Category Archives: Luxembourg

Feierdag

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Luxembourg rather sensibly has its national big party event in the middle of summer. I was thinking of this as I considered the absolute novelty of standing outside in the warmth of 30 degrees to watch a fireworks display rather than standing out in the freezing cold waiting for the rain in March.

23 June is Bonfire Night in Cork. When the Independent Republic of Cork is declared, make that the Independence Day festival. Trust me. You’ll wonder how you tolerated marching bands in March. There is no comparison.

In Luxembourg, the whole national celebration thing starts the day before the National Day. This includes turning the place into a giant street party. It is unbelievable.

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This is from the Ville Haute near the main expensive shopping district. Just around from this the party starts.

Bar after bar after bar has DJs playing sets on the street.

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including dry ice machines

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and like 20 metres away from all these club on a streets you have gigs on a street.

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These were the headliners on Place d’Armes. Around the corner in front of the Hotel de Ville there was this lot.

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That gives just a bit of a taste of the atmosphere there was in that square last night. This was their audience by the way.

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This here was the main stage where the Military Band were lined up to accompany the fireworks.

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They were brilliant. You can here them in the following videos.

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Jupiter Bringer of Joy

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Jupiter Bringer of Joy

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Bolero

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Bolero

Here are some stills of the fireworks.

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This was me at one of the gigs.

I have to say last night was great fun. There were food stalls everywhere. In the Knuedelplatz, where the guy with the fiddle and the girl on the accordion were rocking out, you went and exchanged cash for tokens. There were stalls over the place selling light sabres and light up hairbands. The buses were rerouted for the evening and free – seriously, they are dead serious about getting people to get buses. Three routes were added to support park and ride. Bunch more photos and weirdly aligned videos (don’t look at me – this happened automatically) to be found here.

Natural Born Stragglers

The great mass of runners participating in the ING Luxembourg Night Marathon started passing my front door at around twenty to eight this evening. My apartment was just shy of the 12 kilometer mark, so well over half way if you were doing the half marathon, but a good bit short of half way if you had signed up for the full lot.

I don’t know how many people signed up to do this; but this I do know: they are all better people than me.

Luxembourg City had a weather warning in force for both today, and also for tomorrow, for high temperatures. When the runners set off at 7pm this evening, it was 29 degrees. It was still 29 degrees when they passed my door at 7.40 and now, at 20 past 9, it has fallen all the way to 28 degrees.

It will be a warm evening.

I stood outside when the first runners passed, and I watched them. And I stayed until the last runners passed and I cheered them. It is the great mass of people who do stuff that is hard, that they know they may fail to complete and who still do it anyway, who are heroes in my book. As I write, some of them will still be working their way around the route to get them to the finish line, be it 30 km away, be it 9 km away.

Not many people do this, I noticed. By the time the last five or six runners passed, the last of the stragglers, followed only by the police and a pick up bus, there was near no one left cheering them on. No one still shaking the cheap tambourines that ING appear to have handed out along with their orange straw hats. The only blue giant balloons to be seen were being dragged along by a runner wearing Luxair team gear.

By the time the main body of runners has passed, there are still a few groups, here and there 5 and 6 runners, or 3 or 4 having a conversation, trying to calculate how far they have left to go.

I “did” the Women’s Mini Marathon in Dublin once. I didn’t run it. I wound up middle of the walking field which is a fairly big field in that race. I don’t know if there are stragglers catching up in it. But I never ran it and my own personal interest in running is for solo trail stuff. I will almost certainly never sign up for the Night Marathon in Luxembourg.

There’s a pin floating around pinterest along the lines of “no matter how slow you are going, you’re still people the people on their sofas.

Runners at the Night Marathon. 2017.

Is this a trolley I see before me

I bought a trolley yesterday. It had been the subject of a couple of discussions on FaceBook and much was made of the grannyness of such an idea.

I am not a granny.

When I moved to Dublin in 1999, I realised very quickly that as a city, it sucked to try and do anything without a car, so I bought a car and drove around Dublin, specifically to and from Marks & Spencers and Tesco. A girl must eat now and again.

One of the many things that grew to irritate me about Dublin was that it got hard to get around. Where I lived wasn’t handy to a decent shopping centre by foot, for example and it seemed to be a palaver to go grocery shopping at any time other than 8am on a Saturday morning. I had my own parking space next to the M&S collection point in the Jervis Street Shopping Centre.

In 2016 I moved to Luxembourg. The car got sold. I’m probably the only member of my family and extended family without a car at the moment. Actually that’s a lie. My niece in London is likewise carless. She has gone before me. She too has a trolley.

