|17.11.22||Signal de Botrange||694m||120m||HPT Belgium||MAP|
|17.11.22||Kneiff (Mt. Poznennö)||560m||2m||HPT Luxembourg||MAP|
Anne turned 60 on Nov 17th. When she turned 50, I gave her a trip to Bali. This time, the plan was to give her a trip to Cape Verde. And that would have been the heading on this post if the organizer hadn’t taken the main top (Pico de Fogo) off the program.
We then looked at Jordan. But we were running late in terms of planning and couldn’t come up with a plan we both liked.
I’ll be honest. This time, I wasn’t properly motivated for a trip to Farawayistan, and I didn’t mind terribly when we started looking at destinations closer to home. We ended up with a hotel in Luxembourg that showed promise. The carrot was that we could (finally) visit the high points in Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. Another bonus was that Luxembourg would be a new country for the both of us and besides, Anne hadn’t been to Belgium.
Anne took care of the hotel reservations, while I took care of the airline tickets and the rental car. Now, we were all set for a European mini vacation!
To Brussels, Nov 16 2022
Wednesday: We took the 2:25pm flight from Ålesund to Oslo, after dropping Karma off at our friends Lena & Terje. She would be very well taken care of, of which there was no doubt!
The 4:15pm flight from Oslo to Brussels was on time and things were looking good – except for the fact that I was building up a massive tension headache. Not uncommon when I’m going on a vacation. It happens almost every time. That – combined with the fact that I don’t deal well with the 2100m cabin pressure = a bad day.
We landed in Brussels on time and now it was time to figure out the train system. There was absolutely no help to find from any boards or monitors. We had to ask around for which train station we should go to (the answer was Brussels Central), and fortunately we got some help with the ticket machine. And then we were on our way.
It was a 1,5km walk from Brussels Central to Hotel Barry. Google Maps – which is our best friend were driving was utterly confused when we were on foot. The marker was going left, right, north, south and seemed very confused about our current position. I had to fire up the GPS just to figure out the direction we were heading.
We took the trip through Grand Place on our way to the hotel. Brussels will never be my favorite city, but Grand Place was impressive.
Hotel Barry (143 Euro) was certainly not impressive. Cigarette ash in the bathroom sink spoke volumes. The room resembled that room in your house that you deem best fit for storage purposes.
My headache was reaching all-time high, but I agreed to go out for dinner. We walked almost all the way back to Grand Place and found a restaurant that looked promising. Anne was very determined to try Moules Frites and could order it here. I ordered an Argentinian Entrecote and got a very generous plate. I forced myself to eat one of the two steaks. The food was probably alright, but I was close to vomiting from the headache.
The rest of the evening and night was spent in a chair (fortunately, the hotel room had a simple folding chair) as the tension headache prevents me from lying in a bed…
Vaalserberg (322m), Nov 17 2022
Thursday: Anne’s birthday! I gave her a hug and said enjoy your birthday present. You’re literally standing in it!
The breakfast at Hotel Barry wasn’t worth 7 Euros. The only “Gourmet” part of the breakfast was the jam. But hey – maybe that’s the way it is. I just know that for a 140 Euro hotel, you will get a pretty darn good breakfast in Norway.
We decided to take a taxi to the airport. That was a mistake. The fare wasn’t too bad (50-60 Euros), but the traffic was. In any case, we were just going to the airport to pick up our rental car. My headache had taken a pause for a while and I was optimistic again.
We got an Opel Crossland – a car I’ve never heard about before. But being a former Corsa owner, I know Opels. And then we sat out for our 3-country-high-point journey. Anne took care of the navigation, and I was just driving. It was comfortable to “plod” along the motorway in 120km/h – a speed limit we don’t have in Norway.
The first top was Vaalserberg – the highest point in the Netherlands. We could drive to the very top. It made no sense to decide on a certain distance or vertical gain as we had lots to do. Parking was well organized, but I decided to park Mediterranean style. We were in a hurry…
Just down the road was the Germany – Netherlands – Belgium border. This was also a place that deserved a visit.
