TAILS OF A TRAVELLING CAT
Day 3 - Luxembourg City
Greetings, humans! Welcome to the final day of this trip – how quickly has it gone? As I know how much you’ll miss me, I’ll make the most of this entry for you! So, we were up and out of the AirBnb not particularly early (10 ish). Once more, we entered Luxembourg (the city), heading on a walking tour of the city’s many old buildings.
We walked through beautiful cobbled streets, lined with old buildings and trees. I like trees, I hope you’ve noticed. Our first stop on the tour was the Bock Promontory, the cradle of the city, apparently. Standing on top of the wall gave stunning views of the Alzette valley below. It was an awful long way down, I wouldn’t want to fall. I would survive, of course, but it would be a long way back up. Luckily I didn’t fall, so that was alright. Bock Casemates (in German) or Casemates du Bock (in French) was our next stop. As far as we could work out, casemates were caves and tunnels in the defensive wall which surrounded the old city, however we had to pay to enter and so, like good money saving students, we just looked at the outside. The casemates are the longest in the world. They, along with the defensive walls, lead to Luxembourg being called Gibraltar of the North. Unfortunately for Count Siegfried who built the original wall, the city was taken by some people called the Burgundians in 1443, but it was then that many more walls were built and fortification improved. In fact, it wasn’t until 1867, after a declaration of neutrality, that most of these fortifications were removed, and the city became less impenetrable. Although it was built so well, it was impossible to blow it up without breaking the city. Impressive building work.
We continued the tour to the royal castle, home to many generations of Luxembourg’s monarchs, although the castle bridge was rebuilt in 1735. It is now very red, which is almost pink, so I approve.
Once again, we were relying on Charlie’s French and German translating skills so some of the details may be a little… let’s say lacking. We were still high up with stunning views, although I was less keen on the sights of the scary Alzette River running below. Soon we were descending the wall (not vertically, of course, we’re not the wall lizards, there was a path). This entire walk was called the Menzel, but it was this next part of the walk in particular which was named such. There were a lot more city walls and a big scary river, but we did get the chance to meet a lovely cat, who wanted to say hello to Charlie but not Jack. Alas, as is the way of the world. Cat time for the day over (apart from moi), we met a mermaid statue and read the legend which said the mermaid was associated with Casemates du Bock. There was an English translation for this legend, basically an old Luxembourg king fell in love with a mermaid (he didn’t know she was a mermaid), when he saw her as a mermaid, she was sucked in to the earth and imprisoned in a rock called Bock. Not a very happy story, but when are fairy tales ever? From here, we walked back along the river (more water than I would have liked) and then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, we met a dog playing in a grassy area. To make matters worse, these terrifying humans decided to walk out across a precarious metal structure and stand over the weir. I for one was fearing for my life. Finally, the humans returned me to solid (mostly dry, it was raining) land and we climbed the wall on the other side of the valley.
Once again, no scaling was involved. We investigated some walls and came to the conclusion that Luxembourg deserved the title Gibraltar of the North (because of the defences I told you about earlier, not because it’s inhabited by Barbary macaques). We were now in the second line of defence. Once more, we enjoyed stunning views of the city. I don’t think I could ever tire of this, except perhaps the scary river which is following us. And once more we were descending to the river – somebody help me!
Ok, the river wasn’t too scary, it was quite contained this time and I was distracted by the views including Notre Dame Cathedral. You may be surprised to hear I don’t mean the one in Paris, Luxembourg (the city) has its very own.
Walking tour completed, we made our final ascent up a beautiful cobbled street lined with colourful houses. The best bit? No river here. In no time, we had achieved high ground again (or possibly we returned to sea level, I don’t know how elevated Luxembourg is). We headed back to the Glass City, which is how I like to think of the shiny new area south of Luxembourg (the city) and north of Luxembourg (the train station).
We visited a bio supermarket or something… maybe it was an organic supermarket for falafel and hummus. Lunch was eaten overlooking the valley, which was probably carved out by a glacier in the last Ice Age. We were now on the other side (southwest) of the main bridge into Luxembourg (the city).
Lunch completed and with a short time left, we headed to Pont Adolphe. For those who understand French, you’ll know we were heading to a bridge. For those of you who don’t understand French, we were heading to a bridge. We thoroughly investigated this rather large piece of architecture from both sides of the south end and underneath. We wandered down the side of the valley, surrounded by many, many trees. I like trees. I think I’ve mentioned this.
