Spontaneous Day Trip Week: Luxembourg

| August 3, 2013

It dawned on me in the night: I live in Europe, surrounded by countries that I can visit any time I want to.  I can wake up and drive to another country, and I don’t need permission or to fill out some kind of document…I just get in the car and drive there.

So I got up in the morning and had the following exchanges with my daughter:

Me:                 Wanna go to another country?”

Sequoia:         YEAH!

Me:                  Clean your room first.

Sequoia:         Mo-om!

Me:                  If you don’t clean your room, you can’t go to another country.

After a bit, Sequoia asked, “If we go to another country, will they speak German?”

“Depends on where we go.”

“We could go to France.”

“We’ve been there.  I was thinking about Belgium or Luxembourg.”

“Luxembourg?  That sounds German…’burg’.”

“It does sound German, doesn’t it?  Let’s go find out what they speak in Luxembourg.”

We packed the cooler for the second time this week (blog to come) and sent Paul a text that was most decidedly more detailed than earlier this week when he received one that said “Going on a day trip.  Be back later.”  This one said “Day trip.  Crossing borders bc we live in Europe and I can and I don’t have to submit paperwork.  Be back later.  Cleaned her rm. and shut windows…Luxembourg, Belgium.”

Paul is a patient man.

And so we were off.  I set the GPS for a town over the border in Belgium so that we could eat lunch there before spending our time in Luxembourg.  As we drove through Luxembourg and neared the Belgian border, I noticed a giant brown sign for “Vallée des 7 châteaux”, with a picture of a snaking trail of castles.  We all know how I feel about brown signs and how Sequoia shares those feelings.  Hmm….that has potential.

Sequoia doesn’t speak French yet, but she is getting down the expression of indifference

Sequoia doesn’t speak French yet, but she is getting down the expression of indifference until she does

We crossed into Belgium, where we were greeted by large, empty expanses of land and…an Ikea.  Arlon wasn’t an impressive town.  It was a bunch of seediness surrounding a small, artsy-fartsy section, all of which was littered with 80 places to eat.  Sequoia bypassed a lovely café and chose a seedy bar because they had spaghetti listed on the specials outside.  The whole French language situation was delightful.  Why couldn’t I be in a tiny German pocket of Belgium?

Sequoia asked if we were going to explore this city.

I looked around.  “Do you want to?”

She looked around.  “No.”  (I was glad; I absolutely plan to return to Belgium—I’ve heard Bruges is amazing—but I didn’t want to waste any more of our day on this town.  I’d already analyzed that the most redeeming quality was the pair of people walking around handing out free miniature cans of Coke Zero at an intersection leading in and out of town.)

“Good.  Let’s drive back into Luxembourg.  Do you want to go to the city or find out what the Valley of 7 Castles is?”




So we headed back into Luxembourg and, upon seeing the brown sign, exited the highway.  At which point I saw no further signs for, say, a valley filled with—or even any one of—seven castles.  We’d gone from the biggest brown sign out there, to no sign.  I searched the GPS for historical places near the car, selected the first chateau, and we were on our way.

obscured signWe landed in the tiny town of Koerich, with its crumbling medieval ruin.  Unfortunately, you couldn’t really approach the castle, as it is under restoration.  Sequoia stayed in the car while I snapped a few pics.  We then searched the GPS for the next chateau near the car, found it, and followed the route.

We had yet to come across any signs for the Valley of the 7 châteaux.  We did, however, come upon this charming little brown sign pointing right, toward a monument, as the GPS was leading us left.  “Sequoia, this sign says there’s a monument to the right.  We’re supposed to go left.  Left or right?”

“Go right.”

This is definitely my child.


Uh. Where’s the road?

woodsSo we headed down the road…turned less paved road…turned gravely road…turned dirt road…turned forest floor.  The navigation system showed that we had left the roads and entered the forest.  We were driving in the forest.  You know when you’re hiking and you’re on a trail that has tracks like a vehicle can pass and has passed, but you assume it’s the park rangers?  Well it actually could have been me in my Volvo, following a brown sign, hoping that the road hasn’t washed out, while Sequoia watches a Muppets DVD and asks why there’s no road showing on the GPS.


The moment worth the visit: Sequoia’s realization that Poppop fought in WWII.

The moment worth the visit: Sequoia’s realization that Poppop fought in WWII.

