Here’s how I did it (of course, why I would have only 39 minutes in Luxembourg is more interesting – and slightly disturbing, and I’ll get back to that):
- Arrive Luxembourg train station at 1445, wake up from a slightly uncomfortable but very essential sleep after having gotten up early for the 04:18 airport train to catch the first flight of the day to Brussels. Again, why anyone would voluntarily get up at 03:00 to catch the first flight of the day – and on a Sunday, no less – is slightly disturbing as well.
- Where was I? Oh yeah: stretch, yawn and flex dormant fingers.
- Walk into station, check when the first train back to Brussels departs (1524).
- Leave station and decide which is the more urgent need, toilet or hunger.
- Settle on the latter, cross a few intersections, enter Quick, that ubiquitous, Belgian hamburger restaurant – which at least isn’t McDonald’s – and order a small cheeseburger menu. When in Rome, do like the Romans, i.e. the Luxembourgers – dip fries in mayo – surprisingly tasty here, but bloody awful at home.
- Meander the streets, window shop and ponder the local language – Lëtzebuergesch, an old Germanic language, influenced by French: “Merci datt dir hei net femmt” = Thank you for not smoking. (Of course, Luxembourgers are excellent linguists – speaking 4 or 5 languages is quite common).
- Have a look in the shoe shop on the corner. Consider buying those cool Esprit kickers but decide against, for financial reasons. Plus, don’t really need another pair of boots.
- Potter about in the peculiar shop next door where several pairs of even cooler boots, pink NafNaf children’s clothes, and other assorted odds and ends are on offer. Again, decide against trying or buying anything. (Self-discipline’s top notch today).
- Enter station a whole 6 minutes before train departs. Consider buying a postcard in book shop, but discouraged by long queue – at least 15 people – at cash register.
- Check if sweet tooth is in high drive (it is!), innocently jump the queue at the patisserie and buy marzipan (I like everything almond). Cross the hall to the bar for a bottle of Evian. Pass book shop on the way to the train, notice the queue has vanished in 2 ½ minutes (how efficient is that!), walk in, forget about the postcard and instead buy a crime novel for something to read on the train.
- Having patronised all three shops in the main hall of the little station well inside 4 minutes, head out to platform 1 and a comfortable ride back to Brussels. No time to read my new book since I’m busy amusing myself with this long-winded blog entry about – well, nothing really.
39 minutes well spent, I think. So that’s the how….. And now the why. A 6 hour return train trip to spend only 39 minutes in the Grand Duchy requires some sort of explanation to avoid the stamp of lunacy.
I had decided to go to Brussels a day early to have some time all by myself (a luxury) before 2 very busy days, filled with meetings and drawn-out dinners and lunches. I had a casual plan to spend the day in Luxembourg and as I arrived at Brussels Central Station, the Lux train was just about to depart.
I thought I’d spend 5 or 6 hours in Lux: wander around in the old city, have a nice pasta and some red wine at the cosy trattoria on the square, take that odd lift down to Grund, nod to friendly Luxembourgers out for a Sunday afternoon stroll, stop for coffee, photograph the archduke’s toy-like palace, perhaps endeavour to make the palace guards smile or frown, persuade some little punk to tickle them, perhaps, all for that worthy cause “interesting photography”, sit at yet another outdoor café, write a little, watch life stroll by, have tea, take more pictures – never mind the fact that I already have tons of pictures of Lux ville. None from November, though. Somehow I find outdoor shots particularly interesting in November.
Enough rambling. I’m hitting the book.
Oh wait, the why….
As the train left Arlon station – the last Belgian town before Lux – a text message interrupted my less than restful sleep – containing an invitation to dinner in Brussels at 1900 with several old friends I hadn’t seen in ages. After a f*ck, a sh*t and a couple of d*mns over being 188 km and four hours away from the proposed dinner venue, I turned on my heel and decided to return to Brussels post haste anyway – to enjoy Sunday evening with good company and plenty of wine and laughter.
After the long train ride, I’d had enough alone-time anyway. I was beginning to bore myself silly. Or maybe it was these slightly spooky woods, with only the occasional abandoned stone hut adorning the wooded hillsides closing in both sides of the tracks. No mobile-coverage here deep in the Ardennes. Lonely, these woods. Who roams here, I wonder. A dark little creek down at the forest bottom. Lots of trees. Lots and lots. A little cabin and orderly piled firewood. What may have happened in these woods afore? Battles of course. Of the Bulge, specifically.
More trees. A fallen birch. Four cows on a green hillside. An old house, a camping site. An old church on top of a hill. A company of three walks along a soggy track. Hm… do they look sinister? I decide they do. Perhaps 1 and 2 is scheming to kill 3?
Enough! Enough! Jemelle’s coming up and mobile coverage is back.