We then walked half way across the bridge to investigate the views, it was a long, long way down. I may have neglected to mention, this bridge led into Luxembourg (the city) and at the south end there was a large roundabout which sadly was undergoing roadworks. We then returned to the south side and wandered into a metal sided pedestrian and bicycle tunnel, suspended underneath Pont Adolphe.
All too soon, it was time to leave this wonderful city, Europe’s city of culture apparently. Actually, I won’t disagree, the architecture and trees are amazing. We headed off to catch the bus to the airport, but discovered cash was needed to pay the fare (Amsterdam’s buses had gone cashless in March). This resulted in a slightly terrifying run to find a cash machine in time, this being a Sunday and all the city’s major banks being closed. Finally we found a cash machine, caught a bus in plenty of time and had one last journey through the city, taking in a few sights in the north of Luxembourg (the city) which we hadn’t been able to fit in.
Soon we were at the airport, which was surprisingly small, very quickly we were through security and into the lounge. All that remained was to board the plane and travel home. We waved goodbye to Luxembourg (the country) as we flew back to Gatwick. In just three short days we packed in a whole heap of activities which won’t be forgotten in a hurry. Both humans were exhausted and I am still wearing my Koningsdag flowers. What an eventful and educational trip. I’ve had a great time experiencing it and telling you all about it in my Tails. I hope you will join me again on my next adventure. Until then folks, your fluffy friend, Chesh.
Greetings, humans! Charlie is currently writing Part 1 of today’s entry for me on the train from Brussels to Luxembourg and is complaining the movement of the train is ruining the writing. But I want to pass the time so write it now we shall. We woke up early with the plan of visiting De Gooyer windmill (this is Holland, after all) before the train to Brussels. Sadly, without a day card, it would have been too expensive to visit it, so instead we headed to Amstelpark, conveniently located close to Amsterdam Zuid, our first station. In Amstelpark, there was a windmill, but it wasn’t until we arrived in the park that we discovered the windmill was at the very furthest end of the park. Without time to explore (I was very disappointed, I love windmills), we wandered the park, found some lovely pink flowers and headed to Zuid.
We took a train back to Schiphol Airport for our second train to Brussels. Train connections at an airport? I was confused too. We boarded the train to Brussels Midi/ Zuid although I’m not sure why it has two names – maybe for the different languages spoken in Belgium (Flemmish Dutch, French and German). We enjoyed some wonderful views although the humans were too slow to capture them on film, or pixels in this modern age. The Dutch and Belgian countryside was very beautiful, although lacking visible cats and pink things. In the cities, towns and villages there were lots of churches, and we even saw a few windmills, if only we could have explored them!
The train arrived in Brussels nearly half an hour late, but we made the most of our two hours here. Lunch of granola and yoghurt with banana sauce was purchased from Greenway and consumed in an unnamed green area next to a statue of a horse and foal. We then found a castle type building on Google Maps and decided to visit it. Hallepoort was huge, looked like something Count Dracula would live in and had three cannons outside it. As translated by Charlie from the French and Dutch information board, Hallepoort was built in the Middle Ages when Brussels was a fort town. The number 14 (possibly the 14th Century) was involved, the fort was turned into a prison, Neo-Gothic architecture happened (possibly a renovation) and today it is a museum. Please don’t employ Charlie as a translator.
After ten minutes which could almost be called relaxing in the metaphorical if not literal shadow of the giant Dracula house, we headed back to the station, got slightly lost, found our way again and chose our platform. The Luxembourg train arrived and we boarded.
The journey is three and a half hours, maybe the humans will relax… once Charlie has finished writing this! See you in Part II. Chesh.
Alright everyone, I’m back for Part II, hope you didn’t miss me too much. But you did miss me, right? I’m penning this part of my adventure as I sit on the windowsill of a second storey apartment with Charlie gazing out onto the road and trees of a small street five minutes’ walk from Luxembourg station. Let me relate to you how I got here. Although as we write a plane is flying over (we are fairly near the airport) and so I may be distracted.
So, as I left you at the end of Part I, we were flying south on the Luxembourg train, zooming like flying pigs through the Belgian countryside. We travelled through a fair bit more Belgian countryside. Turns out, Belgium has a lot of countryside. Oh, now may be a good time to point out I’m still wearing my Koningsdag flowers, mostly because they are very stylish and I’ve grown to like orange. Not quite as good as pink, but close enough. I’ve been distracted again and a plane didn’t even fly past.
