Friday, August 28, 2015


You might think that one Dutch camping would be enough to turn me off of the experience in its entirety.  After all, Dutch campgrounds are usually packed bumper-to-bumper with caravans; open fires are prohibited, and you're expected to squeegee your own shower when you've finished.  All of which is another way of saying that Dutch camping is very much like ordinary Dutch living except distilled to its noisy, nosy, essence, with an extra side of heat and sweatiness and all the misery that comes from them, added on.  

However, I do like camping, especially if it's in a tent, and since Karel is the one doing most of the puttering, I'm more than happy to tag along and do the work of picking out dates and making reservations (and, it turns out, coming up with the cash) for a camping experience not to be forgotten.  As you may have divined from the title of this post, that was in Luxembourg, this time.  Believe it or not, as small as it is, there are still regions to the country, and the one we ended up in was called Vianden.  Or Vijanden, if your map is Dutch.

Regardless, it's a lovely region, being part of the Ardennes.  I'm not sure if the region has very tall hills or very small mountains, but the end result is the same:  spectacular views and, if you're going in the off season, you get essentially an entire campground to yourself.  We were able to arrange for a place on the water--just visible in this picture--which was a small, fast-moving little creek that had fishes of all sorts in it, and little dams that the water could rush over, which is a better lullaby than you might think.  We never had any problems getting kidlet to sleep, even on the last night, when we were packing our things back into the car.  

That might be because there was tons of stuff to do, especially if you're a two-year-old boy whose favorite things are sticks and rocks.  Kidlet must have spent hours finding rocks, running as close to the stream as he could without making us die from terror, and then flinging them into the stream.  It actually rained for a fair amount of our time there:  We got there on Monday afternoon and no sooner had we set up the campsite than it started pouring cats and dogs.  Tuesday morning was a bit rainy, but it cleared up in the afternoon and kidlet got introduced to the pleasures of blackberries straight off the vine, and kicking back in the stream with Daddy.  The stream was clean and clear--not safe to drink from, of course, but okay to swim in, and so Karel and kidlet went for a little wade in it on Wednesday, when it was hot and sunny and bright, after we got back from walking to the castle.

Because yes, we did walk.  Kidlet walked, Karel walked, I walked, the entire two miles uphill to the Vianden Castle.  We went there, paid admission, and walked around--it's a nice castle, and they've done a decent job restoring it--had lunch, and then Karel carried kidlet back down most of the way.  But it just goes to show that kids are tougher than they might seem, and as a two-year-old, kidlet is plenty tough.  

Some notes about the Continental experience:  It's weird holding a conversation in two different languages (Dutch and German, in this case).  You can kind of understand what the other one is saying, but you're always kind of hoping that other person will get the idea and switch to a language you both know.  Alas for me, my French is limited to bonjour and merci and my German is even less.  Just to confuse the bejesus out of you, too:  if you have your phone's GPS set to English, while your SatNav is set to Dutch, while the road signs are in French, just getting to wherever you need to be can be a challenge-and-a-half.

Also, I've been spoiled by Dutch prices:  I will never again complain about produce prices in the Netherlands, not after having seen what the Cactus (one of the major supermarkets) charges for food, in general.  On the flip side, though, gas is super-cheap, with diesel coming in at just under 1 euro per liter, which is probably still obscene by American standards but ridiculously cheap by Dutch ones.

We did not, however, get to enjoy a meal in a restaurant, so I can't say anything about what a real Luxembourg-ish meal is.  Part of this was that Karel is in love with the barbecue, lighting a fire, and all that, and so every evening it was "stuff roasted on a fire".  Part of this was that most of the restaurants we passed served the same stuff as every Dutch restaurant does, except with French names.  A krokette is a croquette is meat-and-batter-shaped-into-a-stick-and-deep-fried, no matter what language it's in, and suffice it to say that neither of us are fans of it.  Part of it was also that I didn't realize that 5 euros to do a load of laundry was just for washing alone, so all of our clean clothes were gone by Wednesday, and drying until Thursday.

Cultural stuff will have to wait until kidlet is a little older, but suffice it to say that Luxembourg is a ton of fun even without any intellectual pretenses.  And, to be fair, sometimes picking out the tasty blackberries is plenty intellectual enough.

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