An October 1993 trip
to Diekirch by Irene
Quote: It was the little country that could. Luxembourg, with its lush hills crowned with chateaux, delicious cuisine, a myriad of walking trails, crisp white wines and endless momentos to the Battle of the Bulge, could be the best-kept travel secret in Western Europe.
Our highway dropped from the summit into a valley filled to the brim with the whitewashed Castle of Clervaux guarded from above by the enormous dark stone church. Another curve and Ettlebruck offered us the General Patton Memorial Museum. Next up popped a sign to the rustic village of Brandenbourg, where resides one of the finest local restaurants in the hills, Café op der Bakes, famous for its honey brandy made by the owner’s cousin. In the historic town of Diekirch, we sampled Asian cuisine at Le Bonzia, marveled at the Musee National D’ histoire Militaire, and enjoyed the pleasures of the elegant Hotel Star. Along Luxembourg’s eastern border, the tiny hamlet of Born boasted the comfortable, quaint Hotel Chez-Jean with a superb restaurant. Through it all, we relished the crisp white wines of the Mosel River Vineyards.
The official language is Luxembourgish, a curious mix of German and French to the tourist but not to the natives. They defend their language and insist it has its own origin. Almost everyone, especially the young people, speaks some English.
Like most of Western Europe, the Luxembourg currency is the Euro. Prices for accommodation are moderate; however, the price of a meal at a three-star restaurant could set you back the price of your hotel for a couple of days. Even with the tip included prices can still be a little stiff. The answer is Klein Essen, or small food. We found Klein Essen in bistros, cafés, pubs, and from street vendors, where we could order soup, sandwich, fries, or bratwurst without all the trimmings. Bon Appetite!
A gracious attendant greeted us at the bar/front desk and offered to let us inspect the room on the third floor. Inspection was unnecessary, as this was a spacious class-act. Lovely six-foot windows opened on two walls, and a French door led to a minute balcony. A third wall held a full complement of shelves, drawers, and closets. In a corner between all the windows, a credenza held a large TV. Our king-sized bed was draped with sunny yellow sheets and huge pillows. Dark blue drapes sheltered us from the sun.
Inside our entrance, to the left, a heavy wooden door opened into the tiled bath, with walls of dark cabinets and bright porcelain. In a corner stood an unusual shower, with the floor of the shower being part of the floor of the bath. Shower doors swung into place from a folded position under the showerhead. Clear glass doors on hinges provided an unusual amount of space and freedom for a splash in the bath, followed by a warm towel from the warming bar.
Even though the hotel boasted an elegant elevator, or lift, off the lobby bar, we enjoyed the forays up and down the airy, glassed-in staircases. Cool shades of aqua and yellow in graphics greeted us at every turn as we scampered through the hushed halls. Located on the Avenue de la Gare, avenue of the train station, the Star was convenient and quiet. While the town center was only minutes away, the hotel was good for sleeping late, which we did and almost missed breakfast. That would have been a shame.
Breakfast was a glorious buffet, served in a small, sunlit room facing the town center, with scads of windows for us to enjoy the morning rush. We had the room to ourselves. Our selection from the buffet included yogurt, fresh fruit, cereal, milk, crisp rolls, butter, jam, cheese, and cold cuts. The soft-boiled eggs had cooled a long time ago. A spry little waitress served us gallons of coffee or tea.
The Star Hotel states that they accept all credit cards, but when we checked out, the card machine was broken, and they could only accept cash, so we had to exchange money at the Bank of Luxembourg around the corner. This hotel was convenient, sparkling, elegant, a little pricey at 78 euros, comfortable, efficient, helpful, and just what the doctor ordered for cold, tired, hungry tourists.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 24, 2005
Avenue de la Gare 2-4
1 352 80 36 36 0
Suffering from a little Belgian fatigue, we crossed into Luxembourg in search of familiar faces and places. We sprinted through the hubbub of Luxembourg City and made a mad dash for our favorite hotel, Hotel Hoffman in Moresdorf. A familiar sign hung at an angle on the heavy wooden door: Geschlossen bis 16.30. Oh, well! There is always a pub open somewhere. We trudged down the street into the hotel and bar and entertained the local barmaid and barfly until Cati decided to come back from her half-day from the Hotel Hoffman.
After a few minutes of trying to explain in our bad German, one of the patrons recognized us from the wine festival a few years back. We all greeted each other heartily as we babbled in broken English, German, and French. But there was a snag. Cati had closed off the hotel and turned off the heat. If only we had called, she said, but now it was too late, and after all, we were only two guests. Peter looked at us with hope and sputtered, "The Hotel Chez Jean is open in Born." Where is Born? "Only about 3 kilometers," he scoffed, and gave a quick call on his cell phone.
After one for the road, we zipped north to Born, and it may have taken us 5 minutes. Across from the meandering Our River perched the Hotel Jean Chez. We poked about the deserted bar/lobby area until Ms. Kersch appeared from the back. Amid the clutter of the dim bar, we asked to see the room. Up a carpeted staircase and back down a lengthy hall, tucked in the farthest corner, was a cozy room with a shower and toilet. Just one thing—it was freezing in the room. After a few babbles in German to Mr. Kersch, we finally got the radiator to spew some warmth into the well-arranged room.