Belgian countryside. Lots of it. There’s also a lot of wooded areas with babbling brooks running under the train tracks which are supported high above them. I never knew I could write something so poetical. Anyway, what felt like much quicker than the three and a half hour journey, we crossed the border and entered Luxembourg, the country not the city. Now may be the time to explain, everything in Luxembourg is called Luxembourg. The old town of the capital is called Luxembourg City, but as far as I can work out, also just called Luxembourg. The area outside the old town (the rest of the capital) is just called Luxembourg, as is the train station and the airport. If you’ve now seen the word Luxembourg written so many times in this account of Luxembourg and how things are named in Luxembourg and you’ve now started to lose focus on Luxembourg as a real word, don’t worry, you’re not alone!
Oh, I’ve tangented again. We entered Luxembourg (the country), passed some stunningly beautiful towns and countryside as well as some commercial building which had Lux, .lu websites or Luxembourg flags adorning them to announce are arrival in this uni-name place. Either they decided to have a theme and stick to it, or someone was incredibly unimaginative. In no time at all, we arrived at Luxembourg (the station, just outside the city). The rain that we’d managed to avoid for a day and a half began to come down, getting harder as we walked to our AirBnb, the aforementioned second floor apartment. I am severely displeased, how dare these water droplets fall from the sky when I’m around!
Soon we made it to the AirBnb and with barely time to relax, the humans took me out to dinner in Luxembourg (the city). It may still have been raining but Luxembourg (the city) was stunningly beautiful. Full of ancient and slightly less ancient architecture, this area was beautiful. Disclosure: when I say ancient, I don’t mean that in the historical sense, but in the sense of bloody old (Medieval). Tomorrow I shall read some tourist guides helpfully left for us in the AirBnb and inform you exactly how old they are. We crossed a bridge over what I assume was once a moat (dry or otherwise) but now had cars and other modern things in it (good, no water) where we looked down a very long way, then entered Luxembourg (the city). We were surrounded by these beautiful buildings (on which, more tomorrow when we begin exploring in full). Within 20 minutes of leaving the AirBnb, we were at our restaurant for the night, Beet. Burgers and falafel were on offer and despite having burgers last night, the humans tucked in again. Charlie ordered the aubergine burger (burger with pesto, aubergine, cream cheese and tapenade sauce) and Jack had a sweet onion burger (burger, andalouse sauce and onion chutney) and a raw cacao milkshake. Both burgers were served with huge bowls of chips and side salad. The food was amazing and the humans happily added pudding to their meal. Charlie had a moelleux au chocolat (hot, melt in the middle pudding) and Jack had clafouti with apple (apples in batter) both served with coconut ice cream. Needless to say, both humans thoroughly enjoyed their puddings, remaining in the restaurant to digest their food. We walked back through Luxembourg (the city) to the AirBnb in Luxembourg (almost the city) near Luxembourg (the train station) for a well-earned shower and rest.
Well, I’m off to sleep as well. Goodnight, folks and see you all tomorrow. Chesh.
Day 1 - Amsterdam
Greetings, humans! Day 1 and here I am in Amsterdam. Let me relate to you how I got here and what happened once I arrived in this eclectic city.
Very, very early this morning (5am), I was woken from my bed of comfortable dreams to begin my Benelux journey, starting with a plane to Amsterdam. Thanks to the wonders of online check in and travelling only with hand luggage, we stormed through the airport, only slowed down by security.
After a surprisingly good breakfast of WH Smith’s sandwiches, we were (eventually) in the air and off on our adventure. We spent longer than I would have liked flying over the sea, but fortunately it was quite cloudy and so we couldn’t see too much of the wet stuff.
I had been told two things about this trip: 1. It was due to rain all weekend and 2. It was Koningsdag today in Amsterdam. One is a very bad thing, the other is very good. I can only presume Koningsdag, or King’s Day for those not fluent in Dutch, is a day to celebrate me, I am rather royal and surely important enough to justify my own day. I am expecting Amsterdam to be bedecked in pink when we arrive.
I was relieved to discover on landing at Schiphol Airport that it wasn’t raining (yet, anyway). We soon boarded a train and were on our way to Amsterdam Centraal Station, Koningsdag hadn’t been cancelled, but unfortunately it wasn’t celebrating me. Oh well, let me be informative and tell you all about what Koningsdag actually is. The festival is held annually on the king’s birthday (27th April, or today, in case you hadn’t worked that out) to celebrate the monarch and being Dutch in general as far as one can tell. This celebration began as Prinsessedag as a celebration of the birthday of Princess Wilhelmina in 1885, becoming Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day) in 1890 on accession to the throne. In 2013, Queen Beatrix abdicated, in 2014 the first ever Koningsdag was held for King Willem-Alexander. It is a public holiday, many places are closed and Amsterdam (at least) holds a massive city-wide street party where much Heineken is consumed, lots of boats are sailed on, kids run street stalls and many drunk people urinate in the canals. It is traditional to wear orange (not pink unfortunately), although how much is discretionary, from a head scarf to a Lycra onesie.