Now that I have a trolley, I am seeing that everyone has trolleys. In Ireland, only old people, old ladies usually, have shopping trolleys. Often they feature tartan. That is not the case here.

When I came here, one of the key contributions to the decision was a desire to live somewhere that it was possible to live very successfully without a car. In a European city, it tends to be. Luxembourg is a bit of a nuisance on the IKEA front but there’s Conforama as a useful substitute. Apart from that, I can walk most places. There is a grocery store around a 5 minute walk away where I can get the essentials. I got a shopping trolley because I also liked shopping in the big – some might say utterly ginormous – hypermarket in Kirchberg.

I think Owen Keegan, the city manager for Dublin, should consider what could happen to his city if every one had shopping trolleys and the bus system ran efficiently, and there were decent hypermarkets (there aren’t. We do not know what a decent hypermarket is in Dublin).

Taking pleasure in the small things

I moved to Luxembourg at the end of last year – a move which, to be honest, quite a few of my friends would not necessarily have considered doing because they had Commitments. Children. Houses. The like.

I did not have Commitments. I have had a singular failure in hanging onto any Commitments longer than about 5 minutes, and the net result is there haven’t been children either. Not having a house is a feature of having lived in Dublin and having had a deep desire not to endebt myself to the tune of 10 years gross salary. This has meant, however, that I have had choices at certain points in my life that other people have felt as though they have not had choices and so, I took some rather serious decisions which eventually resulted in me getting on a plane with a suitcase, some clothes, a kindle and an iPad and an illusion I could live without a laptop for very long at the end of last November.

That being said, while I was angling towards a big international housemove, the truth is, I did not expect it to be Luxembourg. This is a pity because Luxembourg has turned out to be a rather happiness inducing gem. Possibly if I were 22 I would find it a bit quiet but so far I have been able to create a life here that makes me feel a lot more content, a lot more relaxed and in general, sleeping better. It has a great concert hall where I’ve been fortunate enough to hear Yuja Wang and Joshua Bell already this year; I am planning on getting a ticket to Anne-Sophie Mutter in a month’s time too. But that isn’t really it. It is possible that my view at the moment is coloured by the fact that for the past 3 weeks or so, the weather has been singularly stunning. The place is a gorgeous golden colour when you walk around it. It is swimming in parks. Lots of it is picturesque. For the most part, the services are very decent. There is nothing really to beat the feeling of walking around a place and just feeling happy all the time. Possibly this is because I get to walk around most of the time, rather than driving.

Who knows what the underlying reason is. Point is, life seems to me to be better when it is relaxed rather than when it is not relaxed.

Philharmonie – Yuja Wang

Last night, I wandered off to the Philharmonie in Luxembourg to hear Yuja Wang play. I have seen some people write some rather positive things about her, lately about her rendition of Beethoven’s Hammerklavier.

Yesterday was a gorgeous spring day in Luxembourg and the temperature as I walked to the concert hall was about 20 degrees. Very pleasant. The concert was not fully sold out but there was not much choice left in the way of seat. The program was a full set of Chopin Preludes followed by a set of Brahms variations on a theme by Georg Handel. I was familiar with the theme in question although I am not sure where I heard it.

Anyway.

There’s something almost lonely about a concert grand alone on a stage. It’s a long walk from the side of the stage. For Yuja Wang, it’s a really long walk in very high heels. And yet somehow once she is sitting at that piano, she takes over the world.

There are a lot of words I could choose to describe her playing. She is unquestionably one of the great technicians of the piano, but there is something more there. Something elusive but something that says that right here, right now, the right place to be is in front of a piano, if you are Yuja Wang. I’ve seen a few concert pianists over the years, all unquestionably talented, but with the possible exception of Daniil Trifenov, none so totally joined to the piano in a unit.

The Chopin was in many respects, imperious. More power than I am used to hearing from these things. I sat there and wondered how my life would have been different if I had heard Chopin like this when I was about 12 years old.

The Brahms was very different. Less imposing and yet, very inviting.

Then there were the 7 encores. Du jamais vu, I kept hearing around me. Some Tchaikovsky. Some Rachmaninoff. Some Prokofiev. A Horowitz transcript of Mozart. Some Bizet. Some Schubert. This was watching someone who was not, as it were, just a performer. This is someone who just wanted to play the piano.

Utterly inspiring.

