Wednesday, June 22, 2011

European vacation, Part 5--Beer and chocolate!

Monday, May 9–Before setting out for the day, we stopped at the Belgian postoffice in town to mail the flax back home. No one there spoke English, we do not speak French. The best we could do was husband’s smattering of high school Spanish, which is at least similar to French. What an interesting 30 minutes THAT was!
We set off for Trier, Germany by way of Luxembourg. I knew that the Romans had expanded their empire through Europe but was unaware of just how much major construction they did. The Black Gate and ampitheater in Trier were humbling, especially to the engineer. We tend to think construction techniques were invented recently, but the Romans, Egyptians and Greeks were the experts!

Trier center and part of Black Gate

We followed the Our River north from Trier because Skip wanted to see Vianden, Luxembourg. What an incredible little town, perched on the sides of a steep valley with the castle looming overhead! We had dinner and local beer in the hotel situated on a hairpin turn near the top of the valley, where we could see down the valley and upwards to the town wall and tower defenses. I found it interesting that the towers were only half-round, protruding outwards from the wall and being flat on the inside of the wall.  
Vianden Castle
The half-tower on the city wall

Tuesday, May 10–This time, we decided to stay closer to home and visit Our Lady of Avioth Basilica. Built in the 13th century, the basilica is a little marvel of Gothic architecture with unique gargoyles and lacy stonework.

  From there, we drove over to Abbaye Notre-Dame d'Orval to tour the ruins from the fire of 1252 and taste the famous Trappist beer, which they’ve brewed since at least 1628. As the beer is not sold at the monastery, we decided on a late lunch of salad, cheese and beer in Florenville. Interestingly, we were turned out of the first restaurant because food was no longer being served–the lunch period was considered to be finished at 1:30! So we wandered across the street, where the owner was quite happy to converse with us in English and serve us plates of salad and cheese. One last stop down the street at Les Chocolats d'Edouard, considered to be one of the top ten chocolateries in the world. I had no trouble buying chocolate even though no one spoke English!
Last but not least, a few views of the countryside:

Next: I find one of my ancestral homes

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