Solo in the City

Solo in the city, Luxembourg. On my meagre budget city exploration is difficult. To enjoy the delights of the urbanscape one must start the day with a nice and lazy breakfast complete with table clothes, followed by a stroll along the narrow cobbled streets or along the walls of the old town, you pop your head in a church or cathedral before continuing almost aimlessly; perhaps stopping in a chic coffee shop or patisserie which inevitably turns into an indulgent breakfast, part deux. Then its to a museum or a gallery perhaps if you are so inclined. An alfresco lunch with a blanket keeping off the worst of the chill before returning to the hotel for a nap after such a strenuous day out on the cobbles. In the evening it might be dinner and a show or cocktails then dinner. It all sounds jolly nice.

For me though on my short lonely shoe string it starts with a meagre hostel breakfast if I’m lucky, this usually consists of bread and butter with a cheap and sugary confectionary which is attempting to pass its self off as jam. There is no second breakfast to break up my morning walk and lunch is a second round of bread and jam, clandestinely smuggled out of breakfast wrapped in tissue and smuggled out down my sock (not really, normally it is stashed in my bag). More often than not tissue sticks to the jam and is seemingly impossible to remove all of it, extra roughage.

I stroll the streets peering into windows displaying warm customers choosing glazed pastries with light flaky bases which Mary Berry would be proud of. Any budgeteer is able to take in the big land marks, the cathedrals, castle or muddled streets, viewing the facades is always free. Museums and galleries tend to charge even some churches; yes they say voluntary donation but would are they kidding. You try walking past one of the judgy volunteers without paying, the fact that they often have gates or a narrow door through which to squeeze past the sour faced donation collector would suggest otherwise. It reminds me of being stuck in church as a child, the donation box thingy would be handed down the pew; the trick was to stick your hand in and jingle the coins to give the impression of donation and save your money for the tuck shop. That was all fine unless you were stuck on the front row and handed an empty vessel.

My fancy dinner out consists of supermarket fair carried back to the hostel refectory with its crumb riddled tables. If I am lucky I will have access to a microwave or a kettle allowing me to doge a third bread based meal of the day, yay more noodles.

People often say going solo? With an inflection emphasising the solo. Cities in particular are best done with a bottomless budget and a partner in crime be it of the romantic sort or the drink to much beer laddish variety. It would have been great to have a second who would join me for this trip. But finding someone who would give up work for a year to put up with my tyrannical regime would have been next to impossible. Just ask my brother George who in California had a ten day taste of my brand of tyranny. Future tours will be some what more leisurely and hopefully taken in tandem.

Tourist traps in Europe such a Luxembourg are lined with boutiques, designer shops displaying out fits that are almost as ridiculous as their prices. I shouldn’t be surprised here in Luxembourg that things are pricy considering that just like Switzerland it is a banking hot spot. It is good at delicatessens displaying olives, cheeses that tickle the nostrils, hams suspended from rafters and dusty bottles of wine; suspiciously dusty considering every surface is polished within an inch of its life. Gone are the jostling street markets of Peru and Bolivia selling knock off sun gasses, street food and mummified alpaca foetuses. You almost bounce down the street in these bustling markets from shoulder to shoulder, squeezing through the mass of people with no apology necessary for it is just part of the parcel; but the British man in me cant help but transmit a near constant stream of “pardon me’s” and “sorrys” from under one’s breath. Bump into someone in Luxembourg and despite the audible apology they might would look at you as if you and just shat on their over priced foot.

I did in fact treat myself to a fancy coffee and despite my better judgement a second; there was a pretty coffee lady you see. With long blonde hair which was no doubt intentionally scruffy and head to toe in back curve hugging clothes, she had the look of a French women. If I lived in Luxembourg I would drink a lot of over priced coffee until I built up to talking to her in circumstances other than customer services, all I could mumble was “coffee please” in what I envisage to be an adorable attempt at French, more likely the smile was a pity smile.

Imagination running wild I return on my lonesome to my hostel to my over crowded dormitory. The sun has gone down beneath the horizon and twilight has taken hold. One by one the old fashioned street lights illuminate the darkening streets. The old town sits raise about a river with narrow stone walk ways and stairwells descending its granite slopes. In the gloom it looks like a scene from The Exorcist though it is along way from the actual stair well which is part of most free walking tours in George Town, Washington DC.

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