Old habits die and return all of a sudden

Most of my perfume is in Ireland but I must confess that at some point between around 2005 and 2010 I stopped wearing perfume regularly. I don’t really know why – it was around the same time I seemed to stop wearing rings on my fingers. Every once in a while, I reviewed the whole perfume situation and cleared out the stuff that made me feel vaguely nauseous if I sprayed it on (indicative of a bottle gone bad). So when I say my perfume is left in Ireland, there is a lot less of it than there used to be.

Somewhere along the lines, I discovered Hermes perfume – of course I have to have expensive tastes here – and theirs was the only perfume I bought over about four years. Three bottles of perfume in total. I even managed to finish out one. This was seriously at odds with my life 10 to 15 years previously.

For those who know me from the beach (most of the people who “know” me on Facebook to be honest), the fact that I might spend a good deal of time in perfume shops might be a surprise. It’s not as if I noticeably wore make up – which I still do not for various reasons – so what would I be doing in there.

I used to buy lots of perfume. Until the great clearouts with no replacements, I typically had around 25 different bottles of perfume to hand. Some dropped in and out of fashion for me. I started wearing Poison by Christian Dior when I was 16 because someone didn’t want a bottle they’d gotten as a present, and it moved to me. For the next five or six years, it was mostly that I wore – mostly because it was carefully eked out and also, because it really was the only one I knew. At some point though, I realised that I had changed and it wasn’t me any more. It dropped in and out of fashion a couple of more times but I don’t own a bottle of it any more and I can’t remember when I last did. It must be at least ten years, and probably longer.

But I liked the Christian Dior perfumes a lot, and for years, I tended to have at least one bottle of J’Adore in the drawer. I still have a few bottles of it, at least one opened, in Ireland. I need to see about moving perfume to Luxembourg.

I brought one bottle of perfume with me to Luxembourg, and that was one of the Hermes ones, Un Jardin sur le Nil from the Garden series. It is a light, fresh perfume which I’ve tended to wear daily, and is one of the few perfumes I’ve tended to replace. It is, characteristically, very different to Poison, which I wore as a teenager, and I suppose if I am honest, more than a few people would suggest that Poison was not exactly suitable for a 16 year old. I’m inclined not to argue with younger me – we should wear what makes us feel good in our skin and Poison certainly did that for me for a long time.

I’ve run out of Un Jardin sur le Nil for a second time and when I went to buy a replacement, it somehow didn’t happen. Instead, I bought a bottle of Un Jardin Apres le Mousson. Owing to some confusion in my perfume drawer (I blame the house move and the lack of fixed habits even yet) I actually managed to buy two bottles of it across a few different trips to the shop in question. It could be a while before Un Jardin sur le Nil makes it back in. Hermes market both these perfumes to both men and women, although in my local perfume store, I find them in the women’s section. Your mileage may vary. I like the idea of them not being fixed as directed towards women or men. But I do also think they are quite light, and fairly different to what I traditionally associate with men. I don’t have much experience in buying men perfume.

One of the things about buying perfume in foreign countries (assuming the base is Ireland) is that in many ways, it is much more enjoyable.

One of the things which broke my heart about Ireland for the 18 years that I lived there as an adult was the lack of a branch of Sephora. Buying perfume online is not the same experience. It’s fine and dandy to be able to order all this stuff online but it truly is one of those things that is much more than pressing a button on a computer. There is no way of knowing what a perfume smells like without smelling it and the internet cannot do that. You cannot serendipitously find a new perfume in an online store.

We have a few branches of Sephora in Luxembourg and although I have tried to buy stuff in there, it doesn’t happen for me.  There is competition from what I think is a local chain – Paris 8 – and also from one of the big Belgian chains – Ici Paris XL. They bought out the small perfume shop where I used to spend quite a bit of money when I was living in Brussels. All that time, I tended to still prefer Sephora if I was in Paris though.

Now, I mostly buy in Paris 8. There isn’t really a chain like these things in Ireland. There is a shop called The Perfume Shop which, like a lot of stores in Ireland, is a UK chain. But they were small, and you couldn’t really browse. The department stores tended to be vendor specific – there wasn’t really a wall of perfume – you had to tour the different brands. When I think of it like that, this probably contributed to the fact that I wasn’t buying perfume in Ireland much and why I wasn’t wearing it. It wasn’t really the same pleasure.

