More Like Suxembourg

On our recent trip to Paris, where Kaitie and I had both been multiple times, we decided to throw in a new country and take a day trip to Luxembourg. A mere two-hour train ride away, why not throw away our Saturday on a jaunt to Europe’s tax haven? I did a modicum of research to find out the city didn’t have much to offer, but we figured we could play it by ear.  I mean, they have a main square and an Old Town—what more could one possibly want?

Not wanting to throw away any of the day, we awoke incredibly early, still buzzing from the phenomenal meal we’d just had at A La Biche au Bois.  We left Nina’s aptly-named pup Lux and made our way to the train station.  As it turns out, spending a day on the couch with Lux would’ve been leagues more exciting than spending it in her non-namesake city.

The Best Lux

We were blessed, in the Place d’Armes (main square) with the most exciting of all city events—a flea market full of expensive shit that only someone with lots of money and little travel experience could love.  We ate at Café Francais, which was decidedly anti-breakfast: they put down cloth table runners, found out we were interested in eating breakfast, and then removed the cloth and gave us paper placemats. After talking about my “terrorist beard” and spilling food on my coat, our server largely ignored us. Which was fine, because I didn’t want to have to talk to him about the strange salad that came with my omelet—greens, corn, ranch dressing, and a tomato that was almost crunchy.  I could imagine the chef proclaiming, “This is what they eat in America! Just give it to them!”

The weird salad that somehow ended up on my coat

After our breakfast, which would set the scene for the rest of our day, we eventually made it into the Old Town portion of the city, which would be impressive if (1) you’d never seen a hill before, (2) you’d never seen anything old before, or (3) you’d never seen moving water before.  Luxembourg doesn’t have anything that any other city doesn’t have, and every other city’s is better in every way.  Going to Luxembourg for site-seeing is like taking your cousin to prom: sure, you get to go, but what’s the fucking point?  We couldn’t find one.

Holy shit, a building

At the very least, we had Um Dierfgen to look forward to.  Open 11:30am to 10pm, the restaurant is just off the main square and serves up many of Luxembourg’s traditional dishes.  While Luxembourg may be a real Kraft Single of a city, at least I’d get to say I’d had some local dishes that aren’t widely available, like their national dish of Judd mat Gaardebounen (smoked pork, beans, and potatoes with bacon), or maybe even the horse steak on their menu.  I didn’t care that it was a little more expensive than it should be, if anything was going to save this trip for me, it would be food.

But, of course, fuck me for trying, because despite being full of drinking locals, we were told the restaurant wasn’t serving food.  Why should it? And why should it say anything about off-hours on its website? Ah, Luxembourg, that most Medium Place of cities. We ended up settling on a bar called Urban with typical bar food for anywhere in the world.  At least I got a local beer.  By that time, though, we were hungry and fed up and just wanted to be done with this place.

Holy shit, a chicken sandwich

We swung into a store to grab some drinks for the train ride home, where we found €5 on the ground, which was the best part of visiting Luxembourg (though it still owes me money for the train tickets). Luckily we were able to resurrect our day with dinner at Zeyer in Paris and some pre-bed wine at Nina’s.  And, of course, hanging out with the real Lux, and forever more the only Lux I officially recognize.

All other Luxes can eat shit

36 Hours in Stockholm

For only having about a day and a half in Stockholm, we wanted to make the most of it.  We’d decided to take a four-day weekend through Copenhagen and Stockholm, and it wasn’t going to be full of a lot of rest and relaxation: we wanted to see and do whatever we could in our short time in the city.  And, of course, eat as much as we could. We did not, however, see an Ikea in its natural habitat.

Vasa Museum

We arrived too early to check in to our hotel, so we headed straight to the Vasa Museum, packs and all.  While I was aware of only the huge and impeccably-preserved Swedish warship Vasa, which sank on its maiden voyage in 1628 and was later dredged up in 1961. The museum opened in 1990, and includes six floors to view the ship from, amongst other information like artifacts from the ship and the era, exhibits on the history of Sweden at the time, and information on the building, sinking location, and resurrection of the ship.  I didn’t expect to get much out of looking at an old ship, but the museum was informative and much more enjoyable than I had anticipated.  And at SEK 130 (about $15 US, give or take, depending on the exchange), it’s hard not to justify.

