April. You won't read about this on espn.com or philly.com but I think my making of the Chase Utley Smurf doll is what put us over the top!

Our First Visit to Strasbourg, France

It took over a year but Paula and I finally visited Strasbourg, France which is about 3 hours by train or a little over 2 hours by car to the South of Luxembourg. We decided to take the direct train from Luxembourg early on a Saturday morning and spend all day Saturday and most of Sunday roaming the town and taking in the cute little town. Strasbourg is probably most well known for their Christmas markets but there is plenty to see and do before the holidays arrive.

I had a little bit of a dilemma for Saturday night as the Phillies were playing in game 3 of the World Series vs. the Rays and I could not miss it. Luckily the hotel had free wireless internet in the rooms so I brought my laptop along with me to wake up at like 2am to watch the game online. Well it turns out there was a long rain delay before the game started so I went back to bed and woke up to catch the first pitch and the rest of the thrilling 5-4 win. Although I didn't get to bed until about 7am due to the delay and length of the game, it was worth it to get a wine.

Check out pictures from our short but fun weekend in Strasbourg!