Now that you are fully informed through my exceptionally accurate modern history lesson, let’s get back to talking about me and what adventures I had in Amsterdam. On emerging from the station, it was clear the city was full of orange and people, specifically orange people. We headed in search of a street seller vending the colour orange and CANAL!!! Oh no, no, no! Turn around, back on the train, let’s go somewhere else! Alas no, the humans decided to remain in the city despite it being full of water. These foolish people then bought an orange flower garland from a vendor on a bridge – over a canal! And then horror! They wanted me to pose sitting on said bridge wearing this orange thing. Ooh, it is bright, it is orange, it is flowery. I like it. Argh! I forgot about the water.
Anyway, soon I was released from the scary bridge and we began exploring. Ok, I can relax now, we are leaving the water and heading along streets lined with beautiful old buildings, but oh these foolish humans, we’d entered the Western Canal Ring, which housed (surprisingly) Amsterdam’s three main canals (Herengracht, Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht) and a whole hoard of smaller canals connecting these three.
Each canal was full of boats crammed full of partying Heineken drinkers, loaded to the point where we had to ask, were they floating or sinking? As far as we were aware no one fell in the canals and no boats sank, but it could have happened very easily. For a short time, we explored along the canals and then set out to find the Anne Frank House. I won’t go into too much detail as I’m sure most people know the story of Anne Franke, but this was the house where the Jewish Frank and Van Pels families hid from the Nazis in World War II. Unlike many other places, the house was open today, but on arrival we discovered booking could only be done online and all the day’s tickets had been booked. Disappointed, we continued walking (this being Koningsdag the free walking tours which normally take place were cancelled and we had to do it ourselves) along the canals. I am not a fan of this. Although we did encounter a very flat house built on a triangular street corner, outdoor karaoke and Westerkerk (a rather fancy church).
We then visited the Homomonument, a monument to the gay people who died during World War II and continue to be persecuted today. Despite some confusion as to what/ where the monument actually was, we had photos with the sign and headed off for lunch. We found Natur. which was serving tempeh and veg kebabs with rice and peanut sauce. This was eaten sitting on the edge of the canal, dangerously close to the water. The food and endless stream of boats was enjoyed by the humans but not me who spent half an hour in fear of my life in case I drowned.
Many, many boats sailed passed us, with no signs of stopping. How can there be this many boats in all of the world, let alone Amsterdam? Or for that matter, this many drunk people. At least they all seem to be happy drunks.
After lunch, we went on to visit De Poezenboot (The Catboat, my linguistically challenged friends). We knew it would be closed for Koningsdag, but we took the opportunity to have a look from the outside. If we had been able to go inside, I might have forgiven the fact that it was on water, but as I had to look from the other side of the canal, I remained unimpressed with my water obsessed humans.
Eventually the humans decided that was enough walking for one day and they would make use of the public transport. It would also make it less likely they’d be run down by a bike (motor or pedal) that shared the same road space as the pedestrians, for a little cat like me, this was a particularly terrifying experience. Although it didn’t quite rival the scary water. The humans now had the chance to make use of their travel cards (16€ for a day’s travel on the city’s public transport). I, naturally, travel everywhere I please for free anyway. This seemed like a good opportunity to get away from the water but no, we were crammed into a ferry with other people’s bikes and weed (yes, I forgot to mention it was everywhere and I may have got slightly high, regular readers of my Tails will recall a similar incident in Berlin last year). Anyway the ferry crossed the River IJ (from a now obsolete Dutch word for ‘water’ – imaginative I know) to dry land.
Oh no, my mistake, North Amsterdam is also drowning, we walked a circuit between two bodies of water (river or canal, we couldn’t be sure) then took the ferry back. In North Amsterdam, the pace of life was slower, few party goers had made it this far and the streets were of suburban tranquillity and green-ness. Not that the city itself is lacking in green.
Back in the city centre, I was relieved to board the Metro in search of Vondelpark. Originally, we were confused as Koningsdag meant the trams in the city centre weren’t running, but the Metro took us to Weesperplein and from there we took the tram to Leidseplein where we walked to Vondelpark. This tram trip provided a chance for a close up view of one of the city’s outdoor urinals, a plastic block with four open-backed cubicles. These things were everywhere, although whether they were an everyday occurrence or had been brought in especially for the party remained unclear. By the end of the day they had also become used as a bin for Heineken cans, soon we couldn’t tell if they were leaking beer or urine.