Hotel with Urban Deli

After the museum and some lunch, we checked into our hotel—literally just named Hotel with Urban Deli.  They weren’t lying, either—part of the hotel is a small boutique food shop.  The hotel itself is a boutique basement hotel, which means none of the rooms have windows, but they were comfortable and quiet, and the hotel itself was quirky.  It also had a great breakfast, which is the perfect way to start your day without having to make a lot of decisions about where to eat and then wandering the city before you’ve had a decent coffee.  Bonus, it was very close to a main hub of Stockholm and the walkway to the old town Gamla Stan.

Walking Tour

After taking some time in our hotel room to figure out what to do next, we found an English-speaking walking tour that was meeting shortly near our hotel.  The tour took us through Gamla Stan, over hilly cobbled streets, to all its notable spots: the royal palace, Ritterholm church, the Nobel museum, and others.  While the tour itself was great (and I always love the free walking tours), the most notable part was our guide’s girlfriend who was tagging along to learn the trade for herself, who reminded me of Tig Notaro, one of my favorite comedians.

Skansen

For our second day, after our very filling hotel breakfast, we hopped on the tram to get to Djurgarden Island to visit Skansen, the world’s oldest open-air museum.  The 75-acre site shows what life was like during before the industrial area, and includes a full-scale replica of a 19th-century Swedish town, including inhabitants who dress and work as they would have back then.  There is also a small zoo on the premises. Luckily for us, due to it being a Monday morning and a bit cool and overcast, there were hardly any people in the park.  For SEK 195 (about $20 US), I would go again—and hope to have more time to spend there.

Food

Ah, the most important part of any trip.  And while we didn’t get Tunnbrödsrulle—the mashed potato and shrimp salad covered hot dogs that Anthony Bourdain tracked down—nor had I done my due diligence and learn about Ekstedt until we had returned to America, but we did get some traditional local cuisine.  For lunch our first day, we sat in the small, cozy bar area at Operakallaren (I doubt, dressed as we were, we would’ve made it in the actual dining room) for some local favorites.  We split a sampler of pickled herring, which actually turned out to be surprisingly delicious, and then I got a sausage dish with a lingonberry sauce (Ikea is right!) and LeeAnne went with the Swedish meatballs (which were also excellent).  Dinner at this place could be incredibly stuffy and expensive, but sitting at the bar for some local specialties was the way to go.

For dinner that night, we’d heard about a beer bar called Akkurat.  I didn’t know much about it outside of “it has good beer,” so I was incredibly surprised to see the selection when we got there.  I don’t even remember what kind of food we had (which is rare), but I do remember the bottle of Cantillon Gueuze, and the 2013 bottle of Cantillon Lou Pepe Kriek and Cantillon Fou Foune—and the incredible list of other bottles they had going back many years.  Even with these great bottles, our dinner only came out to SEK 1,229 (about $135) – which I know because I kept the receipt.  The place did get crowded later in the evening due to a live band, but our seats on the porch were mostly out of the way.

Finally, on our second day, we had time for one last meal before heading out.  After Skansen, we were walking around Gamla Stan, and happened into The Hairy Pig, a tiny place with a death-defying staircase to a basement bathroom (that could easily be a murder room), but a fantastic charcuterie board, which also came with bread and a dish of baked provolone with tomatoes, herbs, and plenty of oil.  We also ordered a sausage to top it off and left the restaurant—and Sweden—happy with the choices we’d made.

While more time in Stockholm—and Sweden in general—would have been preferable (I’m looking at you, Faviken!), I’ll take what I can get, and I got quite a bit out of Stockholm in our day and a half.  And while I did have to talk my way out of the ABBA museum, the things we accomplished and saw (and ate!) while we were there made the long weekend an incredible success.  Do spend more time there when you go, but do also make sure to check out these places (and yeah, maybe the ABBA museum) while you’re there.