During an eight hour bus ride from Dijon, France to Düsseldorf, Germany, we stopped at a rest stop somewhere in Luxembourg. It was the biggest rest stop I’d ever seen. Turns out, it’s one of the biggest Shell stations in the world.
It was very popular, especially with trucks. There were lots of them from all over Europe. There were also police cruising the lots. I didn’t understand why…at first.
Around the appointed hour, we all made our way back to the bus. Nearby were two drunken men. One thought it would be a good idea to wave his…attribute…at us. Again and again. A third guy appeared to reprimand Mr. Attribute. Words flew and so did Mr. Third Guy’s right fist—directly into Mr. Attribute’s face. Mr. Attribute’s friend retrieved a pipe from his truck, and the two chased Mr. Third Guy between the parked trucks. When they re-emerged, Mr. Third Guy’s skull was cracked and bleeding. He retaliated by smashing a beer bottle over Mr. Attribute’s head.
Other people got involved, including—foolishly—some people from my group. Most of us stayed on the bus, feeling helpless and horrified. By the time, the police and paramedics arrived, everything had calmed down, and Mr. Attribute and his friend were gone. No one else was hurt, but the whole scene had been chaotic and scary.
That was my introduction to Luxembourg.
Nestled among France, Belgium, and Germany, Luxembourg’s population of almost 600,000 is smaller than that of Washington, DC proper. The official languages might be Luxembourgish, French, and German, but I heard a global mix while there. Although I tried to use my elementary French, everyone seemed to speak English.
Called “one of the largest fortresses of modern Europe,” Luxembourg city is a modern and historic mix of upper and lower sections that are charming, orderly, and easily walkable. The old section, along with its fortifications, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A highlight is the casemates—an underground military defense system network that is well organized and fun to explore for all ages.
Things were more expensive than expected, but nowhere near the cost of Switzerland. The cuisine was more like France, with beautiful delicacies everywhere. The wine was reminiscent of Germany, but drier. Sparkling wine seemed to be the country’s forte, yet I drank some lovely still wines as well.
I found a serious yet cozy wine bar in the heart of the city that offered local and regional wines. The vegetarian platter included such bounty as burrata in pesto, polenta, Spanish tortilla, grilled vegetables, and hearty bread. It was as delicious as it was beautiful. Another night, I opted for what a local described as the best burger in town. The food and service were both great, but I had an issue with the clientele—I was the only person in the whole place using her hands to eat a burger!
An easy 40-minute bus ride took me to the small town of Grevenmacher, which provided a nice walking tour and two different winetasting experiences. The informal yet engaging tasting at Domaines Vinsmoselle included a wide range of sparkling and still wines that offered quality and value. If I only had a wine export business! (Food—or rather drink—for thought.) Bernard-Massard was a more formal experience focusing mainly on bubbles. I didn’t say no to a couple extra pours by the tasting room host.
I learned that vines have been cultivated in Luxembourg for nearly 2,000 years. If a Luxembourg sparkling wine is called crémant, then 100% of the grapes come from the country. If it’s called cuvée, then it is a blend of Luxembourg and other European grapes, most likely Italian, Spanish, or German.
While in Grevenmacher, I stopped for lunch at a small café. A sudden light drizzle brought everyone inside and filled the tables, but a friendly soul was willing to share. He and I started talking, and I learned he was a local, although living across the river in Trier, Germany where it was cheaper. He was a freelance videographer who had traveled the world and recently returned to the area. While he had positive things to say about his country, he also called it “Luxemboring.”
On my uneventful bus ride home to Dijon, I thought about my experiences in Luxembourg. Minus the rest stop introduction—the battling truckers weren’t locals anyway—I found Luxembourg to be multicultural, historic, beautiful, clean, safe, tasty, and friendly. I’ll take Luxemboring any day.