Thursday, October 18, 2012

London and the Festival of Contaminated Apples

I know I’ve said this before, but one of the things that Shawn and I committed to when we decided to take his company’s offer to live abroad was to travel.

So a few weeks ago we loaded up Shawn’s shiny new car top luggage rack and went to London.  I think that for Americans, the UK is the closest feeling to home that you can find in Europe.  (That’s just my opinion.  But, hello!  Chipotle!)

We left Luxembourg and drove about 4 hours through Belgium to the costal town of Calais, France.  We stayed at a hotel for the night and the next morning drove our car to the Euro Tunnel, or the “Chunnel.” 

We showed our passports and were queued up in a manner of detail and organization of which I have never experienced in Europe.

Then Shawn drove us onto the train and after a few safety instructions we were traveling underwater, through the English Channel, in the comfort of our own car.  Complete with his shiny new car top luggage rack.



Hanging out in the backseat.
Underneath the English Channel.

35 minutes later,  we were exited onto the streets of the UK.  People ask us all the time about driving in Europe.  In Luxembourg, we drive on the right hand side of the road – just like in the US.  This was our first time driving UK Style – on the left.  Shawn was a champ as he maneuvered his first British round about and got us to the train station safely.


Stay to the left.

From there, we boarded our train and an hour later we were in London.
Shawn’s been here many times, I’ve been twice, but this was Hannah’s first time.


As our train rolled into the station, and we passed The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, Hannah pointed them out to me.
”But Mom, Big Ben isn’t the name of the clock.  It’s the name of the bell that’s inside the tower.”  Impressive, kid.

She loved the red “phone boxes.”


And riding in the little pod on The London Eye.



Besides the accent, (and Big Ben knowledge) one of the things that Hannah has picked up at school are some British sounding phrases and sayings.  One of them is “bits and bobs,” and she refers to many things as “bits.”   I thought this was slang, perhaps, but look what we found – OJ without pulp, or, no bits. 





Half way through the trip, we had sort of an unimaginable situation that left the three of us shaken.   I guess that sometimes life forces you to deal with people who have a bigger temper than capacity for sensibility and class.
It was exhausting and unsettling and all I wanted to do was just be with these two:


So the three (or four!) of us pressed on and had a grand time in this grand city.



We took Hannah to The West End to see her very first live stage production – The Lion King. 
Girlfriend LOVED it.  She was intrigued by the set, the costumes and the orchestra pit.  When I was in college, I worked backstage in the costume shop of the school’s theater.  That’s where my love of musical theater started, and also where I learned much of what I know about sewing.  Oh, how excited it makes me that the theater interest was sparked in my little girl.



Before our long weekend was over, we took a walk through the park to Buckingham Palace.  Hannah’s seen her fair share of European palaces and castles but she was particularly excited about this one because we told her that the Queen actually lives here for part of the year.



And then we showed her a postcard with her picture.
”Wait. That’s the Queen?  Where’s her gown? And her high heels?”
(Sorry, your Majesty.)
So I showed her a postcard of Will and Kate on their wedding day, in the horse drawn carriage.  And all was right with her world again.

We headed ‘round back the palace and saw all the horse drawn carriages, grabbed lunch and headed back to Luxembourg just the way we came.

So here we are.  Fall’s changing leaves and cool temps are here and I’m loving it.  Fall is my favorite time of year and our neighborhood is well wooded and particularly scenic right now.

As I may have mentioned before, there are no shortages of festivals in Luxembourg, so last weekend we went to the Fêtes aux Pommes, Apple Festival in a nearby town.

There were apples ‘o plenty, as one would expect, along with beer, hot wine and sausage.
Because it wouldn’t be a European festival without beer, hot wine and sausage.
I didn’t take my camera with me, but I wish I had.  Instead, I’ll just describe what I saw and you can imagine your own pictures in your mind.
Here goes:

They make Viz, which I learned is the Luxembourgish word for an apple juice/cider by pressing the apples in these huge, old school machines that crank manually and collect the liquid into buckets similar to what Shawn uses to wash our cars.  From there, they filter the juice through what appeared to be a man’s t-shirt.  Or maybe it was a piece of burlap.  I’m not quite sure.  Then the man operating the old school crank machine wrung out the filter/t-shirt/burlap with his bare hands and returned it to the machine for the next batch.  The pressed, filtered-by-a-t-shirt-or-maybe-it-was-a-piece-of-burlap-juice was then poured into bottles, sealed with a cork and ready to be sold.

And of course my husband bought one. 
Having worked for eight years for a company that makes hand sanitizers, I’m probably more sensitive than most about germs, bacteria, sanitization and such.  
“Aren’t you a little worried about contamination?”

”Eh.  I was planning to heat it up and make hot toddies.  That’ll kill any bacteria.”

Pas pour moi, merci.
None for me, thanks.

I’ll take the pasteurized, bottled OJ with no bits.


  1. You *have* to take Hannah to see Matilda next time you are in London!! It's supposed to be an amazing musical -- perfect for a little girl!!!

  2. What a fun trip! I have been to the UK many times and I had no idea Ben was the name of the bell! ;)