I came to a T and was faced with a decision: try to make a U-Turn, go right, or go left.  At first I saw no markings.  Then, in the shade, another brown, wooden sign, nailed to a tree, pointed to the monument.  So we turned and continued, slowly, into the forest.  Suddenly, in the middle of this forest—and I mean, the middle of the forest: no large clearing, no daylight, just right, smack, in the forest—we came upon a monument: An original propeller blade from WWII, standing next to a simple plaque on a stone, memorializing a flight crew from the Royal Air Force.  It was actually quite lovely.

Eventually, the path I followed through the forest led us to the road once again, and we continued on to the next castle, Septfontaines.



We arrived in a tiny village: a few houses, a place with a generic sign that claimed to offer lodging and food, a church with an old cemetery, and a castle at the top of the knoll.  We attempted to snake our way up the very few roads of the tiny village.  It was a much more challenging task than one would think.  We would get so far (without taking off any side view mirrors or the doorknobs of any houses), then the castle would disappear from view.  The GPS would announce our arrival in the middle of a street, with a grassy hillside to our right and some little houses to our left.  I decided to drive up the hill—after all, so many German castles are found by just going around the bend and circling around back, right?



That is not what happened here.

The whole castle was gone.  G-O-N-E-Gone.  In no direction could we see castle.  There had been a big castle, on the top of a hill, and we’d driven to the top of the hill, and the castle had disappeared.  We were in farmland.

I drove maybe a couple of kilometers, but we were at under a quarter tank of gas, so I needed to turn back.  We headed back down the hill.  And that’s when I saw it.  The street sign: Schlasswee.

“Well.  That looks and sounds an awful lot like Schloss and weg.

So I turned.  Lo and behold, there’s the castle, one second up the path.  I had been so busy paying attention to the GPS and how many centimeters’ wiggle room I had on each side of the car, that I hadn’t noticed the sign pointing up the road my GPS was neglecting.

We tooled around the castle, again one you can’t really explore for the barriers put up since it, too, is under restoration.

After a bit, we headed back into town so Sequoia could check out the old graveyard and chapel before moving on.





En route to our next chateau that the GPS located near the car, we approached a city.  That’s when, for the first time all day, I saw a small sign directing us to the Valley of the 7 Châteaux.  Thanks for that.

There, we visited our third castle: Mersch.  It’s renovated, private, and I have no idea what’s going on there.  Possibly a youth hostel.

This is where Sequoia hit a wall.  She was hungry.  She wanted ice cream.  The Belgian waitress had removed her milkshake before she’d finished it, so she was harboring some resentment.


I decided to abandon the next château in the GPS and head to the city of Luxembourg, where surely there would be nourishment.  We’d eaten all our good snacks like red peppers and granola bars and were resorting to breadsticks and stale pretzels from earlier in the week.  We apparently missed a palace in good shape, but we were good with what we’d done so far.

“This is my first time on a double-decker bus!  Of course, Harry has been on a triple-decker bus…”

“This is my first time on a double-decker bus! Of course, Harry has been on a triple-decker bus…”

Luxembourg is not a large country, so it didn’t take long for us to reach the city.  I was stunned by its beauty—seated atop the mountains, overlooking the valley, with bridges and stone foundations and beautiful architecture and…tiny elephant statues all over the city.  Architecture was both old and modern, and there were sculptures all around the city.  There were several different areas filled with places to eat and shop.

luxembourgI found the closest tourist information spot in the GPS, parked, and headed into the tourist office for a map and info about how to catch the double-decker bus.  Found the bus, bought tix, got Sequoia a popsicle, bought a giant bottle of water, and boarded the bus.  Once Sequoia applied sunscreen to her face and finished her popsicle, we waited for a stopping point and moved up top.  Sequoia was ecstatic.  Listening to the audio tour in English, we enjoyed the sites of Luxembourg.  I began planning a return trip for a weekend with Paul as Sequoia avoided branches that slapped the side of the bus.

luxembourgLuxembourg was a beautiful city, a beautiful country.  And what do they speak in Luxembourg?  They speak Luxembourgish.  Seriously, that’s a real language.  German and French are also among their first languages.  Lots of English, too.  Now we know.


Category: Europe, FAMILY, Family Travel, In Germany A Broad blog, Travel

About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

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  1. Notes from 03 August 2013 | Sequoia Spricht | October 6, 2013
  1. Valerie says:

    One rainy day when we still lived in Munich we decided to drive to Italy to find some sun and have lunch and an espresso. Why? Because we could.