Overland from London to Luxembourg
I'd kind of been to Luxembourg before, passing through at the age of six on the way from the UK to Switzerland on my first ever trip outside the UK. But it occurred to me that I had absolutely no idea what the place was like, would not recognise a picture of the place if I saw one, and yet it was only 300 miles away and very easy to get to.
So I bought some Eurostar tickets and went there. A high speed journey took me to grey rainy Brussels in less than two hours. I got a coffee and pastry for breakfast in Midi station, then got on the much slower train to Luxembourg. The clouds cleared and the sun was shining as we passed through the snowy forests of the Ardennes.
I can't imagine ever getting bored of arriving in a place I've never been to before, especially one so close to home but so completely obscure to me. I was in a good mood as I walked out of the station and into the city. I walked randomly towards the centre, crossed a soaring bridge over the Pétrusse valley, and then found myself on the Corniche, a narrow road along a cliff edge over the Alzette valley. I was wondering why I'd never, to the best of my recollection, seen even a single photo of this town. Later, as the sun was setting, I went to the ruined fortifications of the city and headed up to some viewpoints as the lights were coming on.
Picturesque as it was, Luxembourg was not a great place for a solo traveller. The demographic here was pretty different to the one I inhabit, and I wandered the streets for a while seeing few signs of fun nightlife but plenty of expensive restaurants. Not wanting to spend large quantities of Euros on my evening meal, I ended up getting a crêpe from a cafe, and then spending the evening walking around the high parts of town and watching night fall.
I spent my Sunday afternoon at MUDAM, a new contemporary art gallery on a hill near the European Court of Justice. I walked there via a forest path which climbed steeply from the river bank up to the heights, through the restored Fort Thüngen to the gallery. The building itself is the work of IM Pei with trademark glass pyramids making an odd contrast with the old fortifications nearby.
The museum was quite small but had some quality works of art in it. My favourite was the exhibition of the works of Attila Csörgő. Wild clockwork devices which constructed and deconstructed geometric shapes by pulling strings attached to bits of wood were possibly the most impressive. It was absolutely beyond my comprehension that someone could ever build something like them.
By the time I left the gallery it was dark. I set off back to town via the route I'd come, only to realise after a few hundred metres that it was completely unlit. I didn't feel like turning back, so I pushed on using the weedy light from my mobile phone to light the way. The damp corridors of Fort Thüngen were quite spooky in the pitch darkness. I hurried on through to the forest, and then found my way down the trail back to the bottom of the Alzette valley.
Sunday evening in Luxembourg was far from thrilling. I passed the evening in a cafe, which was not serving much food. I could only get soup, so I had three bowls for my evening meal.
In the morning I had to get up at 5am to catch a train back to London. I walked out into the darkness and found the country swathed in thick fog. As I walked back along the Corniche, the lights of the houses on the valley floor shone through.
The train left Luxembourg in darkness, and I fell asleep in a more or less empty carriage. When I woke a couple of hours later, the carriage was full and I was surrounded by commuters heading into Brussels. A grey day was dawning, and rain was falling as I changed trains at Brussels. I got a coffee and pastry from the same cafe I'd been to on the way, and then got the Eurostar back to St. Pancras.