I’ve delayed writing about our weekend in Luxembourg not because it wasn’t blog worthy, but because it was the coziest of weekends and so very family focused I wasn’t sure what all to include. But, I think one of my favorite realizations to come out of this weekend (aside from we really love Toby and Leesa, their family and enjoyed meeting some of their friends) is that I think some of our most favorite trips and memories will be to places likely not on a bucket list. When the average American decides to trek over “the pond,” especially for the first time, the top trips are likely London, Paris, Rome, maybe Munich/Germany, maybe even Barcelona. And maybe even Amsterdam. I’m generalizing, and I’m also guilty. If it wasn’t for Melissa we likely would not have chosen Maastricht as our home for this family adventure.
But if you’re looking to trek overseas, and find yourself close to Luxembourg, I’d recommend checking it out. We only spent about 30 hours in Luxembourg and a good portion of that was spent at a family vacation house outside of Luxembourg City. First of all, the family property is just gorgeous. It is owned by Leesa’s parents, decorated to a T, and has 3 bedrooms. The family has also just built another space they are using as a guest house where Toby and Leesa stayed with their two little boys. There’s a tennis court and swimming pool onsite and the house is situated near some farms and also good cycling roads.
When we arrived, the weather was sunny and gorgeous. We quickly unpacked, had a lite delicious lunch, and spent the rest of the afternoon chatting with Leesa and getting to know their boys. Frankly, we also just enjoyed the perfect weather. Well I got to do that. Josh, Melissa and Toby went out for a bit to get food to cook for dinner for the crew, so they were busier. Also in the afternoon, Flo arrived, fresh off a cycling weekend with some friends of his (it was his plan to be picked up by Melissa at this place that led to us getting to also come and stay).
We all worked on a cozy family dinner later that day and then got the kids to bed. The big guys (Toby, Josh, Flo) hung out until some wee hours of the morning (the ladies were smarter and called it a night earlier) so everyone was a bit slow moving the next morning. Melissa and I went into town to get fresh croissants and breads for breakfast (I can not describe to you how much better the bread is here in Europe. I don’t even eat that much bread back in the US but I devour it here! Good thing we walk/bike most everywhere 😛 ). European breakfasts generally consist of breads, croissants, cheeses, and maybe some fruits and/or yogurt. And coffee.
After breakfast, everyone went in different directions. Flo and Toby on a bike ride, Leesa had an appointment, and Josh and I took our boys in search of a “hike” to a castle. We started with a hike to Hollenfels Castle, which was mostly uphill and on a road that we believe had recently experienced some mudslides. This castle dates back to the early 1100’s, once housed prisoners of war, is now owned by the Luxembourg state, and houses a student hostel. Everything was closed due to Covid but we were able to take in some views and visit a small chapel next to it before heading back down.
Not ready to be done with exploring, Josh looked up another castle to visit. This one, a close car ride away, is called the New Castle of Ansembourg. It was built in the 1600’s by Thomas Bidart, a pioneer in Luxembourg’s steel and ironworks industry. It underwent signifcant rennovations in the 1700’s by the family then living in it. Later it nearly fell to ruin, was renovated , housed exchange students, and now, oddly enough, is owned by a Japanese religious cult that believes they can shoot divine light out of their hands. Yup. We didn’t know that when we visited but friends of Toby and Leesa mentioned it so we had to look it up. Despite the weird ownership, the grounds and gardens are just stunning!
Afterwards, we returned to the house for lunch and decided we should take advantage of being so close to Luxembourg City. We stole Melissa and ventured off to see some sites. In US terms, our home town of Charleston, SC is pretty historic. We have some old buildings, architecture, and even ruins. But those are modern day compared to some of what we saw in Luxembourg. It is a hilly city (compared to flat Maastricht) and is almost two levels. With roads going along the river and then more of the city somewhat above that. It is a little hard to explain but there’s even a glass elevator that takes you from the top to the bottom! Of course we had to check that out.
We started our brief tour with a walk along the wall around the Bock Casemates where we had hoped to go inside some of the tunnels, but they were closed due to Covid. We continued along through the city center, making our way to the glass elevator that was next on our list. Poor Josh and Melissa do not do well with clear flooring + heights, which the kids find hilarious and tease-worthy.
On this lower portion of the city one can walk along the river and go over many different small bridges. We’d promised the boys a playground in a larger park, but came across one by a school (still pretty sure we weren’t allowed to be there because some sort of school/camp was in session, but no one stopped us). The kids played for a while before we needed to make our way back. They had not forgotten the “huge playground” Melissa had promised them though, so we wound our way through the Parc municipal de Luxembourg, kind of like a Central Park kind of feel with gorgeous flowers, musicians, families picnicking, running, chatting on benches, etc. We found the MASSIVE playground/fun park area and let the kids run wild for about 20 minutes. We still had a good 20 minute walk back to our car and needed to drive back to the vacation house for dinner before leaving for Maastricht.
We bribed the boys with ice cream in the city center and kept moving.
I loved the mix of incredibly old and modern together. And the city center with shops and cafes was super lively. Toby and Leesa live in the city, and I’d love to go back another time and visit them/see more.
And I recommend you do the same if you find yourself nearby or planning to be in Europe!
We capped off our visit with a cookout style dinner with Toby & Leesa, their friends who came to visit for the night, and Melissa and Flo. Everyone was super friendly and also gave us some good advice on places to go, where to ski, etc. I hope to keep making new international friends on this adventure.