Moving on, I thought Vondelpark would be a nice adventure, what with its music and trees. But, no. After a questionable Port-A-Loo experience (no toilet roll or hand washing facilities), the humans selected a pond of all places to sit by. Charlie and I did get a chance to climb a tree though, which I must count as my most positive experience in the park. After a short time sitting and relaxing, it was time to check into the AirBnb. Ok, I certainly wasn’t relaxing that close to the water, and the humans don’t often sit still long enough to relax. Anyway, we took the tram back to Weesperplein and then a Metro to Reigersbos.
Although we got lost on leaving the station (Google Maps breaking) and then couldn’t find the building (humans not looking properly), we managed to enter the shared corridor, but only after a quick phone call to the host to tell us where the keys were. Once in the hall, the humans couldn’t get into the flat (humans don’t understand doors apparently) but finally we were in. I could, of course, have offered advice, but I decided it was their problem, I, after all, was perfectly happy cat-napping in Charlie’s bag. Our room was investigated, we relaxed for all of a few minutes (these humans haven’t really understood the concept of relaxing, as I’ve already pointed out. They should follow my example a bit more often), and then headed back across the city for dinner.
This involved a Metro to Lelylaan and a tram to Ten Katenstraat (it had the word cat in it, I was happy).
Dinner was a stupendous affair in the Dutch Weed Burger Joint. For those of you with a sensitive pre-disposition, let me make clear this was seaweed and not marijuana or hemp. No weed was intentionally smoked or eaten by the humans or myself, as far as I know. I think I’m tangent-ing. Right, back to dinner, not made of the kind of weed I was expecting. Both humans tucked into a Dutch Weed burger a piece (soya bean burger with salad, gherkins and weed sauce and a seaweed bun – the pictures do not fully illustrate the green-ness of the seaweed bun). They also enjoyed chocolate fudge and strawberry milkshakes and pudding of strawberry cheesecake and chocolate brownie. The Joint had sold out of tompouce, a traditional Dutch pastry delight, filled with cream and coated in pink icing. The name reputedly came from the stage name of a performing dwarf, Tom Pouce, which is a little odd, but I’m sure has no effect on the taste.
The useless humans forgot to photograph the puddings they actually did eat, I was rather unimpressed with them. The tram and Metro were then taken back to Amsterdam Centraal Station and, after getting slightly lost, we made a brief visitation to the Red Light District. My experience? Too many canals.
It was then a final Metro back to the AirBnb (we didn’t get lost this time), the party which had been going on all day was finally winding down, the rain had held off and the humans were exhausted. This was a truly packed day, very tiring for the humans with all that walking. Well, time to sleep! Until tomorrow, folks. Chesh.
Welcome to Benelux
Greetings humans and welcome back to my blog. Ah, it is good to be back! Now, as I’m sure you’ve missed me terribly, I’ll help you recover with a few stunning pictures of me to catch you up on what I’ve been doing in the intervening time since last I wrote.
Firstly, I have become a knitted cat toy model (I must find a catchier title). I think I would sell these things well, I will just smile endearingly at cats' humans until they decide what they really need for their beloved felines is another cat toy (or three).
I have achieved a new bed – a radiator hammock – which is rather lovely and I've been immortalised in icing. Ok, maybe I need a word less permanent than immortalised, depicted perhaps, or sculpted.
Also, I have a new housemate by the name of Roland. Although we are the best of friends, he won’t be joining me on my travels because, frankly, he would rather watch TV and has an unfortunate penchant for killing things, as well as guarding his fake chicken. Under Charlie’s guidance, Roland has become somewhat rehabilitated, but let’s just say we won’t be letting him near the airport staff who might need to search him.
Now, I’ve caught you up and you’re all feeling better, I should probably fill you in on this trip. We visited a place called Benelux which actually turned out to be three countries, which I didn’t expect. The three countries are BElgium, NEtherlands and LUXembourg, makes sense now, doesn’t it? The three cities we visited within these countries were Amsterdam (Netherlands), Brussels (Belgium) and Luxembourg City (Luxembourg) – more on the confusing nature of the word Luxembourg when I get to that day.
The three of us (myself, Charlie and Jack) were visiting for a long weekend, a day in Amsterdam, a day travelling by train with a stopover in Brussels and then a day in Luxembourg City.