Merlins in Luxembourg 2002
Four expectant Merlins left different destinations looking forward to treading on foreign soil. They Were very excited but because they were a bit nervous asked two good friends each to accompany them, they needed feeding and watering and couldn't do this for themselves. The friends were delighted to sit in their comfy seats, and one of them was even allowed to take hold of the steering wheel and gently guide their Merlin around this new foreign land. No this is a not fairy story but we found plenty of Fairy castles on our recent trip to Luxembourg. Helen, Andy, Barry, Neta, Dave, Sue, Margaret and John were the intrepid travellers who set off from Dover on I" June bound for Calais. We had already had a strange coincidence on the journey down to Dover as Andy & I had been in contact with Dave & Sue by mobile phone on the stop and start run on the M25. We arranged to meet at a service station on the M20 and were just parking the cars when who should roll up but Barry & Neta.
Good timing! Off we set for Dover where an overnight stop was made in some nice B&B's, a Fish & Chip supper enjoyed and a few drinks consumed then off to bed for an early start. Barry & Neta were booked on the Tunnel crossing, and Margaret & John were driving from home on the Saturday morning. Andy & 1, Sue & Dave had a frantic call from John & Margaret to say there was a big traffic jam coming into Dover so we arranged to meet at the Port. Barry & Neta drove to Folkstone but as their crossing was later than ours was we had arranged to meet on a side road somewhere in Belgium. Eventually got loaded on the ferry had a quick bite to eat and before you can say "Merlins in Luxembourg", we were docking in Calais. After a couple of hours we decided to have a quick coffee stop then continued until we reached the meeting place arranged with Barry. We hadn't even had time to down our first Stella when the Jones's duly arrived. Quelle opportun!!
The rest of the journey took us through Belgium, touching back into France and on to Luxembourg, (stocked up at the border with food, wine beer & fuel, cheaper here) and we eventually arrived at Alscheid to be met by Mr & Mrs Reuter owners of the farm and our cottages. Andy & I had stayed at the same place last year. They were pleased to see us and brought out the local champagne and a toast was duly made. As it was the Queens Golden Jubilee whilst we were there (we didn't go to escape, honest !!) we presented Mrs Reuter with a small memento of the occasion. I'm sure it's in pride of place on her dresser. The holiday started here, we got down to some serious preparation, what we could eat, drink, where we should go, who was going to navigate (guess who got that job) how much posing could we do, how much noise we could make driving round the lanes, ordinary Merlin Club activities as you will all be aware of. and first meal prepared al fresco (I think this means eating outdoors) the weather was quite warm even though it was about 7pm by now. A leisurely meal was enjoyed and as everyone was shattered by now, especially the drivers, a good nights sleep was in order. Merlins were put to bed with a wonderful view as their backdrop.
We didn't alight too early next morning and helped ourselves to breakfast in the biggest kitchen, then decided where to visit. Decided that a posing procession was probably in order and drove to the town of Wiltz (the Battle of the Bulge was fought around here). Parked up in car park with resident American tank and enjoyed a drink or two and a bite of lunch at a small open-air cafe/bar. The cottages were well equipped and slept 4 easily in each property, once we had decided who was sleeping where, bags were unloaded.
Then into the town for a quick photo outside the town hall.
Back to base for another sumptuous feast prepared by the fair sex ably attended by the menfolk, plying them with comforting beverages, red wine, red wine & some more red wine or in Margaret's' case some bubbly white. We are now ready for the morrow. Barry tried out his hand at making cocktails, with all the trimmings, funny straws, umbrellas you name it were hanging from the glass. Andy is not really into cocktails, so I had to finish his, well you can't waste them can you, hic! Some slight adjustments made to Barry's car, not quite sure what, just call it 'the technical bit' and we are off for another day in the saddle!!
A castle is spied in the distance. We have made it, fought off the dragons, except for the one flying on the back of my car, they can protect you you know! We had arrived at Vianden, a medieval town dominated by its castle.
We decide to time the invasion immediately after a break for coffee.
At this point I must refer you to Margaret. We saw a sign offering a special deal of 'Tarte et Cafd'. This will forever be written down in the annals as TARTAN COFFEE, she is still convinced, honestly. Maybe the club should offer foreign language courses, that's a point, any language teachers out there willing to offer their services?? The castle was explored; turrets revealed no damsels in distress, much to the dismay of two of our gallant knights!! Time for refreshments, driving down the narrow cobbled streets into the old town below. We drove round the block a couple of times to end up parked up in front of a restaurant providing authentic French CHINESE food. Great!!
After a quick look around the souvenir shops we set of for our humble homestead. Weather is still good so next day we set out on a touring programme visiting places such as Esch-sur-Sure following the river and generally posing through the little hamlets and towns scattered around. Not to break the tradition we again find a nice little hostelry to partake of the local ales & wines, not too much though, some of us are driving!!