We chose to hike back to the car via Germany. That really sounds weird, but that’s how it was. My phone went bonkers. “Welcome to Netherland”, “Welcome to Belgium”, “Welcome to Germany”.
Signal de Botrange (694m), Nov 17 2022
The high point of Belgium is found 28,6km south of Vaalserberg. We couldn’t drive to the very top, but the hike took less than a minute.
Effortless as it was, it was still big fun!
We try to visit country high points whenever we can, and the list is gradually growing;
Norway, Sweden, Finland, France, England, Scotland, Wales, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Poland, Slovakia, Croatia, Marocco, Egypt, Bali, Latvia. In addition, Anne has Ethiopia, Russia, and Tanzania. And maybe I’ve missed some.
Kneiff (560m), Nov 17 2022
Kneiff is 38,5km south of Signal de Botrange and we couldn’t drive to the top here either. We had to walk a whopping 300 meters along a farm road to reach the least prominent country high point I’ve seen so far.
The high point was just a few meters from the farm road, and due to the bulls, that appeared as terrifying animals, I was considering being content about just looking at the high point.
But then Anne showed “balls” and went under the “fence”.
If she can, so can I!
But the bulls were still terrifying! Good thing they didn’t seem to have a temper…
Burgplatz (558m), Nov 17 2022
Burgplatz is the second highest point in Luxembourg, and being only 1,1km west of Kneiff – we figured we could visit this point too.
I assume it’s the ground below the Burgplatz tower that is 558m, and not the top of the tower. In either case, we assumed that Luxembourg was now “in the bag”
Mondorf-les-Bains, Nov 17 2022
Now it was time to get to our hotel outside Luxembourg city. Anne was superb as my navigator, and I could just enjoy the driving.
The check-in at Mondorf Parc Hotel went smooth and soon we could enjoy a hotel room with a FAR better standard than what Hotel Barry could offer. The hotel was part of a large complex, and I don’t know if everything was part of a greater “whole” or if it was individual components.
We had a dinner reservation at the Mondorf restaurant later in the evening, but first – a walk around the hotel area.
I knew that France was nearby, but not in the garden! And suddenly the phone beeped: “Welcome to France”. 5 countries in one day. Not bad for a Thursday!
After the walk, it was time to enjoy the Thermal bath.
We were happily ignorant about all the rules that applied. Like – taking pictures is forbidden.
After a refreshing swim in the warm pool, it was time to enjoy dinner at the main restaurant. Anne wanted to try out the Raclette, and her wish is my demand…
I never “figured out” the dish. To me, it was a number of random elements plus melting cheese. I could not figure out how the elements elevated or matched the other elements. But don’t listen to me. I’m the least guy you should ask about food, but I do have a palette. And it didn’t sing…
After dinner, we went to the hotel bar and were well taken care of by Sébastien.
We kept the bar stay civil and went to bed early. I then woke up in the middle of the night with a screaming headache and spent the rest of the night in a chair. Fortunately, we had no firm plans for the day after.
Schengen, Nov 18 2022
Friday: I was able to shake the headache during the morning hours and was ready for a trip to Schengen – just down the road. We had been to 5 countries since we left Norway and still hadn’t shown our passports (as part of the travel) and it was only right to visit the place whose name gave birth to this practical arrangement.
Schengen was a typical “tourist place”, but I did enjoy the columns with “stars” representing the countries that have signed up for the Schengen agreement. It was fun to figure out which countries the stars represented.
Some were easy, some were hard.
The stars was definitely the high point. Oh – and there was a hashtag too!
We said goodbye the tame Muscovy duck and continued north in the direction of Remich – just to do a loop.
We accidentally ended up at Biodiversum, Breicherwee. All in all, a nature museum. We were the only visitors, and the museum was quite impressive, once we decided to spend some time there.