Anyway, the thing with buying perfume is they give you samples. Samples are what introduced me to most of the perfume I wear. Basically, I spend an almighty fortune on some perfume, they give me a “free” sample and a week later, here we are looking for more perfume. Or three months later if I bought the perfume in France and lived in Ireland and had to wait until I went back to get a bottle. Hermes were a nuisance for this. I bought bottles of Eau de Merveilles (they have several items in that range) and look here is a sample of Un Jardin sur le Nil and goddamnit, they didn’t have it in Brown Thomas, and when they did get it, it was in 100ml bottles.

I don’t buy bottles of perfume bigger than 50ml, and if I can manage 30ml, so much the better. Sure, you get more perfume per euro the bigger a bottle you buy but then, I used to have about 25 bottles of perfume on the go at a given time. And I’ve had to clear out perfume which has turned. It’s expensive to be tossing. My advice: unless you will only ever wear one or two different perfumes, do not buy 100ml bottles.

I had more or less forgotten this sample thing because the amount of perfume I had, and the frequency which which I had bought it had more or less fallen off a cliff. However, because I ran out of the one solitary bottle I brought from Ireland, and also, needed skin care, I was lately shopping. The net result is 4 new bottles of perfume not including the one I actually went to get but still have not managed to buy because I’ve been distracted – and suddenly, the memory of the beauty of perfume.

I feel great when I wear perfume. I’d forgotten how great me wearing perfume felt. It comes in gorgeous packaging. In a lot of ways, it can be a journey. Some older friends, some new acquaintances. Some new loves. If you were to data analyse my purchases over the years, two brands stand out as suppliers to my perfume habit – Christian Dior, for Poison, J’Adore, and assorted different versions of Addict. In the end, Addict went the way of Poison, and Addict 2 which wasn’t universally available went the way of J’Adore.  – and Givenchy. At various points, I was wearing three to four different Givenchy perfume products, namely Hot Couture, Very Irresistible, Organza and possibly one or two others which I cannot now remember.

A couple of others stood out as being regular features – for me, it was unusual to be without a bottle of L’Eau d’Issey and indeed, I’m fairly sure there is a bottle of that in Ireland at the moment, and I’m almost certain it’s unopened too. And of course, recently, Hermes have been doing well out of me.

Now, there are two bottles of Hermes on my shelf, along with one Givenchy, and one Sisley. The Givenchy is one of the newer ones – one of the Dahlia Divins, and I picked that up randomly in a shop. I was so out of touch I just did not know it existed and there was a time I could identify every single Givenchy perfume on the market. The Sisley is notable for me because it is the first time in about 5 years I bought a bottle of perfume on the back of a sample – on this occasion, Eau Tropicale. The two Hermes are Un Jardin Apres le Mousson and Eau de Merveilles Bleu.

What is striking for me about this is I had forgotten how beautifully designed perfume bottles are. Part of this, I suppose, is because in Dublin, I kept perfume in a drawer in the dark to protect it from the sun in the small rooms I tended to inhabit. And because I wasn’t often in perfume shops where these things were on display. They truly are things of beauty.

I wear perfume daily again. If I’m absolutely honest, I don’t wear it to make myself feel great – but I am more likely to wear it if I am feeling great already. I think that knowledge of myself should have a lot of meaning the next time I somehow stop wearing it.

I’m not sure I can go back to owning 20 bottles of perfume although as my relationship with fountain pen ink can show, it is awfully easy to do so. But I am back in a zone where I feel like having the choice. In that context, it may be that I wind up not buying a replacement Jardin sur le Nil for quite a while yet. I’m too busy spreading my love rather than playing for easy predictability.

 

Sunpool

According to my phone the outside temperature is about 17 degrees Celsius. I’m from Ireland. We don’t usually expect this kind of thing until around July, and to earn it, we need to have suffered a lot of rain.

I tend to like the sun in the Spring. It’s low enough in the sky to create sunpools in a bedroom. You know, where the sun shines through making a lovely nice warm pool of heat and light to curl up in reading a book. Or a magazine. Well they are sweltering when the outside temperature is 17 degrees. I have the windows open today. Sunburn is a serious risk. It is March. I have no suncream. Yet.

Boy is that going to change soon.

On washing machines…

It is a beautiful sunny day here in Luxembourg. I’m sitting here with a cup of tea, listening to the dulcet tones of Air via my computer and the somewhat less sweeter tones of the washing machine.

I love the washing machine. I love it like I love my bed, my sofa and the three sets of bookshelves that arrived yesterday. But I especially love the washing machine.

Mostly I love it because I own it, but also, because it works properly.

It works properly, because it’s pretty much brand new. I bought it two months ago. I own it.

