When we arrived yesterday, we thought we'd be able to find the Hotel Parc Belair fairly easily by heading for the city and then consulting the map and following road signs, but after we'd passed a gigantic supermarket named Cactus the thousandth time, we finally we stopped at a police station and found out that they "have no system" here and so street names are pretty much irrelevant. After knowing that, it became much easier to navigate and we discovered that we were actually quite close to the hotel. The street names are posted on small white signs on the sides of random buildings (too small for Dean to read; I can, with trouble); there aren't road signs on every street corner like in the US. Our car is a cute little turquoise Peugeot with a sunroof but no air conditioning (air conditioning is extremely uncommon here and only very expensive cars have it). It has automatic windows, a remote-control door-locking and unlocking device in the key, and a weird four-digit code that you must enter in order to start the car, to prevent theft. The rental person forgot to tell us about it at first, so, of course, we didn't know how to start the car until we went in and asked her. We were very hot and exhausted when we reached our hotel, and fell into a huge sleep.
Our room is quite splendid and looks like something out of Candyland; the writing desk is run through on either side by what looks like two giant candy canes, and the walls are light blue with almost a cloud pattern and little white and yellow stars. The light and automatic venetian blind controls are very strange--smooth flat brushed silver metal, flush to the wall. The bathroom is wondrous. It's shiny white sparkling tile all over, with pale green towels and a bathtub with a silver snakey hand-held shower, but no shower door or curtain. We have a marvellous balcony, which I went out on this morning while Dean was getting ready to go down for breakfast. The view is of the park and city below--really lovely. We're on the fourth floor--the top one. To get down into the parking garage below the hotel, one rides in a car elevator, which is terribly weird, and anything but a fairly small car would never fit! The hotel lobby is beautiful--all shining pale green--and our hall looks like somewhere Bertie Wooster would live, with sleek smooth dark wood and mirrors all over. The hotel breakfast is delicious--Luxlait yogurt with picture of a cow (the brand has a wonderful plain variety, and weird flavours like exotic fruit with kiwi); croissants with spreadable cheeses, jam, or butter; and fresh fruit, coffee or tea and juices. The croissants look just like the ones Lucard was having for breakfast in "I Love Lucard," and, indeed, the entire array seems like the sort of thing he would have.
As we were going down to the garage this morning, we stopped in the lower lobby (whose lights turn on automatically whenever anyone enters) and looked up the Librairie Clees-Meunier (Lawrence Lei's bookstore) in the telephone directory. Its address is 16 Rue de Marche aux Herbes, which we found on our map without much trouble and planned to hunt down later. For the present, we decided to just drive around leisurely a bit in order to get our bearings, keeping in mind the odd navigation system, and settled on Les Trois Glands as an easy first place to find. There is a picture of it on the map and it's a very famous site, so Dean used his sense of direction (I, of course, do not have one) and headed toward the Northeast. We had neared the site and were seeing signs reading "Les Trois Glands" and "Fort Thüngen" (its alternative name) when we turned a corner on a narrow winding road [Rue Jules Wilhelm] and all of the sudden there was Lucard Industries looming ahead of us! Dean immediately stopped the car and took some photos through the car window, since it was not safe to get out. (That's our very first view, to the left.)
While continuing on our way to Les Trois Glands (we will, of course, make a more official visit to Lucard Industries later), we stopped at another little fortress-type place--not a Lucard location--with blue doors [it's the building pictured on Rue Jules Wilhelm, but I don't know its name]. One could climb up high or go through stairs to come out on the other side of a sharply curved road. Dean took lots of pictures until it began to drizzle. We also quickly found Les Trois Glands, but it was raining a little, so we will go back and take photos later. It's right near Lucard's office, slightly to its South. As we were already in the North, we drove to the airport and got a nice map of Luxembourg city itself (our other large map is of Luxembourg, the country, with only a small zoom-in of the city), which reminds me of a map of the Village, all green and unreal looking. I also bought some post cards picturing Lucard Industries and various other sites.
Next we went to the Knuedler square (Place Guillaume II) in City Centre and parked in an underground garage with an incomprehensible getting-in technique. One has to wait for the light on the ticket machine to go off, but it doesn't say so on the sign. In the center of the square is a statue of William II on a horse, and there are two lion statues on either side of the City Hall, and a cute little Reynard fox statue.