Although there were a shower and toilet in separate stalls as you entered the room, the sink and mirror hung on the opposite blue wall, next to the huge window overlooking the neighboring farm and river. A state-of-the-art TV with cable hung in a strategic corner above the king-sized bed, which was graced by frilly side tables with great reading lamps. Huge, firm pillows were plumped all across the blue-draped bed. Near my side of the bed, a sliding door gave access to a huge closet with towers of shelves and hanging space. All this at a bargain price of 48 euros, including a buffet breakfast
Necessities all accounted for and inspected, we wandered into the bar and found it to be occupied by the family children doing their homework, watched over by their grandparents. Not to worry, as around the next corner, we entered the pride of the Hotel Chez Jean, the Restaurant Brassiere Chez Jean.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 24, 2005
Hotel Chez Jean
352 73 00 33
Where were they? Where were the patrons who must frequent this prosperous-looking, out-of-the-way treasure? Homey prints cluttered the cool green walls, and potted plants crowded the windowsills.
As we pondered the absence of customers, the owner–chef, Alian Scharle-Keersch, popped out of the kitchen to welcome us to his brasserie. With a little flourish, he produced huge leather menus clad with tassels. First came the specials, of which I chose the bouschee at 12.70 euros, and Robert roamed to the heartier side of the menu with an escalope for 17.05 euros.
Chef Alain did not seem in the least concerned with the lack of diners. He calmly took our order and patiently returned with our drinks. He continued to putter about the dining room, slicking down tablecloths, polishing silver, and setting places at various tables and booths in the back. A brief whisper of the huge main door, and voices soon joined us. A pleasant couple greeted Chef Alian with the hellos and handshakes of old friends. Just a neighbor, we thought to ourselves.
While enjoying our pre-dinner drinks, we speculated about this charming restaurant stranded in the small village of Born, a hamlet of only 300 inhabitants. We blamed the off-season for the lack of customers and then the rainy cold weather. As we settled into the cozy atmosphere, Chef Alain appeared with a huge tureen and large, flat bowls which he filled to the brim with steaming pea soup. He tossed in a basket of delicious dark bread and disappeared into his domain again. Huge doors whisked again as a jolly group bustled into the hollow restaurant.
With a little trolley, Chef Alain presented dinner. A steaming tray contained enormous slices of schnitzel sautéed in butter, surrounded by gleaming brussels sprouts and bright carrots. A bowl of fries followed. I was presented with a plate of chicken in cream sauce over a biscuit pastry. As I picked at my weak choice, Robert gallantly shared his crisp cutlets and veggies with me. We moaned and then groaned.
Slowly, the tinkle and babble in the background invaded our space, and we stared in amazement. Guest, patrons, and customers sprouted from every table. Oblivious, we marveled at the content crowd and had no more doubt about how this restaurant survives.
Chef Alain took our credit card and had loads of parking in the rear. We have decided from now on to take the heftier side of the menu and maybe order two plates.
Restaurant -Brassierie Chez Jean
A delightful surprise waited inside. It was not just the scrumptious décor of red and orange fabric accented with black lacquer but also the dining extraordiniaire. We entered quiet elegance with cozy tables sprinkled in a dim ambience. A demure waiter seated us at a table perched on a raised level. Feeling like royalty, we whispered and wondered where the other guests might be hiding. In the hushed room, we listened to the faint tinkle of eastern music and waited for May and Jos from Bradenbourg to arrive.
With a rush of welcome, May and Jos joined us. Our hovering waitstaff instantly sprang into action with tasseled menus and bows of gratitude. Our friends were obviously not strangers to the Le Bonzia. At May’s suggestion, we each ordered a different starter and shared. Plates were set on burners in the middle to keep warm. We sampled spicy spare ribs, crusty, tangy spring rolls, and luscious shrimp wontons with caviar, all accompanied by a lively, crisp white Moselle Valley wine.
With clatter from the kitchen and a parade of chefs and platters, the main courses arrived. Crisp mellow roasted duck, tender moist chicken, robust lamb, and spicy pork all sported wonderful delicate sauces. With a stack of small plates, we passed a morsel to the person on our right and then the person across the table. Mountains of white rice and rivers of sauces complimented the meat, along with steaming platter of snow peas, water chestnuts, green onions, and peppers. Soon we had more than we could possibly finish, and the feast began, along with another of Master Jos’s selections from the wine cellar. This time, it was a mellow Rhine blush. I know, I did not know there was blush from the Rhine either.
We relax and chattered, especially about good restaurants. Jos and May own the delightful Café Op de Bakes in Brandenbourg. When they go out to dine, it is an experience. I would salute this choice. After all the indulgence, we received after-dinner drinks on the house. Did we spend enough for that, or was it just the custom? We will never know, because as we excused ourselves and returned, the check was nowhere to be seen, and May had plans for a stop at the local pub in the town center, where they did allow us to buy after-dinner drinks until closing.
Le Bonzia accepts all credit cards and debit cards. Entrees were 12 euros to 25 euros, with starters from 5 euros to 10 euros. Le Bonzia is open from 12 to 2pm and 5 to 11pm.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on February 4, 2005
Le Bonzia, Restaurant Asiatique
6 Avenue de la Gare