We told our museum “guide” that Anne was a park ranger in Norway and showed pictures from the Jostedalsbreen glacier national park. Our guide was impressed by the pictures, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she takes a trip to Norway one day. We told her that she could contact Anne if she decided to take the trip.
Pictures from the museum:
Then it was time to move on…
We later stopped by a wine factory, but I wasn’t interested and didn’t go in. As Anne couldn’t buy anything, that stop was short.
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped by a gas station to fill up gas and I picked up a couple of water bottles. Back at the hotel, Anne was thirsty and gave one of the bottles a “good go”. I only heard a scream behind me and didn’t understand what had happened. But it turned out that I had bought two bottles of vinegar. That was a … bummer.
A couple walked by. We tried to approach them, but they waved us off. “no, no… Italian! no English” But Anne can crack any international code and pointed at the bottles and said “Aqua – no!” and put up a grim face. The elder Italian couple immediately understood the issue and took the vinegar bottles with big smiles…
Afterwards, we enjoyed (a very expensive) lunch at Mondorf before we relaxed in the hotel room.
Luxembourg City, Nov 18 2022
One of Anne’s main goals for this trip was to see the Christmas opening in Luxembourg City. We took the bus to town and learned that all public transportation is FREE in Luxembourg! Way to go! Taking the bus in Luxembourg was way more easier than taking the train in Brussels!
We got off the bus at the central station and walked for 5-10 minutes until we saw the first signs of Christmas.
A trio were singing songs, not only Christmas songs…
After something to eat and drink, we moved on into the town centre.
My first impression with this city was really good. And there were some good views too.
Another opening was taking place on side of town too. It was crowded! Not my cup of tea…
But kudos for the decorations. That was top notch!
After a while we headed back. We had walked 7km and that counted as a good afternoon exercise.
There was a little confusion about the bus back to the hotel, but it got sorted out fairly quickly and then we were on our way.
Back at the hotel, we decided to spend a little time in the bar before calling it a day.
Norway and France were playing one of the semi-finals in the European Championship for women handball. Anne is very passionate about these championships and was disappointed to learn that no hotel channels covered the game. But our friend Sébastien in the bar stood out in our hour of need and minutes later, we were enjoying the game.
Norway crushed France. There’s no other way of putting it. And now we were in the finals!
Pictures from the Luxembourg City walk (Iphone 13 Pro Max):
To Brussels, Nov 19 2022
Saturday: After breakfast, we took a walk (2,2km in the hotel backyard – wandering between countries again…
It was a nice garden, but it was time to check out and get to Brussels – where we would be staying until our flight the next day.
The drive went smooth in the beginning. But with the pouring rain and the fog also came traffic accidents. Anne had cracked the Google Maps color codes and was the best navigator I could ask for. It was a new experience to drive on the motorway in these conditions, at such a high speed (120km/h). I mean, from a driving perspective it wasn’t a problem. The roads were excellent, but I was nervous about other cars without lights on.
We got to the Brussels airport, returned the car, and got on the train to Brussels. We though this would be a “walk in the park”, but it wasn’t. Buying tickets was easy enough. But from which platform should we go to? There was not any “Brussels Central” on the monitor. Which is OK, if that’s not the end of the route. But where was the chart that showed the routes? Nowhere to be found. A handful of people had the same problem, and someone finally figured it out. We should take the train to Ostende. Ostende?
Once in Brussels, we had no problems locating hotel Warwick – which was a whole different dimension than Hotel Barry. And only 30 Euros more expensive. If you plan for a Brussels weekend, go for Warwick over Barry any time!
The only downside that my nose had begun to bleed. Very strange. I can’t remember the last time that happened. But I probably had catched a cold or something…
It was raining in Brussels and my impression of the city wasn’t getting any better. I know, it’s unfair to blame the rain but I just needed a tiny uplift. The streets were overwhelmingly crowded. I just wanted to get back to the hotel.
Back at Hotel Warwick, we took the elevator up to the “Secret” RoofTop bar.