Some decide to take a walk through the town up to the castle remains whilst others look in the shop!! Never seen so many different types of candies, but didn't buy any this time. Time to restock cupboards and fridge, call in supermarche on way home, exciting!! Luxembourg have a special card that enables you to use transport, visit castles and museums at reduced or sometimes free entrance on production of the card. This card is imaginatively called the 'Luxembourg Card', clever don't you think! Anyway it really does save some money and we decided to give the cars a rest and take the train to Luxembourg City. Probably a good decision, it rained nearly all day, so we did the Museum experience. After a quick lunch in a local restaurant we visited the Museum of History of the City of Luxembourg, very interesting, recalling the stages that Luxembourg went through over the last 1500 years. Mind you there was an exhibition relating to pests etc on one of the floors( no, British Tourists did not figure) and I thought the mice got a raw deal!!!
Took a walk through the Petrusse area of the city, the old part of Luxembourg, which needs a little attention. Found a great way of getting back to the main city, they have built a lift under the cliffs, good idea. Took a stroll through the Cathedral of Notre-Dame (no not Paris) very relaxing, and after more coffee walked to the station and headed for Kautenbach, the village we had left our cars in. Decided to have an evening meal in the village only to find that the hotel we had chosen didn't do meals on Wednesday, although we nearly ended up booking rooms, that's the trouble when you don't speak the language! Not to worry we found another restaurant quite willing to serve eight hungry travellers. We had been here one evening before, when a group of locals had admired the cars so much that they bought us all a round of drinks, so the boys duly gave their offspring a ride in the cars, never seen so much white knuckle on kids before, I think they enjoyed it though. Mind you they were so tiny they couldn't see over the bonnet. awarded them each with a Union Jack, for bravery!!
Thursday saw us on another mission to explore the winding lanes, through forest and valleys. Barry said he would take the lead to give Andy & I a rest from the front. Well!!! No we didn't get lost although we did see the same road in different directions quite a few times; he blamed Neta of course. You are never lost if you know where you are even if you are not where you planned to be. Where are we?? I can't remember where we were going, but it didn't matter, the drive was still wonderful, and for once we didn't have Mr Daniels'bonnet kissing our boot, sorry Dave, don't really mean it !! Photo shows Barry explaining that it wasn't his fault, honest ! The map was in a different language, and he's only a Maths teacher, so he could tell us exactly how many kilometres we had done.
After a scrumptious picnic, French sorry Luxembourg bread, cheeses, and pate, some wine and cokes we tootled off for the remainder of our trip. We had picnicked in the grounds of Clervaux abbey, having visited the chateau at Clervaux earlier .
Each floor is devoted to replicas of the castles in the area, showing how they had been rebuilt over the years. Imagine our surprise on looking from a turret window to find an interloper parked next to us, a Cobra!! Sadly it had sped away by the time we got back to the car park, probably my dragon scared it away. Alternatively it recognised our cars from Stonleigh meetings and wimped away, Cobras never hang around long, do they??
Barry was determined that we would visit four countries that day, no it did not involve trains, planes or boats, just a trip to a comer where Holland, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg meet. We played International Boules, and Margaret won. It was all too much for Andy, he proves he can sleep anywhere: question: which bit is in which country, answers on postcards please?? We crossed the border back into Luxembourg in 2 minutes and returned again to base.
We were well and truly ready for our dinner, intrepid travellers that we were. Sadly the last day crept upon us, we decided to visit Diekirch where there is a large 2 d World War museum, concentrating on the events in the area (Battle of the Bulge). Some had museum sickness so roamed the town instead but those of us who visited found it really interesting, if not a little daunting, there must have been about 10 floors.
On the way back we travelled to Echtemach where we had a quick coffee, a saunter through the town, around the St. Willibrord basilica and then wound our way back to prepare last meal. The aim of the final meal is to eat everything that is left; well I think we moire or less managed that, accompanied by some nice wines and beers. There then followed some entertainment, no I did not play the mouth organ, we played the brick building game of Jenga.
Talk about tense, I don't think anybody had concentrated on anything as much for days. How can 8 adults get so much enjoyment from bits of wood. After the final tumble, the tower had surpassed all expectations, we decided it was time to retire, a long day ahead tomorrow for the return journey We said our goodbyes to the Reuter family and set off for Boulogne where I had booked a B&B motel for Saturday night, and hopefully a quick visit to a Hypermarket next day.
Saturday night, again specialist French cuisine at the Buffalo Grill, well you do get a good meal there. All ready for the long trip home, Supermarket tomorrow folks. Don't bother with Eurocity or Hypermarket on a Sunday, They're closed. Never mind, plan B found us a small supermarket where we were able to stock up on a few bottles, but how did Barry get all that in, must ask for tips. (Barry says: don't take four bags of clothes, use Tesco carrier bags and you'll be OK) Thanks Barry!! Sunday morning saw the departure to England, six of us on Ferry and Barry & Neta on Tunnel.
It was sad to split up after such a great time.