Almost immediately, we positively identified this as the place Klaus and Eileen were walking in "Klaus Encounters of the Interred Kind"--I had noted all three statues visible in the background. So, Klaus and Eileen were going into City Hall? There is also a very cool abstract square fountain which I really like. Dean photographed all the "Dracula"-related things to see, and then we walked to Lawrence Lei's, which is extremely close by and is across the street from the Grand Ducal palace, residence of the Grand Duke and his family. To its left is an out of business Art Chinois (Chinese Art) store and to the right a scrolly gate and an out of business oriental carpet store. Dean photographed me standing in front of the store and took shots of the sign and various parts of the façade, after which I entered (containing, with difficulty, my excitement at being in Lawrence Lei's bookstore) and specked the place out. It looked nothing like Lawrence's on the inside and soon I was not sure if it is really the same location; perhaps the Librairie Clees-Meunier moved after Lawrence was shut up in his coffin [note: after checking "Bats in the Attic," I am sure that this is the case. The sign is identical, but the façade is not.].
All of the books there are German (as opposed to French) and the store is very neat and modern, unlike Lawrence's. It's a fairly small shop, but it has sections on a great many subjects (and even sells a complete guide to Star Trek episodes from all four series, plus the movies). Its children's section is really marvellous, and I browsed a long time before deciding to buy a Frühling, Sommer, Herbst und Winter book by one of my favourite childhood authors, Richard Scarry. I asked the owner if she sold bookmarks with the name of the store written on them, but she did not; she did, however, give me two marvellous orange business cards. I really wanted extras to give to a few people, so Dean asked her for two more while I was making my final decision on which book to buy. The thumb-first European counting technique worked to his advantage, and she gave him three! (Note: Europeans count beginning with the thumb rather than the index finger, so that if you hold up, for example, two fingers, they always assume the number you are indicating is three, even if your thumb isn't raised. I am sure the same thing would happen in reverse to a European in this country.)
After we left the bookstore, we tried to return to our hotel, but the car wouldn't work--the weird code thing would only beep, so we had to stay in City Centre longer and try to call the rental place to find out what to do. A guy was chatting away forever in the phone booth, nothing like you'd expect from a person using a pay phone! We waited on a bench outside the booth, staring at my watch; finally he stopped, but it turned out that we needed a phone card to use the phone anyway. Hoping that if we waited a while the car code would right itself, we hung around in Kneudler and I rode on some fun spring rides in the playground area while Dean took pictures of me. We also went to a really cool 1922 patissier named Kaempff-Kohler that sells chocolates, pastries, drinks and fresh fruit. It's so sparkly and shiny inside--I love it. (The same store sells Belgian waffles outside, in La Place d'armes square, which is next to Knuedler square and reached [by us] by going through a little luggage-store alley. The 1922 store has an entrance into both squares. In the Knuedler square, they set out white plastic stacking chairs and tables and have a little outdoor café during some times of the day). As we were wandering around waiting, we noticed that there was a tourism office nearby and found that we could get a phone card there, so we finally called the car place; they said we had to wait an hour for the security thing to stop beeping before it would allow us to try again. Groan! (The phone card is very interesting looking, with modern art on the back and a neat looking exposed chip in front; it's far more impressive than an American phone card.) We used the opportunity to take a picture of Lawrence's with the door closed (all the shops close at six) and, while returning, noticed a shop with really nice Antoine de Saint Exupéry's Little Prince dishes in the window. When an hour had passed since our last aborted attempt to start the car, we headed back to the hotel, but stopped first to look at some wonderful views from on top of the Bock casemates (which we will visit the inside of another day) and overlook the Grund, the oldest part of the city. It was the same view that Lucard saw in the teaser of "A Little Nightmare Music," before he turned into a bat and flew out over the river--my absolute favourite.
For supper we stayed in at our hotel, and, as a compromise for not going anywhere Lucard-ish, I ordered something with a vague connection to the show--pig's trotters and truffles. Of course, it was nothing at all like the pig's feet Chris unknowingly ordered at the Café Faux; it was the most incredibly delicious and incomprehensible thing I have ever tasted, so aesthetically done as to be beyond recognizable. I don't believe that I have ever had French food before, but now I understand how the entire dish can be shaped by its sauce. I can certainly see Lucard eating something like this. Dean's meal was delicious as well, in an entirely different way, and they actually had something vegetarian for him on the menu, though describing what it was is impossible. Both meals were arranged upon the plate like a work of art. Our French waiter is extremely proper acting, with excellent posture, and looks as if he is incapable of smiling, but I quite adore him. He, like all the educated people we have encountered, speaks and understands English well enough for us to communicate without much trouble. For dessert, we had crème brulee, which I have never had before, and found it heavenly.
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