I don’t want to go on at length about it but I have never actually owned a washing machine before. I have had washing machines in my rented houses in Dublin. Some of them have been good, some of them have been bad, one or two of them have been downright awful and not much newer than a 1950s roller washer thing.

This one was bought in the sale, with about 25% knocked off. It was a brand I recognised (generally good), and more importantly, it is a doddle to use. I think it’s got a timer on it but that doesn’t really bother me because otherwise, I put stuff into it, I press the button, and it then tells me how long the wash is going to take. It even has a 15 minute wash for those quick needs.

I haven’t tried that yet.

The thing is, when I pointed out to people that in Luxembourg, it was going to be a tall order to get an apartment (it is) and what’s more, I’d need to furnish it, I was greeted with horror. Wasn’t that going to cost money? Well yes. But you know what. I own the washing machine and it works and I have the instruction book.

I once lived in a house with a washing machine that was so old, the instruction manual was not on the internet. In this day and age, that’s fairly Jurassic.

I don’t mind the whole furnishing thing. Here’s why. I chose the mattress. It’s comfortable and I can sleep on it. I chose the washing machine. It washes my clothes properly and quickly. I wonder sometimes if Irish people would not be better off learning to deal with unfurnished accommodation and getting more autonomy over their furniture. I mean, I’ve been in some houses with fairly desperate furniture options and requests to remove it have been met with flat refusals. Take or leave the house.

In the meantime, the light coloured wash currently decorating the soundscape of my Sunday afternoon will be done in 30 minutes. It’s wonderful.

Urban Sketching in Luxembourg – MUDAM

One of the things which happens when you move somewhere is that you have to build a new social circle. I have plenty of hobbies so I have options on this front. The first Sunday in January I joined the Luxembourg urban sketchers who were going to the Museum of Modern Art, otherwise known as MUDAM.

Given how cold it was, it was useful to be inside.

I am not really the biggest fan of modern art – it doesn’t speak much to me, so I suppose it’s not surprising that when push came to shove, I found myself sketching a piece of an older building instead.

However, people took many different views.

This is mine:

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And this is the group shot:

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That being said, while the actual exhibition in the MUDAM left me a bit cold, the building it is in is actually stunning. The following Sunday I went to the exhibits in the Villa Vauban which is, I suppose, a great deal more traditional. I much preferred it. This probably says something about me.

Piano Geekery

My main lot of furniture arrived yesterday, which means I have a desk, a few chairs, a sofa, and a table and a wardrobe. The shelves for the books I don’t have are due to arrive sometime in the next two or three weeks which left only one item on the shopping list and that was a piano.

To be honest, a piano has always been on my shopping list; namely a grand piano and if I am honest, for a long time, the piano in question was an 1882 which you can still, as of today, January 2017, see on the Pianos Plus website. Believe me, it’s a beautiful piano to play but I’ve never had a space worthy of that piano. It’s a big piano. It has a price tag to match. Another dealer also had a really nice 1970s Kawai which I liked as well.

However, I’ve realised that I am now 44 years old and while it could be another 10 years before I get a lovely grand piano, in the meantime, I’m going to need something else to play. I have the space for a piano now and I live in Luxembourg (sorry Pianos Plus). In researching piano dealers here, I discovered that they rented pianos. Not only did they rent pianos, they rented digital pianos, a service which is hard to find in Ireland. So I tracked down two piano dealers which were close to bus stops, and I went to visit the first of them today. Well it was joyful.

I’ve chosen a piano to hire – it is a Roland digital, and it will fit in my living room. I also played a lot of grand pianos. I played a Bechstein which, like the 1882 beauty, tugged many heart strings. Strictly speaking, I have the space for this one. On the other hand, I have neighbours upstairs. Hence digital piano. Sadface. I also played a Steinway and while I tend to find them a bit sparkly bright, this was a really nice one, a bargain at more than a year’s salary; and then I played a piano which I had never seen before. I played a Schultz. I’ve since learned that the pianos are designed in Germany and built elsewhere. I’m told this one was built in China. It was a gorgeous piano to play. I loved it.

Some day, I will own my own grand piano. It may be a Bechstein, or it may be a Schultz. Or it may be a Pleyel or a Kawai. I don’t know. But I realised today, playing that Bechstein, and that Schultz, and also, having a conversation with the sales staff in Kleber, that there’s an element of destiny around these things and that when the moment presents itself, so too will the piano. In the meantime, Kleber are happy for me to explore what they have got and that makes me happy.

Bonus point: cutest thing all day was a daddy explaining to his two small children how it was that a piano made noise.