In the beginning, it was just us and a couple of other guests. But after a short while, the place was packed. Then, a little bit later, everyone but us had left.
I had 3 glasses of Grimbergen and felt really unsteady afterwards. Which was weird. I can easily drink 6 0,5L of beers without feeling any sway but then we’re talking 4,5% and not 6,7%
The view from the rooftop was nice, though.
I really shouldn’t be drinking beer with this tension headache lurking. Yet another night was spent in the chair…
Going home, Nov 20 2022
Sunday: We decided to skip the 30 Euro breakfast at Hotel Warwick and went to a local café instead. Anne wanted to try out Belgian waffles. I love waffles. But after this meal, I have to be more precise – I love Norwegian waffles! This meal was just sickening to me.
Then we went on a 1,2km walk up to Place de Palais and back. The buildings were grandeur and magnificent. No complaints there.
But the littering! OMG!
We returned to the hotel to check out. Which took longer than planned due my bleeding nose. We left our bags at the hotel and went for another walk. A long walk this time – 5km.
We stopped by a cartoon museum but settled for visiting the shop and skipped the museum. We enjoy cartoons, but that’s about it…
Then we went down to the canal.
We had been looking forward to getting there, but once there, we just wanted to leave. I got this creepy feeling that this was a place we shouldn’t be. Fair or not – that’s how it was.
On our way back to the hotel, we struggled to find a nice place for lunch. But when we finally found one, it was an upside. Excellent food and excellent place.
After picking up our luggage at Warwick hotel, we went to the train station. We found “Brussels airport” on the monitors, so there were no problems getting there. We got there 4 hours before the plane left, but we had already checked in and were carrying hand luggage only. So, we could just head for the “A” gates and take it from there.
I’m the type of guy that choose to worry if there is something to worry about. And one potential worry was the short transit time in Oslo (55 minutes). Which would be OK without any delays, but I decided to worry about delays.
The plane was supposed to leave 6:55pm, but because of a thunderstorm (!) they closed the airport for 15-20 minutes. Which meant that everything got delayed.
The plain lifted around 7:35pm and our transit window was getting really short! I had been texting with my buddy Terje, who was looking after Karma. The plan was that he would drop Karma off at our house before bedtime, and then we would arrive a couple of hours later. But would we get there at all? In the end, Terje said that Karma could stay another night, if need be. That was great, but I had to be in Ålesund for work the next day. In short, I worried…
When we landed in Oslo, we found that the 9:45pm flight to Ålesund was delayed to 10pm. Good! At least now we would be getting home today. Anne was severily disobeying the “put your mobile phones in fly mode” instruction, as there were only minutes left of the final of the women’s handball. European Championship. 10 minutes before full time, it seemed that Denmark would bring it home. But then Norway put in an incredible extra gear and won the final. Anne was very, very happy!
With “home”, I mean *I* would be getting home. Anne doesn’t live there and had to be in Sogndal in the morning. She would then be picked up by colleagues and continue to Voss. She had like 360km of traveling ahead of her. And she had to get up 4:30am!
When we got to the car outside the Ålesund airport, the windows were frozen solid. My ice scraper was NOT in the car, and we had to get to work on the windows with our driver licenses. It was 12 deg. C. when we left. Now it was 2 deg. C.
We reached the midnight ferry at Sulesund. We were home 0:45am. At first, Karma went nuts. Or more precise – nuts with a touch of disbelief. Then she decided to put up the “who are you?” act.
We got to bed around 1:30am, with only 3 hours before the alarm would sound. 4:30am was OK with me. I had to get up at 5am anyway. But as I didn’t get to sleep before closer to 2:30am, I was dead meat when the alarm went off.
Man, it had been some intense 5 days! Expensive too. My 3000 Euro budget was almost fully spent. But when it gets a bit weird it also gets a bit fun. Anne seemed to enjoy her birthday present, and we got 3 country high points too! All in all, a memorable “vacation”